Kenneth Brown (pastoralist)

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Kenneth Brown (1837 – 10 June 1876) was an explorer and pastoralist in Western Australia. He was hanged in 1876 for murdering his second wife Mary Ann Brown (née Tindall).

Kenneth Brown was born in England in 1837. The eldest son of Thomas Brown, and older brother of Maitland Brown. In 1840, The Brown family emigrated to Western Australia, arriving in March 1841. They initially settled at York. In 1850, the family took up land in the Champion Bay area, where they established Glengarry. However the following year Thomas Brown was appointed to an official position in Fremantle, and the family moved there, except for Kenneth who stayed to manage Glengarry.

During the 1850s, Kenneth Brown spent most of his time at Glengarry. He was often the only family member there, and he became increasingly responsible for its management. Although primarily a sheep station, Brown developed a passion for horse breeding, and over time Glengarry became one of the most successful racehorse breeding establishments in the colony.

Kenneth Brown undertook a number of exploring expeditions between 1852 and 1863. In 1852 he explored the country behind Glengarry with Major Logue. Two years later, he was a member of Robert Austin's expedition of 1854. On that expedition he shot and collected the type specimen of the Australian Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) on break-away ranges north west of Mount Magnet near Mount Farmer. In 1859 he explored up the Murchison River with William Dalgety Moore to look for new land. In June 1862 he again explored up the Murchison, this time with Thomas Burges.

In 1863, Brown helped to mount an expedition to the Glenelg River. The exploring party included Brown, his brother Aubrey Brown and Samuel Hamersley, and was financed by a group of pastoralists including Kenneth and Maitland Brown, Hamersley and Lockier Burges. The following year he filed suit against Burges and others, seeking payment for his part in the expedition. The case was eventually settled out of court.

In 1859 Brown married Mary Eliza Dircksey Wittenoom. They had four children (Blanche, Edith, Forrest and Clarence). Mary died in 1868 during childbirth.

In June 1863, while away on the Glenelg River expedition, Brown's father died, and Kenneth, Aubrey and Maitland formed a partnership under which they managed Glengarry. Over the next decade, the Champion Bay area suffered severely from drought, wheat rust and sheep scab. By 1871, Glengarry was heavily mortgaged and running at a loss.

In 1872, Brown withdrew from the partnership with his brothers and left Glengarry. He re-located to Melbourne, Victoria to continue his interest in horse-racing. He was the first Western Australian to enter the Melbourne Cup with the horse Victorian in 1873. Of his time in Melbourne Cowan (1988) writes of him:

He apparently began to lose considerable sums, he became increasingly restless, and drank heavily. His behaviour from this time became erratic. He was given to outbursts of temper, compounded, and perhaps in part caused, by drinking.

While in Melbourne, Brown married Mary Ann Tindall and in the years 1874 and 1875 produced two children Rose and Amy. The family returned to Western Australia in 1875 by which time the marriage was in trouble and there are a range of references to them constantly and openly quarrelling. On their return journey from Melbourne to Fremantle the couple were recorded as having a physical altercation that was witnessed by Sir John Forrest. The couple and their children arrived in Champion Bay in October 1875. They lasted only ten weeks.

On Monday 3 January 1876, after a day of heavy drinking and constant arguing with his wife, he shot her dead. He refused to provide any explanation or excuse at his trial. At trial his family mounted a defence of diminished responsibility, but after two hung juries was ultimately unsuccessful. Kenneth Brown was found guilty of willful murder and sentenced to death by the Chief Justice Archibald Burt and hanged on 10 June 1876 at Perth Gaol. The records of the inquest proclaimed by Magistrate E Landor state that Kenneth Brown died by hanging.

Many years later, Rose Burges the eldest daughter of Kenneth Brown's second marriage claimed that while travelling in America she had met her father in a hotel. Because of this, a story persists that Maitland had arranged Kenneth's escape to the United States.

Kenneth Brown's second child by his first marriage was Edith Cowan (nee Brown).


  • Cowan, Peter (1988). Maitland Brown: A View of Nineteenth Century Western Australia. Fremantle, Western Australia: Fremantle Arts Centre Press. ISBN 0-949206-27-X.