Alvah Brown, president and managing director of Hotel Browning, the leading family hotel in Grand Rapids, was born in Caledonia township, Kent county, November 14,1865, the son of William H. and Lufanna (Leek) Brown, pioneer settlers of that township, both of whom are dead. William H. Brown was born in Warwick, Kent County, Rhode Island, in 1810, and accompanied his family to Genesee County, New York. At a very early date he came to Michigan, where he entered one hundred sixty acres of land in Barry County. He became dissatisfied with this location, however, and hired an Indian guide to take him down the Thornapple River on a prospecting tour, and it was o this trip that he saw the land which he pre-empted. He was the first man to buy timber land from the government in Caledonia township of Kent County, where he made his home. He purchased his land there on June 16, 1835. In 1853 he built a grist mill at Alaska and operated it for a number of years. In 1868 he erected a flour mill at Caledonia Center, now known as La Barge, and later built a saw mill at the same place. Still later he built two saw mills at Alaska, which was originally knows as Brownsville in honor of William Brown, who founded the village. He was one of the organizers of the Baptist church in Alaska and in later years he built the church and presented it to the congregation. He died October 14, 1877, and his widow died in 1904 at the age of seventy years. Alvah Brown was one of three children born to his parents, the others being Fred O. C. Brown and Mrs. Carrie Campau. He received a common and high school education and then came to Grand Rapids, where he engaged in the undertaking business with Allen Durfee, in which he continued for five years. He became interested in the embalming business when it was still in its infancy and was the organizer of the Durfee Embalming Fluid Company, a company which is still in existence. His association with the concern was continued until 1918. He organized the corporation to build the Hotel Browning, which was started in 1916. He has been manager of the hotel since that time and now is the virtual owner of the hostelry. He has built up an excellent clientele and his hotel is regarded as one of the most desirable of its kind in Grand Rapids. Mr. Brown has been actively interested in all phases of the life in Grand Rapids, industrial, civic and political, and in the past he has been officially connected with a number of the largest concerns in the city. He is recognized as one of the most able business executives in the city and is respected and admired by all with whom he has come in contact. While Mr. Brown was a member of the Police and Fire Board, the question of garbage disposal was raised. He contracted to dispose of the garbage and to this end established a hog farm on which he has had as many as 5,682 hogs at one time, conceded to be the largest number on any single hog farm in the world by those conversant with agricultural conditions at the time. He operated this farm for several years. He was chairman of the Kent County Road Commission for eleven years, and was most active in laying out the present system of roads centering in Grand Rapids. In 1891 he married Ella Phillips, the daughter of Chase and Mary (Hall) Phillips, and to them have been born two daughters, Leah F. and Virginia M. Silas Hall, the grandfather of Mrs. Brown, built the first frame house constructed in Grand Rapids. Mr. Brown is a Scottish Rite and York Rite Mason and is a member of the Shrine, the Highland Country Club and the Elks. He is affiliated with the Baptist church.
Transcriber: Nancy Myers
Created: 16 February 2005