Friday, 17 May 2019

Early settlers in Welcome Bay: Jonathan Brown

Jonathan Brown's homestead
One of the earliest settlers in Welcome Bay was Jonathan Brown. Born in Northumberland, in the United Kingdom in 1832 he came to New Zealand via Tasmania where he managed sheep stations. He took up similar work in Otago and moved to Tauranga in 1867. After prolonged negotiations he bought several thousand acres of land from the Maori.  He felled trees, divided land into paddocks and planted English grasses. A Bay of Plenty Times article in 1882 tells us that the stock on the farm consisted of 400 head of cattle, 1200 sheep, 20 horses, a dozen bacon pigs and a large flock of poultry.

In the same article we are told that “the [Browns’] new dwelling house was built in 1878;  it contains five rooms downstairs and four upstairs, and is beautifully situated on an eminence in a central position on the station and commands an exceptionally charming view of the bay, islands, town and surrounding country – all visible from the front of the house. [It] presents a magnificent panorama, the beauties of which more than equalled my expectations.”  The article went on to describe the garden with contained a mixture of native and exotic trees as well as a kitchen garden.

Jonathan Brown's homestead
Image courtesy of Tauranga Library Ref. 03-303
It is interesting to note that the upstairs part of the house we accessed by two staircases, leading to two rooms on each side. Guests were given instructions that the men were to use the left-hand staircase and the women the right. Needless to say, between the rooms on either side there were no doors. It is also interesting to note that the house was in a twin gable design with a roof of wooden shingles. The twin gable design can be seen in buildings in Welcome Bay village.
For a while, the Brown farm produced excellent results but problems began to show in young stock when 80% of the lambs died. The answer to this problem was to take stock over the Kaimai range to the Waikato. “Bush sickness” was the culprit in this case. It was caused by a lack of cobalt and this was not discovered until well into the 20th century. 

Mr Brown was active in the community. He was involved in flax-milling for a time as well as in organisations such as the County Council, the Waimapu Road Board, the Waimapu Licensing Committee, the School Committee and the Cemetery Board. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge and along with his wife entertained many visitors.

By September 1891, the Bay of Plenty Times advertised the sale of large numbers of cattle and sheep as well as many items of farm machinery and vehicles. This was followed by an auction sale. However, Mr Brown was still farming four years later when he was badly injured by a mowing machine. In spite of the best efforts of a doctor he died shortly afterwards at the age of 63. 

Many in Tauranga mourned his passing. He had spent 45 years in Australasia. He left a wife, four sons and three daughters. Mrs Brown spent most of the rest of her life in Tauranga. She had belonged to the Wesleyan Church all her life. Her obituary noted that her maiden name had been Brown and this was the case for both her mother and her grandmother.

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