We’re continuing our Black History Month discussions with Dr. Newell Bringhurst. We’ll talk about Warner McCary, a very colorful character in the story of the priesthood and temple ban on black LDS Church members. Warner McCary, a former slave, was instrumental in causing Brigham Young to re-think ordaining black men to the priesthood. His interracial polygamist sealings to white women infuriated church leaders. Dr. Newell Bringhurst describes these explosive charges, “stranger than fiction…You can’t make this stuff up!”
Newell: I just finished writing a review of [Angela Pulley Hudson’s] book, which is outstanding. It stands as the definitive study of Warner McCary and the woman he married which is Lucy Stanton, who comes out of a Mormon background. These two—I assume you’ve read the book.
GT: I have read the book. One of the things I just wanted to point out there was, there has been a lot of statements that said he was an escaped slave, but in that book it actually said that he was a freed slave.
Newell: Not really. He never achieved his freedom. That was one of the things he was always afraid of. That’s why he assumed an Indian persona because he was always under the shadow of the Fugitive Slave Act as a runaway black slave. He was always in fear that he would one day be rounded up and sent back to the South. That was one of the things that contributed to him as masquerading as an Indian. He performed as an Indian. He even adopted Indian names. He adopted the name Okah Tubbee. That was the name that he used most. He would do these Indian dances and everything else.
So he goes to Nauvoo and according to the sources available, he meets and marries Lucy Stanton who is a divorced mother of three. Anyway, they get involved with their Mormonism and they actually go back to Cincinnati and they are involved a little bit with the Strangites and they are involved in trying to form their own little Mormon group there in Cincinnati. That doesn’t quite pan out, those two’s efforts sort of peter out.
The next place he goes to is Winter Quarters. He tries to convince Brigham Young that he’s Indian. He emphasized Indian-ness, but Brigham Young isn’t completely convinced. What really infuriates Brigham Young and Mormon leaders there is when he founds his own schismatic movement. He and his wife found his own schismatic movement. Part of the ritual is for him to have sexual relations with the women who come in, who are white women, going to bed in three different times.