Southern Utah News Articles
Lovina Manhard Brown - Pioneer Woman of Kane County, Utah
Lovina Manhard Brown was a pioneer woman who embodied the “faith and fortitude” that enabled her to endure the hardships of religious persecution, the long wagon ride from Iowa to Utah, and the difficulties inherent in birthing nine children and supporting her family during long absences of her husband, Joseph Gurnsey Brown, while he was serving on appointed missions. Lovina, like other women, surely encountered challenges of being a plural wife as well.
Ultimately, her life path led her from her Canadian birthplace to where we, too, are now settled – in Kanab, Utah. From her arrival in 1871 to her death in 1918, her contributions to settling Kanab and to Major John Wesley Powell’s survey expeditions were vitally important, yet overshadowed by the efforts of the men.
Lovina was a foremother of all of us, my adopted great-great-great-grandmother. In honor and celebration of her journey and all the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, I offer her story so she and other pioneering women of Kane County will not be forgotten or overshadowed by the equally important efforts of their pioneering men.
Lovina Manhard was born January 14, 1838, in Leeds County, Ontario, Canada, to William Manhard and Jane Noranchard. The family was living in Pottawattanie, Iowa, with the Saints during their persecution in the Midwest. When Lovina was 14 years of age, the family crossed the plains with the Orson Hyde Wagon Train Company and eventually settled in Draper, where she met her future husband, Joseph Gurnsey Brown. On March 23, 1857, at age 19, she became his third wife.
In 1864, Gurnsey was called by President Brigham Young to serve on a three year mission in England “without purse or script,” thus making it necessary for her to support herself and their young children, John Franklin, Della and Will. They lived on a farm, and Lovina having learned tailoring as a child, was a good seamstress, and began sewing for a living. Her children attended school under a great educator, John R. Parks, the first president of the University of Utah, who often boarded with the Brown family.
Soon after Gurnsey’s return from England, he was called to assist with the colonization of Moapa Valley, known as the “Muddy Mission.” In 1867, he brought his first wife Harriet with him, leaving his second wife, Esther Brown, and Lovina behind until later. Gurnsey brought Lovina and her children to St. Joseph in the fall of 1870, while Esther and her children remained in Draper. Lovina’s oldest son, John Franklin, recounts:
My father had already moved his first wife Harriet to the Muddy the previous year, so that when we arrived, Aunt Harriet and her six oldest children were living in a two-room adobe house with a dirt floor and a flag (cattail) roof...My father, mother, Aunt Harriet and eight children lived together in this little two room house.
When the Muddy Mission proved unsuccessful due to extreme heat, shortage of water and excessive taxes, the Browns and other Saints were free to return home but were urged by Brigham Young to remain in the southern Utah area. Gurnsey left Lovina in the town of Washington, Washington County, in March 1871, while he and Harriet and their family made their way to Long Valley. Along the way, they encountered Harriet’s brother, John R. Young, who persuaded Gurnsey to go to Kanab. They arrived later that year and lived in a tent bought from Johnson’s Army.
Lovina and children joined them later in the spring, and the two wives shared the same tent until a two-room house was built with a room for each. Both wives had three children after they relocated to Kanab, so even this larger house became crowded. John Franklin eventually found work with Taylor Crosby and Fred Hamblin at their sawmill and was able to build his mother a house of her own on a city lot where the Holiday Inn Express is now located.
John Wesley Powell’s crew of topographers, geologists and scientists arrived in Kanab the same year as Lovina and her children, and found the location to be ideal for pursuing geographic investigations of the Colorado Plateau. The headquarters in Kanab were important to the field research and the later production of maps and photographs.
Lovina’s family and other early settlers of Kanab supplied Wesley’s crew with food, services and workers. The earlier residents also gave the tired men the social interactions that brightened their days.
During the years 1871-1873, when the Powell surveys were in the vicinity, Lovina made clothing for Major Powell and his party. Her industrious ways continued to support her family: “She made buckskin gloves for men, beading and fringing the gauntlets. She pickled the grapes in her yard into molasses. She made barrels of vinegar. She paid tithing in kind and then sold or traded the rest for things her family needed.”
While Lovina made buckskin breeches for Major Powell, he chatted with her about style and measurements and often held her baby Nellie on his knee.
Powell’s men and their wives often visited with Lovina and set up their tents on her lot. The importance of the friendships between the exhausted, malnourished men and the welcoming pioneers cannot be overstated. Even Almon Harris, the first child born to Lovina and Gurnsey in Kanab, was named after Powell’s brother-in-law and chief assistant, Lieutenant Almon Harrison, who also camped on Lovina’s lot.
Through the years, Lovina never lost her thrifty ways. In later years, she was often seen gathering sticks around town to be used for kindling. Even with partial hearing loss and stomach problems, she worried about being “waited on” and losing her independence.
She died on July 9, 1918, and is buried in the Kanab Cemetery. Though her body is gone, her pioneering spirit resides in each of us who remember and honor the hard road she and others have endured so we can be here today. Through blood lines and other lines, their legacy lives on.