Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network

Pioneer 1848-1868 Companies

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1848-1868, Black Pioneers

There were very few Blacks connected with the early Mormon Church and fewer still on the emigrant trails. There were, for example, only three Blacks in the pioneer company of 1847--Green Flake, Hark Lay, and Oscar Crosby. In the much bigger group of 1848, twenty-four more Blacks crossed the plains. Thereafter the records indicate a scattering of Black "servants" going west during the 1850s. Almost all of the servants mentioned in the sources were slaves of white southern converts, who saw no compelling reason for freeing their slaves just because they had become Mormons. Fortunately, most Blacks were later freed in Utah. On the trail, most of these slaves served as teamsters, herders, or cooks.

Source: Historic Resource Study - Mormon Pioneer National By Stanley B. Kimball, Ph.D., May 1991. (The study focuses on the history of the trail from its official beginning in Nauvoo, Illinois, to its terminus in Salt Lake City, Utah, during the period 1846-1869. During that time, thousands of Mormon emigrants used many trails and trail variants to reach Utah. This study emphasizes the "Pioneer Route" or "Brigham Young Route" of 1846-1847. The sections on Mormon beliefs and motivations for going west have been omitted. Interested persons can find ample sources for that information. The footnotes, bibliography, maps, pictures, pioneer companies by name and dates for the 22-year period, and historic sites - about 2/3 of the book - have also been left out for space considerations. Thanks to Dr. Kimball and the National Park Service for the availability of this information.)