I do not think that there are many living Galionites who remember the lectures that Bishop Brown used to give at Brownella. In the 1920s, he held regular sessions in what was once the old carriage house, but what is now the Galion Historical Museum. He used to call it Brownella Hall.
Speaking from an elevated podium, he gave Sunday afternoon talks on a variety of subjects. One broadside, which is shown today, announced his series on science and religion. The talks were to be given weekly in a series of 12, from July 7 to Sept. 22 in that year. These lectures could evolve into debates and participants were encouraged to do so.
The notice read that “Bishop William Montgomery Brown, D.D., announced that he will deliver 12 lectures on science and religion in Brownella Hall, Galion, Ohio, on Sunday afternoons from three to four with a half hour following for questions and answers.” The dates and subjects followed.
This particular series began with a talk titled, “The Silence of the Stars.” The Bishop knew what he was talking about. He had a small landing on the big house from which he watched the stars with a telescope. This intelligent man also taught astronomy at the Galion High School at one time.
He went from that subject to the next, which was, “What are Matter, Force and Law?” That was followed by “The Testimony of the Rocks,” and then “The Origin of Life,” and a week later, “The Story of Evolution.”
Here, Bishop Brown began to figuratively tread on some toes, and his opinions on this and the subsequent writings were what put him at odds with his church.
Subjects which followed were titled, “The Face of Nature Today,” “The Ascent of Man,” “The Backward Peoples of the World,” “The Evolution of Religion,” “The Mind of Man,” “Has Man a Free Will?” and the final lecture, “The Triumph of Science.”
Those must have been provocative talks. Was the audience attentive? Were there many present? Was it stifling hot on those late summer days?
Miriam Sayre remembered some of the history about these talks. Although not part of the audience, she noted that there were many “personages” who did attend — and these were not local individuals.
For instance, Eugene Debs, the presidential candidate for the Socialist Party in the 1920s, was a listener and occasionally was a part of the program. Earl Browder was also sometimes present, and Miriam remembers that a prominent Russian who was head of the Russian Youth Movement was once present as well.
There was a writer from England, who did some ghost writing for the bishop, and others who were important in various areas of science and religion, attended.
Although Bishop Brown was sometimes disparaged or ignored by the Galion church leaders because of his teachings, there was one time when the situation was reversed. Miriam told the story of a local church which because of a quarrel with other churches, (or was it a splinter group within its own congregation?) had no place to worship.
Bishop Brown invited the church to worship at Brownella Hall until they could have a place of their own, and this they did.
These lectures were open to all, and the public was notified that there would be “no collections.” The aim of the lecture series he noted, “… is to make the lectures so thoroughgoing that they will be the equivalent of a post-graduate course in the sciences of astronomy, physics, geology, biology, and anthropology for high school and college alumni, yet so simple that boys and girls of the sixth-grade will understand them sufficiently to make attendance well worthwhile.”
Your Historical Galion is contributed by the Galion History Center and features the writings of Dr. Bernard M. Mansfield and other local historians. This story was first published in the Galion Inquirer on Saturday, Jan. 20, 1996. For information about the Galion History Center, visit www.galionhistory.com.