While most of the LDS converts were from the northeast, the midwest and from England, there were others from Mississippi and other southern states. One who made the trek to Nauvoo was Mary McRee Black (left, ca. 1898) of Copiah County, Mississippi. Born in 1819, Mary married George Black, also from Copiah County, and in 1841 they joined the Mormon Church. Mary's father was opposed to her conversion, and she was essentially disowned because he believed she was "being led astray by the devil." Ostracized by their families and others in Copiah County, George and Mary Black, with few possessions, left Mississippi and went to Nauvoo in 1843.
The Mormon settlement at Nauvoo would not last much longer. Threatened by increasing hostility from their non-Mormon neighbors, Brigham Young and most of the Saints moved further west, abandoning Nauvoo in 1846. The temple, never fully completed, later burned. A new temple on the same site has been constructed in recent years by the LDS Church. Migrating west with the other Saints, Mary and George Black, Jr., her only surviving child, made it to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Here, she married Captain James Brown (left), who had earlier been encouraged by church leaders to marry the young widow. At Council Bluffs, Mary, along with her new husband and her son, joined the Mormon Battalion, a unit of approximately 550 men enlisted in the U.S. Army for service in the Mexican War.
With regular army regimental staff, including the likes of future Civil War generals George Stoneman and Philip St. George Cooke, the Mormon Battalion marched some 2,000 miles across the western mountains and the hostile desert in service to the U.S. government, despite repeatedly being driven west because of their beliefs. Although the only "battle" was with a herd of wild bulls in Arizona, the battalion did much to open the west for future expansion, completing their journey in San Diego, California. The Mormon Battalion is the only religious-based unit ever organized in the U.S. military. Mary Black Brown served as a laundress with the unit until arriving at Pueblo, Colorado, where she and Captain Brown led a group of sick men to Salt Lake City, arriving on July 29, 1847. At Salt Lake, she and her husband were greeted by Brigham Young himself (left).
In Utah, Mary wrote whole new chapters in an already extraordinary life. Among her accomplishments, she helped carve new settlements from the hostile wilderness in the Ogden, Utah, area, and managed to raise five more children. In her later years, she proudly attended reunions of the Mormon Battalion and was treated as one of the veterans. Mary Black Brown, after much trial and tribulation, lived to the ripe old age of 86, passing away in 1907. She is buried beside her second husband in Ogden. Her oldest son, George Black, Jr., survived her by only a few years. He died in 1912 after being injured in a wagon accident.
This flag is believed to be the flag raised by the Mormon Battalion on arrival in San Diego. The eagle in the upper left of the flag was painted over a beehive, indicating the flag had previously been used by the Nauvoo Legion, a Mormon defense force commanded by Joseph Smith.
(1) Joseph Smith: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith
(2) Mary Black Brown: http://www.orsonprattbrown.com/CJB/06McRee/06mary-mcree-br.html
(3) Nauvoo Temple: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauvoo_Temple
(4) Captain Brown: http://www.brownhistory.org/zCJBphotos.htm
(5) Brigham Young: http://mormonchannel.org/legacy/20
(6) Flag: http://mormonchannel.org/legacy/20
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