William D. Brown (1813-February 3, 1868) was the first pioneer to envision building a city where Omaha, Nebraska sits today. Many historians attribute Brown to be the founder of Omaha, although this has been disputed since the late nineteenth century. Alfred D. Jones, the first postmaster of Omaha, laid strong claims to the title himself, suggesting that he told Brown about the potential for a town. Brown was also a member of the Second Territorial Legislature for the Nebraska Territory.
Brown lived in Mount Pleasant, Iowa where he was the sheriff of Henry County starting in January, 1837. After leaving for the California Gold Rush in 1850, he stopped in Council Bluffs after seeing that there was an opportunity to earn money ferrying settlers across the Missouri River. After obtaining a charter from the Pottawatomie County Commissioners, Brown called his enterprise the Lone Tree Ferry after the single tree which marked his landing on the Nebraska Territory side of the Missouri River. He later sold the company, which became the Council Bluffs and Nebraska Ferry Company.
Brown's daughter, Mary, married Alfred Sorenson, who became an influential politician in Omaha.