History, beauty on display

CRESCO - The beautiful stained glass window from the old First Baptist Church in Cresco is making a move. The building, which used to house The Store Next Door, was purchased by Brady Norman in May 2022 and is being renovated to create individual apartments, so the window must move or be destroyed.
Moving the Window
The Howard County Historical Society has been working hard to find the right artisan to disassemble and reassemble the window at its new location, at the Historical Preservation Museum. After several months of searching in a time frame that was becoming shorter and shorter, Gaytee-Palmer Stained Glass of Minneapolis has finally been contracted to move the window. 
When all is said and done, the window will be a featured piece in the museum at the Howard County Fairgrounds, and will be displayed in a shadow box type frame with a light from behind to show the gorgeous colors and exquisite detail.
But the window is not just a beautiful example of the art of stained glass. It is also a piece of priceless history for the Howard County area.
The window was commissioned and donated to the First Baptist Church by local luminary William C. Brown in honor of his mother and father.
William C. Brown
William Carlos Brown and his twin brother George were born on July 29,1853 in Norway, N.Y., to Charles E. and Francis (Lyon) Brown. The Browns came to Iowa in 1857, where Charles, a Baptist Missionary, started Baptist churches in Vernon Springs, Cresco and Lime Springs. 
The twins attended school in a one-room schoolhouse where their father taught. They also periodically rode in a buggy with their father on his rounds to the different churches. On one such journey, William met Ella Hewett, his future bride, at a party her grandfather threw for Rev. Brown in Lime Springs. The children were seven and six, respectively, and the Rev. Brown noted in his memoirs that “…mutual interest and admiration between the two were noted by many at the party.” And “The acquaintance thus early-made continued almost without interruption.”
In 1868, the Brown family moved from Vernon Springs to Lime Springs. At 16, William started his career with the railroad as a water boy. By the time William, known as W.C., married Ella in 1874 in Lime Springs, he was a dispatcher for the Illinois Central.
Working his way up the ladder, Brown came to the attention of his superiors for his deft hand with difficult situations. His fearless interactions with armed strikers in several situations earned him respect on both sides of the labor dispute – a reputation that would stand him in good stead when he was mediating between management and workers to avert strikes and advising presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson on the making of railroad policies.
In 1901, Brown became the vice president and general manager of the Vanderbilts’ Lake Shore & Michigan Southern and Lake Erie and Western Railroad. Then, in 1906, he was elected the senior vice president of the New York Central Railroad — all 12,000 miles of it!
From 1909 to 1914, Brown was the president of the New York Central. During his tenure, he built Grand Central Terminal, replaced steam engines with electric on trains coming in to and out of New York City, and established railroad-owned experimental farms to increase farm output, benefiting both farmers and the railroad.
Throughout his railroad career, Brown stressed the need for railroads and the communities they served to be supportive of one another for they “needed one another” to cooperate in development of the nation. As a result of this perspective, under his leadership there existed unprecedented harmony, efficiency and order among the railroads more than 160,000 employees.
Life in Lime Springs
Throughout all this time, however, and no matter how far afield they traveled in service to W.C.’s ever evolving career prospects, the Browns’ hearts were never far from their Lime Springs homeplace.
Every summer, they would arrive in a private railroad car that parked on his own sidetrack in Lime Springs, and the Brown family would summer at 127 Merrill St, the house W.C.’s  parents built in 1871. Often, the Browns would arrive with their own entourage of servants, friends and others – including, at times, a railroad car of their own horses, as W.C. and his daughter, Margaret, loved to ride in what is today Brown Park in Lime Springs.
But according to newspaper accounts of the time, the Browns weren’t just vacationers in Lime Springs. They were also active in the local community, where they donated to charitable causes, joined local organizations and greeted everyone by name. W.C. was also well known as someone who assisted friends and neighbors in any way he could, often helping them find jobs and even lending them money in times of need.
Upon his retirement in 1914, the popular W.C. was rumored to be considering a run for the Presidency or at least the governorship of Iowa, but the truth of the matter was, he wanted to return to Lime Springs and get back to farming there. 
And that’s exactly what he did. Lime Springs once again became the Browns’ official home although, as they had throughout their busy lives, the Browns spent a great deal of time traveling, including their sojourns to Pasadena, Calif. where they wintered every year.
Brown stayed busy during his retirement by developing his “Oak Lawn Stock Farm” in Old Town, one mile north of Lime Springs’ current location. He also continued to serve on railroad, farm and bank boards, spoke at farm conferences and wrote articles regarding policies.
It was during this time that Brown donated the large south stained glass window to the First Baptist Church in Cresco in honor of his parents, Rev. Charles E. and Frances (Lyon) Brown.
A Piece of Howard County History
“This is an important piece of Howard County History,” Barb Prochaska, President of the Howard County Historical Society said of the stained glass window. “The Brown family descendants are very happy we are preserving it.”
The actual process of moving the window will be funded by donations and grants. If you’d like to donate to the project, you may do so by contacting Barb Prochaska at 563-419-3160. 
The others were sold or are being sold by Norman.
[Editor’s note: Some of the history of W.C. Brown was taken from The Lime Springs Then & Now book.]

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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