Plaqued Houses and Buildings
Address:
247 Trafalgar Road - The Captain Francis Brown House
Summary:
Francis Brown was a master mariner and a world traveller.
Property Details:
Francis Brown was born in England 1842 and went to sea at an early age. Drawn by news of the discover of oil in the western counties of the province, he came to Ontario, arriving in Montreal in 1863. He worked for a time in the town of Bothwell (now Petrolia) where oil had been discovered. Hannah Heuter (later written as Heiter), his sweetheart from his hometown in England, joined him there and they were married.. The frontier town of Bothwell as not a great place to raise a family, and Hannah was soon expecting a child. Francis sold his holdings in Petrolia and he and his family moved to Oakville in 1867.
Francis rented the old brewery on the bank of Sixteen Mile Creek, operating it for a year or more before purchasing it and renaming it the Victoria Brewery. The brewery was located on Trafalgar Road, approximately at the end of Macdonald Street. In 1870 a depression started in Oakville and he was forced to shut the brewery. It was eventually bought by William Bigger Chisholm and became the Oakville Basket factory.
By 1871 Francis Brown was a shopkeeper. He advertised in the September 20 1873 edition of the Argus newspaper: "Notice - Parties desiring their winter's supply of coal must leave their orders for the same at Brown & Heiter's store. All orders so left the undersigned will guarantee to fill at as low a price as possible before the close of navigation. Terms - Cash." Mr. Heiter may have been Francis' brother-in-law. At that time Francis Moore is listed as the owner of the schooner "Meteor."
The Browns were listed as tenants at 289 Trafalgar Road in 1874, with the property owned by Jane Moore Heiter, Hannah's sister. It seems the current house was built around this time, under the direction of Francis Moore, and eventually he became the owner.
The Brown family was growing. Francis and Hannah family comprised Henry (1868), Richard Frederick (1869, but died at the age of 4 months) Francis, Marianne, Emma and George Pritchard ( in 1876).
In 1877, Francis accepted a commission to sail a light-draught paddle steamer (the "S. S. Henry Venn") to Africa where it was to be used in transporting missionaries up the Niger River to the interior of Africa. Prominent citizens and the Master Mariners of Oakville presented him with a Canadian Ensign and a letter of congratulations. The text of the letter is reproduced at the end of this narrative.
The passengers on the voyage up the Niger included Samuel Adjai Crowther, the first African bishop. It also included the Canadian Ensign from Oakville, which Francis draped on his ship so that all who boarded her passed under the flag. It is believed to be the first Canadian flag flown in Africa. The flag also draped Francis' coffin after his death. Both the original letter and the Canadian Ensign are in the

About 1880 Francis was engaged by the Japanese government to sail a boat to Japan. He remained in the far east for about 20 years. He helped the Japanese establish trading relationships across the Far East and was repeatedly decorated by the Japanese Emperor. He also collected and shipped back to Oakville a very large collection of goods from that part of the world, all of which was stored by Hannah in their house. These goods amounted to a considerable value as such goods were otherwise unavailable in North America. With the house "uncomfortably supplied with treasures," Hannah and Francis decided to start selling the goods.
Francis retired around 1899-1900. His family by then had moved to Galt (now part of Cambridge, Ontario) and had established the "Oriental Bazaar" as a very successful business. Over time, the emphasis on such goods declined and Francis' son, Frank, had become a jeweller and this business started to expand. The "Oriental Bazaar" was renamed "F. J. Brown and Son Jewellers". As of 2021, this business is still in existence and is still family owned.
Francis died in 1909 at the age of 67. Hannah lived to 1947 and died at 100. They are buried in Cambridge. Their son that died in infancy is buried in St. Jude's Cemetery.

There have been multiple owners since the Browns and several changes to the house. A tent-shaped verandah has been removed as well as a narrow widow's walk and low balustrade that surrounded the belvedere high up on the hip roof. But the dramatic form of the house would be familiar to Francis and Hannah Brown.
Much of this history is drawn from "Old Oakville" by David and Suzanne Peacock, which is available for purchase at the Oakville Historical Society and the book "A Rope in the Hand" by Jessie L. Beattie, a copy of which is in the Historical Society Library.

Letter from the Mayor of Oakville and Citizens
Canada
Town of Oakville
18 December 1877

To Capt. Francis J. Brown
Formerly of Oakville Canada
At Present of Renfrew Scotland

Dear Sir

The undersigned have heard with unfeigned pleasure of you Appointment under the auspices of the Church Missionary and Royal Geographical Societies of England to the Command of a Steamer destined for the exploration of the river Niger on the West Coast of Africa.

They Congratulate you upon your honorable and responsible Appointment and bid you "God Speed" with the prayer that health may be continued to you to the end that you may reap success and return to your home and friends in safety.

And they ask you to accept the accompanying Ensign being that of the Dominion of Canada that it may remind you that as an Esteemed friend and a Canadian Englishman you live in their memory that you may carry it with to the land of your labors incited by your Canadian Home Association that will cluster around it and protected by the power of the British Empire proclaim Liberty to the Captive, Relief to the suffering, Protection to the Weak and Civilization to the Savage and in your own person and manhood do honor to the "Old Flag" and to the "New."

P. A. McDougald
Mayor

Signed as well by Master Mariners and Merchants
Click to Enlarge
289 Trafalgar Road289 Trafalgar Road
289 Trafalgar Road - Gate289 Trafalgar Road - Gate
289 Trafalgar Road - 1991289 Trafalgar Road - 1991
289 Trafalgar Road - 1957289 Trafalgar Road - 1957
289 Trafalgar Road - 1897 - Note Widow's Walk around the Belvedere289 Trafalgar Road - 1897 - Note Widow's Walk around the Belvedere
Captain F. J. BrownCaptain F. J. Brown
Advertiement in The Argus newspaper, Sept 20 1873Advertiement in The Argus newspaper, Sept 20 1873
1897 Advertisement for F. J. Brown & Son, Cambridge1897 Advertisement for F. J. Brown & Son, Cambridge
Biography of Francis Brown, Oakville Historical Society LibraryBiography of Francis Brown, Oakville Historical Society Library
Francis & Hannah Brown Tombstone. Trinity Anglican Cemetery, CambridgeFrancis & Hannah Brown Tombstone. Trinity Anglican Cemetery, Cambridge
Francis Brown's plot in St. Jude's Cemetery - grave of their infant sonFrancis Brown's plot in St. Jude's Cemetery - grave of their infant son