John Brown was born in 1849. In 1867, at age 17, he was assigned to act as the county’s deputy registrar for five years. In 1870, he established himself as a general broker and agent for the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company. In 1876, at age 26, he was elected the Avon Ward councillor in Stratford. After two years he stepped up to the town’s fourth deputy reeve. The he became city councillor. In 1890 and 1891, and again in 1911 and 1912, he was the city mayor.
Between his years as mayor, he ran and won the provincial seat for the Liberals in North Perth riding.
When John Brown died in 1923, in his 75th year, hundreds paid tribute to him. The Beacon said: "He was liked by all who knew him and was worthy First Citizen of Stratford." Source: Dean Robinson's book Not the Last Waltz and other Stratford stories.
* John Brown's son, Tom, followed in his father's political footsteps and became the mayor of Stratford. But he was involved in a scandal that rocked the city and area in the 1930s. See St. Vincent Street for the story.