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Brown, John (1787–1860)

by Colin Choat

John Brown of Colstoun, Upper Paterson, as he was almost invariably titled in family history notices in newspapers in Australia regarding himself and members of his family, was born near Copenhagen, Denmark, on 28 April 1787. Apparently some of his ancestors were forced to flee Scotland after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 and John's father acquired "Kokkedal" near Copenhagen.

John Brown went to the Tirhut area of India, an important Indigo production and processing area. In 1823, he married Charlotte Dowling and a number of their children were born in India, including Louisa and William.

In 1829 the Browns were back in Denmark and a son, Edward George, was born there in that year.

On 23 January 1838, John and Charlotte Brown, their children, a nanny and three servants arrived in Sydney from England on the Marquis of Hastings. Although the voyage had lasted four months, number of passengers, including John Brown, were so satisfied with the journey that they published an open letter in The Sydney Herald to the captain of the ship. The letter stated that "after a very agreeable passage we cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of expressing to you our high sense of the obligations we owe you for your unremitting attention to our comfort during the voyage, and we request you will accept our sincere thanks."

The children of John and Charlotte who arrived on the Marquis of Hastings were Harriet, Louisa, John, William, Eliza, Edward, Charles, Edith, Gustava and Sigismunda. Herbert, Nugent and Walterus were born in Australia.

John Brown was 51 years old when he and his family arrived in Australia. When the family found a property which suited their purposes at "Upper Paterson" (now Gresford) in the Hunter Valley, Brown named it Colstoun after his ancestral home in Haddington, Scotland.

John and Charlotte Brown and their children were pioneers in New South Wales. They unleashed a great deal of energy, talent, courage and tenacity upon the colony. Some of the large family settled in the Upper Paterson area, while others moved to other parts of Australia. A few, once married, returned to the United Kingdom and William, who had been born in India, went to China where, in 1847, he was killed whilst in the Huangpu District, Guangdong province. John Brown referred to his son as being "barbarously murdered by the Chinese at Canton together with five of his companions."

Edward became the first mayor of Tumut and a was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. He was one of the earliest residents of Tumut and had gone to the area in 1846 to work for his brother-in-law, John Charles Whitty. When Witty returned to England, Edward purchased Witty's property. Edward later went into partnership with Hamlyn Lavicount Harris whose sister had married J. C. Witty's son, Henry. There was a close relationship between the Witty, Brown and Harris families.

Another son, Nugent Wade Brown lived at Ban Ban in Queensland and was one of the first settlers inland from Maryborough.

After John Brown's death in 1860, his wife Charlotte returned to England and, at the time of her death on 11 March 1884, she was living with her daughter, Louisa and her son-in-law, John Charles Whitty. Louisa and Whitty had married in England in 1868.

John Brown died at Parramatta, New South Wales, on 9 July 1860, at the house of his daughter and son-in-law, Sigismunda and Dr. Walter Brown. He was buried in the cemetery of St John's Anglican Cathedral, Parramatta. A memorial in the Cathedral reads:

In memory of
JOHN BROWN Esq.
of Colstoun, Upper Paterson N. S. Wales.
Born at Copenhagen, April 28th 1787.
Died at Parramatta, July 9th 1860.
Aged 73 years.
His remains rest in the cemetery of St John's Parramatta.
Also in memory of WILLIAM, his son.
Born at Serampore, India, October 5th 1826,
Who was barbariously murdered by the Chinese at Canton
together with five of his companions December 5th 1847, Aged 21 years.
His remains rest in the British cemetery at Whampoa.
"Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest"
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"

Original publication

  • unpublished, 2012

Additional Resources

Citation details

Colin Choat, 'Brown, John (1787–1860)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/brown-john-14344/text25415, accessed 15 December 2019.

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