Brown, John (1788–1873), presbyterian minister, was sixth son of Samuel Brown, a farmer near Garvagh, Co. Londonderry. Graduating from Glasgow University (MA 1811), he was ordained (December 1813) in Aghadowey, and remained there till retirement (1871). He rented a farm, planted 1,000 trees, built a new church, and helped establish fourteen schools and several new congregations in the area. Orthodox in religion, he was a liberal in politics and opposed to the Orange order. He was moderator of the synod of Ulster in 1832. In 1835 he successfully proposed the restoration of unqualified subscription to the Westminster confession in the synod. In 1845, as moderator of the general assembly, he led a deputation to London to lobby Robert Peel (qv) in the interests of a presbyterian college of arts and divinity, and was outraged to discover that other members of the delegation, Henry Cooke (qv) and John Edgar (qv), had already conceded that a theological college was as much as they could expect from government. He believed that this flouted the assembly's intentions, and published an attack on their conduct; but they were able to command majority support in the assembly. He defeated them in the court of chancery, however, when they sought to use a substantial legacy for the college project from Martha Maria Magee, of which he was a trustee, to build a theological college in Belfast. Brown lived to see the Magee College, a presbyterian college of arts and divinity, opened in Derry in 1865. He and Cooke also clashed on a further question: in 1843 Brown succeeded in persuading the assembly to pass a resolution seeking better representation of presbyterian interests in parliament, which Cooke interpreted as a reflection on his tory MP friends. Brown gave evidence to the parliamentary commission on national education, and is said to have compiled a statistical survey (whereabouts unknown at time of writing) of his congregation. He published over thirty pamphlets, sermons, and speeches. He died (27 March 1873) relatively wealthy and unmarried, and was buried in Aghadowey.
Richard Dill, Prelatico-presbyterianism: or Curious chapters in the recent history of the presbyterian church (1856), especially 29–31; McConnell, Fasti; T. H. Mullin, Aghadowey: a parish and its linen industry (1972), 156–89; Finlay Holmes, Henry Cooke (1981), 109, 157, 167–8