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Richard J. Brown (1853-?)
Native of Canada, conductor with Michigan Central Railroad in Bay City, Mich.

1892 biography - Added Dec., 2009

History of Saginaw and Bay Counties, Mich., 1892.


Conductor on the Mackinaw Division of the Michigan Central Railroad, was born in Clinton, Canada, May 29, 1853. He is of English parentage, his father Richard being a native of County Durham, England, where his mother, Isabelle (Newton) Brown was likewise born. Soon after his marriage Richard Brown emigrated from his native shire, where he had been engaged as a blacksmith, to Canada, locating in Clinton and working at his trade. From there he removed to Exeter, and operated as a blacksmith and manufacturer until 1865 when he came to Michigan and settled in Minden City, Sanilac County. His trade of a blacksmith occupied his attention until he retired from business in the spring of 1890. Now sixty-seven years old, he is making his home with our subject. The mother died in October, 1890.

In the family of eight children, our subject is the fourth in order of birth and was reared in Canada until he was twelve years old. He then accompanied his parents to this State and remained with them until he was fifteen, when he secured employment in a store in Forestville. After remaining there during one winter, he removed to Ft. Hope and thence to Alpena, where he was engineer in the planing mill for two years. In 1874 he came to West Bay City, and became engineer in a salt block, having charge of one well. His railroad career commenced in 1881 with his acceptance of the position of brakeman on the Saginaw & Mackinaw Division of the Michigan Central Railroad. He served in that capacity for two years, then as baggageman six months, afterward was promoted to conductor on the line between Bay City and Grayling, and later accepted the position of passenger conductor, his run being between Bay City and Mackinaw, which position he now fills with marked ability. He makes two trips per week, and has become widely known as one of the most efficient and genial conductors on the road.

Although no fatal accidents has occurred o the road since Mr. Brown has been conductor, yet several serious catastrophes have happened. In 1885, near Pinconning, the freight car tipped over, striking an engine but fortunately no one was injured; again in 1891 our subject left Alger with twenty-four cars, which through a trifling accident were detained on the top of a hill. The conductor asked the brakeman to flag a train which he knew was due about that time, but the brakeman pulled the coupling pins too soon and twelve cars immediately plunged down the incline, colliding with the oncoming train. After trying to set the brakes but finding he could not stop the cars, Mr. Brown jumped to save his life. The way car and engine were both smashed to pieces, besides then other cars, but no one was hurt.

The comfortable home in which, when relieved from his business cares, Mr. Brown finds rest and happiness, is pleasantly located at No. 505 Catherine Street. It is presided over by his amiable wife, with whom he was united in marriage at Alpena, May 30, 1874. Miss Louisa Girkie, as she was known prior to her marriage, was born in Mecklenburg, Germany, and is the daughter of Charles and Lucinda (Lichtwaldt) Girkie, who were likewise natives of Mecklenburg. Mr. Girkie, who was a miller by trade, emigrated to America after his marriage, and was engaged as a farmer, miller, contractor and builder at Jeffersonville, Detroit and Alpena. He died in 1886 in the last-names place, where his wife still resides. Mrs. Brown was the eldest among seven children and was six years old when brought by her parents to this country. One child has blest her marriage Reuben F. Mr. and Mrs. Brown are also rearing a nephew, Charles R. Brown, who has made his home with them since he was thirteen years old.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Royal Arcanum and Ancient Order of United Workmen number Mr. Brown as one of their active members. He is also identified with the Order of Railroad Conductors and is prominent and popular among railroad officials and employes, as well as with the general public. He is a consistent Christian, belonging to the Methodist Episcopal Church and endeavoring to promote it every possible way, the best interests of the community. His political sympathies are wholly on the side of the Republican party, for the principles of which he cast his ballot and uses his influence.

Additional Notes.

    1883 Directory, West Bay City, Mich.

  • Brown, James A., brakeman, bds Richard J. Brown.
  • Brown, Richard J conductor, res w s Catherine 2 n of S Union, 2d ward.

    1900 Census West Bay City, Mich.

  • Brown, Richard b. May 1853 Canada, conductor R.R.
  • Louse wife, b. Apr. 1858 Germany Rueben F son, Jun. 1891 Mich.
  • Girke, Lucinda mother-in-law, b. Aug. 1836, Germany
Related Pages/Notes

Richard J. Brown

Related Pages:
None at this time.
People Referenced
Brown, Charles (nephew)
Brown, James A.
Brown, Richard (father)
Brown, Richard J. (subject)
Brown, Reuben F. (son)
Girkie, Charles
Girkie, Louisa (wife)
Lichwaldt, Lucinda
Newton, Isabelle (mother)
Subjects Referenced
Alger, MI
Alpena, MI
Bay City, MI
Clinton, Canada
Detroit, MI
Exerter, Canada
Forestville, MI
Ft. Hope, MI
Grayling, MI
Jeffersonville, MI
Mackinaw, MI
Mecklenburg, Germany
Methodist Episcopal
Michigan Central RR
Minden City, MI
Pinconning, MI
Sanilac Co., MI
West Bay City, MI
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.