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Jane Manning James’ Pioneer Life in Utah (Part 4 of 5)

Dr. Quincy Newell discusses early black Mormon pioneer Jane Manning’s marriage to Isaac James.  The two travelled to Utah in one of the earliest wagon companies to settle in Salt Lake City.

GT:  Did they go with the first pioneer companies?

Quincy:  I don’t think they’re in the first wave. They’re in the second wave, now I’m remembering. Patty Sessions delivers Jane’s child essentially, on the trail in Iowa, at a place called Keg Creek. So Jane is traveling pregnant, which can’t have been fun. At some point, they get hooked up with the George Parker Dykes company. They continue to stay with and work for Dykes and his family when they’re in Winter Quarters.  Dykes goes off with the Mormon Battalion, and he writes letters home to his wives, who he refers to as Mrs. Dykes, to sort of cover up the fact that there are multiple Mrs. Dykes’s. He makes several remarks about, make sure you treat Isaac and Jane well, take care of them and so on.

GT:  Polygamy is such a can of worms. So, she gets into the Salt Lake Valley.

Quincy:  She’s in one of the first companies to enter the Salt Lake Valley. So they arrive in the summer of 1847. She has had another child, so she has given birth to a child on the way to Winter Quarters, and she’s pregnant with another child by the time they get to Salt Lake. They set up on some of the property that belongs to Brigham Young and continue working for him for some time, and then they get a piece of land down in the First Ward, I believe, and set up a farming operation. Jane starts doing laundry pretty soon as well.

We will discuss her other marriages, and her prominent role in Pioneer Utah.

Quincy:  So in 1870, Jane and Isaac get divorced.

GT:  1870?

Quincy:  1870. That’s the necessary background. So in the 1880s, and 1890s, when Jane is starting to request endowments and sealings, she requests endowments. She requests sealing as a child to Joseph Smith. And she requests sealing in marriage. And occasionally, she will request sealing and marriage to Walker Lewis, which is a really interesting move on her part. And I think it’s maybe because Walker Lewis has the priesthood.

GT:  That’s a fact I think most people don’t know.

Quincy:  Right. So if you request sealing to a black man who doesn’t have the priesthood, well, then there’s a sort of procedural problem there, right?

GT:  Yeah. Isaac, her husband didn’t have priesthood.

Quincy:  Exactly. And so, she may be thinking, “Well, okay, I will request sealing to somebody who does have the priesthood, but who is also black, so they can’t object to it being an interracial marriage. And they can’t object that he doesn’t have the priesthood. So I should be good to go.”

Quincy:  Yeah, they say no to that, too.

Quincy:  But so that’s, as far as I know, that’s the only evidence that we have Jane and Walker Lewis knew each other. I am not totally persuaded that that’s evidence that they knew each other. She may only have known of him but known that he had the priesthood.

GT:  So this was just kind of a strategic move on her part.

Quincy:  It may have been, It’s hard to say. There’s a lot about Jane that’s hard to say.

Check out our conversation….

Jane Manning James was part of the second wave of pioneers to enter the Salt Lake Valley.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Quincy!

315:  Jane’s One-Of-A Kind Sealing to Joseph Smith)

314: 19th Century Sexual Politics

313: Was Jane a Slave?

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