Monday, August 26, 2013

Trove Tuesday: John Brown of Camperdown

John Brown
John Brown, brother of my great grandmother, was born at Camperdown in western Victoria in 1858 and in 1865 he was one of the first pupils at the Cobden school. His father, also John, was a bootmaker. (You'll find several blog posts about this family if you click on the 'Brown' in the label list in the side panel.).

John was 13 years old when his older brother, David, drowned in a lake near Camperdown, and 17 years old when his father accidentally died. Effectively these two deaths left him the 'man of the house' because he was the oldest surviving son with a number of younger siblings. In 1879 his mother remarried so that probably eased his burden, but sadness in the family was compounded when another of his siblings died accidentally - his sister Isabella drowned in a well in 1880.

John appears to have worked as a station hand on properties in the Camperdown district all of his life, especially Manifold's 'Purrumbete' estate at Weerite.

Manifold's 'Purrumbete' homestead, 2012. Source: The Australian
 In 1887, when he was 28, he married a local girl, Mary Ann Dews (daughter of Bridget and Joseph Dews). At Trove I found this newspaper item that provided a bit more detail of his life at that time. It describes an incident involving the threatening behaviour of Mary Ann's father at John Brown's home.
Camperdown Chronicle 21 Dec 1887
Sadly Mary Ann's mother, Bridget, died several years later and, in the same year, 1892,  her daughter Mary Ann, John's wife, also died. Their son, Francis (Frank) George Brown was born earlier the same year so possibly there were complications following his birth. Frank Brown was brought up by Mary Ann's sister, Sarah (Wyles).  John published memorial notices in the local paper for several years. 

Camperdown Chronicle 3 Sep 1892

Camperdown Chronicle 3 Sep 1892
Camperdown Chronicle 4 Sep 1894
In 1895 John married Flora Cooper, daughter of Charles and Elizabeth Cooper. She was born at Lismore, an area not far from Camperdown. They had seven children but one son, Arthur, died when he was three, and the two older boys, John and Gordon, enlisted in the army during the first World War and both died in France. His four daughters survived childhood and married.

Camperdown Chronicle 19 Jul 1930, published a few days before John Brown's death.

I was about to finish this post when I realised that John had yet more deaths in his immediate family when his younger brother, James, died as the result of an accident in Cobden in 1925 and another brother, Frank, died at the age of 55 in 1919. Their mother had died in 1907 but she was 73 so, unlike the other family members in this story, had reached her full 'three score years and ten'.

Was John's life a sad one? I have no idea but hopefully he had a lot of happy times and relationships in between it all. There is obituary in the paper but the copy is very poor and I can't read it all but it appears that the pallbearers were fellow employees on the Purrumbete Estate so that means they held him in esteem, and it also states that he had a 'huge circle of friends in the Camperdown district' so that is also reassuring.

PS. There is a lesson here for researchers. I was able to find all of the above articles on Trove despite the fact that my great-uncle's name was 'John Brown' so don't give up if you too are searching a common name. I am researching Brown, Green, Taylor, Smith, Carter, Andrew and Cook ancestors!


  1. It would be interesting to see statistics for early than expected deaths - drownings etc - for earlier times compared to today's statistics. Most families seem to get a share of them.

  2. Yet another fab post. You have given me hope to find my Jones and Smiths.

  3. So much death.

    Yes I think it is time for me to go looking for my Jones family again!

  4. Hi, I am currently researching the Waurn Ponds World War One Servicmen and Women, and have came across John Henry Brown. John’s parents are John and Flora nee Cooper, Brown of Weerite. Sadly John died while serving in World War One. I was wondering if you have anymore history on Johns service in WW1 or have any contacts of any relatives/descendants of John that could help out. Kind Regards, Tom

    1. Hi Tom, I can help a little possibly. I'm interested as to why he is on the Waurn Ponds list. Email me
      Cheers, Lorraine

    2. Hi Lorraine, Only Just seen this message I will send you a email regards, Tom


I love to read your comments. Thankyou for your interest.



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