Parson Brown as he was fondly known, was appointed to the Orari Parish in 1862 after Alfred Cox of Raukapuka, offered to guarantee £200 and a house at Waihi Bush, Woodbury for two years so that Geraldine could have its own clergyman. Bishop Harper agreed to create an Orari Parish to reduce the workload of The Rev. George Foster who had arrived in Timaru two years earlier with responsibility for the whole of South Canterbury, from the Waitaki to the Rangitata district.
Rev. Brown was born in England in 1821 and graduated with an M.A. from Cambridge. He was ordained in 1844 to the parish of Whitton-le-wear in Durham, where he married Anne Faber and had their first five children but 16 years later at the age of 39yrs, he answered the call of the Missionary Guild, and sailed with his family to New Zealand where he spent two years as curate in the Sumner Heathcote Parish before being posted to the new Orari Parish. The journey took six weeks by bullock wagon with many delays and loss of belongings caused by swollen Canterbury rivers. Anne noted she would not return to Christchurch until all the rivers had been bridged, which she incorrectly assumed would not happen in her lifetime. With seven children (they had two more in NZ) Anne was kept very busy in their isolated cottage in very primitive conditions. They also took in boarders to supplement the meagre parish stipend and he did private teaching.
Pleasant Valley was the first settled area in the Geraldine district and St Anne’s church was built there in 1863 and it is now the oldest surviving church in South Canterbury. By the time Parson Brown left in 1869, four Anglican churches had been built in the district, St Anne’s, St Mary’s in Geraldine, St Stephens in Peel Forest and The Church of the Holy Innocents at Mt Peel Station. Rev. Brown came from a long line of Doctors and he took all sorts of remedies in the saddle bags of his horse on his many trips throughout his sprawling parish.
In 1867 he opened Geraldine’s first public school in Samuel Hewling’s old bark survey hut. (see memorial plaque 80m away on Talbot St). In 1969 he left the ministry to become headmaster of Washdyke School, Timaru. He then opened a private school (Maori Hill) which was not successful so he re-licensed as a minister and preached in local schools and assisted the Rev. James Preston who had succeeded him as Vicar in the Geraldine Parish. In the 1880’s the Browns shifted to Christchurch where he became head of Sumner Primary School and town Librarian. Anne was buried in 1893 at St Anne’s, Pleasant Valley. Rev. Brown returned to Edinburgh. Several of his son’s farmed in the Woodbury district.