Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Man Behind The Man: Jonathan Browning

You know about John Moses Browning, but do you know about his Dad Jonathan? He had a great influence on his son and what his son was to become.
Jonathan was born in Tennessee in 1805 at the same time Lewis and Clark were exploring the Louisiana Purchase. As a teenager he apprenticed as a gunsmith, started his own shop and was building a successful business. After joining the LDS Church (Mormons) he moved with them to Illinois where he built his shop.

He invented a sliding breech repeating rifle often called a "slide gun" or a "harmonica gun" sometime between 1834 and 1842 while living in Quincy, Illinois. These rifles were the precursors to today's high-capacity magazine firearms. With a solid block of metal to hold multiple loads, they were a bit heavy for sure. His business success in Quincy lead to his high regard in the community and soon he was elected as the justice of the peace. During this time he met a young lawyer by the name of Abraham Lincoln who reportedly was an overnight guest in his home at least two times.

He moved from Quincy to Nauvoo to be closer to the gathering place of the Mormons and continued building and repairing guns in Nauvoo until persecution drove the Mormons out of Illinois -- which began the Great Mormon Migration to what would eventually become Utah.

He was devout about his religion and his firearms. Guns made by him during this time were each marked with the words "Holiness to the Lord - Our Preservation."

Jonathan did not cross the plains with the early groups of pioneers, but stayed behind in the temporary city of Kanesville (Council Bluffs) at the request of Brigham Young. This assignment was to outfit and equip the pioneers as they headed west over the next few years. In 1852 Brigham Young called him to Utah where he settled in Ogden, just north of Salt Lake City. Today it's about a 15 minute drive from Ogden to Browning's headquarters in Morgan.

Jonathan lead a very successful life in Ogden as a businessman, a gunsmith and in public service. He was a family man at his core.

His son, John Moses Browning worked at his gunshop and store from an early age. And it was there, in 1878, under his father's supervision that John Moses Browning invented his first rifle: The Browning Single Shot. It later became known as the Winchester 1885 or the B-78. The Winchester 1885 is still in production today.

Just a year after his son invented the Single Shot Jonathan Browning passed away in Ogden, Utah. And the rest, as they say, is history.

JONATHAN BROWNING was the son of Edmund and Sarah Allen, and was born October 22, 1805, at Brushby Fork of Bledsoe Creek, near Nashville, Sumner County, Tennessee. In his youth he was steady, thoughtful and devoted to the acquisition of useful knowledge. He married his first wife, Elizabeth Stalcup, November 9, 1826, and there were twelve children born to them, as follows: Sarah A, David E., Barbara J., John W., James A., Asenath E., Martha C., Mary M., Nancy L., Emma E., Jonathan A. and Melinda V.
In 1834 he moved with his family from Tennessee, locating in Adams County, Illinois, where he invested largely in land, and carried on agricultural pursuits in connection with his trade, gun and blacksmith. In 1842 he moved to Nauvoo, he having previously been converted to Mormonism. Here he built a nice two story brick residence, gunsmith shop, etc., on Main Street, which lie subsequently left without a cent's renumeration, emigrating west, in 1846 [along with] the general Mormon exodus from Nauvoo.

He settled and remained in Western Iowa, near Council Bluffs (then called Kanesville) on the Missouri bottoms, close to the little village (of Indian traders) called Sarpy's Point. Here he engaged in manufacturing guns, wagons, etc., making several improvements and inventions in firearms. He also carried on farming, and discharged the duties of magistrate, which office he had previously held in the states he had left.

Many years after his demise an old gentleman from Idaho sent his family a copy of the Frontier Guardian, published in Kanesville, Iowa, September 19, 1849, in which was the following advertisement:

"GUNSMITHING. The subscriber is prepared to manufacture, to order, improved Fire-arms, viz: revolving rifles and pistols; also slide guns, from 5 to 25 shooters. All on an improved plan, and he thinks not equalled this far east. (Farther west they might be.) The emigrating and sporting community are invited to call and examine Browning's improved fire-arms before purchasing elsewhere. Shop eight miles south of Kanesville on Musquito Creek, half a mile south of Trading Point. JONATHAN BROWNING."

In 1852 he resumed his journey, crossing the plains, of three months' travel, by ox teams. He was captain of a company in crossing the plains, and being an expert marksman, he frequently furnished the camp with meat from the vast quantities of buffalo along their route of travel.

Arriving in Utah, October 2, 1858, Jonathan Browning settled in Ogden, where he continued to reside until the time of his demise.

On March 17, 1854, he married Elizabeth C. Clark, and there were born to them three children, viz.: Elizabeth C., John M. and Matthew S.

On March 29, 1858, he married Ann Emmett and there were born to them seven children, viz.: Jonathan E., T. Samuel, William W., Olive A., George E., Benjamin F. and Susan 0.

In the history of Ogden City he is recorded as one of its founders and principal business men and property owners. Much of the real estate on the principal business street now known as Washington Avenue, once belonged to Jonathan Browning. He owned four city lots on the west side of this street, beginning at what is now known as the Eccles Building, and running south to where the Egyptian Theater now stands, and where some of the finest buildings of the city have since been erected.

During his residence in Ogden City he held many civil and ecclesiastical offices. He also, at an early age in manhood, before he gathered with the Mormon people, was a representative man in society, he having been a justice of the peace in Sumner County, Tennessee. Soon after his arrival in Ogden he was elected a member of the Ogden City Council. He also held the various positions of justice of the peace, probate judge of Weber County, and member of the Legislature of Utah.

In the ecclesiastical sphere he was a bishop's counselor, member of the High Council, and president of the High Priests Quorum. In all his official capacities Jonathan Browning proved himself to be a man of honor, truth and integrity.

When you pick up your 1911 and admire this great design and style of weapon, remember Jonathan Browning, father of gun maker John Moses Browning, the man behind the gunmaker.

Semper Paratus

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