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
- 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.
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
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
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
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
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
I have etc., etc.,
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.
"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
- 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.
J.H. BROWN & J. ELLARD
TO INFORM THEIR FRIENDS AND THE
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
to merit a share of the Public
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.
1865 Rifle Match between the
an as-of-yet unidentified Royal Navy Vessel
NWVRC Members standing from
Left to Right:
Ensign A.T. Bushby
Captain C.J. Prichard; Lt. A. N. Birch;
Ensign R. Wolfenden
J. C. Brown (late RE);
C. Good; I. Fisher; J. T. Scott; G. Williams
W. A. Franklin
(late RE); J. Butler; Joseph Burr
grandfather of actor Ramond Burr).
Colonel, Governor Seymour
Photograph courtesy of
New Westminster Historical Photo Database
(Though their identification of the above photo differs from
(Yes, the above pic does say "J.C." but it should have been "J.H.".
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)