Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Ralph Russell James Brown (1875-1917)

Educator, soldier.

Born at Barrie, Ontario on 21 November 1875, son of Charles Thomas Brown and Lavinia Harriet Brown, he came to Winnipeg where he was a school teacher. He served as Principal of Wellington School (?-1902) and Somerset School, and Secretary of the Manitoba Educational Association (1908-1909). In early 1915, while studying for a law degree, he enlisted with Canadian armed forces and was a Major with the 44th Battalion when he died on 31 October 1917, of wounds received while serving in France.

Teacher and historian J. W. Chafe would later reminisce about Brown, in his 1973 book Extraordinary Tales from Manitoba History:

“Our principal, Ralph Brown, was a gentleman, a scholar, stern disciplinarian, and a strong believer in manly sports. He taught full-time but somehow found time to coach us, even play himself, without acting like a teacher. In fact, if two boys squared off for a scrap he’d let them go down to the basement after four and settle the question with boxing gloves. One day looking out of his office window, he saw two boys fighting. He came out and said, ‘If I see you fighting, I have to act. But the wood pile hides the view from my office.’ And he turned and walked in again. In 1917, one of those lads, a soldier in the trenches, saw his old principal killed by a shell.”

He is commemorated by Ralph Brown School in Winnipeg.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Ralph Brown School (Andrews Street, Winnipeg)


Attestation papers, Canadian Expeditionary Force, Library and Archives Canada.

“Major Brown dead of wounds,” Manitoba Free Press, 15 November 1917, page 5.

The History of the Manitoba Educational Association by Ernest Butterworth, MEd thesis, Faculty of Graduate Study and Research, University of Manitoba, 1965.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 7 April 2020

Memorable Manitobans

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