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Nathaniel Thomas Brown

Question: What happened to Nathaniel Thomas Brown after he served in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847?

Answer: Nathaniel Thomas Brown was born about 1823. Previous research has been unable to determine the exact date or place of his birth. The names of his father and mother are not known. In the rebaptism record in Salt Lake City on August 8, 1847, he gave his name as “Nathan.” Other records refer to him as “Thomas.”

Nathaniel joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and lived in Nauvoo. After the Saints were driven out of Nauvoo in 1846, Nathaniel made his way to Winter Quarters.

In 1847, at Winter Quarters, Nathaniel was asked to be a member of Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company. Everyone gathered to a place about 20 miles from Winter Quarters on the banks of the Platte River. There they worked repairing wagons, organizing supplies, and chopping firewood. It wasn’t until the 16th of April that the company was officially organized into the hundreds, fifties, and tens, with captains appointed and they started on their way. Nathaniel was part of the 10th Company of Ten, led by Appleton M. Harmon.

Once organized, this Vanguard Pioneer Company consisted of 142 men, 3 women, 2 children, and 72 wagons. They traveled 1031 miles before reaching their destination. Some members of the company traveled ahead and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley as early as the July 21, 1847. By the 24th of July, the entire company had arrived. On this trek, Nathaniel associated with Porter Rockwell in hunting, and in searching after lost animals.

Nathaniel returned to Winter Quarters in the fall of 1847. After returning, he was accidentally shot and killed at Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie, Iowa, in February 1848, by an unidentified man. Nathaniel was planning to return to the Salt Lake Valley in the spring. Nathaniel was only 25 years of age at the time.

Greatly distressed by the accident, Brigham Young was said to have remarked, “Brown’s old shoes were worth more than the whole body of the man who killed him.”

Source: Membership Records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; LDS Pioneer and Handcart Companies, 1847-1856; “Nathaniel Thomas Brown’ in the Sons of Utah Pioneers – Card Index, 1847-1850;; Deseret News, Church News, “Biographies of the original 1847 pioneer company,’ October 2009.

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