Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, October 16, 1994, pg. 4

Several weeks ago in this column I wrote about Miriam Krenerick, who helped preserve Albion history early in this century, and author of the book Albion’s Milestones and Memories. This week we will learn of another noted Albion historian, Dr. Henry D. Brown (1911-1970).

Henry D. Brown was born in Albion in 1911, the son of Herbert and Lorraine Brown, local grocers. He was a 1929 graduate of Albion High School, and graduate from Albion College in 1933. Henry taught history at Albion High School from 1933 to 1937, and then moved to Ann Arbor to become a research assistant at the University of Michigan in the history department.

While still in Albion, Brown did much research on the early history of Albion, which helped tremendously in the 1935 Centennial Celebration. His numerous local history articles were published in the local newspaper, including a series about the early history of the Albion Public Schools. Brown was able to acquire a clear photograph of the original “Little Red Schoolhouse” which yours truly used in his own book, A History of the Albion Public Schools.

Brown later became curator of the Michigan Historical Collections at the University of Michigan, and held that post until 1942. He was director of the Michigan Historical Society in 1941 and 1942. Following a successful stint in the service during World War II, Henry became assistant director of the Detroit Historical Museum in 1946, and a year later was named its director and coordinator. He married an Albionite, Helen Langworthy in 1934, the daughter of former Albion High School teacher Floyd Langworthy. She died in 1981.

Brown was an elder of the local Presbyterian Church, and was active in the Boy Scouts. Even though he established himself in a large metropolis, he never forgot his small hometown roots, and kept in contact with relatives and friends here. He was awarded an honorary “Doctor of Laws” degree by Albion College in 1962. Brown contributed much to the preservation of Albion history through the years, supplying us with much information and documents from Albion’s early history. He notified the Smithsonian Institution of the existence of the original strap iron wooden rails in an Albion garage when it was being demolished. Those wooden rails were distributed to the Detroit Museum, the Smithsonian, and locally.

His unexpected death in February, 1970 was a loss not only to Detroit, but to Albion as well. The Detroit Free Press editorialized, “Henry D. Brown was like few historians we have known...He made history come alive with new and ever-changing exhibits which he helped to build and which he loved as a father would a favorite child. He was in no sense a mere curator. He wanted the world to see, to feel, to know and to relive the past. At 59, Henry Brown was too young to go. He had too much life left, too many dreams unfinished. But he had led a full and rewarding life. He made a great contribution to the city, and the state for which we can all be grateful.”

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a painting of Albion native and historian, Dr. Henry D. Brown.

Dr. Henry D. Brown


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