History of James Brown
James Brown was born in East Fife, Scotland in 1818. He arrived in South Australia on May 4th, 1839 on the barque “Fairfield”, 434 tons, which left Liverpool on November 1st 1838 with a total of 46 passengers, including his brother Archibald.
He started a sheep station in the valley of the Hindmarsh River, near Encounter Bay and by 1844 was running 1,200 sheep, 14 cattle, 6 pigs and had planted 14 acres of wheat. He then decided to shift to the South-East and leased 128 square miles of country on which he founded Avenue Range, 69 square miles, and Tilley’s Swamp Stations, 59 square miles. It is interesting to note that the rental charged for this land was ten shillings per square mile per annum.
There was a definite link between Avenue Range Station and Kalyra as the Station abounded with hop-bush, which was called by the natives “Kalyra” or “Keilira”.
On April 2nd 1857, James married Jessie Craigie widow, daughter of John and Isabella Brydon Waddell of Mount Barker. The ceremony was performed by Reverend Robert Haining of the Church of Scotland.
By 1864, James had fenced and subdivided his land and was running 24,000 sheep. His major problems were the amount of water covering large sections of land during winter, causing footrot in his stock and the volume of traffic crossing some of the best parts of the Station on the overland route during the first three months of each year plus a large number of bullock teams. James had continuous trouble with drivers of the bullock teams because they would regularly knock over gate posts, so he decided to take action. He put new posts on one gate and sank them eight feet into the ground, then concealed himself to await the next team. Sure enough, a wheel ran into one of the stout posts, which refused to budge and James apparently did not assist the driver in any way to unbridle his team, pull the wagon backwards, rehitch the team, and resume his journey. His comments when he later discovered both posts burnt to the ground were probably unprintable.
James was described by his contemporaries as a “great man in the saddle”, being credited with riding a horse from Naracoorte to Adelaide in just over 24 hours, no mean feat considering the primitive road system of that period.
His reputation received a severe setback when he was charged with the death of five aboriginals. Even though the charge was not pursued, the event reduced his public standing until his death. He was not the only pioneer to suffer at the hands of some aboriginals who resented the settlers’ intrusion and not only speared and scattered flocks, but also menaced white people to the point of murder.
On 7th February, 1890, James Brown died at Glen Osmond aged 72. He had been a colonist in South Australia for 51 years, during which time he had only left the State on one occasion – a trip to San Francisco, where he acquired property interests.
On James death, Jessie inherited a small fortune with assets totalling $160,000. She was a most demanding woman in business matters, as shown by her decision to change her firm of solicitors from Messrs. Bonnin, Attenborough and Giles, to Homburg and Melrose, because of a difference of opinion. At this same time, she also decided to change her will and held discussions with her accountant, Mr Adam Adamson Jnr, Mr Alex Melrose, her new solicitor, and Mr Richard Smith, a wealthy businessman. Jessie signed her new Will on May 18th, 1891, appointing Executor Trustee and Agency Company of South Australia Ltd., as sole executor and trustee, and setting out the details of the Trust she desired to set up in memory of her late husband.
Early in 1892, Jessie took a trip to San Francisco with a niece Miss Jessie Brown Dougall, having in mind to sell the real estate she now owned in that city. This decision meant that she had to appoint an attorney to look after her affairs and on February 1, 1892 duly appointed the same Trustee Company, thereby transferring a big responsibility on the shoulders of Mr Howard Davenport, manager of the company, who personally undertook the task of keeping his new client satisfied. Jessie told Mr Davenport quite firmly that if he erred in any way with his handling of her affairs he would surely be haunted for life.