Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Brown, Frederick (1829–1903)

by Carole Woods

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Frederick Brown (1829-1903), auctioneer, barrister, solicitor and parliamentarian, was baptized on 21 June 1829 at Brighton, Sussex, England, the second son of Benjamin Brown, professor of mathematics, and his wife Elizabeth, née Wilkinson. He was attracted by gold to Victoria about 1852 and travelled in 1853 to the Ovens goldfield in the north-east of the colony as an agent for the Port Phillip Gold Mining Co. By 1855 he was operating a gold agency in the township of Beechworth with an Irishman, Michael Monk, and in 1856 was listed as an agent for the Liverpool and London Fire and Life Insurance Co. Brown & Monk bought several township allotments and for about three years managed the general auctioneering firm of J. H. Gray & Co., retaining their shares when Gray rebought into the business in 1858.

Brown had a strong sense of public duty and in September 1856 was elected to the first Beechworth Municipal Council. He supervised financial proceedings, assisted with the framing of by-laws and plans for the municipal waterworks and guided the council as chairman in 1858 and 1859-60. In 1860 he was appointed territorial magistrate and left for England to study law. He was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in April 1861 and called to the Bar in January 1864. He returned to Melbourne, was admitted to the Victorian Bar in August and soon afterwards began to practise in Camp Street, Beechworth. Brown often appeared at sittings of the Beechworth Criminal Courts and handled legal cases as far afield as Albury. He resumed civic duties as member of the Beechworth Borough Council in 1865 and became mayor in 1866-67 and again in 1871. As president of the United Shire of Beechworth from 1872-76 Brown officiated at the opening of the first section of the Beechworth branch railway to Everton in July 1875.

In public life Brown was rather reserved but remembered for his courtesy and fine character; close friends knew him to be genial and generous and interested in almost every facet of community activity. He assisted in the organization of the Beechworth Chamber of Commerce and Athenaeum, helped to promote cricket, races and other local sports, liberally supported such charitable institutions as the Ovens District Hospital and Benevolent Asylum and was a member and later worshipful master of the Beechworth Masonic Lodge of St John. A founder and loyal adherent of the Beechworth Anglican Church, he became chancellor of the diocese after the creation of the Wangaratta bishopric in 1901.

When the death of Robert Anderson created a vacancy in the Legislative Council for the North-Eastern Province, Brown won the seat in November 1883 as a free trader and constitutionalist and retained it without opposition until his death. In June 1884 he made his maiden speech in the council and joined one of his oldest friends, the mining pioneer, John Wallace, in working for the interests of the north-east. Brown supported mining on private property and water conservation, assisted with the legal aspects of many bills and in June 1892 accepted the position of minister without portfolio in the short-lived cabinet of William Shiels. As chairman of committees in 1895-1903 Brown performed his duties competently, and for his ability, discretion and patience won the respect and friendship of fellow members.

While in England studying law Brown had married, but his wife died in Victoria, survived by one of their two daughters. In 1866 he married Louisa Anne (d. February 1882), daughter of Rev. Joseph Docker, pastoralist of Bontharambo; they had two sons and four daughters, of whom Emily married Charles Norman who became chairman of the commissioners of Victorian railways, and Beryl married Dr David Skinner, senior medical officer at the Ovens Hospital for twenty years. Brown was always fond of Beechworth and in the 1870s built Shrublands, an attractive brick residence with colonial veranda and elm-lined drive in Havelock Road, on a site overlooking the township. There on 9 July 1903 he died, attended by his family, and was buried in the Beechworth cemetery.

A portrait is in the Beechworth museum and two memorial stained glass windows, given by his friends, are in the chancel of Christ Church, Beechworth.

Select Bibliography

  • Ovens and Murray Advertiser, 3 Nov 1883, 11 July 1903
  • Local government records, Beechworth.

Citation details

Carole Woods, 'Brown, Frederick (1829–1903)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brown-frederick-3074/text4539, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 22 July 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

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