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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Brown, George Thomas

by Anna Withers Bair, 1979

20 Aug. 1869–27 Nov. 1913

A photograph of George Thomas Brown (1869-1913). Image from the Internet Archive.George Thomas Brown, tobacco manufacturer, was born in Mocksville, the son of Rufus D. and Sarah Gibbs Brown. Rufus Brown and his brother, Dr. William Brown, had a small tobacco factory in Mocksville, which they moved, along with their families, to Winston in about 1875. This firm, Brown Brothers, was thus among the pioneer tobacco businesses of Winston; it continued in operation for many years after the death of Rufus Brown in October 1893.

George Brown was educated in the schools of Winston and at Davidson College, which he attended in 1887–88. In 1893 he married Elsie Thompson, whose sister, Minnie, was the wife of Robert Lynn Williamson. The two brothers-in-law formed a partnership for the manufacture of chewing and smoking tobacco, even though the effects of the financial Panic of 1893 were in full force. They took over the factory and brands of T. F. Williamson Tobacco Company, another pioneer tobacco firm in Winston, and began operation as Brown and Williamson on 1 Feb. 1894, with capital of ten thousand dollars and thirty employees. George Brown had received this ten thousand dollars from his father; he bought with it one hundred thousand pounds of tobacco, and he took charge of the office and buying for the partners. His brother-in-law, with the technical knowledge and practical experience, took charge of the manufacturing operations. In 1906 the business was incorporated in North Carolina as Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company, with Brown president, which office he held until his death, and Williamson vice-president.

Brown was taken ill suddenly at his home in Winston in the early evening of 26 Nov. 1913 and died the next day. He was buried in Salem Cemetery beside his wife and their only child, Minnie, who died in infancy. Brown was a member of the board of trade and the tobacco board of trade. He belonged to the First Presbyterian Church of Winston and served on its board of deacons; he was a Mason, Shriner, and Knight Templar and a charter member of the Twin City Club.


North Carolina Biography, vol. 3 (1929 [photograph]).

Additional Resources:

"Brown & Williamson Produces Chewing and Snuff in State." The E.S.C. Quarterly 9, no. 1-2 (Summer-Fall 1951). 89-91. Internet Archive.

Image Credits:

"George T. Brown, organizer and for several years president of Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. He died in 1916." Photograph. The E.S.C. Quarterly 9, no. 1-2 (Summer-Fall 1951). 90. Internet Archive. (accessed October 1, 2013).

Origin - location: 


any indication that thomas farish sister was mary williamson

Hi Dwight,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and sharing this question.  Unfortunately, NCpedia doesn't have any additional information about this, although you may be interested in this article on Thomas Farish Williamson --  I do not see where it mentions his siblings, but some of the additional resources may be of interest as leads.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

We recently purchased a piece of Tobbaciana titled "Drum Mixture". IT is a small decorated drum. It comes from Factory #1, 5th District of North Carolina, by Brown Bros, Winston, N.C.
We are trying to narrow down a date upon which this piece was manufactured.

Dear Nancy,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and sharing your artifact and question.  

I’m afraid NCpedia doesn’t have any additional information to help with this.  I’ve done a bit of searching and don’t come up with anything immediately.  Your comment will stay published and so other viewers may have some more information, if you would like to check back with the entry from time to time.

I do have a number of suggestions that might help.

--First, you may want to consult a tobacconist if you haven’t already.  You may also find a community board online that posts on similar topics.

--You may also want to look into some books on the history of Brown & Williamson.  Here is a link to search results in WorldCat (WorldCat is an online library catalog that searches the holdings of libraries s all over the world.  You can view a particular book and also see if a library near you has it.  You may also be able to get books through interlibrary loan at  your local library).

--You may also want to check online social media platforms like Pinterest or Instagram.  Ebay may be another option too. 

I’m sorry I couldn’t put my hands on anything definitive, but I hope these resources help.

Best wishes,
Kelly Agan 

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