John (Red) Brown, Democratic county and state official, was born in Ireland on October 30, 1786, although sources differ about his year and place of birth. He moved to Texas in 1836 and settled near Nacogdoches, where he practiced law and farmed. He was listed as an Irishman and a farmer on the Nacogdoches County census records of 1839, 1840, and 1845. A John Brown who claimed residence from 1836 and was able to prove residence from 1838 was granted 640 acres on January 22, 1846. He represented Nacogdoches County in the House of the Sixth Congress of the republic (1841–42), and he may have helped form a citizens' patrol on August 3, 1841, to help control the black population in Nacogdoches County. Brown helped organize the state Democratic party in Austin on April 27, 1846. He was one of three commissioners appointed on June 15, 1848, to locate the state penitentiary.
Brown was one of the founders of Henderson County when it was formed from Nacogdoches County in 1846. He was notary public in 1848, and by 1849 he operated a ferry across Kickapoo Creek. He received a license from the state of Texas to build a toll bridge near Brownsboro, or Old Normandy, as the location was called at that time. A bridge was in place during the Civil War, but it is not known if Brown actually constructed it. He was appointed on July 6, 1850, as one of the county commissioners assigned to locate the county seat of Henderson County. Athens was their choice. Brown was also elected a county commissioner for the 1850–52 term. Old Brownsboro, one-half mile southeast of the site of present-day Brownsboro, was named for him. He had that site surveyed on the proposed Southern Pacific rail route. Brown was married first to Margaret Hodges Brooks, who died in 1849, and subsequently, on March 20, 1851, to Elizabeth Holland in Henderson County. He probably died in 1852.