John George Brown | The Canadian Encyclopedia


John George Brown

John George Brown, "Kootenai," army officer, prospector, constable, whisky trader, buffalo hunter, wolfer, dispatch rider, guide, scout, driving force in establishing Waterton Lakes National Park (b at Ennistymon, Ire 10 Oct 1839; d at Waterton Lakes, Alta 18 July 1916).

John George Brown

Through his grandmother's persistence Brown was commissioned in 1857 "without purchase" as an 8th Regiment ensign. He served in India 1858-59, sold his commission in 1861 and in 1862 set out for the Cariboo goldfields of BC. There he prospected unsuccessfully, trapped and served briefly as constable at Wild Horse Creek. In 1865 he travelled through the Rocky Mountains to Waterton (Kootenay) Lakes, which enchanted him and from which ultimately his nickname was derived.

Continuing across the prairie to Fort Garry, he was wounded by Blackfoot, then traded whisky in the Portage area. Employed briefly by a private company carrying mail for the US Army in the Dakota and Montana territories, Brown remained with the military as a civilian "tripper." Despite capture and near death at the hands of Sitting Bull in 1868, he continued dispatch riding until 1874. Brown then joined his wife's people - he had married a Métis woman in 1869 - hunting buffalo and wolfing.

In 1877, at Fort Benton, Montana, Brown quarrelled with and killed Louis Ell, a celebrated hunter. Acquitted by a territorial jury he settled at Waterton Lakes, where he traded and established a reputation as guide and packer. During the 1885 North-West Resistance, he became chief scout for the Rocky Mountain Rangers.

Brown early foresaw the need to preserve the Waterton area and campaigned strenuously on its behalf. With the establishment of the Kootenay Forest Reserve in 1895 he became fishery officer and, in 1910, forest ranger. In 1914 his dream of further conservation was realized when the reserve became Waterton Lakes National Park, was enlarged and made contiguous with the international boundary and Glacier National Park in the US.