Richard Brown and his son Richard Henry Brown had control of the only company engaged in the mining of coal in Nova Scotia for the extraordinary span of 74 years. The Father, Mr. Richard Brown, was born in England, on May 2, 1805, and came to Cape Breton as the agent of the General Mining Association of London in the year 1827.
Mr. Brown, aside from being a practical mining engineer and expert, was a great student of geology and history. He added many valuable papers to the engineering and geological literature of his time and some rare geological specimens and fossil remains were through his efforts supplied, and added to the English and Canadian collections.
He was the first man in Cape Breton to see and appreciate the value of the Island’s under sea coal measures. His faith was manifested in a decision to sink a shaft at the water’s edge for the purpose of winning the coal underlying the sea. This was pioneer work, and the engineer who undertook to advise the company to sink this mine through strata filled with sea water for the purpose of mining coal under the sea, must have been an engineer of remarkable foresight and courage, and such undoubtedly was Mr. Brown.
The undertaking was proceeded with, and after eight years of many difficulties and dangers, the work was completed. The Winning is what is now known as the Princess shaft of the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company, and has produced coal uninterruptedly from the year of its opening for over 100 years. To his son was left the task of completing the work.
It became necessary owing to the sea breaking into it, to line the shaft with metal to keep the water back and the successful completion of this work was considered an engineering feat of considerable consequence in those days. The son was also called upon to face the problems of the extraction of coal under sea. They were many and serious, but the plans and intentions of the one, were ably executed by the other, and mining engineers engaged in this field of work today willingly pay tribute to the courage and foresight of the Browns, both father and son.
On the first of July, 1864, Richard Henry Brown succeeded his father as the agent manager of the General Mining Association in Cape Breton. In addition to the management of Sydney Mines, Mr. Brown had also the management of the Lingan and Victoria collieries, which were then operated by the Association. He continued in the management of Sydney Mines for the Association until they sold out to the Nova Scotia Steel & Coal Company in the year 1900.
Mr. Brown was the first mayor of the Town of Sydney Mines, and unopposed held the position until his duties began to interfere with his duties as manager, when he retired in favor of others.
The names of the Browns, both father and son, will always be associated with the coal industry of Nova Scotia. They were both remarkable men of untiring industry and unfailing integrity. Their word was their bond, and they built up for the English interests they so long and ably represented in this country, a wide reputation for honesty and fair dealing.