1870s: Who was Orrin Brown?

From the files of Richard Schellen

“In November 1871 already, Orrin Brown purchased a large hunk of land in San Mateo from George S. Mann. The price paid for the land was $10,000, and the property itself was Block 4 as shown on the 1863 map of San Mateo. In July 1872 Orrin Brown made quite elaborate plans with Loren Coburn, the eccentric millionaire, to build a boom near the mouth of the Pescadero Creek to impound any logs brought down the creek from the lumber area above Pescadero, to build a sawmill and possibly also a wharf at the spot, all in order to cut costs. 

“Presumably all this would occur on Brown’s property, the proposed boom and sawmill site to be where Cabrillo Highway crosses the marshland at Pescadero Creek. Apparently these plans were not carried out, for the Coburn plan to get the lumber to San Francisco. eventually took place at Pigeon Point instead. 

“In May 1873 Brown leased 700 acres to J.C. Williamson of Pescadero; at the same time he also leased 200 acres to N.M. Brown, a local member of the Patrons of Husbandry. In October of that same year Brown bought and consolidated two meat markets in San Mateo; six months later he brought in James Wagor, formerly a schoolteacher in Pescadero, later a butcher near the Peer’s Sawmill, who became “the presiding genius of the cleaver” at the San Mateo Meat Market.

“Orrin Brown became involved in San Mateo in the establishment of the town’s first cemetery on the east side of the tracks, the so-called Evergreen Cemetery, which was used only for a few years until the establishment of St. John’s Cemetery, when the bodies were removed to the new burial grounds. 

“In June 1877 Brown sold his meat market to W.Z. Price, moving back to Pescadero and farming his land, or what was not leased out to Hugh Carlton Walche of Pescadero for experimental growing of flax. Brown had raised about 200 acres of flax, out of which he obtained some 2400 centals of seed, which he promptly sold at a fair profit to a San Francisco firm; Walche leased 900 acres to try to repeat this performance. 

“The date of death of Orrin Brown is yet to be determined, but it probably took place soon after his return to Pescadero, and certainly before January 1881. It was then that Esther C. Brown, the widow leased 1000 acres to James McCormick of Pescadero for farming purposes for a period of two years, starting with March 1, 1880.”

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