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Sons of Owen Wormley Browne

March 19, 2016

Owen Wormley Browne and Terese Berabera had three sons and a daughter.

Rufus Browne – By Misfortune Drowned in Fraser River

SS William Irving - New Westminster Archives photoOn New Year’s Day, 1892, Rufus Browne was employed as fireman on the SS William Irving, making its last run of the of the season calling at ports upriver from New Westminster.

While the steamer was making a landing at Mission, Browne fell from the boat into the water. The 2nd cook noticed him in the river and called out: “Man overboard!”

In an attempt to save Browne, deckhand James Taffendale tore off his gum boots, but the engineer stopped him from entering the water. He then cast out a buoy, but the line parted and it dropped into the water. After another line fell short, Browne succumbed to the icy waters of the Fraser and sank from view.

Rufus Browne was 25 years old.

The search for Rufus Browne’s body was kept up for weeks. At last, on January 23, Captain Borey, a Matsqui, using a pole with a hook, located a body not far from the Mission wharf and brought it ashore for Owen Browne to identify his brother.

The jury at the inquest ruled that Rufus Browne “by misfortune came to his death and not otherwise.”

However, the Jury attached riders stating that the “protection of the lives of the crew of the said steamship William Irving is insufficient,” and recommended safety rails be installed and more life buoys provided. In addition:

“The Jury find that the steamship Inspector has been culpably careless in not noticing and condemning the decayed condition of the life buoys furnished by the CPN Co. to the steam ship William Irving for the protection of the crew and passengers, of the said steamship, as instanced by the condition of the life buoy attempted to be thrown by the witness James Taffendale.”

The Jury commended Taffendale for his repeated efforts to rescue Browne.

Browne’s death was lamented at New Westminster.

“The unfortunate young man belonged to Whonnock, where his relatives live, and was making his last trip for the season when death overtook him.

With the crew Brown was a great favourite, and by all his friends was known as a young man of great industry and sobriety.”

Owen Forrester Browne – Swift Water Man

Owen Forrester Browne, like his brother Rufus, took to steamboating. He is on the voters list for 1898 as a Fireman on the steamer Transfer. He resided at New Westminster.

Interestingly, his name is printed “Ewen Forister Brown.” This would appear to confirm that he was given his middle name after Thomas and Elizabeth Forister (Forrester.)

He also worked seasonally on Fraser River as a fisherman.

The 1927 directory for South Westminster identifies Owen F Brown as a “mstr mrnr,” — Master Mariner, or steamboat Captain.

Indeed, OF Brown was a famous navigator on the Upper Fraser, where the glory days of fast-water steamboating prevailed into the 20th century.

In 1906 Owen Forrester Browne was master of the Charlotte, running north from Quesnel and from 1910 on he was in command of the steamer B.X.

“He was very highly recommended to the management of the North British Columbia Navigation Company as a first-class swift-water man and, while in command of the Charlotte, proved himself an exceptionally accomplished river pilot who was also well liked by the travelling public, the business-men of the Cariboo, and his employers.” – Willis J West: “The ‘B.X.’ and the Rush to Fort George.”

Serving under Browne as Mate was Captain Frank W Reid.

Captain Owen Forrester Browne died at New Westminster in 1948, at the age of 79.

Surviving relatives were his sister Sophie (Mrs Fred Clark), his wife, four sons and five daughters.

“White Water Man –

‘Cap’ Browne, as he was known to old timers, was considered one of the best ‘white water men’ in the province. He steamboated on most of its rivers — the Stikine, Skeena, Mackenzie and Fraser, and also on the Yukon. On the Fraser his ‘beat’ was between Quesnel and Fort George for the BX Company. Prior to his retirement, which was only last year, he operated between Waterways and Aklavik for the Hudson’s Bay Company. In all those years, it was said, he lost only one boat in his endless struggle with the swift waters of the rivers he knew so well.”

Browne was credited with having acquired “considerable real estate,” and “was widely known as a man of the utmost integrity and of the real pioneering type.”

Note: There is a photo of Captain Owen F Browne in Koppel’s book, cited above.

William W Browne

Of the children of Terese and OW Browne, we have not yet turned up anything of William W Brown.


Sophia Browne and Fred Clark – See Following Post

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