Thomas M. Brown, who since 1877 has continuously filled the position of Sheriff of Humboldt county, is an officer whose record is above reproach and no more incontrovertible proof of his fidelity to duty could be given than the fact that he has been so long retained in the position by popular suffrage. He is, moreover, one of the pioneer settlers of California and in the year 1849 crossed the plains, and his mind therefore bears the impress of the historic annals of the state as it has emerged from primitive conditions and become imbued with all the enterprise, improvements and evidences of civilization heretofore characteristic of the east.
Mr. Brown is a native of Tennessee, his birth having occurred in Overton county, that state, on the 26th of January, 1829. His parents were John W. and Rachel (Allen) Brown. The father was born in Kentucky in 1807, and with his parents removed to Tennessee during his early boyhood. In 1829 he became a resident of Illinois, settling in McLean county, where he continued to reside until 1841. In that year he removed to northwestern Missouri, and in the various places in which he made his home at different times he carried on the occupation of farming. While living in Missouri he was called to public office, and for twenty years served as county clerk of Harrison county. His demise was in 1873. It will thus be seen that fidelity in official service is one of the salient characteristics of the family. His wife was a representative of an old southern family.
Thomas M. Brown received but limited educational facilities, attending the country schools for a few months during the winter seasons in both Illinois and Missouri. He was an infant at the time of his parents’ removal to the former state, and was but twelve years of age when they became residents of Missouri. There he attained his majority, and in April, 1847, was married and began farming. He followed that pursuit for two years in Harrison county, and in April, 1849, started for California. The year before gold had been discovered and marvelous tales were told of the opportunities for the rapid acquirement of wealth on the Pacific coast. Mr. Borwn, therefore, determined to seek a fortune in California and with an ox team crossed the plains, traveling for day after day until at length his eyes were gladdened by the sight of the Eldorado of the west. He arrived at the American river in the month of October, and after a few days spent at Sacramento proceeded to Stockton, California, and thence to Tuolumne county, where he engaged in mining about a mile and a half south of Jimtown. A few months later he started for Trinity county with an ox team. He paid fifteen hundred dollars in gold dust for four yoke of oxen and a wagon, and after reaching his destination he engaged in mining, continuing in that industrial pursuit until the spring of 1857. He was located variously in Trinity, Shasta and Klamath, and at the last-named place he was appointed deputy sheriff of Klamath county. After serving for a year and eight months he returned to Missouri, and in 1860 brought his wife to California. Again the trip was made across the plains with an ox team, five months being consumed in completing the journey.
Mr. Brown established his home at Oreleans Bar on the Klamath river, then the county seat of Klamath county. In 1861 he was elected sheriff of the county and held the office continuously until 1874, when the county was re-organized and the section in which he lived became a part of Humboldt county. During the following three years he engaged in mining on the Klamath river, and in 1877 he was elected sheriff of Humboldt county and has been re-elected at each succeeding election to the present time.
In 1847 Mr. Brown was united in marriage to Miss Surilda J. Poynter, a native of Kentucky and a daughter of John Poynter, a representative of an old Kentucky family. They now have one daughter, Martha J., who is the wife of H. B. Hitchings, now chief of police of Eureka, California. Mr. Brown and his family are widely known in this section of the state and receive the favorable regard and friendship of many with whom they have come in contact. He is a worthy representative of the Masonic fraternity, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, while his political support is given to the Democracy. In citizenship he is loyal, progressive and public-spirited, and as an official is strictly fair and impartial in the discharge of his duties, performing all public service without fear or favor. He receives the strongest endorsement and commendation of men of all parties, and is, indeed, classed among the best citizens of Humboldt county.
Source: Leigh H. Irvine; A History of the New California Its Resources and People, 2 Volumes; New York and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903.