In 1851 Thomas Bullock created a federal census mortality schedule for Utah County using forms hand-drawn in Utah Territory. The mortality schedule was supposed to document the people who died in the year before the census. Thomas Bullock wrote four names on the schedule with information provided by families passing through Utah County at the time: Mormon Pratt, John Tanner, James Flake, and Mary Finley. Although the form says they died in Utah County, at least three of them died elsewhere.
The four entries written on this paper in Bullock’s small, deliberate handwriting represent people whose lives include stories of polygamy, the first Mormon mission to Chile, great sacrifices, slavery in Utah Territory, the settlement of San Bernardino, and a mystery.
Mormon was the infant son of Parley P. Pratt’s seventh wife Sarah Huston Pratt.1 Baby Mormon died of consumption in Salt Lake City in November 1850. Sarah Pratt must have reported his death to the census taker in Salt Lake City since he shows up in the Salt Lake County Census Mortality Schedule where he belongs. Why does he also show up in the Utah County Mortality Schedule? It’s likely that his father, Parley P. Pratt, mentioned the death to Thomas Bullock since he was in Utah County, traveling south, headed to Chile on a mission.2
Wealthy New York convert John Tanner helped finance the Kirtland Temple. He was badly injured by mobs in Missouri, sent sons with Zion’s Camp and the Mormon Battalion, and is the subject of a recent T.C Christensen film.3 After crossing the plains, he died in South Cottonwood, south of Salt Lake City. He does not show up in the Salt Lake County Mortality Schedule since his widow and most of his family were in Utah County on their way to settle in San Bernardino when the census was taken.4
North Carolina native James Madison Flake and his family joined the church in Mississippi. James Flake was the owner of Green Flake, a slave he sent ahead to Utah Territory with Brigham Young’s 1847 pioneer company. In 1850 James Flake was traveling in the San Joaquin Valley, California, when he was thrown off a mule. He died the same day, leaving his young family in poverty. His widow, Agnes, and her sons and slave Liz were in Utah County on their way to the San Bernardino settlement when James Flake’s death was recorded on the Utah County Mortality Schedule.5
Mary is the mystery in this record.
The Mortality Schedule notes that Englishwoman Mary Finley was 34 years old and died of childbed fever.6 Mary does not show up in FamilySearch Family Tree, the Mormon Overland Pioneer Travel database, or any Utah burial databases. Variations of the Scottish family name include Findlay, Finlay, and Fendley, so she might be the “Mary Fendley” listed in Mormon Migration.
Mary Finley should be added to the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database, but we know so little about her. Was she related to the Alexander Findlay/Finley family of Salt Lake City and later Kanab? Did she die in March 1850 or 1851? Was she part of the large group traveling to San Bernardino, or was her widowed husband part of that group? Did she die outside of Utah County like the other people on the schedule? Did her baby survive? Who is this unknown woman captured in Thomas Bullock’s curious Utah County Census Mortality Schedule?
- Many of Parley P. Pratt’s children had Book of Mormon names: Moroni, Abish, Helaman, Mathoni, Alma, Nephi, Abinadi, Lehi, Mormon, Teancum, Mosiah, Omner, Ether, and another Moroni. [↩]
- Pratt, recently returned from his Southern Exploring Expedition, was traveling south again with the San Bernardino pioneers. He and his traveling companions took a ship to Chile from the California coast. Listed with Parley P. Pratt in the Utah County Census was his third wife, Elizabeth Brotherton Pratt, and also listed was a five-year-old named Phebe, born in New York. There was no child of that name and age in the family, so the age may be an error, and this may be Parley’s eighth wife, 27-year-old Long Island native Phoebe Soper Pratt, who accompanied him on his mission to Chile. [↩]
- The film is historical fiction but is largely faithful to the family accounts. [↩]
- The San Bernardino settlement was established in 1851 by Charles C. Rich and Amasa M. Lyman, John Tanner’s son-in-law. In 1857 with the federal army threatening the main Mormon settlements, the pioneers were pulled back to Utah Territory, and about two-thirds of the pioneers returned to Utah, including most of the Tanner family. For a history of the San Bernardino settlement see Edward Lyman’s book, San Bernardino: The Rise and Fall of a California Community in the Signature Books Library or a short article in the Ensign. For a brief history of the John Tanner family, see an Ensign article by Leonard Arrington, “The John Tanner Family.” [↩]
- Agnes Flake shows up in the Utah County Census Slave Schedule in 1851 as the owner of two slaves, a male age 23 (Green) and a female age 17 (Liz). Green did not go to California; he remained in Salt Lake County where he was eventually freed. Liz went with Agnes to California where she was freed. Liz married Charles Rowan and was the mother of Alice Rowan Johnson, often noted as the first black schoolteacher in California. [↩]
- Childbed (puerperal) fever was a bacterial infection caused by unsanitary conditions during childbirth, often the medical attendant’s unwashed hands. It was usually fatal and was a horrible way to die. Childbed fever is now largely unknown in Western societies due to sanitary advances (washing hands) and if contracted, can be treated by antibiotics. For more detailed information, see “The Attempt to Understand Puerperal Fever.” [↩]