JOHN COLLINS BROWNE. Nearly all valuable knowledge comes from experience, and it is the experience of the old timers in Western Kansas which serves as a method of pointing out the future possibilities, and that experience is also a guide to those still new in the conditions of this country by which they may avoid the many costly mistakes they made in earlier times. A great volume of experience has never been recorded, but through the lives and careers of such men as John Collins Browne of Burdett, Pawnee County, much can be rescued from oblivion and serve to vitalize the history of that country.
Mr. Browne has for over thirty years been a stock man and farmer in Pawnee County, having located there in 1884. He came to Western Kansas direct from the Province of Ontario, Canada. He was born in County Lambton of that province in March, 1867, and came to the United States alone. He was reared in Ontario, and had the advantages of the common or grammar schools.
He was seventeen years of age when he ventured into Kansas. His first experience here was in the printing office of the Eagle Optic, and he learned the printer's trade under the eye of Thomas E. Leftwich. When he left that office he removed to Burdetto in 1886 and founded the Burdett Bugle, which he edited for three years. He then sold his outfit, and the entire plant was shipped out to the state of Washington.
After giving up the newspaper business Mr. Browne continued acting as postmaster of Burdett, a position which had been conferred upon him during the Cleveland administration. He left that office to try farming as a practical proposition. Land was then cheap and could be obtained in almost unlimited quantities at a cost of between $600 and $800 a quarter section. Mr. Browne exchanged his printing outfit for an entire quarter section. He also acquired another quarter section and this land lay on Pawnee Creek. It had been proved up as Government land. Mr. Browne's pioneer home in this locality was the stone house on Pawnee Creek just north of Burdett.
While not an expert in that line in the modern sense of the term, Mr. Browne tried dry farming. For many years it was "dry farming," not only in the literal sense of that term but in an unfavorable significance. As soon as possible he got into the stock business, raising horses and at first only the common grades of cattle. Conditions were extremely trying, and Mr. Browne had to witness the practical abandonment of the country two or three times. He elected to stay, and as a cattle man the exigencies of settlers proved to his advantage, since every time the homesteaders left the range for cattle was automatically widened. With numerous vicissitudes and set backs, Mr. Browne gradually climbed up the ladder of prosperity. In more recent years he has entered the blooded cattle industry, at first as a Galloway breeder, and more lately in handling the Aberdeen-Angus, a gentler, and he thinks, an altogether better animal than the Galloway.
As a farmer Mr. Browne's success has been chiefly in alfalfa. He has also pinned his faith to wheat, and that has proved profitable taking the seasons altogether. He has threshed as high as 43 bushels to the acre and then again has obtained absolutely nothing from his seed. Besides climatic conditions Mr. Browne is of the opinion that antiquated methods of cultivation have been a factor in the numerous failures which farmers in Western Kansas have experienced. He has studied the matter carefully and his observation leads him to state positively that improved methods of farming have reduced the frequency of failures, and of course a more general adoption of such improved methods will in time almost eliminate serious crop shortages.
From the profits of his endeavors in Western Kansas from different sources Mr. Browne now owns a body of land comprising a section and a half. Five hundred acres of this are cultivated to crops. He has placed some excellent home improvements, including his stone residence and a large and conspicuous barn. His ranch is well watered from the sheet of subterranean water underlying the Pawnee Valley. Mr. Browne confidently looks forward to the development of the magnificent possibilities of the Pawnee Valley as a farming community. By use of the subterranean water resources and also by utilizing the flood water for irrigation, the country can be developed as a splendid alfalfa and sugar beet proposition as well as for the raising of small grains.
Mr. Browne is now both a feeder and shipper of fat cattle and hogs, and his Black Polled cattle have done much to advertise the Pawnee Valley at the Kansas City market. He has also been one of the men responsible for the upbuilding and improvement of Burdett, and is as active and public spirited today as he was in earlier years. He was one of the original stockholders of the Farmers Elevator, is a stockholder and director and vice president of the Norris State Bank, for many years has served as a trustee of the school, and has officiated as justice of the peace of Browne's Grove Township. Mr. Browne is affiliated with the Modern Woodmen of America and was clerk of Burdett Camp a number of years. Politically he began voting the democratic ticket, first supporting for president, Mr. Cleveland. In 1896 he deviated from strict party lines and supported Mr. McKinley. Twice he voted for Mr. Bryan, cast his ballot for Judge Parker in 1904, and has twice been a loyal adherent of President Wilson. In earlier days he frequently attended county conventions, and for several years was a member of the County Central Committee.
Mr. Browne's father, George Browne, died in Ontario when John C. was a small child. George Browne was of English stock and an Ontario farmer. He married Sarah Collins, who was born in County Cork, Ireland, and died at Winfield, Kansas, in 1902, at the age of eighty-four. Among her children were: Fred, who died in Colorado, leaving a widow; George, who died as a young man in Canada; Mary, who died in Canada in young womanhood; Anna, wife of Thomas E. Leftwich, of Winfield, Kansas; Lizzie, now Mrs. Philip Vasbinder, of Otisville, Michigan; and John O.
Mr. Browne was married in Pawnee County, March 25, 1888, to Miss Ella Hoag. She was born in La Salle County, Illinois, in 1869, daughter of Mark Hoag. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Browne are: Frederick Collins, who was educated in the State Agricultural College at Manhattan, is now actively associated with his father in farming, and by his marriage to Grace Goodell has two sons, Richard Collins and Sidney Goodell; William A., who was still pursuing his studies in the State Agricultural College is now in Headquarters Company, Seventieth Infantry Brigade; Richard Hoag, a student in the law department of Washburne College at Topeka, is also in Headquarters Company, One Hundred and Thirtieth Field Artillery; Margaret Sarah, a student of the college at Manhattan; and Elizabeth A., still in the home circle.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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