Montagu Kingsmill Brown Biography

(reprinted with permission from Gray County Heritage ©1985)

Montagu Kingsmill Brown was born September 22, 1878, in the little village of Eastcote, Middlesex County, England, one of twelve children with an Irish mother and a British father. When he was seven years old he was sent to a boarding school sixty miles from London at a place called Brackley, which was located twenty miles from Oxford and was known as Magdalen College School. Here he remained until the age of fifteen when his father went broke and it became necessary for Montie to take a job. This was the end of his formal education, the remainder of it being obtained in the "school of hard knocks" as he explained it. He was a loyal alumnus of this latter school, but did not recommend it over formalized education, and thus it was that he dedicated himself to providing the means for thousands of children to go to college who might not have otherwise been able to attend. His college scholarships which he gave through the local (Pampa) high school and various other channels were one of his numerous philanthropies throughout his lifetime. Through the creation of the M.K. Brown Foundation he was able to see that these many activities were carried on even after his death.

His first job was office boy for a timber merchant in the heart of London, and for two and one-half years he drew what he termed the "huge salary" of two dollars a week. Then he went to work in a bank at a salary of $250 a year. While there he received a raise of $50 a year. There were no adding machines at that early date, and all checks had to be listed and added up by "main strength and awkwardness" as he explained it. This experience proved invaluable to him in later years when he was employed by White Deer Land Company in Gray County, Texas. Not realizing this at the time, he became bored with his job and told his father he would like to strike out for Australia or Canada to start farming or stock raising. Having an inquisitive nature and an eagerness to learn about everything he could, he had become interested in farming and such from visiting some of his relatives, and throughout his lifetime he retained this great interest in the land and its growth and productivity.

It was about this time that the Beers declared war on England. England had no infantry to speak of and called on the various yeomanry units to furnish manpower. This seemed a golden opportunity to young Montie who was a member of the county yeomanry unit to "join up and see the world at no expense to myself." His experiences in what he called the only "gentlemanly" war ever fought were many, and as one might expect, colorful. When it was over he returned to England, feeling he would surely return to Africa some day.

Such was not the case, however, as his Uncle Andrew Kingsmill began trying to interest him in a vast new land in the southwest part of the United States, which he himself had visited. Located in the Texas Panhandle was an enterprise known as White Deer Lands, an outgrowth of the old Francklyn Land and Cattle Company, which had been owned and operated by a group of English men headed by the Prime Minister of England, Lord Rosebery. Andrew Kingsmill was banker and agent for Lord Rosebery and had become familiar with this land company and came to know Mr. T.D. Hobart, the manager. He succeeded in influencing his nephew Montie to change his plans for adventure elsewhere in the world for a trip to Texas, which was to become his home for the rest of his life. It proved to be a happy and fruitful decision for all concerned.

Mr. Brown arrived in New Orleans with only a few dollars and set out for the Panhandle of Texas where he arrived in April, 1903. He was employed by Mr. Hobart to work for White Deer Lands at a monthly salary of $25 which included room and board. He did his work well and was able to keep a set of books without the aid of an adding machine. Soon his salary was raised to $75 a month.

In the years that followed he served as assistant to Mr. Hobart in the management of White Deer Lands and the JA Ranch near Clarendon, Texas. Later he was a co-manager of the White Deer Company along with Mr. C.P. Buckler. White Deer Lands comprised a major portion of the counties of Gray, Carson, Hutchinson and Roberts, and was an important developer of the Texas Panhandle. When the company had sold all its land, it went out of business in 1957. Mr. Brown purchased the office building located at lie S. Cuyler Street in Pampa, and later began developing it as an area museum of history. Today it houses historical and other artifacts of the area, and is known as the White Deer Land Museum. It was completed after his death in 1964 and stands as a monument to another of his many philanthropies.

He and his beloved Josye were married August 29, 1922, in Ardmore, Oklahoma, her family home. She shared with him in his continued philanthropies, and they enjoyed extensive travels throughout the world. After his retirement, they spent their winters in San Antonio and summers in Pampa. Even though retired from active business, he remained very active in the civic and cultural life of his community until his death in September, 1964. His wife preceded him in death by five years.

M.K. Brown became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1915. He was a 32nd degree Mason, a member of Scottish Rite, and a charter member of the Pampa Rotary Club. He was also a member of Pampa's first Masonic Lodge and served as a Master Mason more than 50 years. He was mayor of Pampa from 1913 to 1915, and was president of the Pampa Chamber of Commerce and Board of City Development in 1928. He was a stockholder and director of Southwestern Investment Co. for 33 years. He was elected a Life Member of Panhandle Plains Historical Society, and was a member of the Pampa Genealogical and Historical Society. He was the recipient of the coveted Silver Beaver Award from the Adobe Walls Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and is the only person ever to receive the title of "Chief Scout" of the Adobe Walls Council, its highest honor. Through his generous contributions, the Adobe Walls Council Service Center was built in Pampa, as well as the Scout camp near Mobeetie, Texas. The camping facility was named "Camp M.K. Brown" in his honor.

A much-needed bridge across Red Deer Creek on Sumner Street in Pampa was built ·by Mr. Brown and given to the City of Pampa and Gray County. It is located near the auditorium which was built by the M.K. Brown Foundation and dedicated April 23, 1972, and called M.K. Brown Memorial Auditorium and Civic Center.

His generosity to churches extended far beyond the construction of his own beloved St. Matthews Episcopal Church, and included gifts to all denominations as their needs became known to him.

Perhaps his first love was for the youth of the country and his bequests were frequent to such organizations as Girl Scouts, Optimists, Boys Club, Boys Ranch, Key Club, and the already mentioned Boy Scouts.

He contributed funds for a set of Texas Civil Statutes for the American Law Library, a facility of the Bar of England in London. He established the M.K. Brown Range Life Series at the University of Texas Press for the purpose of publishing books of historical interest about ranch life in the Southwest. Fifteen books have come out of this series. He also had published a reproduction of "Mrs. Adair's Dairy" written by Mrs. John Adair of the JA Ranch at Clarendon.

One of the highlights of his life came when he had conferred on him the Doctor of Laws Degree by Incarnate Word College of San Antonio.

He was one of the major contributors to the financial campaign for construction of the Coronado Inn, Pampa's community hotel, and to the Pampa Industrial Foundation organized for the purpose of attracting industry to Pampa. His financial and other aid to thousands of individuals is known only to the recipients.

Montagu Kingsmill Brown fulfilled a promise he made to himself many years before his death: "to give back to Texas and my own Gray County all that they have given to me. When I came here I had nothing. All that I have came from this wonderful country... and I plan to give it all back." And this he did.

Clotille Thompson