A native of Bristol, England, the Reverend John W. Browne was editor of the Cincinnati weekly newspaper, Liberty Hall. In 1810, Browne was appointed as a missionary to solicit and receive donations for Miami University. Riding on horseback, Browne traveled East from his congregation at Paddy’s Run in Butler County, Ohio on January 4, 1811 to raise a building fund for the university. Receiving $50 a month and expenses along the way, Browne collected approximately $2,500 and also accepted a large number of books for the institution. After traveling from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, Williamsburg, Washington, Baltimore, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts, Browne returned to Cincinnati on August 3, 1812, discouraged and in poor health. In November 1813, a committee was appointed to receive the money, the books, and a full report from Browne. However, Browne died of hypothermia after falling into a cold creek, and did not live to fulfill this final duty of his mission.
When Browne died, the administration of his estate passed to his son, Samuel J. Browne. After the elder Browne’s death, the Miami University Board of Trustees worked with the younger Browne to obtain a settlement of his father’s estate in order to obtain the funds which Browne had collected on his mission. By 1817, the books that Browne collected on his journey had been sorted; some were held in the university’s library, while 118 volumes were sold to the Cincinnati Circulating Library Society at seventy-five cents per volume, totaling $88.50. The remaining books were auctioned, bringing $371.86 to the university. In 1820, the books reserved for Miami’s library were sent to Oxford.