We do not know his name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War

Reverend Robert Christopher Lundin Brown

Lundin Brown, as he is most commonly known, was born in England in 1831 to a Reverend of the Church of England. Following in his father’s footsteps, he received his MA from Edinburgh in 1854 and was ordained into the Church of England four years later. He was sent to British Columbia by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in 1860, becoming the first missionary in the Lillooet district. From there, he made repeated visits to the Cariboo goldfields where he preached to the miners about a variety of vices including “concubinage with Indian females.” One of Brown’s subsequent letters, addressing the shortage of women in B.C.’s interior, gave support to the creation of the Columbian Emigration Society, which organized bride ships to be sent to Victoria in 1862-1863.

With the help of a translator, he spent considerable time preaching to B.C.’s aboriginal peoples, which fueled the publication of a number of books, articles, and pamphlets, including British Columbia: The Indians and Settlers at Lillooet: Appeal for Missionaries, The Thompson River Indians, and his prize-winning essay British Columbia. Perhaps Brown’s most famous book is Klatsassan, and Other Reminiscences of Missionary Life in British Columbia in which he details the last days of Klatsassin’s life and the events leading up to the chief’s capture. This book provides some small insights into the aboriginal perspective of the Chilcotin War that are otherwise absent from the historical record. Brown fell ill in 1864 and returned to England the following year. Prior to his death in 1876, he held several distinguished posts in England and Greece.

Secondary Sources

Hopwood, V.G. “Robert Christopher Lundin Brown.” In Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. X. Toronto: University of Toronto, 1972.

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Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History