N. L. Brown's Opinion of the Latter Day SaintsThe following is a copy of an affidavit voluntarily made and circulated by a former Tennesseean. The JOURNAL has received several copies of this declaration and since the author has lived in the South. the publication of his opinion of the Mormon people as he found them will no doubt be interesting.
Garland Utah February 28 1907
To WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
This is to certify that I have lived in Utah among the people called Mormons nearly four years and can truthfully say that they are truthful honest upright and virtuous that they live their religion and practice what they teach.
Had I found them different instead of being in these Valleys of the Mountains I would be breathing the atmosphere in the Blue Hills of Eastern Tennessee
N. L. BROWN,
Formerly of Evensville, Rhea Co Tenn
Such statements were meant to counter the horrid stories coming out against the Mormons in the newspapers at the time. Of course I can't help myself. I just had to figure who this person could be. The brevity of the record just begs to be fleshed out. Just how many N. L. Browns could there be? [you don't want to know]. But I did have some clues to go on. I know he was living in Garland, Utah in 1907, and that he lived in Rhea County, Tennessee prior to 1903.
My new favorite starting point for searches like this is the Census. I start in 1910. Sometimes I find if I narrow my search I don't have to filter through a lot of distracting material. I can easily get distracted. In 1910 I find a 49 year old (born in Feb 1861) Nathaniel L Brown, living in Ogden with his 42 year old wife Maggie (born Jun 1867) and four children: Leonard C. (20), Lester L.(16), Fletcher B. (13), and Soren E. (9). He and his children were born in Tennessee. His wife was born in Georgia. Surprizingly enough, he is my only hit. So I start to widen my search. But still just one hit. This may be easier than I thought.
After finding no other N. Browns who lived in Utah and Tennessee, I decide to see if I could verify that this might be him. So I start looking for Nathaniel Brown born in Tennessee in 1861. I see him still in Utah in 1920, but that is really no surprise, and brings me no closer to my goal.
In 1900, I see a Nathaniel L Brown in Rhea County, Tennessee. But are they the same person? This Nathaniel is married to Lydia M. Brown. But don't let the name fool you. She was born in Georgia too and is the right age (32). They have 5 childen Hulda L. (14), Curtain H. (10), Joseph B. (8), Hester L. (6), and Fletcher B. (3). OK there are a couple of matches. But there are some parts I can't explain. Hulda and Joseph could have moved out or even passed away, but Curtain H. only matches Leonard C. by age. If I could just find a second document to verify this is who I a looking for.
Having seen enough Census records to know that name are not always consistent between the decades I figure I could still go back another 10 years to see what I would find....except that the 1890 census is unavailable [mild profanity].
The 1880 census doesn't really tell me much about Nathaniel. It was 5 years before he would marry Lydia. But I do see that his father, Joseph, is a carpenter which matches Nathaniel's profession in Utah. Interesting, but not really proof.
Family Search turns up two Nathaniel L Browns and one Nathaniel LaFayette Brown all born in February 1861 in Rhea County Tennessee. Honestly they are probably all the same person. I don't generally like to use Family Search as a reliable original document. But the leads can be very useful in tracking down the original documents. The first was based on LDS Church membership records and shows a baptismal date of 29 October 1899. But nothing else useful. The second shows the same sources with only a slightly different birth date 10 Feb 1861 versus 16 Feb 1861.
The third however is a gold mine. Full names for each of the children, including a set of twins, a boy and a girl with very similar names, who were born and then died before they would ever have appeared on any census. Curtain H. is listed as Howard Curten, which explains Leonard C, especially when I go back to the census and understand how the nearly illegible Howard could have been mistaken for Leonard.
Beyond that I now have phone numbers, email addresses and other ways of contacting people who are probably descendents. To tell you the truth though, I have never had anyone return my phone call or email.
From there I checked other sources. In a handwritten copy of the Early Tennesse Baptims I find these entries. Nathaniel L Brown was baptized on October 29th, 1899 by Cristo Hyldahl and confirmed the same day by L. R. Anderson. His wife, Maggie L. Brown was baptized and confirmed a month later on November 26th, 1899 by F. B Hammond. Their daughter Hulda Brown was baptized and confirmed on April 15th, 1900 by L. E. Jordan.
From The LDS Southern Star I find that Brother Brown was ordained a priest and set apart as the superintendent of the Oak Hill Branch Sunday School. The branch had been organized by Elder David H Elton. I also found this letter.
Editor Southern Star
Please allow me a little space in your welcome weekly visitor to tell to its many readers what the Lord has done for us through the humble Elders. I will never forget the rainy evening three years ago that Elder Soren Peterson and E. R. Needham came to my house. We granted them shelter from the depths of our hearts. I will never forget the words spoken by them when they promised if we would be humble and prayerful we would never regret the day the Elders visited us. Since that good day we have had the pleasure of entertaining thirty four Elders and have heard 400 sermons preached and have had many Gospel conversations I have read my Bible and compared its teachings with those of the Latter day Saints and found them to be in harmony. My wife and myself were baptized the latter part of last year and since that time much joy has filled our hearts I bless the day that the Elders found their way to our door. Best wishes we send to the readers of the Star. Your brother and sister in the Gospel.
NL BROWN AND WIFE
So they named their last child Soren Elton Brown, after one of the Missionaries who broguht them the gospel, Soren Peterson, and another missionary David H Elton, who had formed the Oak Hill Branch. I think I have enough to be confident these are the same people. So why do you care? If you have to ask......