Biography of James Miller Brown – written by his Grand Daughter in 1971

James Miller Brown (1830 – 1926)

[Note: The following short biography was written in 1971 by his granddaughter, Audrey Alexandra Brown, daughter of Joseph Miller Brown. Our thanks to George Norris, the great grandson of James Miller Brown and Leah Westwood, for providing us with this copy.]

James Miller Brown (1830-1926) circa 1900. (photo courtesy of George Norris, great grandson of James Miller Brown and Leah Brown - nee Westwood)
James Miller Brown (1830-1926) circa 1900. (photo courtesy of George Norris, great grandson of James Miller Brown and Leah Brown – nee Westwood)

My Grandfather, James (Miller) Brown, was born in Donnington, Glouchestershire, in 1830. In later years, since he had long forgotten the day of his birth, his family used to keep it on the 25th of February, a likely date, as his baptismal certificate shows that he was baptized on the 7th of March. He was christened James only, but took the name of Miller (his forebears having been millers) to escape the confusion caused by so common a Christian name and surname.

Orphaned while very young (his father, he said “broke his neck in a hunting field”), he and his younger two brothers and sister were given a home by their paternal grandparents, who lived, he once told me, in a very old building which had originally been a priory and had partly fallen into ruin.

Young James seems to have been born with a rare adventurous spirit; when he was only 6 years old, having somehow got hold of a blunderbuss and the powder for it, he assembled his playmates and fired it off on the village green. No one was the worse for this escapade, but understandably it did not meet with the favour of the authorities, who waited on his Grandmother and informed her that in future she must keep her eldest grandson under stricter control. She replied that she was unable to do so, and solved the problem by apprenticing him at 7 years old to a tailor, a Mr. Goden, who lived at ‘Stratford Upon Avon’ (I use the old fashioned form of this name because by Grandfather always did). There he spent the next 7 years of his life. He has told me that as a small boy he used to peep in at the door of Shakespeare’s birthplace; and this early association inspired him with a love of Shakespeare’s poetry which was to endure all his life. On his 90th birthday I heard him recite 15 passages from Shakespeare in the course of the evening.

After serving his apprenticeship, he still kept in touch with his former mentor, Mr. Goden. When word of the great California gold strike of 1849 spread like wildfire in England, Mr. Goden wrote proposing that he, his two sons (the younger of whom was my Grandfather’s age), and my Grandfather should form a party and set out for the New World to make their fortunes. This they did, in 1850, my Grandfather being then 20 years old. They embarked on a sailing ship, the Excelsior, and were landed in New York after a voyage lasting 60 days. From New York they went by train and canal boat to Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Evansville, a town in Indiana. And here they encountered a medical phenomenon which is a matter of history although it has never been explained. For yellow fever, the deadly disease of the tropics, came up the river to Indiana. The people on one bank went unscratched; the people on the other bank sickened and died, among them Mr. Goden and his elder son. The surviving son had had enough; he decided to return to England, and proposed that my Grandfather go with him. But James Miller Brown was not a man to turn back. Without a penny in his pockets or a friend to the New World, he went on. At first he took odd jobs for his board; later he was employed by a tailor, and so became acquainted with a contractor, John Kennedy, who had made over $10,000 in the construction of the Wabash and Erie Canal. Mr. Kennedy was getting together a party for the gold fields of California, and my Grandfather was an eager recruit. The party left Evansville, with 275 head of cattle, 16 head of horses and 10 wagons. Among the train were several women and children.

The journey took 7 months. On their way they passed through Omaha, Nebraska; and here my Grandfather had a stroke of luck. The company, who had just forded a river which probably created a thirst for something other than water, saw a sign reading OHIO WHISKEY, $5 PER GALLON. “When we left Indiana,” my Grandfather told the storey, “whiskey was selling for 17¢ a gallon if you bought it by the barrel, and 25¢ if you bought a single gallon.” Kennedy, the leader of our party, saw the sign, and said he would like a gallon but he’d be damned if he’d pay $5 for it. However, he offered to shoot at a target with any man in the outfit, the loser to pay for the whiskey. I had never shot out of a rifle in my life, but for some reason my companions chose me as the man to shoot against Kennedy. A piece of wagon tire was put up as a target, 60 years away, and Kennedy shot first. When we examined the target there was no sign of a bullet mark; so I shot next. For some unknown reason I managed to hit the wood 2 inches from the mark, and Kennedy paid for the whiskey.

The ox team plodded on. Indians dogged their trail, never seen by day, but evidenced by the smoke of their campfires on the horizon at sundown. Every night a man must stand guard over the wagon train. One man thought this an unnecessary precaution; he fell asleep at his post and they buried him the next morning.

“In those days,” my Grandfather said to a reporter many years later, “a young man took his orders from his elders; and the elders were not slow to impose on the youngsters. Many a time after a hard day’s work I was forced to stand guard all night and then resume my place driving an ox wagon.” One day he fell asleep, was jarred out of the driver’s seat, and the front wheel of the wagon went over his leg. Because of the softness of the ground the bone was not broken, and he had to lie up for a few days. “In spite of the pain,” he told me once, “I almost welcomed it, I was so tired.”

He spoke of the time they came on a caravan of Mormons, all of whom had either been massacred by the Indians or died of thirst. There were only their bones, he said, and I remember the look in his eyes as he said it; (he was over 90 then), “only their bones – and the long hair of the women stirring a little in the breeze.”

Once he strayed from the wagon, and before he knew it, was lost in the desert. At first he panicked and ran wildly about; it began to rain a little, turning the red dust into clay so slippery that he had several falls before his natural good sense asserted itself. “I realized that I was only exhausting myself and probably getting farther and farther from help,” he told me. “I knew my best chance was to sit down and stay where I was.” And that is exactly what he did. He had no food with him; and very day he took his belt in another hole. He had tightened it by three holes when a search party from the wagon found him. They were horrified, seeing him plastered with the red clay, which they took to be dried blood.

At last they entered California. At Placerville my Grandfather went to work for his board, and after 3 months joined a prospector. In only 3 days they found enough gold to raise what my Grandfather described as “a nice sum”, his share of which he seems to have spent very enjoyably. After all, he was young, barely of age then. Seventy years later he was to say to me, “I have known what it is at some times in my life to be so desperately in need of money that I can never bear now to see it thrown away.”

Perhaps it was while he was “having his fling” that he visited Sacramento, then a booming town. The proprietor of the one hotel, intoxicated with prosperity, had sent all the way to England for a billiard table, a luxury unknown in the West. Alas, my Grandfather arrived in town to find the proprietor tearing his hair. A tipsy patron had ripped the baize table top with his cue, making the costly importation unusable. My Grandfather examined the tear, and told the proprietor that he believed he could repair is so perfectly that the table would be as good as ever. The point to remember here is that a billiard table’s pitch has to be absolute; and expert has to set it up, and once it has been set up it must never under any circumstances be moved again. This being so, how could it be possible to mend a tear in such a way as to leave not the slightest unevenness? The place was soon full of miners hanging over my Grandfather while he worked and laying bets for and against (one imagines mostly against) him. But he did it. He was always a master of the needle.

He traveled as far south as Panama. It didn’t appeal to him. “When people ate down there,” he told me, “they have to have a slave standing behind them with a feather fan, to brush the flies off the meat before they could put it in their mouths!”

He made a brief return to England but the New World was now in his blood, and he decided to come out to the west coast of Canada. In 1862 his ship docked at Esquimalt after a long and hard voyage. They had been six months at sea, and, as he told me, some of the sailors were so overcome on landing that they fell on their knees and kissed the green earth under them. My Grandfather never gave way to undignified displays of emotion, but he admitted to me that no place had ever looked better to him.

Even a mild attack of smallpox which he suffered soon after his arrival didn’t discourage him. As soon as he recovered he joined a party bound for the Cariboo. He went as far as Richfield, and worked on a claim at Williams Creek. He became well acquainted with the famous “Cariboo Cameron”, who brought a caravan of mules loaded with gold down the Cariboo Road, spent the money in the East, and returned to die a pauper in the Cariboo. My Grandfather also worked on the celebrated Black Jack Tunnel on Williams Creek. The adjoining claim was owned by a man named Ned Sout, who died at Yale aged nearly 100 in the early 1920’s. However, my Grandfather made no vast fortune in the Cariboo. We read of the tremendous strikes that were made, but probably most of the miners were no luckier than the man my Grandfather saw panning gold on a river bank. “How are you doing?” my Grandfather asked. “Pretty well,” the man replied. “Have you been at it long?” “Three weeks.” “Have you found much gold?” “Enough to make a ring with.”

Returning to Vancouver Island, my Grandfather met and married his first wife. He was then 33, his bride 20. She was Miss Leah Westwood, the daughter of Mr. William Westwood, who had brought his family (including his own Father) out from England not long before. Leah had been born in Evesham, Worcestershire, which is only 8 miles from Stratford where my Grandfather had spent his boyhood. It seems curious that as children they had lived only 8 miles apart, yet they had to come all the way to Vancouver Island to meet and marry. James was a handsome young man, with a pleasing tenor voice and repertoire of songs which he accompanied on the guitar. It is no wonder that my Grandmother fell in love with him.

The Westwood family at first lived in Victoria. Someone who had known my Grandmother as a girl (but was an old lady when I knew her) told me that she had a lovely soprano voice, and that she had sung in the choir of the First Christ Church Cathedral, the little humpy looking wooden building that burned some years later.

James Miller Brown and Leah Westwood were married, as has recorded, on the 13th of December, 1863, at “The Farm”, later but not originally known as Ashlar Farm. They were married in the log cabin which he had built for his bride on land about 3 miles north of Nanaimo on the Comox Road. My father who loved the cabin, described it to me as a child and even drew a pen and ink sketch of it, now alas long lost. It must have been something quite out of the ordinary, for it had a central part flanked by a wing on either side. My Grandfather told me that he built it single-handedly and working for the most part in 4 feet of snow. He made chinks in the wall to shoot from, and sparred a large fir tree about 6 feet from the door and in direct line with it, as cover to fire from in case of an attack by Indians. As he had no plaster for the interior of the cabin, he covered the walls with a fine white canvas stretched smooth and taut. He built a “Dutch Oven” in which the family’s bread was baked. My Father used to declare that no bread ever tasted so good as that baked in the Dutch oven.

Garden seeds were in short supply, but my Grandmother had her garden, in which she sowed sweet william and the rosy English double daisies. Her husband planted apple trees, some of which were still alive about 60 years later, long after the empty cabin had been destroyed by fire. (My Father used some of this apple wood in the pipe organ which he built around the turn of the century).

It is possible that the cabin later had a duplicate across the sea. In those days, when Esquimalt was one of Britain’s world wide naval bases, many young officers spent their leave hunting on the Island. Among them was a midshipman, Lord Charles Beresford, who was later to rise to the great distinction in Her Majesty’s Government. He was then a lad of 19 “Such a merry boy!” my Grandfather said. He spend some days at “The Farm”, and my Grandfather acted as his guide. On leaving, he told my Grandfather that he would have a replica of the cabin built to use as a hunting lodge when he came into possession of his estate in Ireland. Whether he did or not, who knows?

In this cabin was born: James William (1865), Joseph Miller (1867), Leah Elizabeth (1868) and Clara Emma (1869) Though christened Clara Emma, this second daughter was called by the name of Bernice all her life. My Grandfather told me, with a twinkle, that that had been the name of an old sweetheart of his. His wife does not seem to have minded. She had no need to, he loved her devotedly all her too short life, and did not re-marry until 17 years after her death.

Everyone who knew her seems to have loved her. She was the gentlest creature; yet she could shoot as well as a man, a very necessary accomplishment in those days. My Father has told me that when his Father had gone in to town for provisions, if he were late in returning she would slip a pistol into her pocket, and taking him and his elder brother by the hand she would walk as far as she dared down the Comox Road to meet her husband.

My Grandfather met with one adventure which his young family never forgot. He was going hunting one day, and asked his wife to shut up the dog as he did not want it with him. Nevertheless, when he had got some distance into the wood, a dim shape slid out of the trees and followed him. That day he got no deer. Returning home he was just opening the gate when his wife came out to met him. “Why didn’t you shut up the dog?” he asked her. She answered, “I did, he’s in the shed.” Then what had been his companion? He looked over his shoulder. Having followed him in hopes of its share of the kill he did not make, the dim shape now realized it would get no dinner. It sat back on his haunches, threw up its muzzle to the stars, and uttered the unmistakable howl of the wolf.

This wolf seems to have been a semi-sociable beast; but my Grandfather had another encounter with wolves which was more alarming. He was a Freemason, a founder and charter member of Ashlar Lodge, the first Masonic Lodge in Nanaimo, and always punctilious in his attendance. On his way home from a lodge meting one night, he heard the howling of wolves nearby. (This was about where the Comox Road cemetery is now.) He was unarmed, but picking up a stout stick he swung it round his head and shouted as he walked. The howls stopped, but he heard his pursuers loping behind him. Putting on a burst of speed he managed to get through his fence just as the wolves crashed into the bars behind him. For some time they hung about, howling. Later my Grandmother looked out, and by the light of the then risen moon, she saw 5 large wolves within a few feet of the fence. Next day my Grandfather told his experience to his neighbour, Mr. Benjamin Westwood who put out poison. As a result, for many years afterwards, Mr. Westwood’s cabin boasted 5 fine wolf skin rugs.

But living 3 miles from town posed worse dangers than wolves. It was because of the murder of his nearest neighbour under peculiarly brutal circumstances (a story I have told elsewhere) that my Grandfather decided to move in to Nanaimo in 1871.

W.B. James Miller Brown (1830-1926), circa 1875
W.B. James Miller Brown (1830-1926), circa 1875

He set up his tailoring business in a shop on Front Street which was, I believe, still standing in the early 1920’s. Here more sons were born to him: George Stanley (1872), Benjamin David (1874), and William Henry (1875). William Henry died in the bitter winter, but he lived long enough for his Father to remember him as a “Little fellow with long light curls, always laughing.”

Last came John (1876). His mother died an hour or so after his birth. She was only 33 years old, and had had 9 children, the eldest, a girl stillborn.

John must have been a strong child, for he lived 5 weeks and 2 days. He was buried with his Mother and his little brother William in the pioneer graveyard on Wallace Street. Shortly afterwards my Grandfather heard that this cemetery was to be closed and a new one opened on the Comox Road. He had his wife’s coffin moved in haste but, he told me, “I forgot the babies.” I was always sad about this: I knew she wouldn’t have forgotten them. There was every excuse for him, however; he told me that for two weeks after her death he was scarcely in his right mind and had little idea of what was going on around him.

He was left with 6 children, the eldest not 11, the youngest 2 years old. Single handed he brought them up. My Aunt Leah has described to me how when she was 6 and her sister 4, he would dress them for church on Sunday, finishing by standing each of them in turn on a chair while he wound them round and round in a long woolen muffler. “We must,” she said, “have been the funniest looking little objects!”

The children used to keep his needles threaded while he plied his trade. Sitting cross legged on his board, he would sew while his second son Joseph read aloud to him. He was a magnificent craftsman; all the sea captains came to him when their ships were in port. Not only was his work first class, he also had a stock of the finest woolen cloth, in short supply in the States.

He was a strict, even a severe Father; but he loved his children. My Aunt Leah once told me a couple of stories which I think illustrates this.

When she was 19 she went to her Father and asked for the money to buy a white dress. He refused it, saying she didn’t need one. Argument would have been useless as she well knew; but passing by the half open door of the warehouse she caught a glimpse of white within. It was a bolt of waistcoat lining. Fetching the shears, she snipped off enough to make the longed for white dress. It sounds bizarre, but I can believe the result was eminently satisfactory; she had a remarkable flair for dress designing. But my point is, that though her Father must have noticed the diminishment of his bolt of waistcoat lining, and must have put two and two together when he saw her wearing the white dress, he never remarked on the incident. I don’t doubt that he admired his daughter’ spirit.

My Aunt also told the story of how she and her sister Bernice slipped out one day and hired a boat for a row on the harbour. It was shortly before Easter, and, greatly daring, they had put on their new Easter suits. All went well with them, but another oarsman was not so fortunate; he got into difficulties, upset his boat, and would have drowned if my Aunts hadn’t managed to rescue him. But in hauling him overboard they got themselves drenched, which had an appalling effect on the new suits. Aunt Leah’s skirt stretched out, becoming so long and narrow that she could hardly walk and was forced to hold it up with both hands. Aunt Bernice’s skirt shrank from ankle length to half way up her legs. Somehow they got home and were lucky enough to creep into the house unobserved.

On Easter Day as usual they accompanied their Father to church; and when the congregation dispersed, a catastrophe befell. The owner of the boathouse had a telescope, and used to divert himself by sitting up in the top of this boathouse and keeping an eye on the harbour. (My Aunt told me that she had once rebuked him for this practice, saying that he might very well see something not intended for him). Now he rushed up to the girls and their Father with outstretched hand, exclaiming, “Mr. Brown, I want to congratulate you. Your daughters are heroines. I saw them save a man’s life!” Enthusiastically he told the tale while the girls stood by quaking in their shoes. On the way home their Father made only one comment. “I knew something was up,” he said, “when you girls wore your old suits to church on Easter!”

At the time of his death my Grandfather was thought to be the richest man in Nanaimo. He may have been, but his fortune was not earned by the needle. It came from the sale to Robert Dunsmuir of the coal right of some of his property at Northfield. This property, known in the family as “the hundred acres,” was never mined, and some of it is still in possession of sons of his second marriage.

In connection with this property it is interesting to note that my Grandfather was the only man who ever fought Dunsmuir in a court of law and won. Dunsmuir wanted to put a right-of-way across the property; my Grandfather refused him permission. Dunsmuir took legal action. Everyone in town held my Grandfather up to ridicule, did he think he could win out against Dunsmuir’s millions? My Grandfather said nothing, but bought some books on law and studied them. He pleaded his own case, and judgement was given in his favour. However, my Father, who told me the story, also told me that my Grandfather had had his trunks packed; if the verdict had gone against him, James Miller Brown would have left Nanaimo for California.

In 1893, when he was 63 years old, my Grandfather married Louisa, (second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rumming), who had come out with her brothers from London, England, 2 years earlier. As my Father was already married to her younger sister, Rosa, the results, genealogically speaking, were rather confusing. By his second marriage my Grandfather had 8 sons, Henry, Ivan, Arnold, Godfrey, Victor, Horace, Rupert and Clarence: and 3 daughters, Ena, Olive and Viola. His last child, Clarence, was born when he was close to 79 years old. All these children were my half uncles and half aunts as well as my first cousins.

James Miller Brown house, 528 Hecate Street, Nanaimo in January 2017
James Miller Brown house, 528 Hecate Street, Nanaimo in January 2017 (photo by Ashlar Lodge No.3 Historian)

He lived with his second family in a large house on the corner of Hecate and Prideaux Streets, in a part of town still known as “Nob Hill”. The house survives, though it has long since been rented out in rooms; it is stuccoed now, and the little porch where the yellow jasmine used to flower in February has been enclosed.

I remember him first when I used to be taken to see him when I was hardly more than a baby; at that time our conversation was naturally limited, but he always had a smile for me and a handful of big brown and yellow striped “humbugs” from a supply he kept on hand. I did not much care for peppermint, and these were especially strong; but I always ate them, because I wanted to please him. At that age I couldn’t appreciate the size of his house, which I found depressing, for the rooms were high ceilinged and rather dark. My chief memory is of an old broken backed couch he had, which he sometimes stretched out on. He kept it, no doubt, because he found it comfortable; but at my infantile age I supposed he couldn’t afford better, and I used to be very sorry for what I though was my “poor” Grandfather. I came to know him better in his extreme age. I used to visit him whenever I could, and I think he knew I was truly interested in his stories of the past. Much of what I have written here I have heard from his own lips.

On one subject he was reticent; even his own children knew little of his childhood and antecedents, for he almost never spoke of them. Once in conversation with my Father he dropped a remark which seemed to imply some sort of kinship with the Churchills or Marlbourgh.

Naturally, my Father would have like to enquire further, but came up against a stone wall. “There’s nothing in it,” my Grandfather said with irritation. “If there had been, I would have told you”. He does appear to have been related in some way to Lord Stanley, who has been immortalized by Vancouver’s Stanley Park. He gave his third son the second name of Stanley on this account. One of his daughters used to declare that he sometimes received letters with a crest on them. But all this was a sealed book to his family; on this subject he never opened his lips.

He had been a great walker in his time, thinking nothing of a “hike” up Mount Benson when he was in his seventies; but for the last ten years of his life he almost never went out. His legs had once failed him suddenly and he had fallen down in the street; he was in some respects a very proud man, and he would never risk a second such humiliation. He used to sit with his pipe in front of a blazing fire; and he told me once that he was never bored; he had an exciting life, and his memory was so good that the past was like a book to him, he could turn to any page and relive it at will.

A photograph taken around the time of his second marriage shows him as a fine looking, aquiline featured man. I remember him as of middle height, well made, with noticeably small hands and feet. He had a short beard and very thick hair which never turned white but remained the metallic grey of silver. In his old age he had a look of porcelain; anyone less like a rip roaring “Forty-Niner” it would be impossible to imagine.

Though he already had over a score of Grandchildren, he always had a welcome for me. He told my Father once that I had, as he put it, “the profile of a lady.” My Father was very pleased by this compliment; and so was I, for I knew he did not bestow his praises lightly. As a matter of fact, I have owed him a great debt all my life, and one he was never conscious of. Always a reader himself, while his second family was young he subscribed to an English publication, “My Magazine”, edited by the famous Arthur Mee. Whenever he saw my Father he would hand him one of these for us. Of course we got only the intermittent copy but this continued over about 5 years, and to me it was a godsend. It contained thrillingly written articles on all the achievements of art, literature and science; I read it from cover to cover and got all my early education from it.

One of my Grandfather’s traits was a strong dislike of playing cards, which he would not permit in his house; a younger son of his, however, has told me that in his day the family did play cards occasionally, but always with a newspaper handy to throw over the cards should my Grandfather walk in on them unexpectedly. This was not puritanism on his part; in California he had seen men shot dead over the gaming table, and he never forgot it.

Another characteristic of his was his refusal to buy on credit. He always dealt in cash, it being his opinion that “a man who buys what he hasn’t the money to pay for isn’t honest.”

Though not an abstainer, my Grandfather has never been convivial and this, taken in conjunction with his frugal habits (for he always lived very simply) gave rise to an idea among his fellow townsfolk that he was “close”. This is not true; I know of one man who applied to him for a loan when his business was in difficulties. My Grandfather examined the books, for he did not believe in throwing good money after bad, and finding them satisfactory, lent him $15,000 with the stipulation that the borrower should repay it without interest when he was able. This loan saved the business, which became exceedingly prosperous; the borrower came to my Grandfather and offered either to repay the loan or give him a share in the firm, which would actually have been more profitable. But my Grandfather would accept only the return of the sum which he had lent. There were probably other instances of the same kind, but I mention this because it is one of which I have personal knowledge.

It is a permanent loss that the story of my Grandfather’s life was never written in detail. Even in his own day this was realized. An old acquaintance of his who had the reputation of being the stingiest man in Nanaimo once exclaimed to him “You know, you should write a book. Why, if you did, I wouldn’t mind paying a dollar for it myself!” The family rightly felt that this was the ultimate tribute.

On his 94th birthday my Grandfather was interviewed by the press, and a reporter wrote of him: “During Mr. Brown’s narrative he frequently illustrated certain points with apt quotations from Shakespeare; and so clear in his memory, he can without the least time for thought quote passage from the Bible, recite poetry or talk on current events of the day as well as or better than many men who have not yet reached the fifty mark.”

At 96, however, he was nearing the end of the trail.

He had always dressed without assistance and come down from his room ready for the day. One morning he appeared as usual, but by mischance he had put on his coat inside-out. His wife drew his attention to this lapse, and he said with a kind of groan, “It doesn’t matter.” When we heard this we knew that he was nearing the end, for such things had always mattered to him, they were part of his self-respect. I recall his saying to my elder brother (it was on his 90th birthday), and I know he meant it.

True enough, he lived only about 2 months longer. He said he would like to see Christmas once again; and he did. Christmas had once been the happiest of times for him; there used to be a party attended by all his grandchildren, and he would beam round on them like a patriarch of old. Every one of them from the oldest to the youngest (who, if he were very young indeed, would be stood on a little red footstool so that he could be seen over the table), was expected to “say a piece” before the distribution of presents from the tree. I remember the last of these celebrations, Christmas 1913, and how his eldest grandson and namesake, James Miller Brown 11, stood up, pulled a lock of dark hair down over his forehead and recited, “I am thy Father’s spirit / Doomed for a space to walk the night …” It was my Grandfather’s own favourite quotation; how he laughed and applauded, crying “Well done, Well done!” We had no way of knowing that before the next Christmas rolled around all the elders of that merry company would be scattered. All served their country in the 1914-1918 war; two of them, my eldest brother and James Miller Brown 11, died in it and are buried beyond the sea.

After Christmas 1925 my Grandfather failed rapidly; he seemed to have lost interest in living. Of all the people I have every known, he had least fear of death. He had sometimes spoken of it to me with complete detachment, saying that he had had a very interesting life and he had enjoyed it, that death was the next step, “It’s natural,” he said, and he looked forward to finding that interesting too. He was well prepared for death; yet physical death came hard to him; it was as if his spirit had been housed in that outworn body too long to be parted from it readily. Mercifully, his last illness was brief. He died in the early hours of the 16th of January, 1926.

It was a fearful paroxysm that took him, one that raised him in his bed and lifted all the hairs on his head. When he fell back his wife bent over him, asking, “Are you better?” He answered in less than a whisper, “Better…..” and died.

As he had always intended, he left no will. Wills, he said, could be contested and set aside; if he died intestate the government would see to it that his estate was divided equally among his family. And so it was, through 4 years had to pass before the estate could be settled, as his youngest child was only 17 at the time of his death. 15 children, 26 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren survived him.

He was buried in the suit of evening dress which had been the last work of his needle, and in a coffin of solid oak which seemed a fit resting place for him. His fellow Masons conducted the ancient rites at the graveside.

The grave marker of James Miller Brown and his second wife Louisa (nee Rumming).
The grave marker of James Miller Brown and his second wife Louisa (nee Rumming in Bowen Road Cemetery). The grave of James Miller Brown’s first wife, Leah (nee Westwood) is just beyond the three large trees in the center-left background (photo by Ashlar Lodge No.3 Historian)

In setting down this record (which has been a labour of love) I have tried to depict him as he was, so that he may live to those who never knew him, and he will always live to me.

[Note: The preceding history was written in 1971 by James Miller Brown‘s granddaughter, Audrey Alexandra Brown, daughter of Joseph Miller Brown. Our thanks to George Norris, the great grandson of James Miller Brown and Leah Westwood, for providing us with this copy.]

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