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Obadiah Bruen Brown Family papers

Identifier: MS2253

Collection Scope and Content

This collection contains letters, deeds, wills, one photograph, one postcard, and GWU course lecture cards all related to the family of Russell Train. The three prominent members of the family represented in the collection are Obadiah Bruen Brown, his son William Van Horne Brown, and Obadiah's grandson George Whitfield Brown. The material dates from 1807-1941.

The material is for the most part organized in the order established by the Donor Russell Train and retains the original folder headings. This does mean that some folders duplicate types of documents and perhaps overlap in dates. As the collection is small enough Special Collection staff deemed that retraining this order did not unduly inhibit a researcher from discovering all important information.


  • Creation: 1807-1941


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

Restrictions on Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Historical or Biographical Note

Obadiah Bruen Brown (1779-1852) arrived in the city of Washington in 1807 as the first pastor of the First Baptist Church. Born in Newark New Jersey, Brown left home at the age of 17 to study with Baptist Reverend William Van Horne in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. In 1807 at the age of 28, he preached several sermons at the First Baptist Church andy soon after become the pastor. The same year Obadiah Brown become pastor he also began working at the Post Office Department and was elected chaplain of the House of Representatives. He started as a clerk in the Post Office and eventually held the position of Chief of the Contract Division. He married Elizabeth Riley Jackson in 1808. They had four children.

In 1820, Obadiah Brown was an active delegate to the Baptist General Convention in Philadelphia. The delegates to the convention decided to open a Baptist institution of higher education in the District of Columbia. On February 9, 1821, President James Monroe signed the legislation that passed Congress granting a charter for the Columbian College (now George Washington University) which opened later that year. Brown served as the first President of the Board of Trustees of the college and was an instrumental contributor to the first building fund.

Brown served as an officer in the American Colonization Society which actively supported the sending of free Black people to the coast of West Africa which subsequently became the colony of Liberia as an alternative to emancipation in the United States.

Obadiah Brown died May 2, 1852 at age 73. He is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery as are his wife Elizabeth, son William and several grandchildren.

Other members of the Brown family included in this collection include William Van Horne Brown and Thomas B. Brown, Obadiah Brown's sons and George Whitfield Brown one of his grandson.

Most of the information about the Obadiah Brown in this biography comes from Russell Train's book The Train Family. This book relates much of the history of the Brown family.


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Language of Materials



This collection contains documents related to the family of Obadiah Bruen Brown and the records date from 1807-1941. Brown was the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Washington for more than 40 years. He also served as the first President of the Board of Trustees of Columbian College (now George Washington University). The materials in the collection includes letters, wills, deeds and GW course lecture cards.

Collection Organization

Arranged in no particular order

Acquisition Information

Gift of Russell Train, 2008 (Accession 2008.028).

Related Materials

The book The Train Family by Russell E. Train has a lot of Washington DC history and also a chapter about Brown and references to him throughout the book.

Guide to the Obadiah Bruen Brown Family papers, 1807-1941
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

George Washington University Gelman Library
2130 H Street NW
Washington DC 20052 United States of America