Located near the southwest corner of Vermont is the small village of Whitingham in Windham County. Brigham Young was born there on June 1, 1801. His life began less than 100 miles from Sharon, Vermont, where the Prophet Joseph Smith would be born 4½ years later. The two future prophets will spend their first years not far from each other.
Brigham’s parents, John and Abigail “Nabby” Young, and their children had arrived in Whitingham from Massachusetts less than five months before Brigham was born. At present, several signs and monuments stand in Whitingham indicating the birthplace of the town’s most famous native son.
The Young family stayed in Whitingham for three years before moving to west-central New York. Brigham Young later said he only had 11 days of formal schooling. He also noted that he experienced hard labor and lacked sufficient food until his “stomach ached”. He recalled “what it is like to be in poverty and to be deprived of the clothes necessary to keep my body warm”. (See “Brigham Young: American Moses,” by Leonard J. Arrington, pages 11-12.)
Despite his lack of formal education, he became skilled in several different trades: carpenter, painter, and glazier. A biographer reports that many homes in Auburn, New York, “boast a Brigham Young semi-elliptical fan-shaped fireplace, staircase, or doorway” (see “Brigham Young: American Moses”, page 13). This young man would one day succeed the Prophet Joseph Smith and serve as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints longer than anyone else. Brigham Young married Miriam Works in early October 1824. Several New York houses in which they lived still exist.
Kenneth Mays is a board member of the Ensign Peak Foundation (formerly Mormon Historic Sites Foundation) and a retired instructor in the Department of Seminaries and Institutes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.