Before Jane James–another African American Mormon Found

I read historians’ work, and sometimes I go through microfilm to find answers to my questions. I am not the kind of historian Connell O’Donovan is, though. He is relentless and generous. I am posting his discovery with his permission, since he won’t be writing about this woman yet. For historians, this might present new research possibilities.

From Connell: “I don’t know her name yet but she was the wife of (non-Mormon) Samuel Francis/Frances of Haight (now New Hudson), Allegany Co. NY – just south of Buffalo. Last night I was reading Stephen Post’s missionary journal for 1836 (attached) and found a passage in which he referred to spending the night at the home of Mr. Francis, “whose wife belongs to our church” and then adds “they were coloured people.” I then found Samuel Francis, a free man of color, listed in the 1820, 1830, and 1840 censuses of Allegany Co. NY, along with their large family of at least 7 children. Since Stephen Post’s journal entry is dated September 23, 1836, Mrs. Francis was baptized prior to that date. I think that makes her the earliest known African American Mormon woman!”

Merry Christmas, historian friends. Have at it!

About Margaret Blair Young

Margaret Blair Young teaches literature and creative writing at Brigham Young University. For the past fifteen years, she has specialized in the history of blacks in the west, particularly black Mormons. She has written six novels and two short story collections, but has lately become interested in filmmaking. Her current endeavor is a film to be shot in Zambia called Heart of Africa (