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 1847 Companies

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Coming with Brigham Young's "Pioneer" or vanguard company in 1847 were three Blacks (African-Americans). Green Flake was the lone baptized Mormon among the three Blacks when they arrived in Utah. Following are some bibliographic sketches written by Julie A. Dockstader, for the "Pioneer" magazine (National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers), Spring, 1996, entitled "With the Just We Shall Dwell."


  1. Hark Lay, age 22, was a black slave when he travelled from Mississippi with John Brown to Winter Quarters to assist the "Pioneer" company, in 1847. (John Brown had guided the Mississippi Saints to Ft. Laramie and Pueblo, Colorado, in 1846. Returning to Mississippi to collect his family, he was asked to go to Winter Quarters and help the Pioneer company. He took 4 Blacks with him, two of whom died before reaching Winter Quarters.) John Brown had baptized Hark's owner, William Lay. Hark stayed in Salt Lake City that first winter and built a log house for the Lay family to occupy when they came in 1848. He was given his freedom. He never joined the Mormon faith. He married and settled in the small settlement of Union (Salt Lake Valley).
  2. Oscar Crosby, age 32, was the older brother of Hark Lay but was owned by William Cosby, a wealthy landowner in Mississippi. Oscar was baptized a Mormon shortly after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. He also built a house for his master's family in Holiday. When William Crosby's family was asked to settle San Bernardino, Oscar went along. California did not permit slavery and Oscar was given his freedom. Oscar did not return to Utah in 1857 with the other Mormons at the outbreak of the Utah War.
  3. Green Flake, age 19, was baptized with his master, James Flake and the Flake family in North Carolina. Th help Brigham Young, James Flake sent a team of white mules to pull one of the carriages in the Pioneer Company. Green was sent to be the driver. He was to return in the fall, but was instructed to stay behind and build a log house for the Flake family. He became a fond friend of Brigham Young throughout his life. At Brigham's death, Green helped dig the grave. Green and his wife are buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Union, close to where he spent most of his life. Green was an honored guest in 1897 when the Mormons celebrated their 50th anniversary of arriving in the valley.


  1. Stephen Kelsey, age 16, was baptized a Mormon, July 23, 1847, the day after he arrived in the valley with the advance party. He helped George A. Smith build the first adobe house in the old fort. He returned that fall to Winter Quarters and found out his mother and one sister had died. He returned in 1848 with his other sisters.
  2. Orzo French Eastman, age 18, came because his father wanted him to. He returned to Winter Quarters in 1847 and brought his mother and sister to the valley in 1848. He never joined the Church but had high respect for its leaders.
  3. Benjamin Rolfe, age 25. His father was selected for the Pioneer Company. Fearing his father was not strong enough, Benjamin volunteered to take his place. When Brigham Young scolded most of the Pioneer Company (just west of Scotts Bluff, Nebraska) for improper behavior and language, Benjamin was singled out for exemplary conduct. He joined the Church, served among the Indians, and helped establish Fort Supply, next to Ft. Bridger, Wyoming.