Many of you are familiar, I suppose, with “the unsinkable Molly Brown.” A century ago, she was well known for surviving the Titanic sinking and famously threatening the crewman in charge of lifeboat #6 to return to look for other survivors. She, of course, was born in Hannibal, Mo., as Margaret Tobin. At age 18, she moved to Colorado, where she met and married a poor man out of love. That poor man, JJ Brown, struck it rich in mining and catapulted Mrs. Brown to a life of affluence, influence, and philanthropy.
However, I wanted to introduce you to another Mrs. Brown who also called Missouri home. She too married for love, and while she never saw the wealth that the other more famous Ms. Brown found, she did just fine. Elizabeth Hartley was born on a small farm north of Sturgeon, Mo., on April 3, 1922, ten years before Molly’s passing.
She lived a “normal life,” she recounts from her self-published autobiography “Times, Place and Events, in the Life of Elizabeth Brown,” with her neighbors and family members. She attended a one-room schoolhouse, watched her dad plow the garden with a mule, fetched water to set over the outdoor fire to wash their clothes, and remembered that day when she came home from school after their move to Harg, Mo., to see that electricity had been run to the house for the first time. It was 1939.
One day she met Webster Brown in Jesse Hall on the campus of the University of Missouri. After a year of courtship, they were married in 1942. Mr. Brown denied entrance into the military due to a medical condition, began teaching Vocational Agriculture in Holden, Missouri, while Mrs. Brown did secretarial work, volunteered in church (organ playing, working with children), and keeping a tidy house.
In 1952, Webster felt a call to ministry, and they left for Southern Seminary. She recounted that no student housing was available, so they had to purchase an 8×23 trailer where the oven was so small, he had to cut her muffin pan and cookie sheet in half for it to fit.
The state Baptist paper printed an article with the following: “After seven and a half years in an unusually effective pastorate of the progressive Calvary Church in Columbia, Webster C. Brown has resigned to become director of the new Church Services Division of the Missouri Baptist Convention.” Over his 21 years, Rev. Brown would serve in a variety of roles before retiring in 1987.
Upon their retirement, they moved to an independent living apartment at the Baptist Home in Ironton. But, they did not stay retired long as they were commissioned again by the Home Mission Board, where they served an additional three more years before finally retiring again, at least vocationally.
Now Mrs. Brown had already survived cancer back in 1982 when she was told, “go home and rest – you only have a five percent chance of survival,” but she was the unstoppable Elizabeth Brown. Now she would face additional cancer surgeries and other ailments over time but would serve in a variety of ways during the years she called Lenior her home. She passed into eternity at the age of 98 just a few months ago in 2020, where I imagine she remains unstoppable due to the work of Christ. Webster had passed several years back on May 28, 2008.
Back in 2009, She wrote, “Webster’s plans continue to provide my living expenses. I am so thankful for Webster’s care of me while he lived and his provision for my ongoing living expenses.” They had entrusted their estate and management of funds to the Missouri Baptist Foundation. MBF had been managing her life and finances for some time now.
It was Elizabeth and Webster’s dream to leave something to Advance the Gospel after their passing. They had a crazy dream of leaving a million dollars, but they thought it could never happen. And it didn’t – they left over 1.4 million dollars to Baptist causes.
Not every one of us will be able to leave such an amount, but every one of us can leave something to the Advance the Gospel, contact the Foundation today to discover how we can help your giving dreams come true!