Memorable Manitobans: Alexander McDougall “A. M.” Brown (1820-1895)
Born at St. Andrews, Argenteuil County, Quebec on 2 June 1820, son of bookseller James Brown and Lydia Slater, he was educated at the Montreal High School. He served with the Loyal Hamilton Volunteer Regiment during the troubles of 1837-1838. His bravery under fire was noted when he recovered the body of a dead friend. A successful entrepreneur, he carried on mercantile operations in Quebec, Ontario, Wisconsin, and New York. In the early 1850s he was manager of the Gildersleeves line of lake steamers.
In 1870 Brown accompanied the Wolseley expedition to Winnipeg. Impressed with opportunities in the West he established a dry goods, groceries, and liquor store on Main Street in 1871. Around the same time he established a brick-making business at Point Douglas. In April 1872 he helped establish the Selkirk Agricultural Society. He was present at Winnipeg’s first St. Andrew’s Day celebration in 1871, and was made a Vice-President of the St. Andrew’s Society later that year.
In 1873 he was involved in inaugural meeting of the Winnipeg Board of Trade. Appointed Winnipeg City Clerk on 9 February 1874, his first duty was to “obtain a cupboard to contain the Corporation papers.” This action marked the beginning of the City of Winnipeg archives. In 1877 he was selected to read the address to Lord Dufferin on the steps of City Hall. He resigned the City Clerkship in 1882 and was succeeded by his son Charles James Brown. He speculated heavily during the real estate boom of 1881-1882 and it was reported that his “entire possessions were swept away.”
He was married twice. His children with an as-yet unidentified first wife were Charles James Brown, William Brown, J. R. Brown, Fred Brown, Frank A. Brown, ? Brown (wife of C. W. Graham), and ? Brown (wife of J. B. Berryman). He and second wife Bella Brown (c1850-?) had five children: Belle Brown (c1871-?), Harry Brown (c1873-?), Joseph Brown (c1876-?), Nora Brown (c1879-?), and Leitta Brown (c1881-?). In the early days of Winnipeg, his residence “Browns” was the social centre of the town. Under the “whole hearted hospitality” of him and his amiable wife, guests experienced “impromptu dances, concerts and improvised feasts, that were as perfectly enjoyable as they were unconventional.” He was an active Mason (Ancient Landmark Lodge and Prince Rupert’s Royal Arch Chapter) and was twice married.
He died at Winnipeg on 14 December 1895 and was buried in the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery.
Ten Years in Winnipeg by Alexander Begg & Walter Nursey, Winnipeg, 1879.
1891 Canada census, Ancestry.
Death registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“Death of Mr. A. M. Brown, formerly City Clerk,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 December 1895, page 8.
“Called to rest,” Winnipeg Morning Free Press, 16 December 1895.
Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968, Ancestry.
We thank Harley Michailuck, Lyle Brennen, and Gordon Goldsborough for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by James Kostuchuk.
Page revised: 22 February 2023