BROWNE, J. Ross

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BROWNE, John Ross (1821-1875) was born in Dublin, Ireland. (His birth year is variously given as 1817.) He came to the United States in 1833 where he became well known as a famous illustrator for Harpers Magazine. In 1855 he moved to Oakland, California and was appointed Customs Official and Inspector of Indian Affairs on the Pacific Coast.

In 1867, J. Ross Browne, accompanied by William M. Gabb and F. von Lohr, led an expedition to Baja California. They landed at Cape San Lucas to explore Lower California in the interest of a colonization company. The party traveled to San Jose del Cabo, and thence northerly to Triunfo and La Paz. From the last place they crossed the peninsula to Todos Santos and up the coast to Magdalena Bay. From this point Browne returned to La Paz and the rest of the party under Gabb continued across to Loreto and thence to Comondu, Purisima, Mulege, San Ignacio, Santa Gertrudis, Camalli, San Borja, ROsarito, Calamahue, San Fernando, San Quintin, Sausal, and Tijuana.The reports on this trip by Browne and Gabb in Browne's Resources of the Pacific Slope contains much interesting information concerning the physical features of the peninsula. During this trip Gabb collected a few plants of the cactuses serving as the types of new species. [Nelson, 1921]


Browne visited Santa Rosa Island for several days in 1874, after which he wrote a 5-page article for Overland Monthly, The Island of Santa Rosa. Browne was known for his opinion: “An honest Indian agent is the rarest work of God I know.”

A former resident of Santa Barbara, Browne died in Oakland in 1875.


  • 1855. Browne, J. Ross The Indians of California San Francisco: Colt Press, Series of California Classics, 1855


  • 1861. Browne, J. Ross The Coast Rangers in Harper's New Monthly Magazine 23:306-316, August, 1861



  • 1868. Browne, J. Ross Explorations in Lower California Three papers in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, October, November & December 1868.(37):577-591, October 1868




  • Browne, J. Ross Browne, Lina Fergusson. J. Ross Browne. His Letters, Journals & Writings NEw Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, (1969). First edition in d.j.
[original in SCIF archives]



In the News~

August 24, 1874 [SBDP]:The Island of Santa Rosa by J. Ross Browne. A few weeks ago, while on a visit to Santa Barbara, it was my good fortune to meet one of the owners of Santa Rosa Island, Mr. H. H. More, who cordially invited me to make a voyage with him to that romantic retreat, of which so little is known even on this coast… Without a word of objection, I shouldered my knapsack and embarked with him on board the good schooner Star of Freedom, then lying at the Santa Barbara wharf. An extra supply of provisions having been secured by Captain Chase, that thoughtful mariner, shook loose his sails… Captain Chase promised that we would reach Santa Rosa in four hours—if the breeze held out... The property is owned by two brothers, Messrs… A. P. More and H. H. More…”


August 25, 1874 [SBDP]:The Island of Santa Rosa by J. Ross Brown. [continued.] …the mutton and wool are of a superior quality. The wool being less subject to dust and burs than on the main, brings a good price. The sheep are very little troubled with disease… Every convenience exists for gathering up the stock, shearing, steeping, and shipping. Large and commodious storehouses, barns and boarding houses for the employees are situated near the place of shipment. A wharf constructed at a cost of $15,000 extends well out into the harbor… I gleaned from the superintendent that there are now 60,000 head of sheep of the ordinary California breeds. The actual sales of wool and sheep will probably amount this year to $100,000. Expenses are about $10,000 per annum, not including the cost of transportation. Yield of wool, about 300,000 pounds. The net result of sales… is say $80,000. This pays very handsome dividends to the owners…”


August 26, 1874 [SBDP]:Santa Rosa Island by J. Ross Brown. [continued.] …A suggestion casually thrown out by Mr. More was especially fascinating to my imagination… but I could not help picturing to my mind what a magnificent park this would make as a preserve for wild game of the continent…”


March 14, 1876 [SBDP]: “J. Ross Brown’s survey of Lower California in 1867…”