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James Brown, Jr.

Question: Why did Brigham Young send James Brown, Jr. to California after James had brought one of the Mormon Battalion Sick Detachments to Utah?

Answer: James Brown, Jr. was born September 30, 1801, in Rowan County, North Carolina, one of nine children born to James and Mary Williams Brown. His father was a veteran of the American Revolutionary War. James’ parents were members of the Baptist Church. For his first 33 years James was an active Baptist, clerk, and missionary in the Baptist Church.

When James was 18, he became a school teacher in Rowan County, North Carolina. At age 22, he married his first wife, Martha Stephens, who was 17. At that time, he began serving as a constable and sheriff for several terms in Rowan County. At age 30, he became a clerk and occasional preacher for the Baptist Church.

When he was 32, James’ brother, Daniel wrote a “flattering account of his new home” in Illinois. This induced James to move to Illinois, close to where his brother lived. When 34, he became Sheriff and Justice of the Peace, in Adams County, Illinois and began farming on a large scale, selling produce to residents of Quincy, Illinois.

In 1838, at the age of 37, James first heard the gospel message preached by two Mormon elders in Dunkard, Adams County, Illinois. After the meeting was over, he said to the elders, “Gentlemen, if that is the doctrine the Mormons believe in and teach, I want you to come and preach in my house.” The invitation was accepted, and an appointment was made for the elders to hold a meeting at James’ house.

In the early part of June of the following year, (1839) he and his wife Martha were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The missionaries who taught and baptized them were Jacob Foutz, Tarlton Lewis and David Evans. After his conversion and baptism, James shared the gospel message with his brother and sisters who lived in Illinois. Shortly afterward, James was ordained an Elder and was sent on a mission throughout Illinois and the adjoining areas. In 1840, James’ wife Martha died while giving birth to her 9th child, who they named Moroni Brown.

The following January, now a widower with a number of small children, James married Susan Foutz, who was 18. James found that much of his business with the Church frequently called him to Nauvoo, so he decided to move his family there, which he did in 1842, whereupon he was called on a mission to the Southern States. In August, his wife Susan died of consumption, at age 19, and her baby, Alma, died 3 weeks later. In November of that same year, he married his 3rd wife, Esther Jones Roper, age 31, who was a widow.

On June 27, Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred. James, and his brother Daniel took their rifles and headed to Missouri to kill Governor Boggs. On the way, James prayed, and these words were spoken to him: “Vengence is mine and I will repay. Return to your homes in peace.” James returned to his home in Augusta and engaged in the business of running a saw-and-grist mill, situated on the Skunk River in Iowa. He remained in Iowa until the Saints were expelled from Nauvoo, at which time he joined them. He and his family went as far as Winter Quarters and temporarily settled there.

In the Spring and Summer of 1846, James and his family were in Winter Quarters, Nebraska and then Council Bluffs, Iowa. In July, James married Mary McRee Black, age 27, who was the widow of Charles Black. On this same day, he joined the Mormon Battalion and became commander of Company C. His new bride, Mary, her one surviving son (George, age 6), and three of James’ children by Martha Stephens, marched with James during his command in the Mormon Battalion. By the time they arrived at Santa Fe, New Mexico, many of them were sick, and Capt. James Brown was put in charge of one of the three Sick Detachments. They went back to Pueblo, Colorado and wintered there.

The following Spring, Capt. Brown prepared his Sick Detachment for their journey to Utah. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley five days after Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company entered the Valley in July 1847. In August, Brigham Young gave Capt. James Brown the Power of Attorney to collect the pay for the members of the Sick Detachment, so Capt. Brown journeyed to California. He returned from California in December 1847, and brought with him from San Francisco $10,000 in Spanish doubloons, as the pay due the Mormon Battalion enlisted men.

When Capt. Brown returned from California, he entered negotiations for the purchase of the Goodyear tract. Brigham Young started helping him purchase cabins, land, and livestock from Miles Goodyear. The new “city” was named Brownsville, after Capt. James Brown. This area was later named Ogden. The land was open to colonization without cost to the settlers. Capt. Brown retained 200 acres for himself and his family.

In the Spring of 1848, crops were planted with the seeds James had brought from California. These are the seeds he and his group refused to eat on their way back to Utah, even facing starvation. The previous four years, Goodyear’s crops had failed; however, James and two of his sons harvested from their first planting 100 bushels of wheat, 75 bushels of corn and “fine specimens” of other products including potatoes, cabbage, turnips and a few watermelons.

In 1849, Capt. Brown was made the first Bishop in Ogden and acted as a proxy to have his widowed wives sealed to their first husbands. James was elected to the Territory Legislature, then as a member of the City Council. Later he went to New Orleans and then New York, where he served as Emigration Agent for the Saints who wanted to emigrate to Utah. In August of 1857 James deeded over to the L.D.S. Church twelve Ogden city lots.

On September 25, 1863, James’ shirt sleeve became caught in the gears of his molasses mill, then the huge cogs pulled in his arm. Gangrene set in. He told visiting friends, “Why this suffering doesn’t compare with that of our Master. Why should I complain? I go with the knowledge and understanding that I will continue in this great work of the Master, whom I have learned to know and love, our Savior, Jesus Christ.” He died on his 62nd birthday in 1863. He was buried in the Ogden City Cemetery.

James Brown Jr. had 13 wives and 28 children. Eight wives bore him children. He had no children from five of them. Six of his wives were widowed or divorced. He lived his last 15 years in Utah.

Source: “Captain James Brown Jr.,’ Much of this chronology was compiled by Orson Pratt Brown,;

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