James Brown (Australian pastoralist)

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James Brown (ca.1819 – 7 February 1890) was a Scottish-born pastoralist of the South East of South Australia and a suspected mass murderer of Aboriginal people. His name is noted for the philanthropy exercised in that name by his widow, Jessie Brown. Two charitable institutions — the Kalyra Consumption Sanitorium at Belair and Estcourt House, near the Grange were founded in his memory, and out of the proceeds of his estate.


James Brown was born in East Fife, Scotland, and in company with his brother, Archibald, left Liverpool on the barque Fairfield on 1 November 1838. After a wearisome voyage of 185 days they arrived in South Australia on 4 May 1839. In 1840 they settled in Allendale in the Hindmarsh River valley, the owners of 640 sheep. By 1844 they owned 1,290 ewes, 14 cattle, 6 pigs and 14 acres of wheat. In 1849 Brown moved to the South East where he founded the Avenue Range station consisting of 69 square miles of country, which was secured for an annual rental of 10/ per square mile. The area was subsequently enlarged to 83 square miles, some 50 miles north-east of Guichen Bay where the wool was shipped. The greater portion of it was covered with water during the winter, and the stock suffered from footrot and coast disease. Mr. Brown built a fine 10 roomed stone house with a verandah. The sheep were shepherded until June 1864, when Avenue Range and his other leases were fenced at a cost of £6,000. Soon he had 24,000 sheep besides cattle and horses. Another name for the Avenue Range run was Kalyra, a native word meaning 'hop bush'.

A drawback to this property was the volume of public traffic passing over the run. It lay on the overland route to Melbourne and Mount Gambier, and about 60,000 sheep crossed the best part of the station during the first three months of every year. Bullock teams passing from Victoria and the Tatiara district were continually breaking gates, and pulling over the posts. Accordingly, Brown had posts at one gate put eight feet into the ground, and awaited the arrival of the next delinquent. Before long a teamster appeared, and carelessly ran a wheel against one of these deeply embedded posts. It would not budge, and much to Brown's delight, the "bullocky" had to take out his team and pull the waggon back. Retribution followed, and Brown later had the mortification of finding that his stout posts had been burnt to the ground.

Early in his career, Brown was charged with having murdered 9 Aboriginal people.[1] He avoided trial though few doubted his guilt. His activities thenceforth received little public attention.

Brown's total holdings in the South East covered 183 square miles, and he prospered exceedingly. In 1874 he retired to "Waverley House" in Glen Osmond, where he died aged 71. He had been a colonist of 51 years, and his residence in South Australia had been broken only by one short visit to San Francisco, where he had property interests. His wife Jessie (ca.1826 – 13 November 1892) died at Niagara Falls, which she was visiting in company with a niece, Miss Dougall. They left no family. James Brown was buried in West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide, and perhaps his wife also.


Prior to leaving Adelaide Mrs Brown called upon a close friend, Adam Adamson Jr (1821 – 20 January 1898), and indicated her desire to found a charitable institution in memory of her late husband. Mr Adamson suggested a home for crippled children, together with a convalescent home for the poor. When Mrs Brown later died, it was announced in the press that between £60,000 and £100,000 had been left by her for this purpose. The James Brown Memorial Trust was formed, and incorporated by Act of Parliament in December 1894. Adamson was the first chairman of the trust, which was composed of noted members of many religious denominations. Estcourt House, near the Grange, was purchased for £3,000 as a home for the aged blind and crippled children. It was built and named in 1882 by F. Estcourt Bucknall, whose well-appointed yacht used to lie within pistol shot of the mansion, where great hospitality was dispensed. 'Kalyra' at Belair was also purchased for £4,000, and the Goode and McBride wings were added subsequently to the building. Sir Charles Goode, one of the trustees, helped to place the institution on a satisfactory basis, and Kalyra and Estcourt House and the Trust have continued to operate through the years.[2][3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Foster, Robert; Hosking, Rick; Nettelbeck, Amanda (2001). Fatal Collisions: The South Australian Frontier and the Violence of Memory. Kent Town, South Australia: Wakefield Press. ISBN 1-86254-533-2. 
  2. ^ "Pastoral Pioneers — James Brown". The Narracoorte Herald. SA: National Library of Australia. 4 November 1948. p. 3. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "Kalyra Belair Aged Care". Aged Care Guide. Retrieved 2017-07-20.