Joseph Gurnsey Brown

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Joseph Gurnsey Brown

Relationship: Step brother-in-law to Harriet Amelia Decker. Son of fellow Mormon Battalion soldier, Sergeant Ebenezer Brown, Company A. Wife Phebe Brown was the laundress. Ebenezer was the first settler of Draper and Porter Rockwell had the first mail station in Draper with Ebenezer being postmaster.
Association: Eph was fishing at the home of Gurnsey Brown when he had a dream that the handcart companies were in trouble. Gurnsey would join in the rescue effort as well.



  • Born: (8 Nov 1824) (Dryden, Tompkins, New York, USA)
  • Died: (17 Jan 1907) (Kanab, Kane, Utah, USA)
  • Buried: (10 Jan 1907) (Kanab City Cemetery, Kanab, Kane, Utah, USA)


Harriet Maria Young m. (31 Dec 1851) (Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, USA)


Esther Brown m. 18 Jan 1857


Lovina Manhardt m. 22 Mar 1857


Ebenezer Brown b. (6 Dec 1801) (Salisbury, Herkimer, New York, USA)
Ann Weaver b. (5 Aug 1806) (Saratoga, Saratoga, New York, USA)


Ebenezer Brown
Joseph Gurnsey Brown, eldest son of Ebenezer and Ann Weaver Brown, was born November 8, 1824, at Dryden, Tompkins County, New York. His father's family became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints soon after it was organized. While here in Illinois in 1842 (June) Ebenezer's wife died leaving three sons and one daughter. A baby sister, Ann, was also laid away at Quincy, Illinois. Later Joseph Gurnsey's father Ebenezer, married a widow, Phebe Draper Palmer, who had a large family. They were forced to endure the persecutions of the early saints and were driven from Nauvoo. Ebenezer joined the Mormon Battalion on June 26, 1846.

Meantime, Gurnsey at age 22, together with his 19 year old sister, Harriet, and her husband Oliver Stratton, brought the family (Gurnsey's brothers, Norman 15, John Weaver 9, and Phebe's children) across the plains.

They met their father in Salt Lake in 1849. The cattle herd they had brought across the plains were taken south of Salt Lake for feed. Ebenezer and his family took up land south of Salt Lake City on what was called Willow Creek They built the first house in Draper in 1850.

On December 31. 1851, Gurnsey married 16 year old Harriet Maria Young, the daughter of Lorenzo Dow and Persis Goodall Young.

About five years later, in 1856, Gurnsey along with others was asked to take provisions and meet the belated handcart companies of English saints who were struggling to reach the Valley before winter. These rescuers themselves had nothing easy. A forced drive of 300 to 400 miles across wintry mountains. They crowded their teams day after day looking ahead for the vanguard of walkers but the mountain valleys reached on, snowy and empty, past Echo Canyon on until they saw the shining Uintah Mountains, and then the Wyoming plains. At Fort Bridger a new storm stopped them.

That night of October 20th, Capt Willie and one companion, frostbitten, exhausted and riding two worn out animals, appeared out of the blizzard at Fort Bridger. They told the men from Utah, storm or not, if they did not come at once there was no use to come at all.

They broke camp at once and started again. They did not stop again until they reached the Willie Company. The night before the rescuers reached them, nine more had died. The rest had not eaten for 48 hours.

Among those Gurnsey brought back to the Valley were two young ladies, Esther Brown and Elizabeth White. Brigham Young had asked the settlers to open their homes and care for these Saints. So to his home he brought Esther. His wife, Harriet took her in with her warm friendly way, caring for her until she again blossomed out in all her loveliness. On January 18, 1857, Gurnsey married Esther Brown. On March 22, 1857 Gurnsey took his third wife, Lovina Manhard.

Gurnsey was called on a mission to England in 1864 where he served for nearly three years without purse or script, leaving three wives with children. Soon after his return, President Brigham Young called Gurnsey and his family to assist with the colonization of Moapa Valley, Nevada, known as the "Muddy Mission". In the fall of 1867, Gurnsey and Harriet and their eight children ranging in age from 14 years to 8 months, made the journey to help settle the town of St. Joseph. Here they lost their baby daughter, Julliet, May 20, 1868.

This area was at that time a part of the territory of Deseret as mapped out by the early church leaders and was a part of Kane County, later Rio Virgin Co. A warehouse had been built on the Colorado River at a point known as Call's Landing. It was intended that the church would bring converts from Europe by steamships through the Gulf of Mexico and up the Colorado River and unload them at this point to continue the journey overland. The towns on the Muddy would serve as way stations where emigrants could rest and procure provisions for the rest of the journey.

The Muddy Mission proved to be unsuccessful, so far as colonization of that area at that time was concerned, and due to excessive taxes, extreme heat, shortage of water and other problems, the saints were released from the mission and were free to return to their former homes if they wished to. However, President Young strongly urged them to remain in the southern Utah area and help re-settle the townsites that had been abandoned during the Indian troubles in the 1860's. Gurnsey brought Lovina and her children, John, Delia and Will, to St. Joseph in the fall of 1870 while Esther and her children remained in Draper.

Lovina's son John gives an interesting account of their experiences while in St. Joseph. He said when they arrived Aunt Harriet and her seven children were living in a two-room adobe house with a dirt floor and a flag roof. The roof was made from cattails, ten to twelve feet tall, cut down in the swamps, tied in bundles about six inches in diameter and tied to the stringers and weighted down, making a water-tight roof. They had a chicken coop made of mesquite roots dug from the farm land. They used these roots for fuel also, as there was no timber closer than seventy miles and no willows for thirty miles. Flour was hauled from Draper; but the "muddy" soil was rich and the climate so mild that good gardens could be grown; sweet potatoes as large as small pumpkins and his father said in jest that the watermelons grew so fast they wore the vines out dragging them along.

When the settlers were released from their missions, the Browns along with other Muddyites, started for Long Valley. Gurnsey left Lovina in the town of Washington, Washington County, and he and Harriet and their family moved on. Along the way they met Harriet's brother, John R. Young. He persuaded Gurnsey to go to Kanab, and they arrived there in 1871 and lived in a tent bought from Johnson's Army. Lovina and family were brought out later in the spring.

In Kanab the Browns secured two lots by squatting on them and they cultivated another 30 acres of land and built a two-room house with a room for each wife. Getting goods into the Kanab area was very difficult because of geographical difficulties and consequently most of the food and dry goods had to be produced by themselves. Sugar was almost unknown to them for several years; but good molasses was made from sugar cane that grew well here. Gurnsey set up the first sorgum mill in the northeast part of town. He planted orchards with all kinds of fruit trees, vines, berries, and shrubbery, etc. The first year he lived in Kanab he planted one acre of alfalfa and it made pig and chicken feed. He also raised garden vegetables of all kinds and raised potatoes in the Kanab Canyon and at what he called Cottonwood Canyon, a nice little tract of land about twelve miles west of Kanab. He had a few acres of meadow land in the Kanab Canyon he could mow several tons of wild hay and the country was just a mat of all kinds of wild grasses and herbs, so much so it was not necessary to have but a few-tons of hay.

It was necessary to built not only dams and canals, but roads and trails in order to get in and out of the country. The people would arrange what they called road gangs and ditch gangs and go out and build roads leading to Long Valley where hundreds of people who left the Muddy Mission had settled. The only grist mill was at Glendale, some twenty-seven miles over a set of rolling hills and washes, with sand so deep for a distance of thirteen miles that it would take four horses of good quality to move one ton of anything as the wagon wheels would sink into the sand from four to eight inches.

He managed to get along well for several years. President Brigham Young paid us a visit and he told the people to come out of the Kanab Canyon and farm the Valley just south of the town. It was a large fertile valley of very choice land. He told us to open the canyon and turn out cattle in it and let them tramp the water out of the meadows and swamps. He predicted that in a short time we would have a flood that would come down the canyon and wash it down to bedrock. We would build a canal around the town and have water to irrigate the town and to reservoir the water. We would be able to irrigate all the land in the valley and raise plenty of everything we would need in the shape of vegetables and cereals and hay.

It was a fact, for the flood came and washed out the sand and swamps and cleaned the canyon out so that the water increased in quantity sufficient to successfully irrigate some 1600 acres of land. Afterwards we had another large flood which tore out sand and rocks and mud down to a lower bedrock and increased the water still more. We have taken up all the land available and have plenty of spring water to irrigate all the land. It will produce good crops of hay and some hardy vegetables such as corn and potatoes. We feel that Brigham was a true prophet and saved us from having to move away from the place.

The Browns belonged to the United Order in Kanab as long as it lasted. While in Kanab each of the two wives added three more children to the family. Esther passed away April 21, 1881.

In the 1880's during the raid in which the government officials were confiscating church cattle and other property, Gurnsey was appointed to take over the church cattle and sheep at Pipe Springs and run them as his own. So Harriet and the children lived at Pipe Springs for several years and Lovina remained in Kanab. The Indians were hostile at this time and even though they lived in the fort, at Pipe Springs, they were in constant danger.

In 1894 Gurnsey bought a large red brick home in the northeast part of town. It had been built by Frank Rider and owned for a few years by Henry Bowman. The Brown's ran a hotel in the home with Harriet and the girls providing meals and taking care of the rooms and the men folk taking care of the teams in the large barn and corral on the lot.

During all the years from 1870, Joseph Gurnsey Brown was a strong factor in leading out with the people and assisting in the general development of the whole country. He held responsible positions, being rather a religious man, not too much so as to hamper or hinder him from leading out in any honorable thing to be done. He was one of the very hardy, and what is called the rough-and-ready hut not the boisterous type. He was a level-headed, good, honest man; a man who did everything possible to assist his neighbor, either in or out of trouble, and to pay his honest obligations. He was an American and believed in giving his undivided support to his country and the President of the United States, whether or not he belonged to his party.

Gurnsey served in the Bishopric of the ward for several years and was always found willing to serve when the call came from the authorities. He also served well in civic positions as well, and in matters pertaining to colonization.

Joseph Gurnsey Brown died of pneumonia, January 17, 1907, at Kanab, Kane County, Utah, at the age of 83.


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