Jonathan H. Brown

a larger 1865 photograph

Brown sailed with the first party of Royal Engineers of Captain Parson's Detachment. They left Southampton on the La Plata on 2 September 1858 and arriving at Esquimalt on 29 October 1858.  

Brown appears to have been detached from Service at Derby and traveled with Colonel Moody, back to Victoria, as an orderly.

"We have a Sapper now (while Richard is here) for an orderly, such a nice Man, a carpenter, he puts up shelves etc.  He will do anything, just now when I went into the kitchen he was cooking the Fish for our tea and washes dishes and all sorts of unsoldierlike performances."

- 2nd February, 1859, The Letters of Mary Moody

As time passes, Brown becomes more useful to the Colonel.

"...our orderly is a very useful member of our community, he will do anything, from sweeping the Kitchen , chopping wood, cooking, washing dishes etc., he is a carpenter and glues and mends etc. He goes up the River when Richard goes, and takes every care of him in everyway - cooks and does all for him and is most attentive."

- 18th February, 1859, The Letters of Mary Moody

In early March of 1859, Moody travels up the Fraser.  With him travel his new Secretary, Robert Burnaby, and Brown, now promoted to Corporal.

"But stop, before I go further I must introduce to you our factotum and general manager, Corporal Brown of the Sappers, the handiest man and best servant ever seen.  He keeps us all straight, makes our blankets, cooks, carpenters, mends clothes , and is always handy whenever you want him; you may think what a veneration we have for him.  He is moreover slim and tall, upwards of 6 feet high, extremely handsome and very good tempered....We have capital grub cooked by Brown with the assistance of one of the Sappers."

-10th March 1859, Robert Burnaby

For some undiscovered reason, Brown was demoted to Sapper.

RE Camp, Harrison River,


I deeply regret to have to report that Sappers “Elliot”, “Manstree” and “Roe” of this Detachment were accidentally drowned last evening, while attempting to return in a canoe from the mouth of the Harrison River, during a severe storm.

From the evidence of Sapper Brown, the only one of the Canoe’s Crew who was saved, it would appear that after spending an hour or so at Mr. William’s house at Carnarvon, they started on their return in opposition to his (William’s) advice about 6:30 pm, being anxious to get back to camp by dark.

On rounding a point a mile below this camp the canoe became exposed to a heavy sea and swamped, but being in shallow water, they got out – hauled her on the beach and emptied her.

They then tracked her along the shore for 300 or 400 yards and again attempted to cross the river – The violence of the gale however precluded the possibility of steering, and driving before it, she gradually filled and soon upset in deep water.

Brown, who had light boots on, swam to the canoe, and got astride her, and, having kept hold of his paddle, managed to reach the shore, and crawl nearly dead into camp.  Of the other three poor fellows who had Gum boots on, Brown says that One (Sapper Roe) held on to him for a short time but soon sank exhausted – of the other two he saw no more.

Immediately on Sapper Brown’s arrival in camp, I took every means in my power by sending boats and men to the spot, to rescue any that might still be floating or have been thrown on the beach, but I regret to say all my efforts were unsuccessful - The Storm was one of the most terrific I ever witnessed.

Could I possibly have foreseen that men would have been rash enough to venture out in a light canoe in such weather, I would have sent down to stop them if possible, and deeply as I lament the melancholy loss of 3 fine young fellows I cannot but remark on the recklessness of the second attempt to cross the river, when the canoe had already been swamped with them in shallow water.

Brown assures me that the men were all quite sober and kept their presence of mind till the last minute, and I think the loss of at least one, viz: “Manstree”, who was the most powerful swimmer in the Detachment, was owing to his having long boots on, which must have utterly incapacitated him for swimming.

I have not yet succeeded in recovering the bodies, as the wind has been too strong to cause any extensive search to be made: but when it lulls, I trust that the clearness of the water will admit of their being found.

I should remark that the canoe, which was a long, light, frail affair, belonged to Sapper Roe, one of the poor fellows we have lost.

Feeling as I do the responsibility of the charge of so many men, I trust you will allow me to observe that an occurrence of this nature could not possibly have been foreseen.  The weather, when the men went down from this camp, was nearly calm.  The Storm came on without any warning, and as but an hour elapsed between its commencement and the occurrence of the accident there would hardly have been time to stop the men even if I had sent a messenger down immediately. – Again expressing my deep regret that I should have to report the loss of so many men of a Detachment under my temporary command.

I have etc., etc.,

H. Spencer Palmer
Lieutenant Royal Engineers

P.S. Brown I am happy to say is quite recovered this morning.

To Colonel R.C. Moody RE
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Sunday, 18th March, 1860 

"Everything is so dear here that I find it much cheaper to get groceries from Victoria and pay the freight up here then to buy them on the spot. We get better things too from Victoria. When Richard goes, he brings them up, and Brown is an excellent Shopper( the Soldier who goes as R's orderly). He knows all the Shops and gets the best things."

- 29th January, 1861, From the Letters of Mary S. Moody

Brown remains in the Colony after the Detachment disbands in 1863.

Brown, along with fellow Royal Engineer Sapper James Ellard, take over the ownership of a local saloon and advertise it in The British Columbian.

Public generally that they have taken of Mr. J.T. Scott,
 for a term of years, the well-known and old-
Pioneer Billard Saloon!
On Lytton Square,
and hope, by strict attention, the very best quality of
Liquors, and a comfortable and well-regulated Saloon,
to merit a share of the Public patronage.
The Billiard Tables are Phalen's best,. and the Saloon
is everything that can be desired for a quiet game.
New Westminster, October 30, 1863.

Brown joins the New Westminster Rifles and becomes a member of the Shooting team.

An 1865 Rifle Match between the NWVRC
as-of-yet unidentified Royal Navy Vessel

NWVRC Members standing from Left to Right:

Ensign A.T. Bushby (seated); Captain C.J. Prichard; Lt. A. N. Birch; Ensign R. Wolfenden (late RE); J. C. Brown (late RE); C. Good; I. Fisher; J. T. Scott; G. Williams (late RE); W. A. Franklin (late RE); J. Butler; Joseph Burr (great grandfather of actor Ramond Burr).

Honorary Colonel, Governor Seymour (on horseback).

Photograph courtesy of New Westminster Historical Photo Database
 Accession Number 330

(Though their identification of the above photo differs from ours.)

(Yes, the above pic does say "J.C." but it should have been "J.H.". --Editor)

According to Frances Woodward, Brown received Crown Grant for Section 21, Block 5 North Range, 7 West, New Westminster District, for 160 acres pre-empted on the 3rd March, 1869 (military grant of 150 acres)