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Nicholas Brown (1729-1791)

Nicholas Brown was born in Providence , Rhode Island on December 3, 1733. He was the second of six children born to Captain James Brown and Hope Power; he and his siblings were the great‑great‑grandchildren of Chad Brown, who was one of the original settlers of Providence with Roger Williams.

Nicholas’s oldest brother, James, died as a young man, but he and his surviving three brothers were key figures in the history of Providence. As such, all four, including Nicholas, are used to effect in author H.P. Lovecraft’s novel, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, where Lovecraft makes them all part of the “select group bent on Curwen’s extirpation.”

Nicholas started his career in the family’s mercantile and trading business. His father had died when he was only 10 years old, and after his uncle Obadiah died in 1762, the four brothers reorganized the business as Nicholas Brown & Company. By 1765, their businesses included a chocolate mill, a candle works, rum distilleries, and an ironworks.

Nicholas was the oldest surviving brother, and was seen as the most conservative, prudent, and religious of the four. He married Rhoda Jenckes in 1762, and they had 10 children together. Nicholas and his descendants would become the branch of the family most actively associated with Brown University.

Nicholas himself served as treasurer of the university (then called the College of Rhode Island), and Nicholas Brown & Company constructed the first building on the Providence campus in 1770, which was University Hall.

Two years after Rhoda’s death in 1783, Nicholas married Avis Binney. He died suddenly in 1791.

Catherine Beyer Hurst, MBA, Writer and Community Historian


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