Eli H. Brown, Corporation Attorney and prominent citizen of Owensboro, was born in Brandenburg, Meade County, Kentucky, November 13, 1843. He received his primary education from private teachers in Hawesville, and attended the high schools of Lewisport, then taught by Professors Gregg and Trimble, and graduated in June, 1863. He studied law for two and a half years in the office of Judge George Williams, and was licensed to practice law by the judge of the Circuit Court. He located in Hawesville and practiced alone until 1878, when he became associated with Judge Williams, a partnership which continued until October 1, 1878, when he removed to Louisville and was a prominent member of the bar in that city for nearly ten years. During a part of that time he was in partnership with D. M. Rodman. He acquired a lucrative business and was one of the most energetic and prominent lawyers at the Louisville bar. In March, 1891, he removed to Owensboro, where he has been steadily and successfully engaged in the practice of his profession, and is now one of the leading attorneys of that city, which is so distinguished for legal talent.
During his residence in Hawesville Mr. Brown was prosecuting attorney for two terms, and has frequently served as special judge of the Circuit Court, but has never sought political preferment. He was presidential elector for his district in 1872 on the Democratic ticket and made a spirited canvass, but has not turned aside at any time from strictly professional work. During the past fifteen years he has devoted himself almost exclusively to the legal work of various corporations, and is at present the attorney for the Glenmore Distillery Company, the Eagle Distillery Company, the Daviess County Distillery Company, and the Owensboro Woolen Mills Company.
One of the most important cases in which he has been engaged was that of a railroad company against the taxpayers of Muhlenberg County, in which he won the suit for the railroad company. In 1868 bonds were voted by Muhlenberg County to the amount of four hundred thousand dollars to secure railroad facilities in the county. The taxpayers refused to pay their assessments and in order to prevent the collection of the tax all of the magistrates in the county were induced to resign. The railroad people employed some of the most prominent legal lights in the state to prosecute their claim, but they gave it up as a bad job. Finally Mr. Brown undertook the case for the railroad company and secured judgment for the tax with interest at seven per cent for five years. The case was decided in the United States Circuit Court by Judge Lurton, who issued an order to Marshal Blackburn to go into the county with an armed force and collect the tax from the people at the point of the bayonet if necessary. The amount of the bonds, with interest, was collected. This case attracted universal attention, especially among the lawyers of the state, as it was of exceptional interest.
Mr. Brown has been signally successful as a corporation attorney, being greatly devoted to his profession and always faithful to the interests of his clients. He is a man of fine personal bearing, dignified in appearance, but genial and cordial in his intercourse with others, and is an exceedingly popular citizen. He is a Mason of high degree and a most excellent member of the Christian Church.
Mr. Brown was married February 3, 1870, to Nancy W. Dorsey of Nelson County, daughter of Dr. Washington Dorsey, a native of Kentucky, and a very celebrated physician, who lived for many years at Yazoo, Mississippi. Mrs. Brown was born October 31, 1847, and died in Louisville, December 6, 1885, leaving four children: Horace Stone, born June 21, 1871, died March 6, 1894; Eli Houston, born May 3, 1875, graduated at the Kentucky University in the class of 1895; Washington Dorsey, born January 3, 1877, now in the senior class of the Kentucky University; and Sarah Ellen, born December 7, 1879, now studying under a governess in Nelson County.
At the time of his death Horace Stone Brown, eldest son, was city editor of the Louisville Daily Commercial, and the members of the press of that city paid a beautiful tribute to his worth and popularity.
Eli H. Brown is a son of John McClarty and Minerva (Murray) Brown. His father was born in Nelson County, May 7, 1799, and was educate in Bardstown. He was engaged in merchandising in Hardinsburg, in partnership with two of his uncles, Samuel and James McClarty, until 1823, when he married Minerva Murray and removed to Brandenburg and was the first merchant in that place. He was also interested in the tobacco business at Cloverport, Hawesville, and Leitchfield during the time of his stay in Brandenburg. In 1851 he removed to Hawesville and was secretary and treasurer of the Trabue Coal Mining Company until 1857. He was county judge of Hancock County for two terms, ending August 3, 1865. He was a man of splendid literary attainments, and was one of the best and most highly respected citizens of his county, a prominent Mason, and a leading member of the Presbyterian Church.
Robert J. Brown (grandfather), a native of Maryland, was one of the earliest settlers of Nelson County, where he was a farmer and trader. He married a Miss McClarty, and died when his son, John McClarty Brown (father), was an infant. His widow married a Mr. Hughes, and died in 1852. The Browns are of Irish descent, but have been in this country a long time. Minerva J. Murray Brown (mother) was born in Breckinridge County, November 23, 1807, and was educated at Hardinsburg. She was a member of the Methodist Church and a woman of the most noble traits of character, whose death in 1871 was mourned by a host of loving and devoted friends.
John Murray (grandfather) was a native of Washington County, where he was a merchant for a great many years. He subsequently removed to Rumsey, McLean County, and continued in active business until 1864, when he returned and spent the remainder of his useful life with his daughter, Mrs. (Brown) Hughes. He was quite a figure in politics and was known as a “Constitutional Union” man during the war and in the days of reconstruction. His wife’s name was Patsey Walker, who was a native of Washington County. She died, and Mr. Murray survived her until 1869, when he died in McLean County.
Source: Biographical Cyclopedia of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. John M. Gresham Company, Chicago, Philadelphia, 1896.