Michael Brown sits at his carving table, which looked out onto Bearskin Bay. Shortly after he died, someone burned Brown’s cabin to the ground. (Submitted)

Friends of the late Michael Brown hope for answers in arson case

Friends of the late Michael Brown are missing a man they knew as a quiet, gifted carver who loved cats and living off the land.

They are also missing justice for whoever burned down Brown’s cabin the night of Oct. 26, shortly after he passed away from natural causes. Brown had just turned 60 in September.

“I truly hope they find the person who burned his place to the ground,” says Nathan Ridley, who grew up next door to Brown in Old Massett.

“That’s real low, for somebody to do that.”

Brown’s wood cabin measured just eight by 16 feet with a small loft, said Bill Walker, another friend who built the cabin and invited Brown to live there 14 years ago.

The cabin stood in Hooterville, a shoreside neighbourhood just west of Queen Charlotte where property ownership has been in legal limbo for over a decade.

Only three residents remain, said Walker, who had a cabin there himself until it too was destroyed by an arson fire set in an adjacent building in 2011.

Police say the fire in Brown’s cabin was clearly intentional, but no charges have been laid so far. No charges were laid for the fires in 2011 .

“There are so many questions, and no answers,” Walker said.

Ridley’s earliest memory of Brown is of growing up in Old Massett in the 1950s and 1960s.

“We used to pretend to go fishing from his porch,” he said, recalling how they would cast sticks with thread over the grass and imagine reeling in big fish.

At 15, Brown started carving argillite with tools handmade by his grandfather. He later said it was how he connected with Haida culture.

At 25, Brown moved to Prince Rupert, and later settled near Queen Charlotte.

Ridley heard stories about why Brown ended up away from Old Massett.

“That’s a tough one,” said Ridley, a residential school survivor who struggled with alcohol and drugs before going sober April 25, 1985.

“We all did crazy things when we were drinking and drugging,” he said.

“I’d never known Michael to be like that.”

Like Ridley, Walker admired Brown’s carving, and often watched him at work in the cabin.

“When you came to visit he had a couple of fold-out chairs,” he said.

“He would put one out and you were basically side by side.”

Walker has thousands of photos of Brown, his Manx cats Sarah and Climber, and many of his Haida carvings and jewelry, which found their way to collectors and galleries across the country.

Walker also joined Brown on some of his hikes up Slatechuck Mountain to collect argillite and haul it back, 80 to 100 pounds at a time.

“You just wanted to keep going,” he said. “Once you stopped, if you were sitting on the ground, it was really hard to get up unless you had help.”

Ridley said it’s a shame that the fire destroyed Brown’s carving tools, some of which he made himself.

“Those would have meant something to his family, or to the museum,” he said.

Ridley said in all their time together, he and Brown rarely spoke about his private life. Sometimes Ridley, or more often Brown’s uncle Dick Bellis, would come by with deer meat or other wild foods, which Ridley said made him happier than anything.

“A lot of people use that word ‘hermit,’” he said.

“I don’t like that word, but that’s the way he was. He kept to himself.”

“I’m still heartbroken that he’s gone.”

Just Posted

Council briefs: Village of Queen Charlotte

NDIT applications, solar power, animal welfare, and a look ahead to Committee of the Whole

Climate, reconciliation and industry top all candidates agenda in Terrace

Debate was the candidate’s last opportunity to address voters in a public forum

Climate change, economy and reconciliation take centre stage at Oct. 15 All-Candidates Forum

Six of the eight candidates were in attendance at the Smithers event

ELECTION 2019: It’s so close, it could come down to who turns out to vote

Black Press Media’s polling analyst on the origins of predictive seat modelling in Canada

Jack’s Devils beat Quinn’s Canucks 1-0 in NHL brother battle

New Jersey youngster scores first career goal against Vancouver

Two charged after owner’s wild ride through Kamloops in his stolen truck

Crystal Rae Dorrington, 37, and Derrick Ronald Pearson, 32, facing multiple charges

Judge orders credit union’s bank records for Kelowna social worker facing theft allegations

The man is accused of negligence, breach of contract, fraud and a conspiracy with Interior Savings

Leaders pour it on with rallies, boosts for candidates as campaign reaches peak

The federal election campaign has reached a crescendo

Allegations of racism lead to ministry investigation at Vancouver private school

St. George’s School was contacted over what the school describes as ‘deeply offensive behaviour online’

Not a political question: Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta

Edmonton police estimated the size of the crowd at about 4,000

Zantac, the over-the-counter heartburn drug, pulled in Canada, U.S.

Health Canada also investigates possible carcinogen in some ranitidine drugs

B.C. public safety minister says cannabis edibles not in stores til January

Mike Farnworth says he wants regional issues considered when it comes to licensing

Most Read