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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Auckland Provincial District]

Mr. William Brown

Mr. William Brown, who was the second to hold the office of Superintendent of Auckland, was a leading man in the early days of the settlement, and was well-known throughout Australasia. He was born near Dundee, Scotland, about the year 1809, and educated for that branch of the legal profession known in Scotland as “Writers to the Signet.” Mr. Brown joined in the new colonization movement which had been brought into prominence by the establishment of the free colony of South Australia, and arrived in Adelaide early in 1839. He there engaged in commerce, but soon became convinced that he might go further without faring worse. He, therefore, determined to proceed to Sydney, by the ship “Palmyra,” which had sailed from Greenock in July, 1839, bound for Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. On the passage from Adelaide to Sydney, Mr. Brown made the acquaintance of the “Palmyra's” surgeon, Dr. Logan Campbell, and when they parted they probably little thought that they would meet again in a few months in the distant and little known islands of New Zealand, to found one of the most prominent commercial firms in the prospective colony and follow each other in the high office of Superintendent of Auckland. How the partnership came about is told by Dr. Campbell in the early pages of “Poenamo. Mr. Brown arrived at the Bay of Islands on the 2nd of February, 1840, and was there when the treaty of Waitangi was signed. By the 25th of the same month he was in Coromandel, which was an important little settlement even then, when the site of Auckland was a wild waste. On the 13th of April, Dr. Campbell entered the harbour of Coromandel, having come from Sydney, via Port Nicholson, in the “Lady Lilford.” A few days later, Messrs Brown and Campbell, in company with three others, visited the Waitemata harbour in the hope of purchasing from the native owners some lands upon its shores. The attempt failed, however, but Messrs Brown and Campbell had climbed “Remuera,” as Mount Hobson was named by the Maoris, and were convinced that the beautiful isthmus must sooner or later be the site of a large town, if not the capital of the Colony. The trip was not quite fruitless, for the two young Scotchmen learned that the little island of Motukorea—now better known as Brown's Island—was owned by a small tribe of natives settled near Coromandel. Visiting the owners of the islet, which was 150 acres in extent, they soon purchased it, though some months elapsed before they could effect a landing, possessed of a canoe of their own, some kind of craft being necessary to prevent their complete imprisonment. On the 13th of August—exactly four months after their second chance meeting—Mr. Brown and his friend and partner, Dr. Campbell, landed on Motukorea to await developments in the Waitemata and the arrival of Mrs. Brown, who had remained in Sydney until her husband should make some decision as to a place of residence. Thus they were on the spot, and on the 21st of December, 1840, they started out to effect a settlement in Auckland by pitching a tent. On the 12th of February, 1841, they set about getting timber for premises, which they had decided to erect as soon as they were in possession of land for a site. Chartering a vessel named the “Black Joke,” they secured the timber from Whangaroa, and on the 1st of March began carrying it our their shoulders from the water's edge. In the meantime, Mrs. Brown had arrived and been duly installed at Motukorea, and the island was the family headquarters until the 24th of June, 1841, when Mr. and Mrs. Brown removed into the “first wooden house in Auckland, which is still preserved at the rear of the business premises, and in which their son, the late Mr. Owen Brown, was born. Mr. William Brown took a leading part in all matters of importance connected with the young capitat, and was concerned in the ownership of the “Southern Cross” newspaper when nominations were invited for the office of first Superintendent of the Province of Auckland. For this Mr. Brown was nominated in opposition to Colonel Wynyard, who, however, won the election. When the Colonel resigned to become Acting Governor and the Commander of the Forces, Mr. Brown was elected to the Superintendency by a substantial majority over Mr. (afterwards Sir) Frederick Whitaker. This election took place on the 14th of March. 1855, and Mr. Brown was at a serious disadvantage in having a council with whom it was difficult to work. He at length, however, secured a dissolution, necessitating a fresh election of both Council and Superintendent, and was entering heartily into the election fight when circumstances occurred which called him to Scotland. Mr. Brown was very highly esteemed as an upright gentleman, and had he been able to remain in the Colony it is exceedingly likely that he would have greatly influenced the progress of Auckland. At any rate, he never came back, but remained in the Old Country, drawing his share of the profits from the firm he and his friend had established at the Antipodes, and died on page 40 the 19th of January, 1898, in his eighty-ninth year.

Mr. W. Brown.

Mr. W. Brown.