John F. Brown
First Airplanes Arrive in Lewis County
by Vic Kucera and Karen L. Johnson
     In 1903, the nation celebrated the Wright Brothers' first airplane flight on the East Coast. The excitement of flight caught the attention of adventurous men and women all over the country, and Lewis County was no exception.
     The county's first entry in the flying game was made by John F. Brown, according to an article in the Lewis County Advocate of June 17, 1910. Brown, "a young husky man" and a laborer, was busy contructing a flying machine in a building on the corner of Chehalis Avenue and Main Street in Chehalis. (This building would have been the old Tynan Opera House, built by Eliza Saunders; the site is now occupied by the county's Justice Center.) The reporter, taking a philosophical view of the endeavor, wrote "this city will get more free advertising...all because we have an airship which will be flying over the city and surrounding country, or the aviator will get killed and in any event it will get the city on the airmap."
     Brown had a local financial backer, and claimed that no money would be spared in reaching his goal. The biplane, built on the Wright pattern but constructed of fir rather than the more commonly used spruce, was awaiting the arrival of a 35-horsepower motor from Denver. Unfortunately, no follow-up news articles could be found to tell us the fate of this first air venture. We can only wonder if Brown ever got his ship off the ground.
599 N.W. Front Way, Chelais, Washington
Volume 26 - No. 4           December 2004

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