William Davis Brown

William Davis Brown (HM13JF)

Location: Omaha, NE 68111 Douglas County
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Country: United States of America
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N 41° 16.693', W 95° 57.612'

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1813 - 1868

William Brown is credited as Omaha's founder (although not its first settler). He operated a Missouri River ferry from Council Bluffs and was a principal in the company that first developed the Omaha townsite.

Mr. Brown came west as a young man with California gold in mind. Born in Kentucky, he migrated to Iowa, where he served as a town sheriff and met his wife, Martha. They arrived in Council Bluffs in 1850, expecting to continue west. But Brown had a practical side, and he could see that there might be more treasure in carrying other gold seekers across the Missouri River than in chasing that dream himself.

He established the Lone Tree Ferry in 1850 with a flat-bottom boat he rowed across the river, tying up at a solitary tree on the Nebraska side. Brown frequently roamed the plateau near his landing and imagined the city that could take root there once the federal government settled with the Indians and opened the land to homesteading.

In 1853, Brown took on partners and established the Council Bluffs and Nebraska Ferry Company. The new company bought a steamboat to handle increased river traffic. It also positioned itself to develop a new townsite across the river. When the Nebraska Territory was created in 1854, Brown's ferry company surveyed and sold 320 lots in what would become downtown Omaha.

William Brown was among those who celebrated the new territory with a picnic on Capitol Hill (now the site of Central High School) on July 4, 1854. A week later, his ferry carried William and Rachel Snowden across the river to their new home in Omaha City. The Snowdens became Omaha's first permanent white settlers.

Mr. Brown moved his family to Omaha the following year. The family lived at 15th and Harney Streets, where the Orpheum Theater now stands. He was involved in real estate on both sides of the river and owned a large parcel in South Omaha, including the land now known as Brown Park.

His daughter, Mary, and her husband, Alfred Sorenson, are also buried in this plot.

Historic marker dedicated on September 25, 2004
HM NumberHM13JF
Year Placed2004
Placed ByProspect Hill Cemetery
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, September 18th, 2014 at 9:28pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)15T E 252077 N 4573869
Decimal Degrees41.27821667, -95.96020000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 41° 16.693', W 95° 57.612'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds41° 16' 41.58" N, 95° 57' 36.72" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)402
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 2500 Cemetery Rd, Omaha NE 68111, US
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