THEIR THREE CHILDREN:
NOTABLE DATES AND PLACES FOR THOMAS JACKSON BROWN.
NOTES ON THE HISTORY OF THE WEST:
The railway was a new and exciting development. It was only in 1880 that the government of the Canadian Dominion (Canada being a colony of Great Britain at the time) had signed a contract with the CPR to run a railway all the way from Callendar, Ontario to Port Moody, BC. Bush, swamp, and mountains – you name it – every possible obstacle lay in their path. Nonetheless, six years later, on June 28, 1886 - about 20 years before the arrival of BROWN - the first transcontinental train left Montreal for Port Moody. Two years later, the Banff Springs Hotel was built in Banff – the height of luxury - this at a time when a stagecoach from Calgary to Edmonton took one week (now about a three hour drive). From 1901 until 1911, the City of Calgary underwent a population increase of 960% - from 4,091 to 43,704 people. Men outnumbered women three to two and the attendant realities of prostitution, drink and rowdiness were evident. Quite a shock, I would think, to my grandmother at the time.
The CPR men knew that the technologies which they employed in the building of the trains and their rail lines was cutting edge for their time. New doors were being opened for commerce as a result of their efficiency and reliability. Freight came by sea from Japan and China, was offloaded from barques in the docks at Port Moody and was loaded onto trains heading east for ports in Montreal and New York. My husband, Andreas SCHROEDER, in his book: Carved From Wood: Mission, B.C. 1861-1992, p68-69 describes the fervour of the time:
RECORDS RELATING TO THOMAS JACKSON BROWN:
His birth certificate is in the Registration of Births and Deaths in Ireland, entry number 463. Registered in Armagh 21 June 1922. We have a photocopy of the original.
From his Wedding announcement: Fourth son of Thompson Brown. Rev. F.W. Austin, minister officiating. It is pretty terse. His family was Presbyterian, her family was Church of England, but we also know that their mothers had connived to see them connected and then wed.
We don’t know where Thomas Jackson Brown trained to become a Civil Engineer, nor do we know where he got the training that would enable him to take on the jobs which he subsequently did. He was already 28 years old when he emigrated, so there was not only time to get his academic credentials, but also to gain some experience. (NOTE: Coleraine Academical might be a good starting point to answer this question. There were also places for engineers to train with the Great Northern Railway Works in Dundalk. Another training place in Ireland at the time was Harland & Wolff’s Shipyards.)
We do know that after he emigrated to Canada in 1907, he corresponded with his wife-to-be, although none of these letters have survived.
Photographs which Daryl & Dianne MORGAN have in their collection give us some idea of the ranges of projects that he was involved in. He was the Divisional Engineer - probably for the West (given the scope of the photos in his belonging). We know that he had some involvement in the Spiral Tunnel at Field and guess that he was the Field Engineer, although we don’t know that part for sure. If he was, he took time out in the middle of the project to return to Ireland to get married in January 1909. Given the length of time that it took to cross Canada by rail and then the ocean by boat, it is unlikely that he could have been away for any less than a month, quite probably more. On the very day that they were married, he and his bride sailed for Canada on the Empress of Ireland and landed first in Halifax. At their subsequent home in Calgary, his younger brother, Bob (a life-long bachelor), lived with the two of them, even during their so-called “honeymoon”.
In the years that followed, BROWN worked as a civil engineer at the CPR, first in Calgary, then in Cranbrook. His employment records are probably held at the CPR archives in Montreal – but they are not accessible to amateur researchers such as myself (I have emailed and been denied access).
In 1919 with his mother Elizabeth JACKSON ill and failing and his wife’s mother, Susanna BROWNE also ill (his wife’s father had recently died and his own father had died four years earlier), the family moved back to Ireland, initially on a six month leave from the CPR to take care of family needs. When family needs meant that they had to stay longer, he had to relinquish his CPR job.
The family had a lot to contend with. Not only were they dealing with ailing parents, but Jane Edgar BROWN’s favourite aunt, Jane EDGAR was also dying at the family home in Ardglass. Apparently, although her aunt was calling out for her, Jane Edgar BROWN was not permitted access until after her aunt had died. This may be one of those memories which was embellished or invented wholecoth over time, but it speaks to the felt grief that my grandmother carried with her until she herself died.
Part of what the couple had to deal with was that the family home at Ardglass had become terribly run down in their absence, not surprising given the age and diminished resources of her mother at this time. Needing to find work in order to keep body and soul together, BROWN tried breeding specialty hens at the back of the family home. His daughter remembers many of the kinds of poultry he raised and many are of them are listed in the Statement of Goods sold at the auction held after the death of his mother-in-law. There were White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Black Orpingtons, and Wyandottes. Their incubator was housed in the third "cottage". (If I remember correctly, the cottages were called “One Tree”, “Two Tree”, and “No Tree”.) Putting his engineering background to good use, he constructed separate pens and fields so that the separate breeds could be kept pure.
Once Susanna Edgar BROWNE had died, T.J. BROWN left for Canada to re-establish himself while Jane Edgar stayed behind to wind up the family affairs. I am not sure what his first job was, but do know that he was hired in 1924 as the chief engineer for the town of Cranbrook. These were probably less than happy times for him professionally. The town council, as was common in that time, was a hot bed of small town corruption. One of the local garages had a contract with the town to service all its vehicles and was in the habit of submitting invoices for work never done. When T.J. found out, he refused payment. He was an honest man, one who never accepted a dollar in graft and who saved money for the town as a result. Not that this helped. The garage owner’s friends on council won the majority vote when a motion was put on the table to rescind the position of Engineer and hence terminate the employment of T.J. His daughter remembers that years later, one of the council members wrote to him in Vancouver and said that this underhanded business had troubled him for years and that he wanted to express his regret.
Regardless of this interlude, T.J. was soon back at work supervising the construction of the addition to the Banff Springs Hotel. Again, we have numerous photos in the collection of Dianne & Daryl Morgan (Banff Photo Album.). After this job was completed, he moved to a rooming house in the West End where he lived away from his family while he supervised the building of a Grain Elevator (or possibly one of Rogers Sugars elevators). His wife and family stayed back at Cranbrook. We have a picture of David & TJ BROWN in front of a West End house in Vancouver when Jeannie visited with their son, David, in September 1929 when David was quite sick with some intestinal difficulty. Dorothy remembers that trip. They usedher brother Thomas’ car to drive David and his mother to the train station. In those days – pre-antifreeze – the car’s radiator had to be drained each night, even in September.
BROWN’s next major job was in Powell River where he was hired to oversee the construction of the dam at Lois Lake and the penstock and power turbines at Stillwater. Again, there are many pictures of this work as well as articles in the Powell River Digester. (See attached – to come) His work was highly valued and he was told that upon he completion of the work that he would be invited back for the final stage of the dam work. When that work went forward, I don’t know, but I do know that he wasn’t invited back. Nor do I know whether Basil GARDOM (the father of Garde GARDOM) had anything to do with this, but given what we know, it is likely.
Basil GARDOM was the chief contractor for the work at Lois Lake. Likely he knew TJ from Banff (his son Garde GARDOM was born there in 1924). They may also have known each other in other circumstances. Regardless, when it came time for the pour of the dam, TJ specified a particular grade of cement and GARDOM instead ordered an inferior mix and had that poured into the forms. When the forms were removed and T.J. tapped the cement with a geologist’s hammer, shale-like pieces of this sub-standard concrete fell away. It had too much limestone. TJ blew the whistle on this malfeasance and an expert was shipped up from San Francisco at a rate of $200.00 (big money in those days) to determine who was right or wrong. His decision came down on the side of our grandfather and the pour was blown up at great expense. New forms and a new pour were done at GARDOM’s expense. GARDOM then told grandfather that he would never have another job again, effectively blackballing him at the deepest part of the Depression. Whether this threat carried further than GARDOM’s company, I have no way of knowing, but it might be telling that the next job which grandfather undertook was not at the level of his previous work or at level one would expect given his qualifications. It was, however, also the start of the Depression and it is likely that the economic downturn would hit his profession especially hard.
Regrettably, BROWN died young, at age 54 after what was likely a stroke. Had it happened today, he would in all likelihood still be alive. He wasn’t overweight and was in good shape from all his outdoor work, though he did have a history of high blood pressure. It also seems that there is a history in the family of cardiovascular weaknesses. Too many died young.
At the time of his father’s death, David BROWN, age 13, was the last child still living at home. He remembers that his father had been doing work surveying for the railway up to Squamish. The job involved all kinds of running up and down rock faces to determine the suitable placement of the railway. Ironically, although the surveying of the road was done in the 30s, the economic collapse meant that it would have to wait until into the 1950s before it could be built.
On a hot July day, BROWN came home from work and started to make bread, an activity that he often did both for the pleasure of the eating and for the relaxation in the making of it. It is something that subsequent generations have carried on doing, and for much the same reasons.
There are two versions of the story of BROWN’s stroke: As his son David told it was, “He collapsed whilst in the midst of making bread. It was an incredibly hot July day and he was already hot from having spent the day running up and down the hills near Lions Bay. His son and wife made him comfortable on the kitchen table and called for the doctor. Within the week, he was dead, never able to make it upstairs to his own bed.” His sister Dorothy’s version of the latter part is likely the more accurate. She recalls that their brother Tom went to the village (now West Vancouver) bought a bed for his father and it was set up in the living room. The details with which she remembers the family home would seem to confirm this. It was a small bungalow so there were no stairs leading to upstairs. There was a basement with a furnace that vented into the main floor hallway. As well, there were two bedrooms, a living room and a dining room. The house was modest, but comfortable. One of the joys on a cold day for Dorothy was standing over the heating vent and allowing heat to billow up under her skirts, a joy that those of us so used to central heating can only guess at.
His ashes rest in Oceanview Cemetery, Burnaby, BC, Canada.
NOTABLE DATES AND PLACES FOR JUNE EDGAR BROWNE:
** In 1970, this was the site of the Rio Café.
ANECDOTES FROM THE LIFE OF JUNE EDGAR BROWNE
As a young woman, if she worked outside the home, we don’t know. The family seemed well to do, with two residences and much finery (going from the wedding picture of her older sister Annie). Also, Dorothy remembers that Jeannie’s brothers had each their “man” to look after them, setting out their clothes and such. It is likely that Jeannie herself was also used to this level of paid help surrounding her.
She was 28 years old when she married. Her wedding linen had the Killyneur rose (pink) embroidered on it. (The whole front of the Killyneur house was clad in rose vines at that time, but is no longer.) On the afternoon of the day of their wedding, January 27th, 1909, she and her husband sailed for Canada on the Empress of Ireland out of Belfast.
The ship from Belfast docked in St. John's, New Brunswick where Jeannie and her husband met up with one of Jeannie’s best friends from home, Kate WATSON. Kate was not only Jeannie’s best friend, but also her husband’s cousin (Her maiden name was “Rankin”, but I have no idea how that fits in. The WATSON family owned mills in Milford, but I also have no idea how that might or might not connect.) Kate and June also shared a birthday. She was also my Godmother and I still wear the ring that Kate gave to June. What little else we know of Kate is that she was trained as a nurse, had married Alex WATSON, adopted a son, Douglas, and after living in New Brunswick, moved to West Vancouver (which is how, I suppose, she became my god-mother.).
During this particular visit, Kate and a small group of like-minded women held a tea in Jeannie’s honour. At this tea, they set her a challenge. Since she would have to be able to change clothes, corset and all, in the berth of a CPR train as she and her husband made their way to Calgary, they decided that she needed practice. With the whole lot of them seated on the floor around a bed, teacups at their side, they cheered and tossed out words of advice while Jeannie repeatedly dressed and undressed beneath the bed, trying to improve both her time and the end result. It was hard to imagine that it was only tea in those teacups.
We also know that when Jeannie completed her second trip to Canada in 1923 - after the years of caring for her mother and disposing of the family estate - that she and her children sailed on the Marville. They were stuck in ice in the St. Lawrence for a week. Her daughter Dorothy remembers watching in the evening as they passed an island in the river, then going to bed. When she awoke the next day, the island was still there; in fact they were further back from where they had been the previous night. This became something of a cause for alarm as water and food was running short. Mind you, there was also lots of fun to be had. The staff put on skits. Since the grave of King Tut had just been found, they did skits with this as a theme. Finally, an icebreaker freed them and they continued on their trip. The Marville wasn't so lucky. On its return voyage, it struck a rock near Newfoundland and sank.
When Jeannie (as she now preferred to be known) lived in Cranbrook, she had a piano that she had brought out from Ireland with her as a wedding present (along with all her fine clothes). Unfortunately, in 1919 when she left for Ireland to care for her ailing mother and Thomas Jackson BROWN’s mother, she had to sell it along with all her furniture. The number of times that she had to start all over again doesn’t bear thinking about.
The piano was sold to a community hall in Sirdar, a community across the lake from Cranbrook -one took a ferry across to get there. When she returned to Canada, the family lived in Calgary . Once again, Jeannie had to buy basic furniture all over again. When they subsequently moved to Banff, they lived in a rented house and she had to sell it all. Possibly homesick for the sight of something from her Irish past, she visited Sidar and was heartbroken. The piano was being used for community events and was ruined, stains and rings left from wet glasses.
Not that it was all gloom and doom, but there are many pictures from the time where Jeannie looks somewhat defeated. For the fun times, Dorothy remembers camping trips at places such as Sanka on Kootenay Lake. They also used to go to Sirdar. Her father loved to fish trout. There also used to be an old sternwheeler out of Nelson which was how they got across the lake. There wasn’t much else there then.
One of my favourite stories concerns the day that Jeannie got Mrs. Fingall Smith, the president of The Women's Christian Temperance Union of BC absolutely snackered. I had heard this story often as a child, but it wasn’t until I saw a government publication in the 60’s with a picture of Mrs. Fingall Smith on the cover that I actually realized that it could even be true. (Unfortunately, I haven’t been successful in tracking this down again.)
The day started out innocently enough, but a little background is in order. Thomas Jackson BROWN and his brother Robert were well known for the high quality of their home made dandelion wine. On one of his trips home, Thomas discovered that it needed a bit of an assist, and had poured in a bottle of whiskey (“whuskee” as Grandma would have pronounced it). His brother Robert had noted the same deficiency in this particular batch and with neither of them consulting the other, he too had taken remedial action and he too had poured in a bottle of whiskey. The dandelion wine was now really cooking when Mrs. Fingal Smith visited and pronounced that she was feeling “right liverish”. “Would you be after having a bit of tonic, then,” asked Jeannie who then proceeded to pour her a “pony” of the brew. “I can feel it doing me good,” said Mrs. Fingal Smith as she proffered her glass for a second hit. In no time at all, she was feeling quite strange. Her husband was called for to come and pick her up in the horse and carriage as poor Mrs. Fingal Smith was definitely indisposed.
Imagine my delight when I finally found a picture of Mrs. Fingal-Smith as well as a newspaper reference that includes the inscription she had placed on her husband’s tombstone: The poor man. He was also forbidden to play the bagpipes in the house. Adelaide Bailey Fingal-Smith was no woman to be messed with, though she was known to be drunk. Once. Thank goodness for small mercies.
After her husband’s death, Jeannie lived for a time with her brother Hugh Alexander Edgar BROWNE and his wife Eleanor at 2930 West 38th, Vancouver. This is also where her daughter Dorothy and husband Leonard had their wedding reception. In 1945, she moved in with Dorothy and Len at 3052 West 15th, Vancouver. For a time, she worked as a clerk at the British Israel Society. It gave her a bit of independence and her own money, though it wasn’t much to speak of. She lived there with Len & Dorothy and their two daughters Paddie & Barbara until David & Betty and their five children moved back to Vancouver in August of 1964.
Jeannie moved in with them in the huge old house at Balaclava and 39th in Kerrisdale, Vancouver. It had been the original farmhouse when Kerrisdale was still all farmland and had been built by Henry Alan BULWER, a co-founder of the Vancouver Art Gallery. It had a room large enough to roller skate in (and we did) which had been built exclusively to house his extensive water colour collection. On a practical level, it was clear that Jeannie had health and memory issues and since her daughter Dorothy was working full time, the move seemed to make a lot of sense. For myself, it was my chance to get to know the grandmother who for most of my life had lived thousands of miles away from me. I remember it as being a quite magical time.
At the time of her death, in October of that year, according to her death
notice, only one brother was still living and in England. I would assume
that to be Martin. Her ashes were interred in Oceanview Cemetery, Burnaby,
BC, Canada, the same as her husband’s had been some thirty-one years
Site Map | Legal Disclaimer | Copyright
© 2003 Sharon Oddie Brown