Wednesday, February 24, 2016


In honor of our Countdown to Leap into Love, I am going to share the marriage story of my great-grandparents, Edwin Brown and Desdemona Fox. I have a fairly uncommon situation in this family line due to my grandmother being one of those late-in-life babies born when her mother was forty-four years old and her father was fifty. My mother was born when her mother was well into her thirties. On many occasions I listened to my grandmother’s stories which she heard first hand from her parents. Each, as children, sailed across the Atlantic and crossed the plains in covered wagons in the 1850’s.

Desdemona Fox was born July 3, 1847 in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England to George Sellman Fox and Elizabeth Jones. In 1855 the family left England for the United States. From Mormon Grove next to the Missouri River in Kansas they traveled by covered wagon to the Great Salt Lake valley. The family eventually ended up in the South Cottonwood/Union Fort area.

I don't have a photo of this couple near the age when they were married, but here is the next youngest picture I have of Desdemona with one of her children.

Edwin Brown was born in Berkshire, England and at the age of eleven sailed from Liverpool, England with three generations of his family to the United States in January of 1853. They arrived in New Orleans, traveled by steamboat up the Mississippi River to Keokuk, Iowa where they joined a wagon train to take them to the Greater Salt Lake valley. The family also settled in South Cottonwood south of Great Salt Lake City. I don't have a photo of Edwin when he was young, but he probably most resembled his oldest son, Edwin Parley.

Son Edwin Parley Brown, left; Edwin Brown, right
It was the custom of the day for dating couples to attend dances in the area.  When these young people went to dances they traveled by ox team and paid their way into the dance with vegetables.  At that time period, the Mormon Church was opposed to round dances, waltzes or two-steps, hence most of the dances were quadrilles.

According to my grandmother, she remembered being told the young people would finish their evening chores, gather to ride to the dance, and then return late at night.  Travel was slow, and they usually got home in time to start their morning chores.

On July 17, 1865, Edwin and Desdemona Fox were in a wagon traveling home from a dance in South Jordan. Some accounts say there were several couples; others there were just the two couples. They dared each other to get married that morning on their way home.

Based on my grandmother’s telling of the incident, Edwin, Desdemona and another couple were returning home from a dance. It was the wee hours of the morning, not long before dawn.  After each couple dared the other to get married, they turned their wagon towards the home of their bishop, Reynolds Cahoon.  As they approached his home, through the dim light of dawn, they saw him walking up and down his front porch.  When they arrived, he asked what they wanted. They told him they wanted to get married.  He replied, anyone who wants to get married, stand up. Edwin and Desdemona stood up and were married while standing in the wagon. After Edwin and Desdemona were married, the other couple(s) changed their minds.

After the newlyweds left the bishop’s home, Desdemona began to be fearful about going home to face her parents with the news that she and Edwin had married. Although George and Elizabeth Fox were not opposed to Edwin, they felt Desdemona, at the age of 18, was too young to marry.  Desdemona decided to go to her sister's home in Union Fort instead. She stayed with her sister while Edwin finished preparing a house for her. Several months later the parents were told of the marriage.

Union Fort, Utah

The marriage proved to be a happy one. The Browns settled in Little Cottonwood where they raised nine daughters, two sons and a granddaughter born to their eldest daughter who died at a young age.
My grandmother, Goldie Pearl, sits between her parents
As a historical side note, the community in the Great Salt Lake area in which both the Brown and Fox family lived was first settled in about 1848 by a group of Latter-day Saints church members from Mississippi. It was called Little Cottonwood, then South Cottonwood. In 1883, when a post office was established by the federal government, which tended to be antagonistic towards the Mormons, it was named Murray after territorial governor, Eli Murray. This was in spite of the objections of the local citizens. 

In 1849 by Jehu Cox founded the defensive Union Fort to help secure the area for the early farmers living nearby. Until the late 20th century, the Union Fort area continued as a local center, but never had a large population. It remained nearly rural. The name eventually was altered to Fort Union.

Generations later, the story of this marriage caught the fancy of local Murray residents resulting in a play being written and performed in 1992 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Murray.


Day #5  of Countdown to Leap into Love featuring:

Zina Abbott

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Would you marry on a dare? Countdown to Leap into Love #5 @ZinaAbbott #SweetAmerSweethearts 


  1. That is a wonderful story. I would love to read the play that was written. Thank you so much for sharing this story. Angela/Doria

  2. Thank you, Doris. I have no idea who has the play, but I also would love to have a copy.

  3. Hi Zina!
    I'm fascinated by the story of your ancestors you shared. What an amazing beginning (and long-lived marriage). I can see and 'hear' your love for genealogy and family history as you shared this story. I'm so glad it survived the years and you have not only pictures but details!
    Thanks for sharing it with us--