Earle Brown Days: Who was Earle Brown?
You see his name everywhere: the Earle Brown Farm Apartments, Earle Brown Tower, Earle Brown Elementary, Earle Brown Drive. He even has his own conference and events center. But who was Earle Brown and why is he so important to Brooklyn Center?
“The Earle Brown Farm is pretty much where Brooklyn Center started,” said Bruce Ballanger, who has been managing the Earle Brown Heritage Center since it opened 30 years ago.
The farm started with Earle Brown’s maternal grandfather, Captain John Martin, who did quite well in flour milling, lumber, and the railroads. His daughter, Jean, married Cyrus Brown in 1873 and their only son, Earle, came along in 1879. Earle’s father was largely out of the picture in young Earle’s life and Earle worked on his grandfather’s farm on weekends and vacation times.
Earl’s mother died in 1901, the same year in which his grandfather sold him the farm with the admonition to “never sell the farm, boy.” Brown didn’t sell the farm, in fact he grew it to about 750 acres. Pretty much all the land from the Mississippi west to Brooklyn Boulevard and from about 57th Ave. north to roughly 104th was part of the Brown Farm.
“When you came to work for Earle Brown you knew you were going to be taken care of. He would feed you. He would actually house you. Most of his key people all lived on site here,” said Ballanger.
Brown was a gentleman farmer and was known for his integrity.
In 1911 the Village of Brooklyn Center was formed at a meeting held at the Brown Farm. On the farm, Earle loved his horses and dogs.
He had a passion for Morgan and Belgian horses. He raised them and showed them. He also had Great Danes.
“He did love his dogs. And I think his wife Gwen loved the dogs,” said Ballanger.
Brown was elected Hennepin County Sheriff twice and ran unsuccessfully for governor once. In 1929, Sheriff Brown was tapped to form the Minnesota Highway Patrol by the state legislature and served as the first chief for the next 5 years. Brown grew old on the farm and bequeathed it to the University of Minnesota in 1949 with the agreement that he and his staff would live there until their death. Brown died in 1963 at the age of 83, but left a city and state indebted to his integrity and hard work.
“If you’re going to celebrate the City of Brooklyn Center, it wouldn’t be here without Earle Brown,” said Ballanger.