Charles E. Brown, a young banker from Montreal, Canada, met T.W. Hawkins, a young merchant from Roanoke, Virginia, during the Nome, Alaska, gold rush of 1898. Brown and Hawkins became fast friends who played important roles in establishing the banking and mercantile businesses that would serve central Alaska.
Brown and Hawkins' partnership began in Valdez, Alaska, in 1900. They came to Seward in 1903 to serve as banker and merchant for the building of the Alaska Central Railway.
In 1912, Brown and Hawkins chartered the S.S. Bertha, loaded it with general merchandise, a gold scale, and a big iron safe, and sent it up Cook Inlet into the mouth of Ship Creek. To protect the ship from the strong inlet tides it was firmly anchored on the mud flats - thus was coined the name "Anchorage”. The ship's inventory served the needs of the trappers and miners who could access the S.S Bertha by smaller, shallow-draft-boats.
The Brown and Hawkins Store is the oldest continually operated business in Seward. It is also the oldest store in Alaska under the same ownership. T. W. Hawkins's son, James Hawkins, took it over from his father and then passed it to his daughter, Virginia Darling (Hawkins). Virginia's son, Hugh Darling, and his wife, Iris, are the current operators. Virginia Darling, a life-long resident of Seward, is a local historian.