Provis, Johanna Dorothea Louisa Langeveld

Biography

Johanna Dorthea Louisa Langeveld Provis

Johanna Dorothea Louisa Langeveld Provis was born on 7 May 1825 in Wynberg, Cape Province, South Africa. Provis was the daughter of Wilhemus Johannes Langeveld and Wilhelmina Geertruyda Barchfeld, also natives of South Africa who were Afrikaners, an ethnic group who descended primarily from Dutch settlers in the 17th and 18th century but who also mixed with people who were brought to South Africa as slaves or with local Kohe-San groups. In Johanna’s case, her great-great grandfather, Robert Schot, was a “wealthy free black” in South Africa. Johanna nevertheless seems to have principally been known as white.[1] In fact, except for the 1880 U.S. census, public records described Johanna as white. Her mixed racial heritage did not prove a barrier to full participation as a Latter-day Saint, including temple admission. Johanna and her descendants thus demonstrate the impossibility of policing racial boundaries.

 On 1 November 1851, Johanna married Richard Samuel Provis of Cornwall, England, who had immigrated to South Africa in May 1849.[2] Both 28 years old, Richard and Johanna converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 5 July 1853, baptized by William Holmes Walker.[3] Walker, along with Jesse Haven and Leonard I. Smith, comprised a trio of missionaries who left the Salt Lake Valley in September 1852 to establish the first LDS presence on the African continent.[4] They traveled across the continental United States, sailed to Liverpool, England, spent five weeks in England, and arrived in Cape Town on the Domitia on 18 April 1853.[5] Although the elders achieved some success in the Cape of Good Hope Mission, their experiences were mixed and they often received a hostile reception from both the English population, who belonged to the Church of England, and the Afrikaners, who were members of the Dutch Reformed Church. 

The Provises were two of the forty-five converts the elders baptized in their first six months. Missionary Jesse Haven described two converts, Raichel Hanable and Sarah Hariss, as “colored women,” a South African racial category which signified people who were of mixed racial ancestry. No mention was made of a racial category in relation to Johanna which might have meant that the missionaries understood her to be white.[6]

In his journal, Walker did not refer to the Provises by name upon their baptism but stated that on Tuesday, 5 July 1853 “I held an meeting [and] as their was no other, I ocupied the time; after meeting I Baptised four; W[ednesday] I visited thos that had been Baptised.” The following day, on 7 July, Walker’s companion, Jesse Haven, confirmed Johanna and she became Haven’s only Afrikaner convert during his mission.[7] In order to overcome the language barrier between the elders and the Afrikaners, Johanna taught Haven Afrikaans.[8] Johanna’s husband, Richard Provis, also appears to have been a helpful and enthusiastic convert as both Walker and Haven mentioned his participation and hospitality in their journals. Walker noted that Richard helped distribute tracts, was ordained a deacon, and that he and Johanna hosted him for breakfast and supper.[9] 

Richard even joined Haven on a preaching excursion to other locations. Haven described the journey with Richard to Praal, Malmesbury, and D’Urban (Durbanville) to preach to the Afrikaners.[10] Leaving on 16 February 1855, Haven and Provis traveled from Mowbray to the village of Praal, about 42 miles northeast. “I and bro Provis walked down to the river about sunrise and washed,” Haven recorded. “We found that most of the village conversed in Dutch and could not understand English. Therefore as we wished to go to a place called Malmesbury . . . we thought we had better start for that place. . . . We walked till little after sunset and stopped at a Dutch farmers where we were treated as though we had been black boys.” The following morning Haven and Provis visited Johanna’s father and “We were kindly received and well treated.” After ten days, Haven and Provis returned to the Cape Town area after experiencing a mixed reception among potential converts.[11]

By the end of November 1855, Walker left South Africa to return to Utah Territory.[12] Five years later, the Provises, who had a young daughter, Grace, left for Boston on the Alacrity and subsequently traveled overland to Salt Lake City. On 6 January 1861, Richard and Johanna were rebaptized in the Thirteenth Ward as a symbol of their recommitment to the Mormon cause. Jesse Haven performed the baptism and Thirteenth Ward bishop, Edwin D. Woolley re-confirmed them.[13]

Within a month of their rebaptisms, the Provises moved to the Salt Lake First Ward and remained at the same address, 627 S. 600 E., for the rest of their lives. It was there that Johanna and Richard raised their family and participated in the ward as devout Latter-day Saints. Sadly, only two of Richard and Johanna’s seven children survived past infancy.[14] Grace was born in South Africa four months before Johanna’s baptism and Annie was born in Salt Lake City in 1864. First ward records indicate that both girls were baptized there and that Richard was ordained a Seventy in the LDS lay priesthood. Richard and Johanna were again re-baptized and re-confirmed in 1875, evidence of their ongoing commitment to Mormonism.[15] Johanna also contributed to various First Ward Relief Society funds. From 1870 through 1881, her donations included rags, tape, a contribution to a fund for Eliza Snow, bars of soap, and eggs.[16]

There is no indication that First Ward members understood Johanna to be anything other than white and thus acceptance as a member of the congregation may not have been an issue. Johanna, moreover, received her endowment ritual and was sealed to Richard in the Endowment House (a temporary structure built to accommodate temple rituals while the Salt Lake Temple was under construction) on 20 April 1861, with no hint of concern over her racial identity.

The listing of Johanna and her daughter Annie as “mulatto” in the 1880 census is the only indication of her mixed-racial heritage. There is no indication as to how or why the census taker came to identify Johanna and Annie as “mulatto” in 1880. Johanna’s black lineage came through her great-great grandfather, Robert Schot (1700-1742), who is mentioned as a “wealthy free black” in histories of the Cape of Good Hope.[17] Schot died well before Johanna was born and it is unclear how much she knew about him or his racial identity. Even still, what is known of Johanna’s ancestry appears to fit the pattern among Afrikaners in the 21st century. A 2019 study of 77 Afrikaner individuals revealed that “the majority of Afrikaner ancestry (average 95.3%) came from European populations” but “almost all Afrikaners had admixture from non-Europeans (Africans and Asians).”[18] Johanna was likely similar in that the majority of her ancestry was European but also included ancestors from Africa. Other than the 1880 census, Johanna and Annie were listed as white in the 1870 and 1900 censuses and in the Salt Lake City death record for Johanna and the State of Utah death certificate for Annie.[19]

A number of sources indicate that the Provises struggled financially. City directories from 1867 listed Richard’s occupation as farmer until 1879, gardener from 1883 until 1892, when no occupation was listed. Oddly enough, in 1896 Richard was listed as a fireman, improbable considering he would have been 71. Richard continued to be sporadically listed as a gardener from 1898 until 1899 and then no occupation was included with his name. In 1883, Annie, who continued to live at home with her parents, started to have her own name mentioned as a working woman (a milliner) but began to be listed as a boarder in 1891. By 1894 the city directory listed Annie’s name as primary and Richard’s as secondary. Annie’s occupation varied from millinery to clerking.[20] In both the 1870 and 1880 censuses, Richard was listed as a laborer and Johanna as “keeps house.” Richard was noted as having “a liver complaint” in the 1880 census and his occupation in the 1900 census as “brickmaker.”[21] In the fall of 1891, Richard lodged a complaint with the Salt Lake City Board of Equalization, prevailing in a request for a reduction of $5.00 in taxes due to illness.[22]

Even still, it is difficult to ascertain the nuances of the Provis household. In the 1900 census, only three months before Johanna died, the enumerator noted that the Provises owned their home.[23] Perhaps their circumstances had improved from the beginning of the 1890s or maybe it had always been a struggle to simply hold on to their home. On 17 September 1900, Johanna died at home. The cause of death in the newspaper was noted as “paralysis;” the Salt Lake City vital records listed it as “hemiplegia,” a complicated word for paralysis, possibly caused by a stroke. Johanna’s obituary invited friends to attend a service in the assembly rooms of the First Ward, after which she was laid to rest in the Salt Lake City cemetery.[24] On 2 August 1907, Richard died at age 82 of “general debility.” His funeral was also held at the First Ward two days after his death and then he was buried next to Johanna.[25]

By Elizabeth Giraud

Primary Sources

“But Few Reductions.” Salt Lake Herald. 3 September 1891, 8.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Record of Members Collection. Cape Conference. CR 375 8, box 6498, folder 1, image 12. Church History Library. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, First Ward, Park Stake. First Ward Relief Society minutes and records, 1870-1973. LR 2871, 13 and 14. Church History Library. Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Record of Members Collection. Salt Lake Thirteenth Ward. Microfilm 4,792. Family History Library. Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Record of Members Collection. Salt Lake First Ward. Microfilm 26,637. Family History Library. Salt Lake City, Utah.

“Died.” Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, Utah).18 September 1900. 

“Died.” Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, Utah). 3 August 1907. 

“Equalizing City Taxes.” Salt Lake Tribune. 4 September 1891.

Haven, Jesse. Missionary Journal, 1852-1892; 1853 December-1855 February. MS 890. Church History Library. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Missionary Journals of William Holmes Walker: Cape of Good Hope South Africa Mission, 1852-1855, ed. Ellen Dee Walker Leavitt. Provo, UT: John Walker Family Organization, 2003.

Polk directories. Salt Lake City, 1867 to 1907. 

Record of Deaths in Salt Lake City. Death Record Search, 1847-1849. ImageName: 004139834_00263 for Johanna(h) D. Provis. Salt Lake County Archives, West Valley City, Utah, p. 129, line 4893.

United States. 1870 Census. Utah Territory, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, 1st Ward. 

United States. 1880 Census. Utah Territory, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, 10th and 1st Ward. 

United States. 1900 Census. Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Precinct 3.

Utah. State Board of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics. Certificates of Death. State Department of Health. Series 81448. Annie Lewis Burrows. Utah State Archives. Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Utah. State Board of Health. Office of Vital Records and Statistics. Certificates of Death. Utah. State Department of Health. Series 81448. Richard Provis. Utah State Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Secondary Sources

Buckley, Jay H., “’Good News’ at the Cape of Good Hope: Early LDS Missionary Activities in South Africa,” in Go Ye into All the World: The Growth and Development of Mormon Missionary Work, ed. Reid L. Nielson and Fred E. Woods (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, 2012), 471-502.

De Villiers, C.C. and Pama, C. Geslagsregisters Van Die Ou Kaapse Families. Genealogies of Old South African Families. Vol. 2. Kaapstad and Amsterdam: A.A. Balkema: Kaapstad and Amsterdam, 1966. 

Esshom, Frank. Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah. Salt Lake City, Utah: Utah Pioneers Book Publishing Company, 1913.

Holfelder, N. and JC Erasmus, R Hammaren, M Vicente, M Jakobsson, JM Greeff, CM Schlebusch. “Patterns of African and Asian admixture in the Afrikaner population of South Africa.” bioRxiv 542761; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/542761 .

Provis, Johanna D. L. FindAGrave.com.

Provis, Richard S. FindAGrave.com.

Shell, Robert C. H. Children of Bondage: A Social History of the Slave Society at the Cape of Good Hope, 1652-1838. Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 1994.


[1] Robert C. H. Shell, Children of Bondage: A Social History of the Slave Society at the Cape of Good Hope, 1652-1838 (Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 1994), 109.

[2] Frank Esshom, Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Utah Pioneers Book Publishing Company, 1913), 1116-1117.

[3] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Record of Members Collection, Salt Lake First Ward, Microfilm 26,637, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. See also Richard Samuel Provis (KWVM-MQV) at familysearch.org and Johanna Louisa Dorothea Langeveld (KWJV-865) at familysearch.org, accessed 30 January 2020.

[4] Jay H. Buckley, “‘Good News’ at the Cape of Good Hope: Early LDS Missionary Activities in South Africa,” in Go Ye into All the World: The Growth and Development of Mormon Missionary Work, ed. Reid L. Nielson and Fred E. Woods (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, 2012), 3.

[5] Buckley, “‘Good News,’” 5.

[6] Jesse Haven, Journals, 1852-1892, 2 August 1853, MS 890, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[7] Missionary Journals of William Holmes Walker: Cape of Good Hope South Africa Mission, 1852-1855, ed. Ellen Dee Walker Leavitt (Provo, UT: John Walker Family Organization, 2003), 32. For Richard and Johanna’s baptismal records see Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Record of Members Collection, Cape Conference, CR 375 8, box 6498, folder 1, image 12, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[8] Buckley, “‘Good News,’” 8.

[9] Missionary Journals of William Holmes Walker, 13 September 1853, 45; 13 October 1853, 49; 28 October 1853, 50.

[10] Buckley, “‘Good News,’” 8.

[11] Jesse Haven, Missionary Journal, 1852-1892; 1853 December-1855 February, MS 890, 280-285, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. 

[12] Missionary Journals of William Holmes Walker, v. 

[13] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Record of Members Collection, Salt Lake Thirteenth Ward, Microfilm 4,792, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. 

[14] Richard Samuel Provis (KWVM-MQV) at familysearch.org and Johanna Louisa Dorothea Langeveld (KWJV-865) at familysearch.org, accessed 30 January 2020..

[15] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Record of Members Collection, Salt Lake First Ward, Microfilm 26,637, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

[16] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, First Ward, Park Stake, First Ward Relief Society minutes and records, 1870-1973, LR 2871, 13 and 14, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. Johanna contributed the following: 2.25 lbs. of rags, worth 12.5 cents on 4 August1870; tape, worth 20 cents on 2 March 1871; 25 cents for Eliza Snow’s fund in 1872; bars of soap on 3 December 1874 and 4 May 1896; and 20 cents worth of eggs in 1880. 

[17] Shell, Children of Bondage, 109; A.M. van Rensburg, My Genetic Enrichment: Slaves at the Cape, South Africa. See also C.C. De Villiers, and C. Pama, C. Geslagsregisters Van Die Ou Kaapse Families. [Genealogies of Old South African Families]. Vol. 2. (A.A. Balkema: Kaapstad and Amsterdam, 1966), 462-462.

[18] N Holfelder, JC Erasmus, R Hammaren, M Vicente, M Jakobsson, JM Greeff, and CM Schlebusch, “Patterns of African and Asian admixture in the Afrikaner population of South Africa,” bioRxiv 542761; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/542761 .

[19] United States, 1870 Census, Utah Territory, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, 1st Ward; United States, 1880 Census, Utah Territory, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, 10th and 1st Wards; United States, 1900 Census, Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Precinct 3; Record of Deaths in Salt Lake City, Death Record Search, 1847-1849, ImageName: 004139834_00263 for Johanna(h) D. Provis, Salt Lake County Archives, West Valley City, Utah, p. 129, line 4893. Utah State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Certificates of Death, State Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Series 81448, Annie Lewis Burrows, Utah State Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[20] Polk directories, Salt Lake City, 1867 to 1907. 

[21] United States, 1870, 1880, 1900 Censuses.

[22] “But Few Reductions,” Salt Lake Herald, 3 September 1891, 8; “Equalizing City Taxes,” Salt Lake Tribune, 4 September 1891, 5.

[23] United States, 1900 Census.

[24] “Died,” Salt Lake Herald Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah), 18 September 1900, 8. Also, Records of Death in Salt Lake City for Provis, Johannah [sic] D; Johanah D. L. Provis, FindAGrave.com.

[25]”Died,” Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, Utah), 3 August 1907, 11. Also Certificate of Death for William S. Provis, Utah State Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah. Richard L Provis, FindAGrave.com.

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