Unknown Five, 1869
On 19 April 1869, LDS missionary Henry Green Boyle from Payson, Utah, recorded in his journal ten baptisms which took place in southern Virginia:
“Held a meeting today on the banks of Station Creek where I baptized Araminta Jane Hall, Mary Virginia Clark, Harold Peery Heninger, Jemima Hanshaw and six collered folks or negroes, ten in all.”
Boyle listed the full names of his white converts, including middle names, but merely lumped together his six Black proselytes as “collered folks or negroes.” The discrepancy between the way he identified his white converts versus his Black converts was stark. He had previously baptized three Black people in 1868 and did not record their names either. The one exception for Boyle came two months later when he baptized Mary Ann Brower, just across the Virginia/North Carolina border. She was an African American convert who he specified by name, but ironically did not identify racially. When new missionaries returned to the region in the 1880s they located Brower who told them that Boyle had baptized her in 1869 and those missionaries scrawled “colored” next to her name on the membership record they created.
The six Black Latter-day Saints that Boyle baptized in April 1869, however, remain unidentified. Station Spring Creek, where Boyle performed the baptisms, is a small mountain top stream roughly four miles from Burke’s Garden, an unincorporated community in rural Tazewell County, Virginia. It is a remote area along the Virginia/North Carolina border, the same region where Boyle grew up and lived before joining the Latter-day Saints. Boyle left Virginia by the end of 1869 and took with him those converts who were willing to migrate to Utah Territory. Those who remained behind were left on their own for worship and organizational structure. When missionaries returned to the area in the 1880s the records they created do not offer clues as to the identities of the six Black people Boyle baptized nor do they indicate that the new missionaries were aware of Boyle’s six baptisms over a decade earlier.
Unfortunately, because there were so many people of African descent in Tazewell County, it is impossible to ascertain the names of the six proselytes. Boyle did not note their ages, gender, addresses, or any other information that could potentially identify the converts. LDS membership records do not exist for Virginia in the 1860s, which only intensifies the challenge of attempting to identify the six converts. Unless further evidence comes to light, we identify the six Black Latter-day Saints baptized in Tazewell County in 1869 as Unknown One, 1869; Unknown Two, 1869; Unknown Three, 1869; Unknown Four, 1869; Unknown Five, 1869, and Unknown Six, 1869.
By W. Paul Reeve
Boyle, Henry Green, Diary, vol. 6, 1869. MSS 156. L. Tom Perry Special Collections. Harold B. Lee Library. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Record of Members Collection. North Carolina Conference. CR 375 8, box 4727, folder 1, image 115. Church History Library. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah.
Seferovich, Heather. “History of the LDS Southern States Mission, 1875-1898.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University—Provo, 1996.
 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Record of Members Collection, North Carolina Conference, CR 375 8, box 4727, folder 1, image 115, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
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