Yelnock, Mary Annie Wallace

Biography

Mary Annie Wallace Yelnock

Mary Annie Wallace Yelnock grew up in Texas in the decades following the Civil War when formerly enslaved people enjoyed their liberty but struggled to find economic freedom. Annie lost her husband and her son and eventually moved to Utah, perhaps looking for a fresh start. There she changed her name and converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although it is unclear if she found what she was looking for.

Annie, as she called herself as an adult, was born to David Wallace and Ozetta Jackady on June 1, 1867 in Texas.[1] When she was twenty years old she married Henry Conley, a farmer.[2] They lived in Cass County, on the eastern border of Texas, where Annie helped Henry on the farm and picked up jobs around town such as laundry and mending clothes. Two years into their marriage, Annie delivered their first child, a son, James. Their second child, Hosea, came two years later.[3]

At the beginning of the twentieth century Annie went through the first of several heartaches in her life. Henry died, which left her alone with two boys. After her husband’s death, she moved to Big Rock, Arkansas, and worked as a laundress in the community, but her work did not last.[4] By the time her son Hosea registered for the World War I draft in 1917, he indicated that she could not sustain herself and relied solely upon him for support, especially since James had moved to Phoenix.[5] In 1920, Annie experienced more heartache when Hosea passed away.[6]

With Hosea gone, Annie stayed in Arkansas for a short time but eventually moved to Salt Lake City to join her other son James.[7] Both James and Annie changed their names after arriving in Salt Lake City. Annie became Mary Annie Yelnock but went by Annie, and James became Sema Yelnock. It is not clear the reasons for the name changes but Yelnock was Conley spelled backwards with an added “k” at the end and Sema was James spelled backward, minus the “j”. Sema’s name change may have been calculated to promote a Native American identity, but Annie was consistently identified as Black in all surviving census records.

In Utah, Annie and Sema both converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints although it is unclear what prompted the change or what attracted Annie to the LDS message. Theodore M. Burton (future LDS general authority) baptized her on June 28, 1924 and John T. Williams confirmed her on July 6, 1924.[8] She and Sema attended the Fourth Ward in Salt Lake City for a short time before joining the Sixth-Seventh Ward, although she may have not participated in religious activities frequently. Her church records show a pattern of moving to a ward, not being located, and then church clerks moving her records to the Presiding Bishop’s Office at LDS headquarters. The pattern occurred in the Sixth-Seventh Ward and later in the Fourteenth Ward but that is where Annie’s membership trail ends.[9]

Annie lived with Sema in Salt Lake City until at least 1929.[10] No death record or other evidence of her whereabouts after that has been found.

By Adam Hock

Primary Sources

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Record of Members Collection. Fourth Ward. CR 375 8, Box 2295, Folder 2, Image 87. Church History Library. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Record of Members Collection. Fourteenth Ward. CR 375 8, Box 2292, Folder 4, Image 280. Church History Library. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Salt Lake City Directory. (Salt Lake City, Utah: R.L. Polk & Co., 1929).

Texas. Cass County. Marriages, 1837-1977, HC Conley and Mollie Wallace, 28 Dec. 1887.

United States. 1900 Census. Texas, Cass County, Justices’ Precinct.

United States. 1910 Census. Arkansas, Pulaski County, Big Rock Township.

United States. 1920 Census. Arkansas, Pulaski County, Big Rock Township.

United States. Arkansas, Fort Smith. Veterans Administration Master Index, 1917-1940. National Archives and Records Administration. Washington D.C.

United States. Arkansas, Fort Smith. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Hosea Conley. National Archives and Records Administration. Washington D.C.

“Yelnock.” Presiding Bishopric stake and mission census, 1914-1935. CR 4 311. Church History Library. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah.


[1] “Yelnock,” Presiding Bishopric stake and mission census, 1914-1935, CR 4 311, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[2] Texas, Cass County, Marriages, 1837-1977, HC Conley and Mollie Wallace, 28 December 1887.

[3] United States, 1900 Census, Texas, Cass County, Justices’ Precinct.

[4] United States, 1910 Census, Arkansas, Pulaski County, Big Rock Township.

[5] United States, Arkansas, Fort Smith, World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-19, Hosea Conley, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.

[6] United States, Arkansas, Fort Smith, Veterans Administration Master Index, 1917-1940, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.

[7] United States, 1920 Census, Arkansas, Pulaski County, Big Rock Township.

[8] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Record of Members Collection, Fourth Ward, CR 375 8, Box 2295, Folder 2, Image 87, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[9] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Record of Members Collection, Fourteenth Ward, CR 375 8, Box 2292, Folder 4, Image 280, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; “Yelnock.” Presiding Bishopric stake and mission census, 1914-1935, CR 4 311, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[10] “Yelnoch, Mary A.,” Salt Lake City Directory, (Salt Lake City, Utah: R.L. Polk & Co., 1929), 1075.

Documents

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