J. Ross Browne, Arizona Traveler

San Xavier del Bac Missio Church, 1864

Author of Adventures in the Apache Country: A Tour through Arizona and Sonora, 1864

John Ross Browne was born near Dublin, Ireland, in January 1821. When he was thirteen years old, he emigrated to America with his parents. There his father became a reporter on the proceedings of the U.S. Congress for the Congressional Globe. By the age of twenty Ross (as he preferred to be called) had learned shorthand and worked as his father's assistant. This somewhat mundane skill served him well throughout his life; whenever his fortunes were at a low ebb he appears to have been able to secure employment as a recorder/reporter. During the 1840s he worked as a reporter for the Senate in Washington D.C.

After his marriage to Lucy Mitchell, Ross worked as a clerk in the Treasury Department and as private secretary to the Secretary of the Treasury, but his real love was traveling and drawing. Whenever he had the opportunity to explore an unknown land, he was off with his shorthand pad and sketchpad to describe the wonders he saw, whether it was a job on a whaling ship, a voyage around Cape Horn, a jaunt to gold-rush California, or a tour to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. He published numerous books and articles about his travels illustrated with his own drawings.

Self-portrait by J. Ross Browne, sketching in the Apache countryBrowne was drawn to the West from his first visit there and moved his family to California in 1855. They settled in Oakland, his home-base for the rest of his life. His impromptu journey through Arizona and Sonora with Charles Poston began in December, 1863. A series of articles entitled "A Tour through Arizona" was published in Harper's Monthly magazine from October 1864 to March 1865. These articles were re-published in book form in 1869 under the title Adventures in the Apache Country and reprinted in 1871, when the Arizona material was supplemented by "Notes on the Silver Regions of Nevada."

Browne's book, Adventures in the Apache Country, is available as a free e-book from this site. The illustrated version is a 3.2 MB file and the unillustrated (text only) version is 252 KB. You can read a sample of Browne's book on the Gadsden Purchase page. Other free e-books on early Arizona travels and history are available on the Free E-book page.

From about 1870 Browne devoted himself to his beloved home state of California, working in San Francisco on mining interests, real estate, and an irrigation project. He died suddenly in 1875 at the age of fifty-four, apparently of acute appendicitis.