Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Eminent Women: Mary O’Connell and Ann Crosby Thomas, Part 2

Eminent Women: Mary O’Connell and Ann Crosby Thomas, Part 2

By: Amy Tanner Thiriot - January 24, 2012

Part 1 here

In the 1820s and 1830s a great wave of Southerners moved to Indiana. Perhaps the most famous of these were Abraham Lincoln and his family. One young couple, John Jeter and Elizabeth Coleman Crosby, joined this migration. Their family later became influential in the early history of the church.

John was from an old South Carolina family and Elizabeth was from an old Virginia family. Their parents and grandparents served in the Revolutionary War. Elizabeth’s parents moved from Virginia and settled in Union, South Carolina. [1] Elizabeth married John Jeter Crosby and they went to settle in Indiana.

The Crosbys had six children: William, Ann, Susan, Syntha, Elizabeth, and Nancy.

The family histories note that they had a hard time adjusting to life without slaves, so John and Elizabeth and other members of the Crosby family moved south to former Choctaw lands in Monroe County, Mississippi.

Several years later the Choctaw tribe left Mississippi in a forced march to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) that one of their chiefs called a “trail of tears and death.” The year after the tribe left, one of the Crosby daughters, Ann, married Daniel Monroe Thomas, the son of Henry and Esther Thomas. [2]

Many members of the Crosby and Thomas families joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and belonged to the Tombigbee Branch in Mississippi. [3] They were converted through the efforts of John Brown, who then married Ann’s sister Elizabeth. Daniel Thomas was also instrumental in introducing the Book of Mormon to a large number of family members and others who joined the Church.

Ann Crosby Thomas may have been baptized as late as 1843, but she may have been baptized before then. The records are unclear.

Daniel accompanied John Brown to Pueblo, Colorado, and then went back to help move his extended family West. Did Ann go with him to Colorado or did she remain with other family members while he traveled?

Daniel’s unmarried brother Elijah joined the Mormon Battalion and was among those who discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill.

When Ann’s father, John Jeter Crosby, died in 1840, his slaves were divided between his wife and children. Daniel and Ann took two of the slaves to Utah, Philemon and Tennessee. A Crosby descendant notes that Philemon was one of four men she blithely called “bucks,” or breeding slaves, along with Osea [Hosea?], Hardy, and Hark.

Members of the Crosby family sent two slaves in the first 1847 pioneer company with Brigham Young: William and Syntha Crosby Lay sent Hark, and William Crosby sent Oscar. [4] In addition, their close friend James Flake sent Green, who reportedly drove Brigham Young’s carriage into the Salt Lake Valley. These three slaves were in charge of preparing accommodations for their owners who would arrive later.

Daniel and Ann met members of his Thomas family part way across the plains and helped them to the Salt Lake Valley. They arrived in October 1847 in the Edward Hunter/Jacob Foutz Wagon Company.

When they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, many of the Mississippi Saints moved into the South Cottonwood area of the Salt Lake Valley. Ann’s mother died there in 1849.

Daniel and Ann and other family members moved further south and showed up in Utah County in the first territorial census. [5] The census shows Daniel and Ann living in a household with four children: Daniel, age 4, Henry and Ann, twins, age 3, and John, age 2. The first three were born in Mississippi and John was born in Deseret (Utah). Based on naming conventions (first son named after father, second son named after grandfather, daughter named after mother, third son named after other grandfather) and the fact that twins ran in their family, they should be Daniel and Ann’s children. I have tried to figure out if they could have belonged to a relative since they don’t show up in any of the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel records, but no other related family matches the criteria to have been their parents. These four children must have all died at an early age, because they do not show up in the next census and cannot be located in any census or vital records. Curiously enough, Daniel’s biography notes that he didn’t have any children.

When a large number of pioneers went to settle San Bernardino, California, a good part of the settlement was made up of Mississippi and other Southern Saints. Daniel and Ann were among them. They took one slave, Toby. Although I have looked long and hard and traced many of the other early Utah slaves, I have not been able to find out what happened to any of the Thomas slaves, Philemon, Tennessee, or Toby. [6]

When they crossed the border into California, the slaves they took with them were freed since California was a free state. Most of these former slaves remained in San Bernardino or Los Angeles. [7]

Leonard Arrington tells a little story about life in San Bernardino:

Possessed of a sparkling sense of fun, [the Southerners] preserved a delightful incident in their records of an early school in San Bernardino that pinpoints one of the differences between the Southern pupils and their Yankee schoolteacher. A first-grader asked the teacher how to spell “rat.” Somewhat impatiently the teacher spelled it for him, “R-A-T.” Fixing her with a look of scorn he replied: “I don’t mean mousey rat. Anybody knows how to spell dat. What I mean is like in ‘Do it rat now.’”

Daniel served as County Judge and Postmaster in San Bernardino. He was known as a beautiful singer and a schoolmaster of good reputation.

When the San Bernardino settlement was called back to Utah, Daniel and Ann Thomas went to live in Beaver, Utah, with other members of the San Bernardino community. Daniel again served as Judge and Postmaster. The census there shows a 14-year-old girl named Mary Thomas living with them, born in Mississippi, but once again her identity is a puzzle. If she was a daughter, she should have shown up in the previous census. She never shows up again.

At some point, Daniel and Ann took a young Scottish orphan, Ninian Miller, into their home. Ninian’s father had died on the way to Utah, and his mother had died shortly after arriving in Utah. Ninian lived in the Thomas home until he married Sarah Kartchner in 1877 and went to settle the Little Colorado Region of Arizona.

After living in Beaver for several years, Daniel and Ann moved south to Utah’s Dixie region. Some of the San Bernardino settlers had joined earlier Indian Mission settlers in this red rock area of southwest Utah, and then the area was settled by hundreds of other families called by Brigham Young to the Cotton Mission. Daniel and Ann Thomas and Ninian settled first in an area now in Nevada. At the time it was called Overton, Rio Virgin County, Utah Territory. Some of the other members of their family settled in the area including Daniel’s brother Elijah and his family, Ann’s brother William Crosby and his family, and her sister Syntha Crosby Lay and her family. All of Ann’s extended family had come to Utah except for her sister Susan Crosby Watts Harris. Near the end of her life, twice widowed, blind, all her children dead, Susan was left in the South without means of support, so her nephew John Brown traveled to her home to take her to Utah where she spent her last years among family.

In 1877, Daniel and Ann Thomas went to do their temple work in the brand new St. George Temple. The temple president, Wilford Woodruff, had had many amazing adventures during his mission in the Southern States, and surely they shared memories of the old times. Daniel and Ann participated with Wilford Woodruff in the Eminent Men and Women project, Daniel doing the work for David Farragut (an admiral for the Union during the Civil War, best known for his line, “damn the torpedoes…”), Ann doing the work for Mary O’Connell, the wife of the Great Liberator and abolitionist Daniel O’Connell.

Ann died less than a year after doing this temple work. She was buried in the St. George Cemetery. Three years later, her husband married Mary Ann Chandler. Daniel’s death is recorded as being in St. George in 1894, but no record exists of his burial, or of the death or burial of his second wife.

[1] Was Fort Union in Salt Lake Valley named after Elizabeth Coleman Crosby’s old home?

[2] Some of the dates, places and movements are hard to pin down and are contradicted in the different records. I have pieced their lives together as best as I could.

[3] There were two Crosby families in the early church, the Mississippi Crosbys, and Jesse Wentworth Crosby and his family from Nova Scotia, Canada. The two families were not related. There was also a different Daniel Thomas who joined the church in Kentucky and crossed the plains. This other Daniel Thomas also had a brother named Henry and a father named Henry who joined the church.

[4] Although he spent much of his life among members of the church, Ann’s brother-in-law William Lay never joined the church.

[5] The extended Crosby family (mother Elizabeth Coleman Crosby, John and Elizabeth Crosby Brown, William and Syntha Crosby Lay, Daniel and Ann Crosby Thomas, John and Nancy Crosby Bankhead, and John’s brother George Bankhead) owned about two-thirds of the slaves listed in the 1850 (1851) Utah Territorial Census. Other early slaveholders were James and Agnes Flake, Abraham O. Smoot, William Mathews, Robert and Rebecca Smith, Williams Washington Camp, Charles C. Rich, Monroe Perkins, and Reuben and Elizabeth Perkins. (Have I missed anyone? Some of the records disagree on numbers and names. See also footnote 6.)

[6] Here is a list of the documented black slaves in Utah in the 1840s and 1850s. I may have missed some, and several may be listed in more than one family, including those who are listed as unnamed. [Updated March 7, 2012.]

Bankhead (John and George): Sam, Nancy, Alexander, Thomas, Nathan, Susan, Miriam, Sam, Rolly, Howard, Dan, George, George Nathan, Rose, Ike Valentine, John Priestly, Dan Freeman, Lewis, unnamed man who died on the way to Utah.
Brown (John): Betsy or Betty (Crosby Brown Flewellen), Henry who died on the way to Utah.
Camp (Williams): Charlotte, Dan, Ike, Ben. Perhaps also Thomas Coleman.
Crosby (Elizabeth): Edy, Mary, one other unnamed.
Crosby (William): Vilate (mother of Hark Lay, Oscar, and Martha Crosby Flake), Toby, Grief Embers, Oscar, Nelson, Mary, Henderson, Rose, Nancy, Samuel, George, Martha (Crosby Flake).
Dennis (William): Nancy or Mammy, Jim Valentine and his wife, Jim.
Drummond (Judge William): Cato.
Ewell (Mary Bland): Chloe.
Flake (James and Agnes): Green, Elizabeth “Liz,” Martha.

Forbush (Hyrum): John Priestly Bankhead.

Hooper (William): Shep.
Johnson (Joel H.): Tom Coulbourn.
Kimball (Heber C.): Martha (Flake).
Lay (William): Hark, Thompson, Harriett, Knelt, Lucy, (Henderson, also listed in Crosby family).

Lewis (Mrs. David): Jerry.
Mathews (William): Uncle Phil.
McKown (Frances): two unnamed.
Perkins (Jasper): Mary.
Perkins (Franklin Monroe): Ben (sold to Mr Sprouse).
Perkins (Reuben): Frank or Franklin, Esther, Ben, Sarah, Mary Ann, Downey, Ephraim, Wesley, Albert, Manissa or Manassah, Thomas, Charlotte, James.

Pinney (Dr.): Marinda Redd Bankhead.
Redd (John Hardison): Marinda (Redd Bankhead), Chaney or Chancey, Anna or Amy, Venus (Cupid), Luke, Sam, possibly one or more other unnamed slaves.
Rich (Charles C.): Dick, five other unnamed slaves.

Robinson (Joseph): John Burton.
Smith (Robert): “Aunt,” Hannah (Sunily), Biddy, Ellen, Ann, Harriet, Ann, Lawrence, Nelson, Jane, Charley.

Smith (William): three unnamed.

Smoot (Abraham O.): Jerry, Alex Bankhead, probably others.
Sprouse (Silas or Sylas): Daniel, Ben (from Monroe Perkins).
Thomas (Daniel Monroe): Philemon, Tennessee, Toby.
Williams (Thomas S.): two female slaves.

There were some pretty dodgy practices and events related to slaves and slave-holding in Utah Territory, but besides the dubious ethics of owning humans as property, I have never read anything of that sort about the extended Crosby family. They seem to have been model citizens, very public minded, and by all reports treated their slaves well.

[7] The Bankhead and Perkins and a few other slaves stayed in the Salt Lake Valley and were freed upon emancipation. Several others were freed before then, including Green Flake, who was deeded to the Church as tithing by Agnes Flake after her husband died. He was freed and remained in Utah. [ATT.—The story about the human tithing may have been told by descendants without any particular knowledge of the circumstances, and it seems to be contradicted by a number of contemporary sources. See comments.]



  1. This is a lot of really great work. Thank you.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 24, 2012 @ 8:50 am

  2. Thanks, J. Okay, people, this was a hard one. Not only the subject matter of slavery, which was difficult to process and involved looking at a lot of poor scholarship as well as some excellent scholarship, but the reconstruction of the two very large extended families (Crosby and Thomas) and the efforts to figure out Ann’s children and the fate of her slaves.

    Two questions for readers.

    1. After writing this, I saw this snippet in the Google Books entry for Mormon Midwife: The 1846-1888 Diaries of Patty Bartlett Sessions (Sessions, Smart): “I als[o] delivered Ann wife of Daniel M Thomas of a daughter name Nancy C…” (see page 87, see also page 102) Could someone who has a copy of that book look that up and see what the date and place is and if there are any other references to Ann?

    2. To be blunt, I’m getting near the end of my book-buying budget for this project (and there are 57 women left!). I have seen the book Slavery in Utah Territory (Williams, 2004) listed online but no reviews. Can anyone comment on the extent and quality of that fairly brief book?

    Comment by Amy T — January 24, 2012 @ 8:53 am

  3. I should know more of that Crosby family from Nova Scotia. Jesse Wentworth Crosby had a sister named Frances, who married my great-great grandfather Lorenzo Brown (who, by the way, is not related to the John Brown mentioned in this post). Jesse W. also accompanied Lorenzo’s father Benjamin on a mission to Nova Scotia in 1843-44.

    If the mess at New Family Search can be believed, it appears that Jesse W. was baptized in 1833, and Frances and her mother, Hannah Corning Cann Crosby, in 1838. When the father, Joshua Crosby, was baptized is impossible to tell–but they both moved from Nova Scotia to gather with the saints. Hannah died in Nauvoo in 1839, and Joshua in 1874 in St. George.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 24, 2012 @ 9:17 am

  4. And, I’ll echo J Stapley (or is it “Shapely”?): great post, Amy.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 24, 2012 @ 9:19 am

  5. Oh, Mark B., good to know that you’re related to the other Crosbys. One of them shows up in this project, so I’m sure I’ll get to know all those people in excruciating detail. : )

    Comment by Amy T — January 24, 2012 @ 9:34 am

  6. Okay, I have the Sessions book. The entry on p. 87 referring to Nancy C. is for 6 November 1847. (Same date for the reference on p. 102.) The index doesn’t list any further references to Nancy, but I’ll send you by private email the several references to the Crosby/Thomas families.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 24, 2012 @ 9:55 am

  7. Re: Arrington’s story about the southern accent:

    My grandmother had a much less pronounced Southern accent than her sisters and brothers, all Alabama-born. When I asked her about that, she said she had made a deliberate effort to lose the accent when she moved to Utah in 1919 and began teaching school in a mining camp in Piute County. The children were merciless, ridiculing her speech. She told me, “I realized if I was going to teach the little heathens, I had to learn to talk like them.”

    So I can readily believe that the Crosbys and Thomases and other pioneers of Southern origin experienced some difficulty with their accents among their Yankee-born brethren.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 24, 2012 @ 10:11 am

  8. I knew that there were slaves in Utah territory. After reading this post I’m more intrigued about it. Thanks. I’ll be looking for more of your posts.

    Comment by Steve C. — January 24, 2012 @ 10:52 am

  9. Now the Yankees and Utahns are moving to the South, and we are making gentle fun of how they talk! :)

    I can’t remember how many times I was asked “You *ain’t* from around here are ya?” 25 years ago when I was fresh out of Wyoming. It was karma for my having made fun of my great-grandmother from Alabama and Jimmy Carter when I was young.

    My Atlanta-native husband still “kills” me when he tells me he is “tarred” (meaning “tired”.)

    So I loved the “rat now” story! Can’t wait to share that one with him.

    Comment by Allison in Atlanta — January 24, 2012 @ 11:11 am

  10. I believe that there is a question about Green Flake being given to the Church as “tithing.” Mrs. Flake wrote Brigham Young after she was in California and asked Brigham to pay her for Flake. I know the Flake family members have often told this story, but I don’t believe that she would have asked for payment if he had been a gift to the Church.

    Comment by Jeff Johnson — January 24, 2012 @ 11:14 pm

  11. I can’t believe all the work you are putting in on this project. I am really enjoying your work.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — January 24, 2012 @ 11:45 pm

  12. Thanks, Ardis, for the extra materials. Thanks, all, for the comments. In telling about some of these lesser-known women, I am feeling keenly the lack of stories to tell about their lives, to give them some sense of personality instead of just relating times and places and relationships, so it’s always great to find something like the Arrington story.

    And thanks, especially, to Jeff Johnson. I don’t know if it’s entirely evident that this is an ongoing project, and that I continue to add facts and documentation, even after the posts are up. I very much appreciate corrections, clarifications, and additional information.

    Funny thing, I actually saw that about Green Flake somewhere last night as I tied up some loose ends and documentation, but I forgot that I had repeated the tithing story in a footnote (!) so I’ll go back now and fix that in my materials. I also have three more slaves to add to footnote 6.

    Question for bloggers, including Ardis: should I change details like this in the actual body of the post, or just make a note in the comments?

    Comment by Amy T — January 25, 2012 @ 7:27 am

  13. I’ll respond here, Amy, so that readers know what I may have done on other posts:

    When I have an addition or correction to make that makes the article more accurate but doesn’t really change the story in a significant way (maybe I correct somebody’s middle initial, or add a death date, or fix an awkward piece of grammar), I just do it silently. Adding the names to footnote 6 would fall into that category — it doesn’t change anyone’s understanding of the post, wouldn’t necessarily cause anyone to come back and reread, but is a good thing to add for completeness and for the sake of readers who will find this post through Googling in the coming years.

    If someone has already commented on the point that I want to edit, though, I usually overstrike the bit I’m changing, and either add the corrected information immediately after the overstrike, or else add a bracketed note of explanation, possibly referring to the comment by number. I did that, for example, on a recent post where I had typed “North Temple” where I should have had “South Temple,” and on an older post where someone corrected my “Stonewall Jackson” to “Andrew Jackson.” If I had silently corrected either of those points, then the readers’ comments would have been left hanging there meaninglessly, and anybody coming along later would have wondered what the commenter had been thinking. So, in the case of the Green Flake thing here, I’d suggest making your edit, anything from lining out the sentence completely on up to writing a whole new paragraph evaluating the conflicting reports, and including a reference to Jeff’s comment in a bracketed note or as part of your new commentary.

    Keepa readers have come to my rescue very often with corrections or additional information, and I’m always thankful for it (if sometimes a little embarrassed, as with that North/South Temple thing …)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 25, 2012 @ 10:57 am

  14. Oh, and that longwinded explanation, Amy, could have been boiled down to: The post will be on the internet for a long time, and newcomers don’t always bother to read a lot of older comments. I change the body of the post if it’s the kind of thing I suspect people might copy and repeat.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 25, 2012 @ 11:00 am

  15. Amy,
    Any clue about why there was this migration from the south to Indiana in th e 1820’s and 1830’s? I have seen several saints who were born in Tennessee but who migrated north to the Ohio valley in general, particularly southern Illinois. It wasn’t enough to call it a mass mirgration, but now I’m wondering if they were part of the same movement.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — January 26, 2012 @ 10:48 am

  16. I’m not Amy, Bruce, but there was a lot of migration from Kentucky to Indiana and Illinois at that time. Two small data points: Abraham Lincoln’s family moved from Kentucky to Illinois in 1816, and my Maxwell ancestors moved from Kentucky to southern Illinois in about 1820.

    There was so much migration from across the Ohio River that southern Illinois was not the “Land of Lincoln” in the 1858 and 1860 elections, despite what the license plates say. (Did they have license plates back then? Maybe the southern counties of Illinois can get “Land of Douglas” on their license plates.)

    Apparently land titles were more secure in the old Northwest, because surveys had been provided for in the federal Land Ordinance of 1785. That would have made smallholders concerned about ownership of their land more inclined to move that direction. In addition, non-slaveholders who wanted to live in a free society may have been influenced by the prohibition in the Northwest Ordinance (1787) against slavery in the lands north of the Ohio River.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 26, 2012 @ 11:20 am

  17. My Deckard ancestors moved from Kentucky to Indiana at precisely that time, too. I think the migration must have been significant.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 26, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

  18. Thanks for addressing the question, Mark B.

    Here are the sources on Southern migration into Indiana:

    Rose, Gregory S. “Upland Southerners: The County Origins of Southern Migrants to Indiana by 1850.” Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 82, No. 3, September 1986, pp 242-263. Available at JSTOR.

    Lang, Elfrieda. “Southern Migration to Northern Indiana Before 1850.” Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 50, No. 4 December 1954, pp. 349-356. Available at JSTOR.

    (The Lang article is a little limited in its scope.)

    My Morgan family also followed the Kentucky-Indiana-Illinois migration pattern. I wasn’t as familiar with the North Carolina-Indiana route.

    One factor which made the Crosby family’s experience different than these others was slavery. Although I tend to be wary of pointing to material on Wikipedia, the article History of Slavery in Indiana is good on this topic.

    Comment by Amy T — January 26, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

  19. This is great information! i am a second great grandson of elijah thomas and have done a lot of research on the thomas family after they left north carolina. i have visited rockingham and the area around where they lived on the pee dee river.
    the deseret news digital has a lot of adds of elijahs.i am sure daneil is also buried at near ann but i will go back and check. the mormon battilion has a picture that is not elijah, i know because it is his sons father in law william adam empey. the only picture i know of him and harriett is in the book the first three hundred saint called to Dixie

    Comment by steven a hunt — February 1, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

  20. Wonderful, Steven. Let us know if you find anything about Daniel’s burial. A very helpful Bankhead descendant contacted the sexton at the St George cemetery, but he couldn’t come up with any record of a burial in St George or Utah. Perhaps he and Mary Ann were buried in Overton, Nevada.

    And it would be interesting to find out more about Mary Ann Chandler. She is a bit of a mystery. All I know about her is Chandler family genealogical information and that her brother was buried in St George and left an account of his life in the St George church records.

    Comment by Amy T — February 2, 2012 @ 10:25 am

  21. And another note: I’m continuing to track down the details in the last two footnotes and will update those when I’m done with the research.

    It’s been a fascinating tangent to read more about black history in Utah and learn about the lives of these men and women, some of whom made the trek to Utah by their own choice, but most of whom (despite what family records may say) were taken across the plains involuntarily. It’s been interesting to read the stories and see the lives they made for themselves.

    Comment by Amy T — February 2, 2012 @ 10:30 am

  22. Daniel Monroe Thomas died in Leeds, Washington, Utah Territory, and is buried in the St. George City Cemetery. I don’t know why I could not find his burial record before. His second wife, Mary Ann Chandler Thomas, spent her final days in the Utah Insane Asylum in Provo like another of our Eminent Women, Annie Eldridge Hinkle Chidester. Mary Thomas died on February 19, 1904 and is buried in the Provo City Cemetery.

    I’m currently working on another project involving some of the Mississippi Saints, and I have not yet found any of that large group of early converts who were not related to each other in some way, either by blood or by marriage.

    Comment by Amy T — February 5, 2013 @ 4:13 am

  23. Grandson: I have forwarded your comment (which is not yet visible to anyone but you) to the post’s author, for response, *if* she wishes. Frankly, if I were the author, I would *not* respond to your demand.

    Your ancestor-protecting term “servant-companion” offends me; putting lipstick on that linguistic pig doesn’t obscure the fact that Chloe was a slave, not a “servant-companion.”

    And your demand — not a courteous request — for the specific types of “documentation” (why the scare quotes?) you will accept is rude, at best. Amy is a master genealogist and knows her sources, but she is not obligated to provide them to some curt stranger before she has claimed them herself in her own professional publication.

    You’re very rude, as well as anonymous, and I don’t appreciate your speaking to my colleague the way you have done.

    — Ardis E. Parshall, blog owner

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 28, 2013 @ 7:07 pm

  24. Oh, thanks, Ardis for coming to my defense. :) I am overwhelmed with busyness right now and could use about half a dozen minions to help. (And I don’t mean my husband and kids!) (This would be more like it.) (Perhaps reserving a few of the best-behaved to do archive work…)

    “Servant-companion”? I’ve seen a few different descriptors used for slaves, but that’s a new one. Mary Ewell used the term “slave” in her autobiography.

    My project on the slaves and slave-holding families is ongoing. I have been extremely busy over the past year and have not been able to spend the time on the project that I would have liked, or on my primary project, “The Eminent Women of the St. George Temple.”

    There are currently 35 slave-owning individuals or families on my list, and I have done no research yet on the Ewells or Chloe. It looks like all those records need to be found. As I mentioned the other day on the post about the known burial sites for the slaves in Utah Territory, a Burton descendant was able to do all that research on his family, using the types of sources you mention, and came up with some really fascinating results, and I hope to be able to write up that story sometime soon for Keepapitchinin. It really is a cool story, and had to be redemptive in a way for the family.

    Bottom line: I will eventually get to the Ewells, but if you are doing research in the meantime, I would of course love to see what you come up with.

    Comment by Amy T — May 28, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

  25. What you really need, Amy, is a half dozen servant-companions.

    Comment by Mark B. — May 28, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

  26. Ha, funny, Mark, but no, no slaves by any name.

    I don’t imagine “Grandson” realized he was stepping into a minefield by using a euphemism for slavery.

    One of my ancestral lines was closely associated for several years with many of the Southern slave-owning families. (I do wish they’d left an account of their experiences.) They crossed the plains with the Southerners and their slaves, settled in Amasa’s Survey with them, went to San Bernardino with them, but as far back as I’ve seen in their records, back into Colonial times, they were Baptists and Sabbitarians from Rhode Island and New York and although well off, did not own slaves, even though slavery was practiced in New York and Rhode Island. Living in those two states they would have been very familiar with the institution of slavery, as well as the public debate over emancipation.

    The New York legislature passed a bill in 1799 called “An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery.” It converted slaves-for-life to “indentured servants,” really the same institution under another name, but also created a system for freeing the children of slaves, and slaves brought into the state from elsewhere. It was a complicated process, and created great social upheaval, including kidnappings, marginalization, and riots.

    Slaves were listed in the New York census as long as they were held as slaves and remained in the state, so as I’ve read the 1800 United States Census for Western New York, I’ve seen slaveholding families listed alongside my ancestors.

    As Christopher Rich recently explained in his article in the Journal of Mormon History, Brigham Young’s 1851 “Act in Relation to Service” created a similar system. (See here and here.) The act acknowledged the property rights of the Southern slaveholders, but attempted to set up a system of eventual manumission, like the laws that the New York and New England converts would have been familiar with.

    The “Act in Relation to Service” was only in effect for a decade before the slaves were freed in the territories in 1862, so it really never did anything. There was only one court case in Utah Territory in regards to slavery during that decade, and it didn’t directly address the provisions of the Act.

    * * *

    If your Mormon convert ancestors were from the South, including Texas, unless they were dirt poor, with very few exceptions they would have owned slaves. A good percentage of antebellum Southern converts brought slaves with them across the plains. Others sold their slaves before travelling to Utah. I’ve seen many claims of families having freed their slaves in the South, but that was a complicated process, often requiring an act of the state legislature, and I have not yet seen proof that the claim was true in any case.

    If your Mormon convert ancestors were from the Mid-Atlantic region, they may have owned slaves before they joined the Church. I am familiar with a New Jersey convert who left a family slave in Pennsylvania when he went West. If a family didn’t own slaves at the time they joined the Church, there’s a chance they may have a generation or more before that. I have not done original research into the families, but I understand that there’s a good chance that my Long Island Dutch ancestors would have owned slaves.

    It’s less likely that New England ancestors would have owned slaves, but you may see evidences of the institution, particularly along the coast.

    Slavery was a fact of life for many Southerners, one they hedged up and defended with all sorts of scriptural and social justifications. Regardless of all those justifications, using other names to describe the institution, “servants” being the most common, is, as Ardis so elegantly put it, putting lipstick on a pig.

    So let’s call it what it was, realize that contrary to what Ezekiel said, our teeth can be set on edge from the sour grapes our ancestors ate, and then treat our family histories with honesty and an acceptance that these people came from different times and places and circumstances, They did not have 21st century ideals or experiences, and it’s a disservice to them and to ourselves to pretend that they did.

    Our early Mormon converts came from a wide variety of backgrounds, but were brought together to participate in one of the most amazing and provocative and successful social and religious experiments of the past couple of centuries, so let’s celebrate our heritage and tell our stories honestly.

    Comment by Amy T — May 29, 2013 @ 8:01 am

  27. So, two years later I finally got to the Ewells and Chloe, as mentioned in comments 23 and 24. Turns out the “autobiography” mentioning the family slave seems to have been written decades after the supposed author’s death. I will be removing Chloe from the list of slaves in Utah Territory since there is no documentary proof that she lived in the Territory.

    Comment by Amy T — April 30, 2015 @ 9:18 am

  28. I no longer remember “Grandson’s” comment, but it must have been a hairy one, given my spitfire response! Hope he deserved it.

    I appreciate your returning to these old posts to update your progress on one thing or another, Amy, for the benefit of anyone who comes along after.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 30, 2015 @ 9:32 am

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