Rev John Milton Brown

Scope and Content

Journal begins 5 October 1866 with Rev Brown's ordination in the chapel at Richmond College [Surrey] and ends on New Year's Eve 1889 with him working in the vicinity of Calcutta [Kolkata, India]. Entries are infrequent and on occasion very brief.

Rear of volume contains lists of sermons preached (with texts used) and comments on English education in India, population of Ceylon [Sri Lanka] in 1868, Sanskrit literature as well as notes on the Methodist missions in Ceylon [Sri Lanka] and India.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Milton Brown, the son of William Brown, was born on 26 June 1843 in Porlock, Somerset. He was educated at the Wesleyan Day School in Dunster, Somerset, where he spent five years as a pupil teacher. He entered Richmond College in 1863 and his first ministerial posting was to the Tamil District in North Ceylon [Sri Lanka] departing England aboard the 'Thames' on 13 October 1866. After arriving in Ceylon [Sri Lanka] in February 1867 he soon fell under the guidance and influence of John Kilner, a strong advocate for self-supporting and self-governing missions. Like Kilner Brown argued for an improvement in the structure of the indigenous church, greater support for indigenous ministers and stressed the role and importance of education. Whilst in Ceylon [Sri Lanka] he married (on 12 November 1869 at the mission chapel in Colombo) but in his own words his wife 'was suddenly taken from me by fever and congestion of the brain' a few months afterwards on 5 May 1870.

In August 1872 Brown took a furlough to England and whilst there married Mary Kilner (daughter of John) on 13 February 1873 in Watford, Hertfordshire. They arrived back in Ceylon [Sri Lanka] in May 1873 and Mary began to work amongst the local women optimising her knowledge of local languages. During this period the Rev Brown, in addition to his usual missionary activities, spent two years as the editor of the North Ceylon Christian Herald. By 1883 Brown had impressed his superiors sufficiently to be offered the chairmanship of the Calcutta District in North India.

Whilst in India Brown took on further responsibilities including being editor of the Indian Methodist Times for five years, undertook - with the Rev W R Winston - in 1887 an evaluation of Burma as a prospective mission field (leading to the creation of the Methodist mission in Upper Burma), in 1891 he also became chairman of the Lucknow and Benares district (and by implication responsible for all Methodist missionary activity in North India) and in 1895 was elected to the legal hundred.

By 1901 the Rev & Mrs Brown had returned to England where the Rev Brown served as chaplain to the London Garrison. In 1905 he became one of the missionary secretaries of the WMMS, holding specific responsibilities for the West Indies Districts (at a time when they had only just returned to the British connexion). Here his reputation as a fine administrator, blessed also with sound judgement, was further enhanced. In 1912 he became a supernumerary spending much of his time in East Barnet, Hertfordshire [Greater London] until his death on 11 December 1934. His wife Mary had died in 1925 and between them they had six sons, two of whom - Rev H Milton Brown (1879-1916) and Rev A E Brown (1882-1952) - became missionaries themselves.

Further Reading:

Brown, J M, Report of a visit to the Methodist Churches in the West Indies. Deputation by Rev. John M. Brown [1905];

Findlay & Holdsworth, The History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (vol V, 1924).

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Archivist's Note

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Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance

Copyright probably held by Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes

Related Material

Also within the records of the (Wesleyan) Methodist Missionary Society is the official correspondence for John Milton Brown in Ceylon [Sri Lanka] (MMS/Ceylon/Correspondence/North Ceylon/FBN 6-7) and India (MMS/India/Correspondence/Calcutta/FBN 1-2 & MMS/India/Correspondence/Lucknow/FBN 3-5). Further information on Brown's work, as well as the work of his colleagues, will be contained in the Synod Minutes for Ceylon (MMS/Ceylon/Synod Minutes/FBN 1-2) and India (MMS/India/Synod Minutes/FBN 2-4).

Any extant correspondence written by Rev Brown whilst a missionary secretary should be found amongst the outgoing correspondence (MMS/Home/Correspondence/Outgoing/FBN 25B-26).

A couple of photographs taken by him can be found within MMS/Ceylon/Photographs/Box 1196a (file 4).

Copies of letters (or extracts from them) by Rev Brown and his wives can be found in missionary magazines, particular those of the WMMS Ladies Auxiliary.