Monday, January 16, 2012

MLK Day Post: The Tanner Family Crosses the Plains

While doing research on another project, I saw that the Tanner family (John, Sidney, Seth, Amasa and Maria Tanner Lyman, and many others) crossed the plains in 1848 with several converts to the church from Mississippi. These faithful converts took their slaves with them to Utah. In fact, three of the Mississippi families sent slaves ahead the previous year with Brigham Young's first pioneer company. The names of the slaves in the first pioneer company were Green Flake, Hark Lay [Wales], and Oscar Crosby, and when Brigham Young entered the Valley, he was probably driven by Green Flake.

There were 19 slaves along in the 1848 Willard Richards/Amasa Lyman Wagon Company: Ann, Betty, Biddy, Edy, Ellen, Grief, Hannah, Harriet, Harrit, Henderson, Jane, Lawrence, Lucy, Mary, Nat, Nelson, Rande, Rose, and Vilet. Their ages ranged from newborn to 50.

(Also in this wagon train were Joseph Heywood and his wife Serepta Blodgett Heywood, who plays an important part in our family history on the Morgan line.)

Mingling with these Southerners and their slaves would have been quite an eye-opening experience for the New England Tanner family.

The Tanners, Lymans, and the Mississippi Saints settled in the South Cottonwood area of the Salt Lake Valley (now Murray), and then in 1851 moved to settle San Bernardino, California. Since California was a free state, the slaves were freed when they crossed into the state, and many of them remained in San Bernardino and Los Angeles, although a few returned to Utah.

For more information on this topic, see the article "Blacks in Utah History: An Unknown Legacy." Here is the story of another black pioneer who traveled to Utah in 1853 with his family and later served several missions for the church: Elijah Abel: Black Mormon Pioneer.

[Edited July 20, 2012.]

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