Monday, September 10, 2012

John Knox Brown and his Beef with Mormonism

No, this isn't the John Brown from the pre Civil War Hapers Ferry incident. This John Brown was from Monroe County Tennessee (so many John Browns). He did not like Mormons. It was pretty obvious when LDS missionaries arrived in Monroe County that something was up. It looks like Mr.Brown paid people to form a mob and drive LDS missionaries out of the County. The question is ...Why?

John Knox Brown was born in 9 April 1821 in Meigs County Tennessee to Alexander Brown (1793-1879) and Mary Sharp (1800-1858). He had two siblings; an older sister Saleta Ann and a younger brother William.

John's sister grew up and married Peter Huff (1816-1857) the son of John Huff (1793-1870) and Nancy Cox (1794-1879) on 25 November 1841. Peter wanted more for his family and moved west in search of cheaper land. First settling in Misouri in 1849, they later moved to Arkansas and settled a few miles away from Alexander Fancher. John's parents, and possibly John and William too, followed Saleta Ann and her husband to Arkansas.

After a few years, Peter saw further opportunity for his family, and joined the Fanchers on their 1857 journey west. Other members of the Huff family joined too. To completely understate what happened, the trip did not go as planned. In July 1857, Peter died from an infected insect bite and was buried in what is today Wyoming. His widow continued but she and most of their children were killed on September 11, 1857 by Mormon Militia in a tragedy know as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. One daughter survived; Nancy Sophronia Huff. Eventually Sophronia was returned to her maternal grandfather, Alexander Brown, in Arkansas. Feeling he could not take care of the girl after his wife passed away, he gave the child to Peter Huff's parents living in Tennessee. Eventually she moved back west. She married Dallas Cates and they lived in Yell County, Arkansas,where she died too early in 1878.

John K. Brown returned to Tennessee or perhaps he never left. I can't find evidence either way (too many John Browns). He moved to Monroe County and entered the mill business. It appears to have been a successfull business despite some misfortune. According to Goodspeeds History of Monroe County Tennessee [published in 1887] "in 1883 the Sweet Water Mill Company, of which John K. Brown is president, and John B. Whitman secretary and treasurer, erected a large flouring-mill, which was destroyed by fire in 1885. It was immediately rebuilt, and put into operation in 1886. It has a capacity of 150 barrels of flour, and from 250 to 300 bushels of meal per day."

John married Sarah E. Layne and they had 4 children. He was also an officer in his church, though in which church was not recorded.

In 1899, LDS missionaries arrived in Sweetwater, Monroe County, Tennessee, to fill an appointment made the prior week. While there, they decided to preach in the city center. At first the Mayor received them politely. After the first sermon, the Mayor interrupted and advised them to leave as trouble was coming. A mob soon gathered and the missionaries made a hasty retreat. It was suggested that John K. Brown offered to pay people to throw bricks and eggs at the missionaries. One writer claimed to witness members of the mob returning to the city center asking him for the money they were promised.

An LDS description of the mobbing discounted the possibility that John K. Brown had a sister who died at Mountain Meadows. But with the access to records that modern technology provides, I found pretty clear evidence.

John K. Brown died 21 December 1909 in Sweetwater, Monroe County, Tennessee.


Dave said...

Very interesting, Bruce. MMM casts a long shadow.

john willis said...

very interesting and an excellent job of research.

My gg grandfather John Henry Willis was a participant in the Mountain Meadows Massacre to Nancy Huff into their home after the massacre.

Nancy Huff later testifed of Mygg grandfathers presence at the massacre.

BruceCrow said...

Yes, Dave. Yes it does.

John, I seem to recall that Nancy's testimony was regarded for it's specificity, when compared to those of the other survivors.

john willis said...

It was very specific, she stated that John Henry Willis told her the Indians has killed her family.
She said she knew that this was not the case as she saw some of her mother's clothes at the Willis household.

She was very specific that she saw John Henry Willis during the Massacre.

I don't know if you have ever seen the documentary film "Burying the past"

It dramatizes Nancy Huuff's testimony. It was shall we say an interesting experience to hear the actress playing Nancy Huff describe the acts of "John Willis"
given that that is my name and john Hnery Willis was my gg grandfather.

BruceCrow said...

My preferred area of work is Tennessee Mormon, not necessarily MMM. But they do intersect from time to time.

In Tennessee I sometimes identify the descendents of those who killed or hurt Mormons. I'm not trying to make confrontations. I'm just interested in any stories that got passed down. In the process I get a mixture of responses, from heart felt appologies, to "and we'll do it again", as well as everything in between. I've even met a few who have joined the LDS Church.

Anyway, Thanks for sharing. It has given me another side to look at.