The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Hamilton Spectator (Hamilton, ON), June 3, 1879

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BROWNE. -- At 5 o'clock this morning there passed from this earthly scene another of Hamilton's enterprising citizens who have contributed much to the building up of the city as a great commercial centre. We refer to the death of Mr. Michael W. Browne which took place at his residence, No 8 Park street south, at the hour named. Ever since last year when the lamented gentleman had a severe bleeding at the nose, Mr. Browne had impaired health and he informed some of his intimate friends quite recently that he believed that he was failing fast. But nothing very serious was anticipated as on Saturday Mr. Browns was downtown, and on Sunday he was able to be out in his garden. At 4 o'clock, however, he became ill and Dr. Leslie, his medical adviser, was sent for and prescribed medicine to the patient whose pulse he found to be strong. At 5 o'clock, however, he was being raised for the purpose of taking his medicine and Mr. Browns was seized with what was evidently a severe shock of apoplexy which caused his death in a few minutes.

The late Mr. Browne was born in Limerick in 1816 and therefore was in the 64th year of his age. He came to Kingston in 1828, a friendless lad, and found employment as wharfinger in one of the leading offices of that city which was then one of the busiest places in that line of business in the Canadas. In 1836 he came to Hamilton and entered into partnership with Mr. D.C. Gunn, the firm carrying on a large forwarding and wharfage business up till 1847 when Mr. Gunn retired and Mr. Browne took into partnership his brother Edward, and the firm was thereafter known by the name of M. W. & E. Browne. The firm carried on a very large and profitable business on the lakes, and at one time owned a dozen large vessels, being also shareholders in the fine steamers, "Canada" & "America" built at Niagara in 1856 and subsequently sold to the American Government. In fact in the heyday of the lake forwarding business they were the largest ship-owners on the Canadian side of the lakes. When the era of railroads arrived, deceased with other gentlemen who had built up the enormous lake traffic suffered heavily by the diversion of freight and passenger traffic, but he took the reverse a commendable spirit of enterprise and at once set to work to retrieve his misfortune by engaging in the business which had caused a revolution in the carrying trade of the country, accepting the position of station and freight agent of the G.W.R. at Sarnia in l860. Mr. Browne held that post until 1864, those years being noted for a very large traffic of grain, etc., over the G.W.R. from the Western States via Sarnia.

After leaving the G.W.R. he managed with ability the affairs of the Hamilton and Lake Erie Railway until it was merged in the H. and N.W.R., when he became manager for the G. T. Railway Company in Hamilton, and was instrumental in building up a large business for that line in the city. It later years he had not engaged in any active commercial pursuits, although still taking a great interest in the prosperity of the city. Prior to Hamilton's assumption of the dignity of a city, Mr. Browne had a seat at the Council Board as a representative of St. Mary's ward and subsequently on the extension of the ward system when the town came of age he sat for a number of years for No. 3 ward, occupying the position of chairman of the Finance Committee with credit and ability. In the absence of Mayor McKinstry, he was acting Mayor in 1859 and in that capacity laid the foundation stone of the Crystal Palace. For many years he was a valuable member of the Board of Trade, and as a good Irishman alive to the welfare of his poorer Brethren, he was one of the first to join the Irish Protestant Benevolent Society.

A Liberal - Conservative by conviction, his fellow citizens showed the respect and esteem in which they held him by nominating him to contest a seat for the city in the commons in 1875 when Messrs. Wood and Irving were opposed by Messrs. Browne and Witton. Since the organization of the Reformed Episcopal Church in the city, he has been one of its principal supporters. He leaves a widow and two grown-up sons and daughters to mourn his death. They will have the sympathy of a very wide circle of friends and acquaintances who recognized in the lamented gentleman a true man and therefore a good citizen, From first to last his life has been that of the honest, thorough-going businessman, coming to Canada a poor boy, he battled fortune with commendable zeal, and by honesty and integrity achieved not only an enviable worldly position but a place of regard in the hearts of his fellow citizens of which his family may well feel proud. The flag on the city Hall is half-mast high out of respect to the memory of the deceased. The funeral takes place on Wednesday next at 3:30 p.m.

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Date of Original:
June 3, 1879
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William R. McNeil
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Hamilton Spectator (Hamilton, ON), June 3, 1879