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Norman Benjamin Taylor

Question: What town in southern Utah did Norman Taylor help settle after having served in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847?

Answer: Norman Benjamin Taylor, firstborn child of Benjamin Franklin and Ann Merrell Taylor, was born on September 15, 1828, at Grafton, Lorraine County, Ohio. He was 11 years old when the family joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was 14 when they settled near Nauvoo, Illinois. He was baptized at the age of 15 in July of 1844.

When the Saints were driven out of Nauvoo, Norman was among them going to the Winter Quarters/Council Bluffs area. While in Council Bluffs, he enlisted in the Mormon Battalion on July 16, 1846 at the age of 17. His name appears on the muster in records, but is cancelled by a line being drawn through it. It is unknown why he did not march with them, but it could have been they found out he was too young.

In 1847, at age 18, he crossed the plains with Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company and drove a team belonging jointly to himself and Nathan Chesley. He was chosen for this first company because of his skill as a wheelwright. On July 22, 1847, he drove the second team to enter the Salt Lake Valley. Four weeks later Norman returned to Winter Quarters/Council Bluffs with President Brigham Young.

While at Council Bluffs, Potowattamie, Iowa, Norman married Lurana Forbush, daughter of Rufus and Polly Clark Forbush on April 2. 1838. They returned to Salt Lake Valley that summer and settled in the newly growing community. They had nine children together. On November 22, 1850, Norman married his wife’s sister, Lydia Forbush. The marriage was performed by President Brigham Young in his office. They had eight children together.

      Norman in a four generation Taylor family photo. 

In the early fifties Norman moved his family to San Bernardino Valley, California, with Apostle Amasa M. Lyman and Charles Rich, but returned again to Utah because of the troubles with Johnston’s Army. He settled in Santaquin, Utah in 1859. At Santaquin he took a third wife, Johanna Smith Jennings in 1861, but this marriage lasted only a short time. He then married a fourth wife, Helen Jennette Murray (Gushing), a widow in 1863. They were married at the Lions House in Salt Lake City and were sealed for time. They had one child together. In 1866 he married his 5th wife, Annie Beckstead.

During the years in Santaquin, Utah, Norman became that town’s first Justice of the Peace. But in 1870, he and two brothers, Martin Van Buren Taylor and Crispin Taylor, moved to Little Salt Creek in Juab County, Utah, operating a ranch. They carried on the livestock business for about ten years before selling part of their holdings.

On October 1, 1881, the Taylor families (some of his children being married by this time) moved to Moab, Utah. It took 14 wagons to move the family and travel was slow, some days only covering five miles. At night the wagons were circled and tents pitched inside the circle. They arrived in Moab on October 30th. Shortly after their arrival, Norman built and operated the first ferry boat across the Grand (Colorado) River. The ferry boat was 28 feet long. In order to cross the river, wagons had to be taken apart. Later he built a 60 foot by 18 foot boat which he operated for several years. With his son Hiram, he also opened the first store in Moab.

Norman Taylor made many moves and hard trips at the requests of Church leaders and was always ready to help those in need or lend a hand when called upon. It is said that Norman Taylor was a very strong man having driven his four-horse team from Thompson Springs to Moab, a distance of forty miles with a five thousand pound load in the wagon when he was seventy years of age. In 1897 he drove a float from Grand County to be entered in the Jubilee parade of Salt Lake City.

In the fall of 1899, at the age of 71, he went back east with a shipment of cattle, but on the journey back home he became seriously ill with typhoid fever. He stayed in Salt Lake City for medical treatment. He died on November 25, 1899 and his body was shipped to Moab for burial. He was buried in the Moab Cemetery.

Source: “Norman Benjamin Taylor,’ Material taken from various sources,;

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