Posted on Leave a comment

Was Jane a Slave? (Part 1 of 5)

Dr. Quincy Newell is the first non-Mormon scholar we’ve had on Gospel Tangents.  Of course, I had to ask why she was interested in Mormon history in the first place!

GT:  I think one of the things that’s most perplexing to me, and I think to my listeners as well, you’re not Mormon!

Quincy:  No, I’m not.

GT:  Why in the world are you studying Mormonism?

Quincy:  I am interested in religion in the American West, and Mormons are a huge part of that story.  I’m also interested in the experiences of religious and racial ethnic minorities. So thinking about sort of how those different factors in identity intersect and how they shape people’s lives. So that’s why I got into the study of Mormonism.

Dr. Newell has just come out with a book on early black Mormon pioneer Jane Manning James.  It’s called “Your Sister in the Gospel,” and is published by Oxford University Press.  I was curious about Jane’s relationship to slavery.

Quincy:  Jane was not a slave. She was very particular in making sure that everybody knew that. She was born free in Connecticut, in about 1820. Her mother had been enslaved, and she said that her maternal grandmother had been brought from Africa as an enslaved woman as well. So Jane certainly had slavery in her background. She knew about it. She experienced it. She knew people who had been enslaved. But she herself was not enslaved at any point. That’s a status symbol, I think, for her. So she was very particular in making sure that people who knew her, people who heard about her, knew that she was not enslaved, and that was important to her.

GT:  But her mother was a slave. How did that work?  I think there was a law or something that you were emancipated a certain age or something. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Quincy: Yes, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to get all the details right off the top of my head. But Connecticut passed a set of laws that basically instituted a kind of gradual emancipation.  I don’t remember the year in which they were passed, but Jane’s grandmother was too old, and was never emancipated. The legislature in Connecticut decided they didn’t want owners of slaves to dump their aged slaves on the public trust and make the public responsible for maintaining them. So they remained enslaved for the rest of their lives. But there was a date that anybody born after that date was to be emancipated by, I think, their 25th birthday, something like that. So Jane’s mother was eligible for that emancipation, and for that reason, she probably was emancipated in around 1810 or so. Jane was born about 10 years later, so she was born free. But she certainly knew relatives who would have remained enslaved for the rest of their lives.

We will get more acquainted with both Jane and Quincy in our next conversation.  Check it out!

Dr. Quincy Newell of Hamilton College has published a biography of black Mormon pioneer Jane Manning James.

Don’t miss our previous conversations about Jane with Margaret Young!

002:  Combating Racism

001: “Is There No Blessing for me?


Posted on Leave a comment

Hawley’s Opposition to MMM

John Pierce Hawley rode with the Fancher-Baker party through Utah for a short time.

Mel: On the way back, the Hawleys end up riding along for about a week with the Fancher-Baker wagon immigrant train, and then they go on their way.

GT: So they got on their way before they got to the Mountain Meadows,

Mel: Yes.

GT:  Good thing for them.

Mel:  Well, they still met up again. John says that he was very opposed to the plans to wipe out the train.

GT:  So he was aware of these plans?

Mel:  Early on [he was aware]. He was part of the men that were called out.

GT:  So part of the Nauvoo Legion?

Mel:  Well, it wasn’t the Legion, though they were Legion members. Notice the units were not called out. They were called out by priesthood relationship, and family relationships. Look at the number of brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins, that are among those 50 men. You don’t have a pattern, a militia organization. You have a pattern of family and relationships, and that makes sense.

Was his pistol used in this atrocious crime?

Mel:  Several Masonic Mormon scholars have suggested that John D. Lee gave Masonic signs and promises that the immigrants would be protected. Whatever. They were lured out and we have all read the stories of the massacre. The only small thing other than John Hawley’s story that I’ve come up with would have been…

GT:  Because you said the John Hawley was involved in the planning?

Mel:  No, no, not at all. Let me finish this, then we’ll go to John Hawley. Medical forensics work showed that there were a number of pistol holes in the skeletons and skulls of men, women and children. The only two revolvers that I can find in the Iron County Militia Musters: men who owned revolvers that were thought to be at the killing fields was Indian missionary Ira Hatch and John Pierce Hawley.

Mel:  Now Hawley says that he did not approve. Hawley says he was not there. But his brother, George, was there. His brother, William, was there and at least one, if not both, actively participated.  Maybe George or William borrowed John’s pistol. I don’t know. But, also, there’s another possibility for those pistol shots. Maybe revolvers were removed from the possession of the immigrants and then used against them.  But, there’s indication that John could have been there. John D. Lee said John was there.

Historian Mel Johnson tells us that Hawley was a vocal critic of the crime.   Check out our conversation….

John P. Hawley was opposed to the Mountain Meadows Massacre, but was his pistol used in the crime?

Don’t miss our previous conversations!

278: Mormon Pioneers in Texas & End of Wightites

277: More on the Zodiac Temple in Texas

276: Lyman Wight & Mormon Colonies in Texas

275: Intro to Hawley

Posted on Leave a comment

Mormon Pioneers in Texas & End of Wightites (Part 4 of 8)

We’re continuing our conversation with Mel Johnson and we’ll finish out the Wightites settlement in Texas.  What happened to them?

Mel  49:24  After 1853 they take about a year to get down to their final colony place, down in Bandera, Texas, in Bandera County. It is West of San Antonio about 55 miles. Bandera is a typical Texas western town and county. The Frontier Times Museum is located there. I am the staff historian for the Frontier Times Museum. They have a good Mormon exhibit there and there they were for four years. That is where the colony finally dissolved, and more than half of the Wightites stayed in Bandera and their descendants are there today.

Mel  50:21  They became cattlemen, they became storekeepers, they became farmers. They owned lots and built houses in Bandera. Some are still there. An 1865 RLDS revival mission came to Bandera, Texas after the Civil War, and all of the Banderites supported the Confederacy, so did the Mormons, they were very militant, very anti-union.

GT  50:54  Because of states’ rights because the Mormons wanted to practice polygamy and they thought that was the…

Mel  50:59  And the government, the federal government had not protected them in Missouri or Illinois.

GT  51:04  Right.

Mel  51:06  And 40 of them were baptized into the RLDS church, and they had an active chapel there in Bandera for 120 years. For any of you watching and listening, I’m going to put in a plug for 2021 John Whitmer Historical Conference is going to be held in Fredericksburg, Texas. I am trying to get the leadership to organize tours down to Bandera and up to Burnet County into the cemetery.

GT  51:42  What’s the nearest airport to Fredericksburg?

Mel  51:44  San Antonio.

So there you have it!  Are you going to check out the JWHA meetings?  Check out our conversation….

Many of the Wightites joined the Reorganization.

Don’t miss our other episodes with Mel!

Melvin Johnson on Life of John Pierce Hawley

277: More on the Zodiak Temple in Texas

276: Lyman Wight & Mormon Colonies in Texas

275: Intro to Hawley