Biography of Benjamin Brown

BENJAMIN BROWN. – Mr. Brown was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1831, and remained at his native place until 1857, receiving a common-school education. In this year he emigrated to American and settled in Michigan, remaining until March, 1858, when he came to California by way of New York and the Isthmus. From San Francisco he found his way to the Siskiyou mines, and operated until July of 1868, and thence came to the Frazer river mines. In the autumn of that year, he brought his journeyings to a close at Steilacoom, where he remained a year. Being favorably impressed with the Pacific coast country, he now returned East for his family, bringing them to the agency on the Umatilla reservation, where he was employed until the next spring. After a time spent in freighting to Walla Walla, he removed to the Grande Ronde valley, and helped in the building of a stockade some six miles north of the present site of La Grande.

He has remained in the vale ever since, and has been closely identified with the history of the country. In 1852 he was married to Miss Francis Kirk; and a family of five girls are growing up around him. The only trouble they had with the Indians was in 1862, the time that they placed a pole, as a line north of which the Whites should take no land, claiming that it belonged to themselves. Captain George B. Curry of a volunteer company went to meet them, and found it necessary to kill two of the Indians.

Mr. Brown wishes to record here the names of those who wintered in the Grande Ronde valley, and who were the first Whites to make a residence there. They were as follows; S.M. Black, Richard Marks, William Marks, William Chaffin, William McConley, E.C. Crain, Robert Alexander, Joab Knight and Mr. Abbot brought some stock into the valley the same fall that this party came over the mountains, and wintered them here, and on account of the deep snow were compelled to remain until late in the spring. Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Leary wintered here in 1861, and in the same winter George Coffin and George Shriver came in to attend to the erection of the sawmill that Mr. Stephen Coffin of Portland was preparing to build in the spring, together with Mr. Charles Fox, who actually built the mill and operated it for several years, and then returned to Portland. Mr. Thomas Cottle built in 1863 the first livery stable, and did an extensive business, often selling oats at twenty cents per pound, and charging a dollar a night for hay per animal. S.M. Black started the first store; while Mr. Cottle opened the first butcher shop in 1862.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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