William George Brown was born July 10, 1840 in Maryland, USA. His parents, Thomas and Julia Brown, both African American, moved the family to Canada when William was a boy. They were in search of a better life, and settled in Dundas.
At a young age, W.G. Brown began work as a teamster, and married Annie Elizabeth Lightfoot on October 18, 1864. Annie and William had three children: George Thomas Brown, who became a barber in Toronto, Mary Jane Brown, who was a school teacher in Freelton, and William Creswell Brown who died as a child.
In 1868, W.G. Brown opened up his own barbershop at 75 King Street West. He would operate this establishment successfully for the rest of his life.
W.G. Brown was a member of the Baptist church and did not work on Sundays so that he could engage in his religious practices even though other barbers were open on Sundays in town.
Brown’s wife, Annie died in 1896 and William remarried a year later to Hannah Elizabeth Archer, a widow. They had one child together, Alden Brown born in 1898, but Hannah’s child Norman from her previous marriage lived with them until he emigrated to Chicago, Illinois in 1921.
Norman Rowe Archer Brown enlisted in 1915 and served with the 8th Canadian Mounted Rifles, a significant achievement for an African Canadian at that time. He was wounded in France, sustaining injuries that would be felt for the remainder of his life. He passed away in 1960.
Alden Brown became a bookkeeper and stayed in Dundas his whole life. He was involved with the Dundas Historical Society and the early years of the Dundas Museum.
William George Brown was the barber to many in the community, but notably to the respected doctor and orator Charles Victor Roman. Each time Charles returned to Dundas, he would have his hair cut by W.G. Brown.
William George Brown died on March 11, 1931 at the age of 90. He was survived by his wife Hannah and sons Norman and Alden.
Thanks to the students of McMaster University Department of History for their assistance with this project.