Unknown Three, 1868
On 5 May 1868, LDS missionary Henry Green Boyle from Payson, Utah, recorded the following in his journal:
“Today we baptised three negroes. After we baptised, we held a meeting. These negroes are the best in this county. They are the most respectable negroes here. We confirmed them at the water’s edge. I go to Thomas Henninger’s and stay all night.”1
According to the 1860 Census, Thomas Heninger lived in Eastern District, Tazewell County, Virginia. In 1870, Heninger was enumerated in Clear Fork Township of Tazewell County, so presumably the baptisms took place relatively close to Heniger’s home, perhaps at or near Clear Fork Township. Boyle's diary indicated that he was at Burke's Garden, an unicorporated community in an upland valley of Tazewell county, around the time of the baptism's. 2
Boyle did not record the names of the three “negroes” that he and his companion, Howard Knowlton Coray, from Provo, Utah, baptized and confirmed, nor did he specify who performed those rituals. Unfortunately, because there were so many people of African descent in Tazewell County, it is impossible to ascertain the names of the three proselytes. Boyle did not note their ages, gender, addresses, or any other information that could potentially identify the converts. LDS membership records are spotty at best for 1860s Virginia and do not exist for 5 May 1868, which only exacerbates the challenge of attempting to identify the three converts. Until further evidence comes to light, we identify the three black Mormons from Tazewell County as Unknown One, 1868; Unknown Two, 1868; and Unknown Three, 1868. Boyle baptized six more black people in 1869, who he similarly failed to identify.
By Joseph R. Stuart
Boyle, Henry Green, vol. 5, 1867-1868. MSS 156. L. Tom Perry Special Collections. Harold B. Lee Library. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
United States. 1860 Census. Virginia, Tazewell County, Eastern District.
United States. 1870 Census. Virginia, Tazewell County, Clear Fork.
Seferovich, Heather. “History of the LDS Southern States Mission, 1875-1898.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University—Provo, 1996.
2 United States.1860 Census. Virginia, Tazewell County, Eastern District; United States. 1870 Census. Virginia, Tazewell County, Clear Fork.
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