Flake, Green

Biography

Green Flake Headstone

Green Flake was born into slavery on January 6, 1828, on the William Jordan Flake plantation in Lilesville, Anson County, North Carolina.[1] William Jordan Flake’s son, James Madison Flake, inherited Green sometime in the 1840s and moved to Mississippi. It was there that missionary Benjamin Clapp introduced James and his wife Agnes Love Flake to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Later, missionary John Brown baptized Green on April 7, 1844, and described it this way in his diary: “ordained two elders . . . brother James M. Flake & Washing[ton] N. Cook. I also baptized two black men, Allen & Green, belonging to Brother Flake.”[2]

Green moved with his enslavers to Nauvoo, Illinois, where some reports say he was acquainted with Joseph Smith. If so, it would have been a short acquaintance given that Smith was murdered on 27 June 1844, less than three months after Green was baptized in Mississippi. At Winter Quarters following the Mormon expulsion from Nauvoo, Green lived in the seventh ward next to fellow slave John Burton.[3] 

James Flake sent Green to accompany Brigham Young to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Green, along with two other enslaved me, Oscar Crosby and Hark Lay, arrived in the valley on July 22 as members of the advance party. The three enslaved men were tasked with building homes and planting crops for their enslavers who would arrive the following year. Some belated rememberances suggest that Green drove the first Latter-day Saint wagon into the valley. He certainly was among the initial group of fourty-two men and twenty-three wagons to arrive in the valley. That party camped near present-day 1700 South and 500 East on the night of July 22. They then moved north to somewhere between present-day 300 and 400 South and Main and State streets where they diverted water and Green was already planting crops by the time Brigham Young arrived on July 24.[4]

As was typical in the nineteenth century, many Latter-day Saints were rebaptized into the faith after their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley as a sign of their recommitment to the Latter-day Saint cause and their rebirth in Christ. Green Flake was no different. Fellow Latter-day Saint Tarleton Tours rebaptized him on 8 August 1847, as a symbol of his ongoing devotion to the faith.[5] 

After arrival, Green built a cabin for James Flake and his family who arrived the following year. Green received his freedom in the 1850s, after which he married Martha Ann Morris (probably in 1852) who had arrived in Utah Territory enslaved to John H. and Nancy Crosby Bankhead. In 1856, Green and Martha moved to Union near the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, where Green owned a farm and worked as a day laborer. Many of his economic pursuits involved mining claims in Big Cottonwood Canyon.[6] 

Green was celebrated throughout his life as a member of the first pioneer company to enter the Salt Lake Valley.[7] At least nineteen news articles mention his name in relation to the 1847 Mormon pioneer trek to the Salt Lake Valley. At the 1897 celebration a reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune described the aged pioneer this way: “Green is a vigorous, broad-shouldered, good-natured, bright old gentleman, long a resident of Salt Lake County, but now living at John Gray’s Lake, Idaho. He wears glasses, but that is the only sign of old age about him. His voice might do for a trumpet, and he steps off like a West Pointer when he walks.”[8]

Martha and Green had two children, Lucinda and Abraham, both of whom also joined the LDS Church. In 1896, eleven years after the death of Martha, Green moved to Gray’s Lake, Idaho, with his son Abraham. He died on October 20, 1903 in Idaho Falls. Following his funeral his body was returned to Utah so that Green could be burried in the Union Cemetery next to his beloved Martha. They were both laid to rest under the headstone Green had carved for Martha, etched with the words, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” As a testament to Green’s notoriety, the Deseret Evening News, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Salt Lake Herald, and the Ogden Standard all published notices of his passing. The Deseret News ran the story on its front page. It announced that "Green Flake Passes Away," and added that the "Pioneer Colored Man Died at the home of his Son in Idaho Falls." The Tribune, more solemly declared, "Green Flake is no More." It also noted that "the deceased always remained a firm believer in the Mormon faith."[9]

By Benjamin Kiser

Primary Sources

Newspapers

“Ceremonies at Monument,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 25, 1900.

“Died,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 23, 1903.

“Died,” Salt Lake Herald, October 23, 1903.

“Dr. Faust’s Ideas for the Carnival,” Salt Lake Herald, May 28, 1896.

“Echoes of the 24th,” Salt Lake Herald, July 26, 1893.

“Fifty Years Ago Today,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 31, 1897.

“Fifty Years Ago Today,” Salt Lake Tribune, April 15, 1897.

“Fifty Years Ago Today,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 13, 1897.

“Green Flake is No More,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 23, 1903.

“Green Flake Passes Away,” Deseret Evening News, October 22, 1903.

“Idaho…,” Union, August 7, 1897.

“Locals,” Round Up, July 30, 1897.

“Mining Notices,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1876.

“Mining Notices,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 28, 1876.

“News of the State,” Ogden Standard, October 23, 1903.

“Only 8 Survivors of the Party of 163 That Settled Salt Lake in 1847,” Salt Lake Telegram, July 3, 1902.

“Pioneers,” Salt Lake Herald, July 3, 1880.

“Real Estate Transfers,” Salt Lake Herald, April 1, 1893.

“Real Estate Transfers,” Salt Lake Herald, August 28, 1895.

“Real Estate Transfers,” Salt Lake Herald, December 2, 1893.

“Real Estate Transfers,” Salt Lake Herald, July 29, 1897.

“Salt Lake News,” Ogden Standard, August 21, 1894.

“Some Jubilee Visitors,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 26, 1897.

“The Days of Forty-seven,” Salt Lake Tribune, August 21, 1894.

“The Irish Americans,” Salt Lake Herald, August 16, 1894.

“The Opening Day of the Jubilee,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 20, 1897.

“The Pioneer Company,” Utah Enquirer, August 3, 1888.

“The Pioneers of 1847,” Deseret Weekly, August 25, 1894.

“The Twenty-fourth at Union,” Deseret News, August 1, 1888.

“The Utah Pioneers,” Deseret Evening News, July 24, 1897.

“The Veterans’ Reunion,” Salt Lake Herald, August 21, 1894.

Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel Database

Bullock, Thomas. Journals 1843-1849, vol. 4. Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Clayton, William. Diary, 1847 January-December. Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Egan, Howard. Pioneering the West, 1846 to 1878, ed. and comp. William M. Egan [1917] 21-105. Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Flake, Green. Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Flake, Green. Reminiscences, in Utah Semi-Centennial Commission, The book of the pioneers [ca. 1897]. Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Lyman, Amasa Mason. Diary, reel 1, vol. 8, 1-26 and 1-10, written by Albert Carrington. In Amasa Mason Lyman, Collection 1832-1877. Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Rockwood, Albert Perry. Diary, 1847 April-July. Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Archival Sources

Joseph Lee Robinson Papers. MS 7042, Records, 1846-1847, Reel 1, Folder 4. Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Madsen, Steven K. Collection on Blacks in Utah. Accn 689, Box 1, Folder 1, and “Union, Utah Territory,” Box 1, Folder 2. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.

United States, Census, 1860. Union, Salt Lake County, Utah Territory.

United States, Census, 1870. Union, Salt Lake County, Utah Territory.

United States, Census, 1880. Union, Salt Lake County, Utah Territory.

United States, Census, 1900. Gray’s Lake, Bingham County, Idaho.

Secondary Sources

Dixon, W. Randall. “From Emigration Canyon to City Creek: Pioneer Trail and Campsites in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.” Utah Historical Quarterly 65, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 155–64.

Madsen, Steven K. A Union, Utah History (Union, Utah: Jordan Valley Sentinel, 1981), 46-58.

Stapley, Jonathan A. and Amy Thiriot. “‘In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions:’ Green Flake’s Legacy of Faith.” Church History, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


[1] Flake, Green, Reminiscences, in Utah Semi-Centennial Commission, The book of the pioneers [ca. 1897].,” Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accessed December 10, 2017, .

[2] John Brown, Reminiscences and Journals, April 3-7, 1844, 27, microfilm of holograph, MS 1636, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[3] Joseph Lee Robinson Papers, MS 7042, Records, 1846-1847, Reel 1, Folder 4, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[4] “Fifty Years Ago Today,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 31, 1897, 1; “More Pioneers,” Deseret News, July 19, 1897, 2; “Green Flake,” Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; W. Randall Dixon, “From Emigration Canyon to City Creek: Pioneer Trail and Campsites in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847,” Utah Historical Quarterly 65, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 155–64.

[5] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Record of Members Collection, Salt Lake Stake, Part 1, CR 375 8, box 6109, folder 1, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[6] “Mining Notices,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1876; “Mining Notices,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 28, 1876.

[7] “Only 8 Survivors of the Party of 163 That Settled Salt Lake in 1847,” Salt Lake Telegram, July 3, 1902; “Pioneers,” Salt Lake Herald, July 3, 1880; “The Twenty-fourth at Union,” Deseret News, August 1, 1888; “The Pioneer Company,” Utah Enquirer, August 3, 1888; “The Veterans’ Reunion,” Salt Lake Herald, August 21, 1894; “The Days of Forty-seven,” Salt Lake Tribune, August 21, 1894.

[8] “The Opening Day of the Jubilee,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 20, 1897, 1.

[9] “Green Flake Passes Away,” Deseret Evening News, October 22, 1903; “Green Flake is No More.,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 23, 1903; “Died,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 23, 1903; “News of the State,” Ogden Standard, October 23, 1903; “Died.,” Salt Lake Herald, October 23, 1903.

Documents

Click the index tab in the viewer above to view all primary source documents available for this person.

Prev Next