ARMSTEAD C. BROWN
The history of the pioneer settlement of northern California would be incomplete without the record of this gentleman, who from the early development of the state has been an important factor in its substantial growth and improvement. When California was cut off from the advantages and comforts of the east by long, hot stretches of sand and barren clay and the high mountains, he made his way across the plains, braving all the trials and hardships of pioneer life in order to make a home on the Pacific coast, rich in its resources, yet unreclaimed from the dominion of the red men. The year of his arrival was 1849, and to this state he brought his family in 1851, so that his residence here has been continuous for half a century.
Judge Brown was born in St Charles County, Missouri, on the 10th of January, 1816. His father, Thomas Brown, was born in Richmond, Virginia, and was an early settler of the state of Missouri. He was a cabinetmaker by trade and also followed the occupation of farming. He wedded Mary Elizabeth Ribolt, a native of Missouri and a lady of German lineage. They had two daughters and four sons. In 1820, when our subject was only four years of age, they removed to Illinois, where the father died in his thirty-fifth year. The mother afterward married again, and died in 1830, at the age of thirty-two years. Judge Brown became familiar with the experiences of pioneer life when a boy in Illinois, for the prairie state was then on the border of civilization. He pursued his education in a little log schoolhouse such as was common at that period; but reading, observation, experience and study in later years added greatly to his knowledge and made him a well informed man. In 1832 he removed to Wisconsin, and later he served in the Black Hawk War as a member of the militia. He followed lead-mining in the Badger state, and on the 26th of February, 1837, he was married there to Miss Phillippia Williams. In 1849 he bade adieu to his little family and crossed the plains to California in search of gold, for the previous year the precious metal had been discovered on the Pacific slope, and to that section of the country emigrants from the various eastern states were flocking. After his arrival Judge Brown engaged in placer mining in Shasta County, and to him is due the honor of naming the town of Shasta. He met with fair success and, resolving to make California his permanent home, he returned for his family, making the journey by way of the water route by way of the Isthmus to New Orleans and thence up the Mississippi River. Severing all business connections in Wisconsin in 1851, he once more crossed the plains, accompanied by his wife and six children, all of whom are now deceased, with the exception of two: a daughter who is the widow of A. Askey, and Mrs. Margaret Folger.
Judge Brown took up in residence in Jackson in 1851, and is now one of the oldest living settlers of the town. His son, George W. Brown, who was born in Jackson, is now a progressive businessman here and a worthy representative of the native residents of the state. The wife and mother, however, has been called to her final rest, having passed away in April, 1896.
During the early years of his residence in Jackson Judge Brown was engaged in merchandising, bringing his goods by team over the mountains. In August, 1863, Jackson was visited by a great conflagration and the whole town was burned to the ground, destroying about thirty tenement houses for Judge Brown. He was then at a loss to know what to do, for all he had left was his beautiful two-story brick house which he now occupies. It was not long; however, till he decided to rebuild and soon the burned structures were replaced with new ones. At this time Judge Brown, for the first time in his life, found it necessary to borrow money to carry out his intentions, and of a friend he borrowed one thousand dollars, which was soon paid back from his rents. Since that time he has met with other losses by fire, but smaller, and has them all replaced by finer structures. Judge Brown had read law in early life and had been admitted to practice in Wisconsin, and had served as a member of the state legislature there. After his arrival in California he resumed the prosecution of his profession and in 1876 he was elected the probate judge of Amador County, which position he acceptably filled for five years, when he resumed the private practice of law, which he continued until 1897. In 1887 he was admitted into the supreme court of the state of California. He received a good patronage, and his skill and ability was manifest in the many favorable verdicts which he secured for his clients. As the years have passed he has made judicious investments in real estate, and is now the owner of a number of excellent houses and lots in the city, together with other property. Now, at the ripe old age of eighty-five years, twice a day he makes his way to his office to supervise his property interests. The habits of industry are strong within him. His life has been one of energy, perseverance and resolution, and these qualities have brought to him a well merited competence. He gave his political support in early manhood to the Whig party, and on its dissolution became a Democrat, since which time he has been identified with that political organization. In 1863 he was his party’s choice to represent them in the state legislature, and so honorably did he discharge his duties that in 1865 he was re-elected. In 1869 he was again honored to represent his party in the state legislature, and at the expiration of this term declined further honors tendered him by his party and resumed his law practice in Jackson. He is now well advanced in years, yet with him old age is not synonymous with inactivity or helplessness. On the other hand it is often a source of inspiration and encouragement, as it gives of its rich store of learning and experience to others whose journey of life is but begun. Judge Brown receives the respect and veneration of all who know him, and well does he deserve honorable mention upon the pages of his adopted state.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.