Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Virginia Race Records, Mormon Priesthood, and Indian Identity

Ruth Knight Bailey

                     Indians in Virginia’s Racial Records, 1670-1963

In the year 1670 , the English colony of
Virginia decided to classify American Indians as free people of color.
1. Later, in 1705, a colonial law stated that descendants of any Indian "should be deemed, accounted, held and taken to be mulatto." 2 By 1793, Virginia required all free colored people to register with the state or else be sold into slavery or jailed. The remoteness of the Blue Ridge Mountains, however, made it possible for some people to be unaware of the registration requirements or to avoid visits from the sheriff. 3 Nonetheless, in the 1830s, some Indians in Amherst County voluntarily registered as "free issue negroes" to avoid removal westward into Indian Territory.4. Because of growing concerns about runaway slaves and a law that required local sheriffs to list all free colored people, involuntary registrations increased in the 1850s. Nevertheless, by the end of the War Between the States in 1865, only a third of Amherst County residents whowere required to register actually had done so.5. Most Anglos in the eastern United States had long preferred that Indians live somewhere else. Thus it is not surprising that Amherst Indians tended to keep their ancestry private by blending into the mountain cultures where they lived, whether or not
they ever registered as free issues. 6. Although Northern abolitionists
harshly criticized Southern slavery before slaves were freed in the years 1863-65, most Northern free states had also passed comprehensive segregation laws well before 1860.7 In contrast, Southern slave owners had Incendiary pamplet denouncing
the "racially mixed" marriage of Atha Sorrels, of Rockbridge County.
(special collections, university of Virginia library)
Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 203
The office then encouraged and assisted local governments in locating
communities in which "defectives" might be "breeding." 13
The 1880 Virginia census listed all Amherst County Indians who had
registered as "free issues" before 1865 as "M," mulattoes, or "B," black,14. but in the 1900 Census, all of the Amherst "M" notations inexplicably
turned into "B." 15 By the turn of the twentieth century, most Virginiansthought Indians no longer existed in the Commonwealth.1 6
In 1912, Dr. Walter Plecker became
Virginia’s registrar of vital statistics.
With his assistance and the advice of some prestigious eugenicists,17
prominent Virginians 18 successfully lobbied the Virginia General Assemblyto pass the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which required all Virginians
to register according to race: "Caucasian, Negro, Mongolian, American
Indian, Asiatic Indian, Malay, or any mixture thereof, or any other non-
Caucasian strain." 19 It strictly prohibited whites from marrying people ofany blood other than Caucasian.
Influential so-called First Families of
Virginia, FFVs, some of which
claimed Princess Pocahontas as a distant ancestor, successfully lobbied to
include the exception 20 for those who were less than one-sixteenth American Indian. 21 Plecker determined that any Virginian with Indian bloodwas really a "mixed-blood Negro" unless a Pocahontas exception could
be proved — proof that was practically impossible for anybody other than
FFVs. Furthermore, Plecker deemed any "mixture of blood" as the genetic
cause of "defective children." In fact, light-skinned people with a
few drops of "colored" blood ranked at the very bottom of Plecker’s caste
f i g u r e 3
Bulletin from Dr. Plecker’s office with suspect family names. Amherst and Rockbridge
counties were key targets. Many of the
Amherst names are from the Bear Mountain
Episcopal mission. Many of the Rockbridge names originated in
Amherst but had become
Latter-day Saints in Rockbridge by the time this list was published.
courtesy of the monaca n indian nation
202 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII
consistently used frequent contact and association to maintain control of
their slaves. It was only after slavery and post-war Reconstruction ended
that Southern states followed the Northern example and enacted mandatory
separation of white and colored races in order to maintain white control.
8 For a few decades before 1860, free people of color — blacks andIndians — had formed their own communities without much intrusion
from government. With the onset of Southern segregation, however, governments
suddenly placed all free people of color into the same category
as former slaves.9
In 1883, Sir Francis Galton, a cousin of the British naturalist Charles
Darwin, introduced a new science he called "eugenics." 10 Eugenicists appliedDarwinism, based upon
Darwin’s theory of human evolution, to
explain that suppression of "defectives"
and "inferior races" was part
of "natural selection" and the will
of God.11 Well-respected scientistsstressed the need for increased reproduction
among persons of superior
human stock and the need
for decreased reproduction, or
even sterilization, among "inferior
strains of humanity." 12
The Eugenics Record Office,
founded in 1910 in Cold Springs
Harbor, New York, solicited massive
family-history records from physicians,
individuals, and local eugenics
societies throughout the nation.
f i g u r e 2
Letter from Dr.
Walter A. Plecker,
Virginia registrar
of vital statistics,
addressed to
"Local Registrars,
Health Officers,
Nurses, School
and Clerks of the
Court," January
courtesy of the monaca n indian nation
Ruth Knight Bailey, J.D., teaches adjunct
law classes at
East Tennessee
State University
. She thanks the many
people who offered information and
encouragement, particularly those
who shared their personal histories
and family photographs. Special acknowledgement
also goes to Gene
Bailey, Sheila Coleman, Karen Voke,
Emily Lawhorne Wagner, and Sarah
Ms. Bailey presented this paper to
the Society at its meeting of
27, 2005
, in the Main Hall of Southern
Virginia University. An earlier version
appeared in CrossRoads: A Southern Culture Annual (
Mercer University Press,Macon, Georgia, 2004). This version,
used with permission, contains updated
text and new illustrations.
204 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 205
Insisting on the support of white health workers, school administrators,
and county officials, Plecker and the bureaucrats reporting to him
actually changed notations on existing birth, marriage, and death certificates
from "white," "Indian," and "mulatto" to "black." 30 Plecker evenwrote intimidating letters to mothers of newborns and ordered bodies
exhumed from white cemeteries. He threatened local officials with the
penitentiary if they issued "white" certificates against his wishes, and a few
local officials went to prison over it.31
In 1943, after some intense genealogical work, Plecker distributed
widely a list of surnames to be subsequently classified as "Negroes by all
registrars in the state of
Virginia." He warned courthouse officials, health
workers, and school administrators throughout Virginia to watch for
"mongrels" who had changed their surnames or moved from Amherst to
Rockbridge or other Virginia counties.32
Modern-Day Indians in Amherst
In the early 1980s, Peter W. Houck, a medical doctor in Lynchburg, noticed
that some of his patients had "copper skin, high cheek bones, and
straight backs." These patients came from
Bear Mountain in Amherst
. Dr. Houck’s scholarly research, and his conversations with the
people themselves, revealed a tight-knit community whose Native American
identity had been completely lost to the dominant culture around
it. Older individuals from
Bear Mountain told Dr. Houck about their
grandparents’ speaking "fluent Indian." Many others maintained detailed
knowledge of native medicines and other elements of their ancestry.
These aboriginal people remembered their heritage, but had stayed
quiet about it in public. Houck wrote a book about them.33 In 1989, Virginiarecognized the
Bear Mountain people as remnants of the ancient
Monacan Indian nation.34
Now some obscure Mormon-missionary diaries, church documents,
and oral histories indicate that another tight-knit community with a similar
history survives in nearby
Rockbridge County.
Mormon Missionaries in the Blue Ridge, 1883-98
In its early days, from 1830 to 1846, the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday
Saints was unique in that it was somewhat color-blind. (Church members
generally called themselves "Latter-day Saints" or "Saints," according
to the Bible. Almost everybody else called them Mormons. 35) The writingsof Joseph Smith, the first president, did indicate that lineage mattered to
God, with Israelites receiving covenant promises first and the descendants
of Cain receiving them last.36 The early church nevertheless welcomed all converts, "black and white, bond and free." 37 All people sat together insystem, because their existence
seemed to flaunt a violation of the
anti-miscegenation laws.22
Previous anti-miscegenation
statutes in Virginia had more flexibly
defined "colored" as more
than one-fourth Negro blood, and
"Indian" as non-colored with more
than one-fourth Indian blood.23
The Racial Integrity Act raised the
bar considerably by declaring that a
person with any "discernable trace"
of any color other than white would
be considered a "colored" person
who posed a danger to the purity of the white race. Furthermore, the act
required non-whites to register with local governments and pay a fee, 20
percent of which went into Dr. Plecker’s coffers in
Richmond. 24 There,government workers used state and colonial vital statistics, such as the
antebellum registers of free colored people, to pinpoint locations in the
commonwealth where descendants might be passing for white.2 5 Because two-thirds of the Amherst Indians 26had never registered as free issuesin the first place, the act segregated descendants from each other because
the Department of Vital Statistics labeled some as white and some
as black.27
Then the county clerk in nearby Rockbridge County denied Atha
Sorrells a white marriage license. Sorrels sued him and won by proving
that "colored" did not necessarily mean "Negro." She produced evidence
to show that she had a distant Indian ancestor but no black ones, thereby
falling within the legal exception for one-sixteenth Indian blood.28
Plecker chose not to appeal the ruling, perhaps fearing that an appellate
court could hold the Racial Integrity Act to be overly vague in
its definition of "Caucasian." Instead, Plecker increased the intensity of
his hunt for Virginians who might have a few drops of colored blood.
He widely distributed John Powell’s brochure, The Breach in the Dike: AnAnalysis of the Sorrels Case Showing the Danger to Racial Integrity From the Intermarriage
of Whites with So-Called Indians. 29
Richmond bureaucrats underhis direction used the antebellum Amherst registers to trace individuals
named in it down through descendants who had dutifully obtained birth,
marriage, and death certificates.
f i g u r e 4
Dr. Walter Ashby Plecker, January 1935.
courtesy of the richmond times-dispatch
206 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 207
The elders discovered the craggy landscape dotted with tiny log
houses, many belonging to members of the Mason family. One day, John
Mason took Kimball and Welch up to the cabin of his parents, Peter Mason
and Diannah Sorrells Mason. Fifteen family members gathered to
meet them.51 That night, Elder Kimball wrote in his journal: 52
[A] stranger sight I never saw. He [Peter Mason] was seventy years
old. [He] was born and raised at this same place (top of the
Mts). He was of Indian descent, his skin being almost as dark as
an Indians. His hair was long and black. Mrs. Mason — his wife — was
very old. She said what she thought and was somewhat of a doctress.
They had seventeen children — twelve boys and five girls. Children
and grandchildren about forty-two. Indian blood was discernable in
most of their faces. Look which way you might — poverty was everywhere
to be seen. They were but little ahead of the Indian people in
education. None of them had ever belonged to a church of any kind.
If the elders had seen any indication that a group of Native Americans
lived along Pedlar Creek at the top of the Blue Ridge, they would
have sought them out as "chosen people," just as other elders had sought
out the Catawba Indians in South Carolina 53 and the Cherokee Indiansin North Carolina.54 In the Book of Mormon, the Israelite prophet Lehi
f i g u r e 5
Location of Indians in West-Central Virginia
Rugged uplands
Rivers and
Norfolk & Western
Present-day county
Tobacco Row
Buena Vista n
J a m e s R i v e r
n o r t h ( m a u r y )
R i v e r
s o u t h R i v e r
i r i s h c r e e k
p e d l a r c r e e k ( p e d l a r r i v e r )
N e l s o n
C o u n t y
r o c k b r i d g e
C o u n t y
amh e r s t
C o u n t y
nancy fischman
c o l l i e r s
c r e e k
meetings, including the few free-black members. All faithful men held the
lay priesthood, including at least two blacks.38
Then, in 1852, Utah governor and prophet Brigham Young asked
the territorial legislature to pass "An Act in Relation to Service," legalizing
slavery in the territory, though very few blacks lived there. In a statement
to the legislature, Young also denied priesthood ordination to Negro Latter-
day Saints.39
As Reconstruction ended and government-sponsored segregation
began in the South,4 0 former abolitionists in the Northeast turned theirfull attention toward Mormons. Political cartoons in Republican newspapers
began showing polygamous Mormons allying themselves with other
dangerous minorities by marrying them and giving birth to mixed breeds
of every ethnic origin. 41 Federal government officials accused Mormonsof stirring up western Indians by promising them a restoration of ancient
greatness. 42 Mainstream Protestant ministers accused Mormons of barbarismand immorality.43
In that context, it must have been a relief for the elders to journey into
Blue Ridge Mountains and find a different set of challenges. On December
30, 1883, Elders4 4 J. Golden Kimball and Charles Welch stepped off theShenandoah Railway car at Riverside Station, three miles north of Buena
Vista in Rockbridge County. 45 On
January 11, 1884, in a hard rain, the tworepeatedly waded the icy Pedlar Creek46 as it wound along the remote tops of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Amherst County.
* Eventually, they foundthe home of a referral named Mr. Mason. Glad to have arrived safely, Kimball
wrote, "I could not stand erect in the house. They had two beds and
nine of us to stow away. It was accomplished but how I cannot tell."47
A few days later, the elders made their way to a nearby schoolhouse
where they intended to preach. A "Dunkard exhorter" finished his prayer
meeting and served them with a notice from the school commissioner
forbidding them to use the facility. So they stood outside in the snow, singing
hymns. Mason insisted that they spend another night with his family
and urged them to visit "any time . . . night or day."48
January 20, 1884, twenty people, "who did not belong to any
church," showed up to hear the elders preach. Appalachian uplanders often
worshiped with obvious emotion. 49 Yet now they stood "without spirit"in the winter cold. After the elders had preached for more than an hour,
not one person said a word about the sermon. Kimball was discouraged.
Then, surprisingly, most of the people quietly asked the missionaries to
call on them at home.50
* Although the waterway is now generally known as Pedlar River, the residents in
the community at the top of the Blue Ridge, and the missionaries whose diaries
recorded visits with them, spoke almost exclusively of Pedlar Creek.
208 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 209
up the delicate subject. Hannah and John said they could prove they had
been married for seventeen years.6 8 Then Peggy Sorrells told the missionariesthat Marvel Mason had been living with her daughter without marrying
Although many in the neighborhood avoided recorded documents,
others willingly procured the proper marriage licenses and baptismal
certificates. 70 It appeared to the missionaries that the white uplanderson Pedlar Creek assimilated with the Indians, rather than the other way
around. Or perhaps they had had Indian ancestry all along. In any event,
the "Mason neighborhood" on Pedlar Creek served as the hub of the
community, and it also became a Mormon mission headquarters for the
Virginia Conference of the Southern States
Mission. 71 At the same time,the missionaries, directed by the centralized priesthood hierarchy, continually
urged the Pedlar people to move to the American
Zion in Utah and
nearby territories. Households, including those of two Mason daughters
and their families,72 began to emigrate westward. 73
As the months passed, a constant arrival of western elders moved
from family to family along Pedlar Creek. One end of the Pedlar community
came close to the Irish Creek community, in
Rockbridge County,
where the elders found more uplanders who opened their homes and
their hearts to Mormonism. 74 On
February 15, 1888, Elder John W. Tatewrote his wife, telling her that several members from Irish Creek prepared
to immigrate in the spring, provided they could raise the money.
He added, "It is in the mountains we are called to labor, among the timber,
hills, holes, and rocks. It is only the poor that will receive the gospel.
There are no Saints in the valleys, people are better off down there and
will not listen."7 5
The Pedlar community in Amherst County and the Irish Creek community
in Rockbridge touched a lofty tip of a third county, Nelson, where
a group of "Campbellites" 76 asked for rebaptism as Latter-day Saints. MiltonFitzgerald, their minister of sixteen years, led them west to Zion.77
Historic overlaps between some restorationist beliefs of these particular
Christians and the Latter-day Saints may also explain why Mormon elders
of the 1880s generally received a warmer welcome from religious people
in the mountains of Appalachia than they received from mainstream Protestants
in the valleys below.78
Industrial Boom and Administrative Change, 1890-1918
None of the Mormon elders of the 1880s predicted the dramatic political
changes of the 1890s that would take them out of the mountains and into
the towns down in the valleys. Change came for the missionaries when the
Mormon priesthood ended its dominion over
Utah politics, its support of
brought his family from
Jerusalem to the Americas during Old Testament
times. To Latter-day Saints, this made modern Indians a precious remnant
of one of the ancient tribes of
Israel, who would gather in an American
Zion to welcome the second coming of the Messiah.55
Yet no Indian reservation existed in
Amherst County, Virginia. 56 Thearea looked like a fairly typical Appalachian mountain community, except
that the missionaries, who were familiar with western Indians, 57 clearlyrecognized these particular uplanders as Lamanites, 58 one of the four main groups described in the
Book of Mormon and a word Latter-day Saints often used to describe American Indians. 59 Another visiting missionary,Elder Newell Kimball, even described Peter Mason as a "full-blooded Lamanite."
The Masons and their upland neighbors confused the missionaries
by saying that they had never been baptized into any religion, but that
they loved the Bible. In fact, Kimball said that Peter Mason "was deeply
imbued with the doctrine of the Old Primitive Baptists." The old man
asked the missionaries to come again and again, said he would like to be
in their company all the time, and repeatedly "God blessed" them. Tears
rose in Peter Mason’s eyes when they read the Bible with him. But he felt
no call to baptism. In the old upland way, he had to wait until God told
him it was time, and not the other way around.61
"Mother Mason" healed the sick with herbal medicines. 62 The eldershelped her by anointing ailing people with consecrated oil and by laying
hands upon them.63
"Father Mason" warned the elders not to visit Old Man Vest and his
family because the Vests were "dangerous." All Latter-day Saint missionaries
feared the mob violence that sometimes formed against them. Although
the Ku Klux Klan and other mobs mainly targeted Negroes, they
also terrorized people they considered "social deviants," including Mormons.
64 Yet in spite of Mason’s warning, the missionaries climbed
StightCove Mountain, at the head of the Pedlar near Oronoco, in the snow.
Old Levi Vest "declared himself to be a great reasoner, reader of the Bible
and a Lover of the Word of God." Kimball wrote that Vest was an "Old
Iron Side Baptist, Hard Shell." Kimball hadn’t had much luck baptizing
"Primitive Baptists" in the past, but he didn’t think Old Levi Vest or any of
the Vest sons would hurt him, and they did not.65
One day, Hannah Mason announced that she was getting baptized
"on Monday at
eleven o’clock." This was disquieting news to the elders.
First, they were not entirely sure that she had studied long enough to understand
the doctrine. 66 Second, it was dubious that most of the Masons could prove they were married; 67 Latter-day Saint rules forbade the baptizingof people living in sin. Elders Kimball and Welch finally brought
210 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 211
On December 22, 1895, Elder Thomas Romney and his companion
visited the mayor of nearby Lexington at his "beautiful brick mansion"
and had "a long friendly talk" with him. The mayor loved hearing Romney’s
stories about Mexico, and promised Romney that Mormons could
preach on the streets any time they wanted and that the laws of the city
would always protect them.85
Later that same day, Elder Romney wrote, "We find in the east end
of the city two or three families of Saints by the name of Mason who were
baptized in Amherst County. . . . They are reported to be part niggar."
Yet despite the "reports," Romney spent that night with one of the Mason
families." 86
A couple of years later, Elder David Call’s diary added that "some of
the members" in
Rockbridge County "are part nigar" and that "some of
the leaders years ago baptized them through a mistake." Call wrote, "They
said they was Indian but I don’t." Call stayed overnight with Mormons
near Collierstown, rather than with the Masons.87
No previous missionary to Pedlar or Irish Creek had mentioned anything
about black people. Neither did any of the copious records that had
been sent to
Salt Lake. The people did not look African American. Yet the
rumors persisted.88
In 1895 and 1896, President Elias Kimball, of the Southern States
directed all Southern states missionaries to shift their emphasis from
rural service to city service. He also told missionaries that members "should
f i g u r e 7
Buena Vista Hotel, shown in a postcard postmarked in 1909.
special collections, leyburn library, washi ngton and lee university
plural marriage, and its intense efforts to gather the tribes of
Israel physically.
The federal government recognized Utah as the forty-fifth state in
1896, and Latter-day Saints began to assimilate into a more middle-class
mode of American life.79 At the same time, both industrialization 80 and segregation 81 dramatically altered the lives of the Appalachian uplanderswho had so kindly cared for the elders over the years.
For the people on Pedlar and Irish Creeks, the first indication of
change came in the form of a new boomtown named
Buena Vista, in
Rockbridge County, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Elder Edward
J. Eardley, writing home on
April 30, 1890, described developers
grading streets and laying water pipes in what had been a "fertile plain
devoted to agriculture." Two railroads brought guests to four spacious
new hotels. The "splendid" Buena Vista Hotel sat high on a hill with a
"charming view of the new town and the
North River." The railway companies
loaded their freight cars with goods from the newly built iron works
and paper manufacturers along the river, as well as from the new tannery,
saddle company, wagon firm, and fence supplier.82
While valley people welcomed the booming job market, they expressed
concern about the "influx" of laborers "from Amherst on the
other side of the Blue Ridge." Townspeople described the new workers as
"a rough, disorderly element, partly white and partly colored." 83
Beginning in 1895, Latter-day Saint elders shifted most of their missionary
efforts from the
Amherst County mountains into Buena Vista below.
84 Jobs brought some of the younger Masons down into town, wherethey continued to open their doors to the elders.
f i g u r e 6
Buena Vista, 1891.
special collections, leyburn library, washi ngton and lee university
212 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 213
Recognizing Legally
Non-Existent People: 1932 . . .
Seventy-four years later, Will Southers
told what happened. He said, "I
remember the old men that started
the church at Pedlar Creek and
Cornwall. . . . They were mostly
Masons and Colemans. . . . My dad
and mother were baptized in 1912.
Elder Turley baptized me in 1913
when I was fifteen years old. It felt
real good. When the elders came,
they preached about every night on
top of the
Blue Ridge Mountains."
Will added, "What schooling I got
was when we moved everything out
of a room and had to pay a teacher
to come." After trying for more
than a year to get a schoolhouse
through regular channels, Will and
his father, Robert Southers, finally
built a school themselves on family land for Will’s younger siblings. They
used streetcar ties and logs they cut in their own sawmill. "Seventy dollars
built it," said Southers, "and we had church there sometimes. . . . Jacob
Mason was one of the head members. He worked at a factory in
. He preached to us when there were no elders. He knew the Bible
pretty good."98
Years went by. And a remarkable thing happened, considering the
highly centralized nature of the larger Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints. Although the existence of Latter-day Saint meetings in and near
Buena Vista totally disappeared from official records before 1921, and local
members say that infrequent visits by elders ended before 1923,99 anAppalachian mode of Mormonism continued — completely on its own.100
Myrtle Wilhelm Coleman, a great-granddaughter of Peter and
Mason, said that in 1932, when she was nine years old, her family
had "always belonged" to the church, but "at the time we didn’t know
anything about elders or anything." 101
Members met at each other’s homes, or out under the trees, with Jacob
Mason and others preaching. They read the Bible and the Book of Mormon
with and to each other. They did not gather together every Sunday,
but met often enough that they held together as a distinct religious community
— even though families no longer lived along the same mountain
be restrained as much as possible from emigrating." He counseled missionaries
to organize locally led "branches and Sunday schools" * wherever therewere enough members to gather into a small group. He wrote, "Select good
men and ordain them priests to preside over the branches, and efficient
instructors to take charge of the Sunday schools." 89 Elders implementedthis counsel throughout the uplands of
Appalachia, usually ordaining local
men whose families had faithfully harbored the elders for years.90
The mission president’s major shift of focus freed missionaries to
spend the bulk of their time in more populated areas where prejudice
against Mormons had lessened. Official church records show priesthood
ordinations taking place for local men in various rural areas of
during this time, complying with the mission president’s instructions.9 1
Yet no ordinations took place in
Amherst or Rockbridge Counties.
The church records for Amherst and Rockbridge Counties from
1897 to 1918 show a distinct pattern of growth that clearly took them into
the "branch" or "ward" range:
Between 1897 and 1912, elders established locally led Sundayschools in Collierstown (Colliers Creek), Oronoco (Pedlar
Creek), Buena Vista, and Cornwall (Irish Creek).92
June 15, 1918: Five hundred people attended the Latter-daySaints meeting in Buena Vista. Missionaries wrote, "It completely
blocked the street; much literature was disposed of and
several invitations to homes were received by elders."9 3
July 13, 1918: "The Saints in Buena Vista are anxious to have achurch built of their own," a missionary wrote. "They have subscribed
over four hundred dollars for that purpose. The site chosen
is in the Long Hollow near Brother Coleman’s residence." 94

August 24, 1918: The branch conference held in Buena Vistawas so big that it filled the Star Theater twice.95
Then, suddenly, in spite of the large numbers of people interested in
Mormonism there, entries for
Buena Vista, Cornwall (Irish Creek), and
Oronoco (Pedlar Creek) disappeared from all official Latter-day Saint
records. 96 Regular entries abruptly ended in the Sunday school missionhistory. According to church records, church activity ended in and near
Buena Vista, Virginia, in 1918. No entry appeared for any of the three
locations in a 1921 list of all the Latter-day Saint branches and Sunday
schools in Virginia.97
The missionaries left. But where did the members go?
Actually, the members did not go anywhere.
* Congregations. Tiny Sunday schools could be conducted without priesthood, but
where enough members existed to form a "branch" or "ward," local priesthood
became a necessity.
f i g u r e 8
Will Southers
Courtesy of Roy and June Southers
214 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 215
Brigham D. Madsen, another elder in the East Central States Mission,
knew Alvin Pocock during his second mission. Madsen later wrote108
that Pocock
began to proselyte in an African-American community and eventually
converted and baptized an entire congregation of about 150. . . . This
was at the same time, of course, when African-American males were
not allowed to hold the Mormon priesthood, a practice which was
reversed in June 1978. . . . I never learned what the church officials in
Salt Lake City in 1935 did about their new members or Pocock.
Indeed, church leaders in
Salt Lake City faced an administrative
challenge. After Latter-day Saints demonstrated obvious patriotism during
World War I, they enjoyed increasing acceptance from the federal
government and the Protestant mainstream. Many church members became
rather Republican and middle class.109
But without a revelation from God through the current prophet, the
ban on priesthood for blacks could not be lifted.
It appears that boom-time townspeople in
Buena Vista had tipped
off the missionaries as to what they might find if they read the vital statistics
in the courthouse: namely, that some of their members had been officially
classified as black. Without local lay priesthood leadership, the cen fi g u r e 1 0
Latter-day Saints in front of the Long Hollow church house near
Buena Vista, about 1944.
ewing studio,
lexington — courtesy of leroy wheeler
creeks. Sometimes
they visited other
churches, but seldom
joined them.102
One day in 1932,
nine-year-old Myrtle
Wilhelm watched as
her Aunt Eva Southers
made biscuits
with "a rolling pin
full of moonshine."
An automobile with
two young men in it
stopped at the bottom
of the hill.10 3 WillSouthers said that the
men made their way
up through the field
to the house he was
building for his family.
Southers stopped
work on the floorboards.
the pair as Mormon missionaries, 104 Southers wondered where they hadbeen for the last many years.
Elder Alvin Pocock asked Southers, "How about us helping? And
then maybe we can have a meeting on your new floor?"
Southers nodded assent.
Pocock added, "Do you think we can get a crowd?"
In retelling the story nearly sixty years later, Will Southers laughed
out loud as he tried to describe the elders’ faces when people kept arriving.
People sat all over the house, porch, and hillside. Cars stopped to
listen. Excited people wanted to hear more, so the elders preached from
home to home and even up at the "school house on Pedlar Creek way up
in the mountains." 105
Pocock baptized scores of people in the
South River near Cornwall106
and just about anyplace else where he could do a full-body immersion. Will
Southers said, "Elder Pocock baptized my wife, Lizzie, in the ‘blue hole’
from where they took the iron ore. They both like to drowned. I had told
him not to step back. At first he didn’t. He said what he had to say. Then he
put his left foot back to baptize her. And they both went straight down out
o’ sight. I jumped in and grabbed her by one hand and him by the other."10 7
courtesy of steven
alvin pocock
f i g u r e 9
Mission program covers, 1930 and 1934. It was
unusual for an elder to serve two consecutive
in the same place. Though his call could have taken
him anywhere in the East Central States, Alvin Poccock
worked in
Buena Vista both times.
216 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 217
Will Southers. though unordained,
served faithfully as his counselor.
Cash served thirteen years as the
only priesthood-bearer in the
whole congregation.1 14
Meanwhile, in 1934, William
Eugene Larsen moved his young
family to
Waynesboro, Virginia,
where, with his new Ph.D. from
Purdue University, he worked for
E. I. DuPont DeNemours and Company
as a research chemist. After
being officially called through the
centralized priesthood hierarchy,
Larsen led a Latter-day Saint Sunday
school in his home and took
services to members who lived in
remote locations in the
Blue Ridge
. The Larsen-led Sunday
school included blessing and administering
the sacrament, 115 whichrequired priesthood ordination.116
In the 1940s, two Irish Creek families named
Clark moved into
Waynesboro. They held Sunday school, too, but without sacrament. The
Clarks knew about the Larsens, but the Larsens did not know about the
Clarks. After some traveling elders stumbled upon the Clarks and reported
their existence, Eugene Larsen rented the American Legion Hall so
that everyone could meet together. The congregation grew large enough
to form a "branch," with Larsen as its president.117
Jim and Elijah Clark’s father and mother had been baptized in 1911,
and other Irish Creek relatives had been baptized before the turn of the
century. Many
Clarks had participated in home Sunday schools, though
members partook of the sacrament only when priesthood-bearing elders
visited from the Latter-day Saint communities elsewhere.
Now members of the new branch, the
Clarks saw local priesthood
bearers administering the sacrament every Sunday, and they saw local
men laying healing hands on people. Soon Jim and Elijah Clark respectfully
asked Eugene Larsen to ordain the worthy males in their family. Jim
Clark was particularly concerned because his son Claude was nearly twelve
years old, the age of first ordination.118
Eugene Larsen, having heard the rumors about "colored blood" in
the Buena Vista congregation, asked the mission president what to do to
f i g u r e 1 2
Esau, Jacob, and George Mason
in the mid-1940s.
courtesy of peggy cash goodsell
tral church in
Salt Lake City could not authorize formation of a branch of
that church in
Buena Vista.
Early missionaries and local church members had considered the
black priesthood ban irrelevant in this community, given that these were
chosen people, descended from the Tribe of Joseph. 110 But before eldersordained these remnants of the house of Israel, the mission president had
sent the elders out of the mountains, down into a society that classified
the Pedlar and Irish Creek people differently. Apparently, the courthouse
classifications swayed the elders. Although local people stayed with the
church in the Appalachian tradition, they remained loyal to the Mormon
model of lay priesthood authority, and waited for priesthood holders to
come and perform baptisms.
Then, in the midst of the Great Depression, along came Elder Alvin
Pocock and a tidal wave of baptisms and religious enthusiasm. 111 Some ofthe older members argued against building a church house because of
the cost and because they had gotten along without one for years. Robert
Southers, however, went ahead and donated the land for a church building
in Long Hollow, next to the Coleman home. Families sacrificed to
donate money to the construction fund. Richard Clark, who owned a sawmill,
sold lumber at a discount.
Salt Lake City sent two elders to help. Will
Southers said that Elder
Burton knew what he was doing and worked hard,
but the "other elder was off reading out in the shade." All the members
worked on the new building. They lighted it with oil lamps and heated it
with a coal stove. In the end, the building cost between $400 and $500.112
May 30, 1937, Elder Reid Tippitts wrote that the members in Buena
"have succeeded in building a chapel." Some 130 people showed
up at Sacrament meeting that evening and sixty people attended Sunday
school. Tippitts added, "They were
very attentive, too. I quite enjoyed
the day. But these people do present
quite a problem. They claim
they are not Negro, but. . . ."113
In 1937, Latter-day Saint elders
ordained nineteen-year-old
Hansford Cash as branch president
for the Long Hollow congregation.
Although Cash’s sister married
into the Mason line, Cash had a
white pedigree at the courthouse.
f i g u r e 1 1
Oella Wheeler Cash and
Hansford Cash in 1941.
courtesy of peggy cash goodsell
218 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 219
"No you’re not," he said.
"What do you mean I’m not?"
"They don’t give the priesthood to niggars."
"What’s that got to do with me?"
And he wouldn’t say any more. I guess he figured he’d said too much
already. I found out later they refused him the priesthood. He was
a couple years older. They refused him the priesthood! And sure
enough, I didn’t receive the priesthood when I was twelve.
Revealing Appalachian religious attitude, Claude added, "This is
where I really criticize the [priesthood] officials in the
Buena Vista area.
. . . We have a way to find out anything we need to find out. [It is] a simple
matter for a branch president [to go] in prayer to Heavenly Father.
‘Should this person be allowed to hold the priesthood or not?’ Where
were their minds, their hearts, their spirits?" 120
In that summer of 1950, when Claude turned twelve, Eugene Larsen
was the
Waynesboro branch president. He also served as district president
over several other congregations in the mission, including the Long
Hollow church in
Buena Vista. In addition, he was the father of a boy
who was a little younger than Claude. When Wayne Larsen was twelve, his
father delayed
Wayne’s ordination because he did not want to embarrass
Wayne’s friend. Eventually, however, Eugene Larsen and other
priesthood bearers called
Wayne to the front of the congregation and
laid their hands on his head. Claude Clark stood up, strode out the door,
and did not look back. Claude’s uncle, Elijah Clark, the congregation’s
clerk, wrote the newest ordination
in the record book and remained
in his seat.121
In 1950, Joseph Anderson
Clark, Claude’s grandfather, still
lived near Irish Creek at the edge of
the National Forest land where his
ancestors had lived. He knew about
his Native American lineage. In
fact, he became a Mormon in 1911
because he believed that people
with the blood of Israel had special
responsibilities to prepare for the
second coming of the Messiah.122
f i g u r e 1 4 William Eugene Larsen andhis wife,
Tursell, in the 1950s.
courtesy of g.
douglas larsen
"clear the
Clark family." The mission president assigned a missionary to
Clark genealogy. The missionary responded:119
May 1, 1951
Dear Brother Larsen,
I made a trip to
Amherst and in the court house there I was shown the
marriage record of Joseph Anderson Clark and Mary Susan Clark,
the parents of Jim and Elijah Clark, and they were married in 1906 as
colored. May the Lord bless you in your efforts to solve the problems
in your branch. I know they are discouraging.
Elder Wm. S. Tanner
In 1992, Claude Edward Clark, by then an experienced attorney,
reminisced about being twelve years old and Mormon in
Virginia in 1950:
[It was] the week of my twelfth birthday. I was all excited. When you
are twelve you receive the priesthood. I told my cousin [in
] I was going to be ordained a deacon.
f i g u r e 1 3
Latter-day Saints in
Waynesboro, 1951. Many of the people in the photo were Clarks,
originally from Irish Creek in
Rockbridge County (and named in Plecker’s list of target
families, Figure 3). Wayne Larsen and Claude Clark are the twelve-year-olds with
large white collars at the far right. G. Douglas Larsen is the boy in the billed cap.
courtesy of g.
douglas larsen
220 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 221
Clark — on the tree. He also used
Atha’s evidence to show that Julia’s
parents were classified as white and
that Joe’s parents were colored--
Indian and white. He then proved
that his own father was Joe Clark
Jr.’s brother and his mother was
Julia Sorrels
Clark’s sister, making
them double first cousins with
the exact same ancestors. 124 JosephAnderson Clark had produced legal
precedent indicating that "colored"
was not limited to "Negro"
in his family. President Larsen read
the documents carefully. Then he
looked Joseph Anderson
Clark in
the eye and said, "Brother, I believe
you’re right.125
Claude’s "cousin’s husband,"
ordained in 1951, was immediately called to the
Buena Vista Branch presidency.
126 Alvin Coleman and Garvis Wheeler, both direct descendantsof Peter and Diannah Mason, were also ordained that same day. So was
Hansford Vest, the great-grandson of old iron-sided Levi Vest.127
Hansford Vest credited his "Lamonite [sic] brothers" with "comprisingmost of the membership of the Church in Rockbridge County as late as
1940," and he listed "a few of them" as Masons, Colemans, Southerses, and
Clarks. 128 Both Alvin Coleman and Garvis Wheeler later served as branch presidents, and Coleman as a bishop.129 In 1957, Elder Claude Edward Clarkserved as the first full-time missionary from the
Waynesboro Branch.130
From then on, the church record keepers in
Salt Lake City kept detailed
records of the
Buena Vista congregation.
In 1996, Latter-day Saint businessmen from outside
Buena Vista acquired
the entire campus of
Southern Virginia College, including the
building that was once the "splendid," boom-time
Buena Vista Hotel.131
At about the same time, Garvis and Juanita Wheeler, both from
, participated in an unpaid Latter-day Saints mission, as retired
couples often do. A distinguished member of their mission presidency
told them that when he was nineteen years old, he had served a proselytizing
mission in
Buena Vista, Virginia. Excited to meet people from Buena
, this prominent priesthood leader asked Garvis Wheeler, the greatgrandson
of Peter H. Mason, "Are there any white people in the
ward now? It used to be an all-black congregation." 132
f i g u r e 1 6
Mary Susan Clark and Joseph Anderson
Clark in the 1950s.
courtesy of joyce howdyshell floyd
A couple of genealogical missionaries from
Utah visited the Long
Hollow church shortly after his twelve-year-old grandsons were denied
the priesthood. Brother Clark took them to the
Rockbridge County Court
House. Although
Clark had never attended school, by the time he was an
adult he could read sufficiently to search through the dusty document
boxes. Together the missionaries and Brother Clark found court documents
pertaining to the 1925 Atha Sorrells case.12 3 They photographedthe pages, creating a roll of microfilm that Clark took to President Eugene
Larsen in Waynesboro.
Clark showed him a court exhibit containing
Atha Sorrell’s family tree. He carefully identified Atha, her mother,
and her maternal great-grandparents — Joe Clark Jr. and Julia Sorrels
f i g u r e 1 5
Courtroom exhibit, Sorrells v. Shields , Circuit Court of Rockbridge County, January 9 and10, 1925. Atha Sorrells (here spelled Sorrels) used this family-history chart successfully to
show that her supposedly "colored" ancestors were, in fact, Indian and white. In 1951,
Joseph Anderson
Clark used the chart for the same purpose. Key elements read as follows:
courtesy of g.
douglas larsen
1 2 3
JOE CLARK, SR, born 1797 . . . . JOE
CLARK owned slaves and bought Peter
Curry the father of Daniel Curry who was
sold at auction. (INDIAN and WHITE)
2. POLLY CLARK (NÉ CLARK) . . . was
mother of JAMES CLARK [who bought
a writ of] Mandamus for white marriage
license – white license granted County
Court order Book 1876 pages 137, 174
3. [Left box) John Whiteside / Always
white NO question"
[Right box] BETT IE SORRELS / Always
white NO Question
4. [Left] PATERNAL /
222 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 223
University Press,
Oxford, 1974), pp. 18-19. See also the Emancipation Proclamation
and the Constitution of the
United States, Amendment XIII.
8 Woodward, pp. 18-25, 65-83, and 140. In 1896, the
United States Supreme Court
upheld a state statute segregating white and colored races in railway carriages,
clearly setting a precedent for all states in the nation ( Plessy v.
Ferguson , 163 U.S.537). Virginia enacted its own "separate but equal" statutes in 1902. These provisions
added to the statutes that had been in place since 1691 to banish or imprison
whites who intermarried with "negroes, mulattoes, or Indians." Code of Virginia ,Chapter 4, §28 (1902); "Offences Against Chastity, Morality and Decency,"
in the Code of
Virginia , (1847-48); Chapter 17.1 (1866); Title 54 (1873); ChapterCLXXXV, §§3786, 3788, and 3789; McLeRoy and McLeRoy, p. 4; and Karenne
Wood and Diane Shields, The Monacan Indians: Our Story (Monacan Indian Nation,Madison Heights, Virginia, circa 1997), p. 27.
9 Cook, p. 65.
10 Mary V. Rorty, Mormons and Genetics (paper presented at the
San Francisco SunstoneSymposium, 2003), citing Francis Galton, Inquirie s into Human Faculty
(MacMillan, London, 1883), pp. 24-25. See also Paulo Popenoe and Roswell Hill
Johnson, Applied Eugenics (MacMillan, New York:, 1933) 217-227.11 J. David Smith, The Eugenic Assault on America: Studies in Red, White, and Black
(George Mason University Press, Fairfax, 1993), p. 2; Charles Benedict Davenport,
Heredity in Relation to Eugenics (Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1913), pp. iv-vi; and Edward M. East,Heredity and Human Affairs (Charles Scribner’sSons, New York, 1927), p. 235.
12 See, for instance, Edwin Grant Conklin, Heredity and Environment in the Developmentof Men, fifth edition (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1922); East ;
Samuel J. Holmes, The Trend of the Race: A Study of Present Tendencies in the BiologicalDevelopment of Civilized Mankind (Harcourt Brace & Company, New York, 1921); Popenoe and Johnson; and Lothrop Stoddard,
The Rising Tide of Color Against White Supremacy (Scribner, New York, 1920).13 Davenport, pp. iv-vi. In the initial years of the eugenics movement, "defectives"
included people deemed to be actual or potential criminals, "imbeciles," "insane,"
"feeble-minded," or paupers. Soon the eugenicists included "inferior
races." See, for instance, East, pp. 157-204 and 235, and Popenoe and Johnson,
pp. 281-97. The National Eugenics Record Office hired a eugenicist from Carnegie
Institute and a professor from Sweet Briar College in Amherst County to
study the Bear Mountain people. The resulting book, Mongrel Virginians, unfairlycharacterized the people as mentally defective and backward because of tri-racial
mixed blood. Cook, p. 94; Peter Houck and Mintcy D. Maxham,
Indian Island inAmherst County (Warwick House Publishing, Lynchburg, 1993), pp. 84-89; and J. David Smith,
Eugenic Assault, pp. 83-88. See also Arthur H. Estabrook and Ivan E. McDougle, Mongrel Virginians: The Win Tribe (Williams and Wilkins Company,Baltimore, 1926).
14 Cook, p. 68.
15 Ibid., pp. 59, 68, and 85.16
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and western novels had popularized stereotypical
Indian images, which looked nothing like
Virginia Indians. Most Americans
thought Indians lived only on reservations. See Cook, pp. 57-68; J. David Smith,
Eugenic Assault; Hix; and Houck and Maxham. 17 Madison Grant wrote The Passing of the Great Race (Arno Press, New York, 1916)and The Conquest of a Continent (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1933). Harry
For more than three hundred years,
Virginia government officials chose
the race and intrinsic value of certain named individuals and their descendants
— thinking that these people, particularly those who might
pass for white, posed a threat to the Caucasian populace.
In the late nineteenth century some Latter-day Saint missionaries
visited Pedlar and Irish Creeks, at the top of the
Blue Ridge Mountains.
There they recognized residents as American Indians — precious remnants
of ancient
Israel — and baptized them. The dominant culture, however,
had already rejected all Indian heritage in
Virginia in what some
scholars have called "documentary genocide." 133 When Latter-day Saintuplanders left the isolation of the mountains to take jobs in valley industries
below, government classification of the members apparently influenced
even the missionaries. Yet members and their descendants insisted
upon their Indian identity. In 1951, one even used legal precedent to
prove it.134 Shortly thereafter, Latter-day Saint leadership ordained severalof the old upland members — ordinations that took place at the height
of racial tension in Virginia, sixteen years before the U.S. Supreme Court
deemed the Racial Integrity Act unconstitutional, 135 and twenty-sevenyears before all races of men became eligible to receive the lay priesthood.
Old diaries, church documents, and oral histories document this
Rockbridge story of courage and faithfulness through a crucible created
by race records. 1
1 Sherrie S. McLeroy and William R. McLeroy, Strangers in Their Midst: The Free Black Population of
Amherst County, Virginia (Pointer Ridge Place, Bowie, Maryland,1993), p. 4.
2 Samuel R. Cook, Monacans and Miners: Native American and Coal Mining Communities in
University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 2000), pp. 58-59,quoting William Walter Henning, ed., Statutes at Large: Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia
(DeSilver, Philadelphia: 1823). See also Louise M. Hix, "Indiansof Oronoco,
Amherst County, Virginia" (St. Paul’s Episcopal Church files, Bear
Mountain, Virginia, 1941).
3 McLeroy and McLeroy, pp. 7, 18.
4 Indian Removal Act,
Ch. 148, 4 Stat. 411 (1830); McLeroy and McLeroy, pp. 41-42.
5 McLeroy and McLeroy , pp. 18-19. 6 Ibid. , pp. 9-10, 41-42.7 These Northern segregation laws excluded Northern blacks from rail cars, omnibuses,
stagecoaches, and steamboats, or sent them to separate compartments.
Northern segregation applied to churches, schools, prisons, hospitals, and cemeteries.
C. Van Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, third edition (
224 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 225
35 Originally, in 1830, the name of the church was "The
Church of Christ." In 1838,
its leader and prophet, Joseph Smith, said he received a revelation changing the
name to "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." The change emphasized
the restoration of the primitive gospel of Jesus Christ and the relationship
of Jesus Christ to members in the Latter-days. It also reflected the Biblical injunction
to avoid being called by the "name of a man." "Saints" was a more Biblically
appropriate nickname than "Mormonite" or "Mormon." Romans 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2;
Eph. 1:1; Eph. 4:12. See also Doctrine and Covenants 115:4; Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi
27:8; and B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Volume 1 (Deseret News Press, Salt Lake City, 1930), pp. 392-93.Latter-day Saints good-naturedly tolerate use of the nickname "Mormon." This
article uses the terms interchangeably.
36 Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Volume II, secondedition (Deseret News Press, Salt Lake City, 1948), pp. 436-40. See Armand
Mauss, All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage
University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 2003), pp. 2-3.
37 Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 26:33. In the 1830s, Missourians drove the Saints outof
Missouri — a slave state — partly because the potential immigration of free
black Saints was perceived as "tampering with slaves." Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Volume I, second edition (Deseret NewsPress, Salt Lake City, 1951), pp. 377-79, and Leonard J. Arrington and David Bitton,
The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints (University of IllinoisPress, Urbana, 1992), pp. 48-49.
38 Both Elijah Abel and Walker Lewis were ordained elders in the time of Joseph
Smith. Abel was also ordained a seventy (the level of ordination higher than elder)
and he served three full-time missions for the church. Newell C. Bringhurst,
Saints, Slaves, and Blacks (Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, 1981), pp.35-53 and 90, and Lester Bush Jr., "Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: An Historical
Overview," in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Spring 1973), pp. 17 and 33.39 Brigham Young, statement to the
Utah Territorial Legislature, February 5, 1852.
See also Bringhurst, p. 25. Mormon doctrine condemned "human bondage"
( Book of Mormon, Alma 27:9 and Mosiah
2:13; Doctrine and Covenants 98:5; 104:16-18, 83-84). Joseph Smith had once run for president on an anti-slavery platform,
but the Saints deeply distrusted abolitionists. As a result, Latter-day Saints attempted
to remain detached from both sides of the national controversy over
slavery. By 1850, only twenty-four free blacks and sixty or seventy Southern-immigrant
slaves lived in the isolated Latter-day Saint communities. Yet Mormons periodically
bought Indian children out of the irrepressible Indian-Mexican slave
trade so as to free them and nurture them. The Act in Relation to Service clearly
protected the adoption of Indian slave children and it protected the few slave
owners in
Utah. Certainly, Young and his advisers remembered Missouri violence
in the 1830s, directed against Mormon policies that appeared to welcome free
blacks to that slave state. Historians speculate that the Act might have been intended
to maintain Southern sympathy in a
U.S. Congress that was becoming
increasingly hostile to Mormon interests. They also speculate that the Act may
have made
Utah look more attractive to Southern converts. Possibly Governor
Young wanted to defend Utahans against Republican writers from back East who
accused Mormons of miscegenation that produced "an inferior race of people."
Most devout members of the Church avoided speculation because they believed
that Brigham Young spoke for God. In any event, the official ban againt blacks’
priesthood stayed in place until a revelation removed it in 1978. Arrington and
Bitton, pp. 150-51, and Bringhurst, pp. 54-56, 66-68, 99-100, 110, 126-30, and 225.
See also O. Kendall White Jr., "Boundary Maintenance, Blacks, and the Mormon
Priesthood," in The Journal of Religious Thought (Fall-Winter 1980-81). H. Laughlin wrote Eugenical Sterilization in the
United States (Psychopathic Laboratoryof the Municipal Court of Chicago, Chicago, 1922).
18 Two particularly powerful lobbyists were John Powell and Earnest Cox. Powell, a
well-known composer, was president of the Anglo-Saxon Clubs of
America. Cox
helped found that organization and wrote the book White
America (White AmericanSociety, Richmond, 1925), pp. 13-57.
19 These categories meant descendants of white Anglo-Europeans, black Africans,
yellow Asians, red Native Americans, brown East Indians, and brown Polynesians.
Derryn E. Moten, "Racial Integrity or ‘Race Suicide’ —
Virginia’s Eugenic Movement,
W. E. B. Du Bois and the Work of Walter A. Plecker," in Negro History Bulletin
(April 1, 1999), p. 6.
20 In the year 1614, British colonizer John Rolfe married Chief Powhatan’s daughter,
Pocohantas, at least partially "for the good of the nation." Cook, p. 57, quoting
Sidney Kaplan, "Historical Efforts to Encourage White-Indian Intermarriage
in the
United States and Canada," in International Science Review (Summer 1990),pp. 126-32.
21 Acts of Assembly, Chapter 371, and Senate Bill 219, approved
March 20, 1924.
22 Cook, pp. 66 and 104, and Wood and Shields, p. 26.
23 Code of Virginia , Chapter 17.1 (1866); Title 5, §49 (1887).24 Acts of Assembly, Chapter 371, Senate Bill 219, approved
March 20, 1924.
25 Cook, pp. 108-111; McLeroy and McLeroy, pp. 17-18; and Moten, p. 2.26 In 1896, Edgar Whitehead described the
Bear Mountain people in Amherst as
Cherokee. Whitehead recorded their family stories of the 1830s, when clergymen
first told the
Bear Mountain Indian people to sit with the slaves in church
or leave — and they left. Their children were not allowed to attend white schools.
In response to Whitehead’s article, a few Methodist and Baptist home missionaries
Bear Mountain for the first time in fifty years, but they never stayed.
Finally, in 1908, the Episcopalians came to
Bear Mountain and built a mission
church, turning the log meeting-house into a mission school that served the
community until 1963. Cook, pp. 85-93; pp. Houck and Maxham, pp. 93-94; and
Wood and Shields, pp. 23-25.
27 Houck and Maxham, p. 81.
28 Sorrells v. Shields,
Circuit Court of Rockbridge County, court documents dated
November 1-15, 1924, and January 9-10, 1925. See also "Irish Creek Wedding
Plans Rattled State
’s Race Law," The Rockbridge Advocate (March 2003), pp. 41-46.29 (Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America, Richmond, circa 1925).
30 Cook, p. 109.
31 Ibid., p. 107, and Wood and Shields, pp. 27-28.32 "Surnames by Counties and Cities of Mixed Negroid Virginia Families Striving to
Pass as ‘Indian’ or White," with the cover letter from W. A. Plecker addressed to
"Local Registrars, Physicians, Health Officers, Nurses, School Superintendents
and Clerks of the Courts," January 1943.
33 Cook, pp. 57-68, and Houck and Maxham. See also Horace R. Rice, The Buffalo Ridge Cherokee: The Colors and Culture of a Virginia Communit y (
BRC Books, MadisonHeights, Virginia, 1991).
34 Houck and Maxham, pp. iv-vii.
226 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 227
47 J. Golden Kimball journal ,
January 11, 1884. 48 Ibid., January 13, 1884.49 For example, Elder Joseph Underwood Eldredge described a woman at a revival
"crying and rocking herself as [he had] seen a female Indian do when grieving
for dead friends." (Joseph Underwood Eldredge journal, August 23, 1885). J.
Golden Kimball described "incoherant prayers which were mixed up with groans
and moans" (J. Golden Kimball journal, January 13 and March 5, 1884). See also
Newell Kimball journal.
50 J. Golden Kimball journal,
January 20, 1884.
51 Ibid.,
January 23, 1884. 52 Ibid., January 23, 1884. In 1992, Alvin Woodrow Coleman and Garvis Wheelermentioned several people who had remembered their great-grandfather, Peter
H. Mason, when he was very old. All described Peter Mason as an "Indian" with
long, straight, "coal black" hair that "hung down to his hips." Alvin Woodrow
Coleman and Garvis Wheeler, interviews by author, December 27, 1992. Family
legends differ as to whether Peter Mason was an adopted Indian baby raised by
Mary Mason or whether he was actually Mary’s son. Donna Huffer, Fare Thee Well, Old Joe Clark: History of the
Clark Family of Rockbridge County (self-published, n.d.), p.330. Jay Hansford C. Vest connects Peter Mason to a Tuscarora/Nottoway Indian
of that surname who lived near the
Fort Christiana reservation in the early 1700s.
Vest points out that Mason had "likely a mixed blood from an Indian mother and
a non-Indian father at some point" in his ancestry, making bloodlines difficult to
trace. Letter to author,
June 19, 2009. See also Jay Hansford C. Vest, "From Nansemond
to Monacan: The Legacy of the Pochick-Nansemond among the Bear
Mountain Monacan," in American Indian Quarterly (Summer and Fall 2003), pp.781-806; Jay Hansford C. Vest, "The Origins of the Johns Surname: A Monacan
Ethonogenesis," in Quarterly Bulletin of the Archeological Society of Virginia (March2005), pp. 1-14; and Jay Hansford C. Vest, The Bobtail Stories: Growing Up Monacan
(State University Press of New York, Albany, forthcoming).
53 Nearly all members of the Cawtawba nation joined Mormonism in the 1880s. See
Charles M. Hudson, The Catawba Nation (University of Georgia Press, Athens,1970); Jerry D. Lee, "A Study of the Influence of the Mormon Church on the
Catawba Indians of South Carolina" (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University,
1976); and Columbia South Carolina Stake Fortieth Anniversary (Columbia, 1987),pp. 11-14 and 199-204.
54 Andrew Jensen, Encyclop edic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(Salt Lake City, 1941), p. 821; and Columbia South Carolina Stake Fortieth Anniversary,
pp. 13-14 and 201, quoting the Deseret News , July 31, 1885. See also E. S.[initials only], "In the Hands of the Lawless: A Missionary’s Experience in North
Carolina," in the Deseret News, April 20, 1887.55 Latter-day Saints believed that people of Israelite lineage had special responsibility
to gather together to welcome the second coming of the Messiah. They
thought the Tribe of
Judah would gather in Jerusalem to welcome the Messiah,
who was of the lineage of
Judah. The Messiah would also appear in the Western
hemisphere, however, as he had done in Book of Mormon times. Native Americans,who had descended from the Tribe of Joseph through Manasseh, had a special
responsibility to welcome the Messiah. White gentiles with "believing blood"
could be "adopted" into
Israel as part of the lineage of Joseph’s son, Ephriam,
and help with the American welcoming. See Genesis 9 ; Galatians 3:7 ; Given s, By the Hand of Mormon, pp. 67-69; and Mauss, pp. 2-4 and 43.56 But see Hix, Houck and Maxham, Rice, and Wood and Shields.
Joseph Smith’s early translations of some Egyptian papyri, canonized in 1880,
were used to explain the priesthood denial.
Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 1:1-
27; Moses 7:8, 12, 22. See Mauss, pp. 238-41. Smith’s translation lined up with a
large body of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European writing that interprets
4:15 to mean that the Lord marked Cain and his descendants withblack skin. By the mid-nineteenth century, these writers interpreted Genesis 9
to mean that Noah’s son, Ham, married one of Cain’s descendants and thereby
perpetuated the black race and its curse. Stephen R. Haynes, Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification for Slavery (
Oxford University Press, London, 2003), pp. 15-16and 99, and Mauss, p. 238.
The Book of Mormon told of a curse upon the Lamanites as well. The Book of Mormon
promised that repentance would lift the curse to offer full salvation to all
people, "black and white, bond and free." Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 26:25, 30:6.40 Garth N. Jones, "James Thompson Lisonbee:
San Luis Valley Gathering, 1876-
78," in Journal of Mormon History , (Spring 2002), p. 228. See Woodward, pp. 31-65.41
Davis Bitton, " Troublesome Bedfellows: Mormons and Other Minorities ," in The Mormon Graphic Image: Cartoons, Caricatures, and Illustrations, 1834-1914
(Universityof Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 1983), pp. 75-94. Brigham Young encouraged
Anglos and Indians to intermarry, and emphasized real marriages rather than
concubine arrangements. Mauss, p. 64.
42 Leonard J. Arrington and David Bitton, The Mormon Experience: A History of theLatter-day Saints (University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1992), pp. 156-157; Garold D. Barney,
Mormons, Indians, and the Ghost Dance Religion (University Press ofAmerica, Lanham, Maryland, 1986), pp. 69-228; Lawrence Coates, "The Mormons
and the Ghost Dance," in Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought (Winter 1985), pp. 89-111; Givens, By the Hand of Mormon (Oxford University Press USA,New York, 2002), p. 96; and Gregory E. Smoak, "The Mormons and the Ghost
Dance of 1890," in South Dakota History , (Fall 1986), pp. 269-94. See Book of Mormon,
title page; 2 Nephi
6:13-18; 2 Nephi 9:1-3; 2 Nephi 30:3-6.43 Arrington and Bitton, pp. 177-179. See also Horace Bushnell, Barbaris m: The First Danger: A Discourse for Home Missions
(American Home Mission Society, New York,1847), pp. 5-27; Newell Kimball journal, May 11, 1884 (Archives of the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City, hereafter cited as "L.D.S. Archives"),
April 27, 1884; Joseph Bourne Clark, Leavening the Nation: the Story ofAmerican Home Missions (Baker and Taylor Co., New York, 1903), p. 238; and Platt Ward, ed.,
Methodism and the Republic: A View of the Home Field, Present Conditions, Needs and Possibilities (Board of Home Missions and Church Extension of theMethodist Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, 1912), p. 89.
44 Although a missionary might be young in years, the title "elder" indicated priesthood
rank and call to mission work. Arrington and Bitton, pp. 206-07.
45 J. Golden Kimball journal,
December 30, 1883, University of Utah archives, Salt
Lake City
46 They had struggled through the mud to get up and over the ridge of the mountains
to Oronoco (J. Golden Kimball journal, December 30, 1883). A few months
later, Elder Joseph Underwood Eldredge wrote that the missionary "diagram" he
used to get up to Pedlar Creek was "about as comprehensive and useful as a map
of the
Valley of Jehosephat." He described Oronoco as "merely a post office,"
noting that people lived "in a scattered condition in the woods." Michael W.
Eldredge, ed., The Mission Journals of Joseph Underwood Eldredge, Virginia Conference of the Southern States Mission (Mill Creek Press, Salt Lake City, 1992), entries datedNovember 3 and 4, 1884.
228 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 229
68 Ibid.,
February 3, 1884. 69 Ibid., February 18, 1884. From the context of Kimball’s journal, it appears thatMarvel Mason was the "Mr. Mason" who initially assisted Elders Kimball and
Welch on Pedlar Creek.
70 Index to Ward Record of Members and Children of the Virginia Conference of
the Virginia Conference of the Southern States
Mission, 1875-1930, hereafter
"Index of Members" (L.D.S. Archives).
71 J. Golden Kimball journal,
January 17, 1884, and Peter Peterson journal, October
4, 1888
, to September 27, 1889. See also Southern Star, September 28, 1884;" Virginia Conference," Deseret News , October 20, 1884; N. L Nelson, "Conference in Virginia,"
Deseret News , September 13, 1886; "The Outlook in Virginia," DeseretNews, October 13, 1886; and Josiah Burrows, "Conference in Virginia," Deseret News
, October 20, 1887.72 Sarah Mason Whitmore and Susan Mason Knowles, International Genealogical
Index,, and Peter Peterson journal, May 21, 1889.
73 See immigration notes in the margins of the Index of Members. Many families
gathered to
Manassas, Colorado, although some went to Utah, Idaho, and Arizona.
74 Irish Creek residents housed at least nine elders when they met for a conference
October 15-16, 1887. Josiah Borrows, "Conference in Virginia," Deseret Evening News, October 20, 1887.75 John W. Tate, letter to his wife, Lizzie (in possession of descendant Barbara Jo
Lee Baldwin),
February 15, 1888.
76 Disciples of Christ, as well as members of the Churches of Christ and the
(often called "Campbellites" by outsiders), believed in a restoration
of the primitive church of the New Testament. They called themselves
"Disciples" or "Christians," because they did not follow anyone but Christ and
rejected all denominationalism. The non-centralized Churches of Christ and
Christian Churches shared some practices with "Primitive Baptists" and other
independent upland religious people. G. R. Hand, Dr. Ray’s Textbook on Campbellism,Exposed (Christian Publishing Co., Washington, D.C., 1880), p. vi; Terryl L. Givens,
The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy (OxfordUniversity Press, Oxford, 1997), p. 68; McCauley, pp. 65-68; Frank S. Mead
and Samuel S. Hill, Handbook of Denominations in the United States , eleventh edition(Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2001), pp. 103-13.
77 Index of Members (immigrated to
San Pete County, Utah, in November 1890).
See Peter Peterson journal, June-August, 1889.
Sidney Rigdon, a minister and close associate of Alexander Campbell, helped
bring forth the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement on the Appalachian frontier
in the 1820s. Rigdon believed that Joseph Smith’s latter-day visions provided
miraculous proof of the restoration of primitive Christianity. He and his large
congregation converted to Mormonism in
Ohio in 1831. Rigdon then helped
develop many of the religious practices inherent to Mormonism. Claudia Lauper
Bushman and Richard Lyman Bushman, Building the Kingdom: A History ofMormons in America (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001), p. 12; Givens, By the Hand of Mormon,
pp. 67 and158-159; and Henry E. Webb, In Search of ChristianUnity: A History of the Restoration Movement (Standard Publishing, Cincinnati, 1990), pp. 142-43. See also J. H. Milburn,
Origin of Campbellism (Regan PrintingHouse, Chicago, 1913), title page and pp. 34-51.
57 See Arrington and Bitton, pp. 145-58, and David J. Whittaker, "Mormons and
Native Americans: A Historical and Bibliographical Introduction," in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought(Winter 1985), pp. 33-64.58 Newell Kimball journal,
May 11, 1884. The fact that several missionaries who visited
Pedlar Creek did not mention skin color with regard to the Masons indicates
that they did not consider them black. The elders mentioned black skin so often
in other communities that they surely would have mentioned it in this one had
they seen it. See, for example, Joseph Underwood Eldredge journal, 1884-85;
Newell Kimball journal, 1882-84; and Peter Peterson journal, 1888-89 (L.D.S.
59 See Givens, By the Hand of Mormon , pp. 99 and 127.60 Newell Kimball journal,
June 4, 1884.
61 J. Golden Kimball journal, January 23-24 and
March 3, 1884. Peter H. Mason was
finally baptized on
May 21, 1888. International Genealogical Index, L.D.S. Ordinance
Records, It was commonplace for Appalachian uplanders
to wait years for baptism or to never opt for it. Deborah Vansau McCauley,
Appalachian Mountain Religion: A History (University of Illinois Press, Urbana andChicago, 1995), pp. 14-17, 21, and 101.
62 J. Golden Kimball journal,
January 24, 1884; Newell Kimball journal, June 2,
63 J. Golden Kimball journal,
January 24, 1884; Peter Peterson journal, December
1 and
March 20, 1889.
64 "Mormon Elders Reported Murdered by Masked Men in
Tennessee," Deseret EveningNews, August 12, 1884, and "What a Man from Evansville Learned in Tennessee,"
Deseret Evening News , September 2, 1884. Heather M. Seferovich, "History ofthe Southern States Mission, 1875-1898" (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1996), pp. 123-37; William Whitridge Hatch,
Mormons in the Southern States: ACentury of Religious Bigotry, Murder, and Civil Mayhem, 1831-1923 (self-publishe d, 2003);
Columbia South Carolina, p. 215, quoting an article from the New York Sun ,July 26, 1887 ("KKK Raid on Mormon Meeting near Augusta, Georgia"); J. T.
Heniger, correspondence, Deseret News , February 7, 1884; Newel Kimball journal,April 27 and May 18, 1884; Henry Charles Eddington journal, February 26, 1887
(L.D.S. Archives); Peter Peterson journal, November 29-30, 1888, and July 28,
1889; and Thomas C. Romney journal, February 24, 1898 (L.D.S. Archives). See
also Milo A. Hendricks’ letter to Josiah Burrows, December 23, 1887 (published
in the Deseret Evening News , February 10, 1888) and John W. Tate, letter to hiswife, Lizzie (December 23, 1887), in possession of descendent Barbara Jo Lee
Baldwin). These letters describe mobsters near Irish Creek in
Rockbridge County
seriously injuring Elders Tate and Hendricks by blasting them with doublebarreled
shotguns. They also threatened to cut the elders’ hearts out with razors.
65 J. Golden Kimball journal,
March 5, 1884. One should not confuse Appalachian
Mountain Baptists with members of mainstream Baptist denominations. Historian
J. H. Spencer wrote in 1885 that the various sects of Baptists in the
had "seceded" from the "real" Baptists even though they hung onto the
name. McCauley, p. 23, citing J. H. Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists from 1769 to 1885 , revised and corrected by Mrs. Burrilla B. Spencer (J. R. Baumes,Cincinnati, 1885; reprinted by Church History Research and Archives, Gallatin,
Tennessee, 1984).
66 J. Golden Kimball journal, January 24, February 3, and
February 4, 1884.
67 Ibid.,
January 29,1884.
230 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 231
On October 17, 1897, missionaries organized a Sunday school in the mountains
near Oronoco with James W. Stinnette as superintendent and Mary L. Mason as
secretary. "Sunday Schools Organized, "Index of Members, 290.
February 24, 1898, missionaries organized a Sunday school in Buena Vista
with Elmer Crown as superintendent. After the organization of the Sunday
school, an armed mob confronted Elders Thomas Romney and Joseph B. Kendall,
threatening to whip them with hickory switches and shoot them. After keeping
the elders up most of the night, the mobsters put both of them on the train to
Basic City, now part of Waynesboro, in Augusta County, warning that they would
kill them if they ever came back. MH, February 24, 1898; David M. Mayfield, assistant
church librarian archivist, in a letter to Aubrey Coleman,
April 22, 1976
(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
Buena Vista Stake Family History
Buena Vista; hereafter BV Family History Library).
July 8, 1911, Elder Isaac C. MacFarlane reorganized the Buena Vista Sunday
School with Jacob Mason as superintendent and George Coleman as his assistant.
July 8, 1911.
August 17, 1912, missionaries organized a Sunday school near Cornwall with
R. M. Southers as superintendent. MH,
August 17, 1912.
93 MH,
June 15, 1918; Liahona , Southern States Mission, Chattanooga, Tennessee(1918), 16:895.
94 MH
July 13, 1918; Liahona , 16:942.95 A priesthood holder named R. S. Gilley helped with the conference. Gilley was
not listed in the membership records of Rockbridge or
Amherst counties between
1884 and 1918. Even though this
August 24, 1918, entry includes the word
"branch," no other record of a local branch president exists for that year. Perhaps
a traveling elder served as branch president, or the word "branch" was used in
error. Liahona , 18:1037.96 Missionaries stopped in
Buena Vista in 1920 to preach a funeral for "Brother
Staten," but then the record went blank for seventeen years. Centralized church
leadership continued to support the congregation near Collierstown, however,
where ethnicity never became an issue, and to make routine
Virginia entries in
mission records. See MH,
September 29, 1929.
97 MH,
April 13, 1921. The Virginia District became part of the East Central States
Mission in 1928, but no entries were made for Buena Vista until 1937, when a
new church was dedicated by William Tew, president of the East Central States
Mission. Later, Virginia joined the Central Atlantic States Mission. Buena Vista
had one entry in 1944 and one in 1953. In 1957, continuous entries began once
again. See David M. Mayfield, assistant church librarian archivist, in a letter to
Aubrey Coleman,
April 22, 1976 (BV Family History Library).
98 Will Southers (1898-1994), interview with author,
December 26, 1992. Garvis
Wheeler said that Jacob Mason was "one of the greatest Biblical scholars around
here." Garvis Wheeler, interview with author, December 27, 1992.
99 When the missionaries first left, local members sometimes wrote to the mission
home to ask that elders be sent to lay hands upon family members who were ill
or to baptize them. If missionaries were passing through, they stopped. But even
those visits ended in 1925. See Lizzie Wadsworth Clemmer (granddaughter of
Esau Mason, baptized in 1923), handwritten manuscript, (BV Family History Library,
July 9, 1992); Alvin Woodrow Coleman, interview with G. Douglas Larsen,
October 13, 1997 (BV Family History Library); Thelma Lilley Conner, unpublished
manuscript, (BV Family History Library, circa 1985); and Lizzie South-
79 For a discussion of these changes, see Thomas G. Alexander, Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890-1930 (University of Illinois Press, Urbana,1996).
80 Royster Lyle Jr., "
Buena Vista and its Boom, 1889-1891," Proceedi ngs of the Rockbridge Historic Society
, Volume 8 (1971). See generally David E. Whisnant, All that Is Native and Fine: The Politics of Culture in an American Region (University of NorthCarolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1983).
81 Plessy v.
Ferguson , 163 U.S. 537 (1896), and Code of Virginia , Chapter 4, §28 (1902).For an excellent overview of segregation in the United States, see Woodward.
82 Edward J. Eardley letter,
Deseret Weekly , April 30, 1890. See also Oren F. Morton, A History of Rockbridge County
(The McClure Co., Staunton, 1920), p. 154, and Lyle," Buena Vista and Its Boom, 1889-1891."
83 Morton, 154.
84 In 1895 and 1896, the Southern states mission president counseled all elders
to discourage immigration, organize local congregations, and ordain lay priesthood
leaders for those congregations. Elias Kimball letters to Southern states
May 23, 1895, and March 25, 1896 (L.D.S. archives).
85 Thomas Romney journal,
December 22, 1895. Thomas Romney’s father had
moved his wives and families to
Mexico when the federal government outlawed
polygamy. Romney’s mission journal does not say whether he told the mayor why
his family lived in
Mexico. See Catharine Cottam Romney and Jennifer Moulton
Hansen, eds., Letters of Catharine Cottam Romney, Plural Wife (University of IllinoisPress, Urbana, 1992).
86 Ibid. It may be worth noting here that the N-word, in its earliest use, was "a racialdesignation apparently without rancorous intent"; "the high degree of offensiveness
attached to this term per se . . . has increased markedly over time, perhaps
especially in the twentieth century." J. E. Lighter, ed., Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang,Volume 2 (Random House, New York, 1997), pp.656-57.
87 David Call journal,
September 3, 1897 (L.D.S. Archives).
88 The "
Amherst County Register of Free Blacks, 1822-1864" included the names of
Peter and "Deannah" Mason, together with seven of their children. McLeroy and
McLeroy, p. 177.
89 Elias Kimball letters to Southern States missionaries,
May 23, 1895, and March
25, 1896
(L.D.S. archives).
90 Index of Members, Ordinations, 40. See also F. W. Neve, "Some Mountain Missions
Virginia," in The Spirit of Missions: An Illustrated Monthly Review of Christian Missions (December 1901), pp. 806-07.91 "Ordinations," Index of Members, 40. For a discussion of Latter-day Saint congregational
organization (branches, wards, and stakes), see Arrington and Bitton,
pp. 206-19 and 292-93.
92 On
October 10, 1897, missionaries organized a Sunday school in the mountains
near Collierstown with Joseph Knick as superintendent. The Collierstown Sunday
School was reorganized
May 5, 1917, and local members built a church house
at about the same time. Ethnicity was never an issue in Collierstown. See "Sunday
Schools Organized," Index of Members, 290; Southern States Manuscript History
(hereafter MH) (L.D.S. Archives), August 16, June 4, and
May 5, 1916.
232 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII 233
A. Pocock and author, September 4-8, 2003; "Farewell Testimonial[s] Given in
Honor of Elder Alvin Pocock Who Will Leave Shortly for the East Central States
Mission" (25th Ward, Salt Lake City, Utah: 1930, 1934).
109 Alexander, pp. 48-49.
110 The twelve tribes of Israel are Judah, Levi, Dan, Naphtali, Asher, Simeon, Zebulun,
Benjamin, Gad, Joseph, Reuben, and Issachar ( Genesis, 35:22-26).111 Elijah Clark, interview with Wilford Teerlink, December 12, 1990; Alvin Woodrow
Coleman, interview with G. Douglas Larsen, (BV Family History Library, undated);
Lizzie Southers manuscript; Nellie Cash Clark Southers, interview with
author, December 26, 1992; Will Southers (1898-1994), interview with author,
December 26, 1992; and Alvin Pocock manuscript.
112 Lizzie Southers manuscript and Will Southers, interview with author,
26, 1992
113 Reid Tippitts journal,
May 30, 1937 (L.D.S. Archives). See also entries of April 25
May 31, 1937.
114 Peggy Cash Goodsell, interview with author, January 5, 2003, and "A Brief History
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Area of Buena Vista,
Virginia" ( BV Family History Library, 1978).
115 All worthy members could partake of this bread and water to remember Christ’s
broken flesh and the blood he shed to atone for their sins. By participating,
members also promised to take upon themselves the name of Christ, always to
remember him, and to keep his commandments. 1 Corinthians 11: 23-25; Doctrine and Covenants 27: 2.116 Tursell Larsen and Flora Larsen Patterson, interview with author, June 5, 1992;
Program from the Waynesboro Branch Dedicatory Services (May 21, 1978) 6-7.
117 Elijah Clark, interview with Wilford Teerlink,
December 12, 1990.
118 Claude Edward Clark, interview with author,
December 26, 1992.
119 Letter from W. E. Larsen to William S. Tanner,
May 1, 1951, and letter from Elder
Wm. S. Tanner to Brother Larsen,
May 3, 1951 (in possession of descendant
G. Douglas Larsen). The names of many
Clarks appear on the Amherst’s antibellum
register of free blacks. McLeRoy and McLeroy, pp. 53-213.
120 For a discussion of Appalachian Mountain beliefs with regard to going "straight
to the throne" for divine guidance, see McCauley, pp. 14-17, 21, 78, 95, 101, and
121 Claude Edward Clark, interview with author,
December 26, 1992 and Wayne
Larsen, interview with author,
October 15, 1993.
122 Claude Edward Clark, interviews with author,
December 26, 1992, and September
9, 2002
. See Genesis 9.123 Claude Edward Clark, interview with author, December 26, 1992.
124 People in Virginia who considered themselves Indians and were barred from
marriage to neighbors with white vital statistics often chose intermarriage within
their own small communities over searching for African American mates in unknown
communities. Claude Edward Clark, interview with author, December 26,
1992; Garvis Wheeler, interview with author, December 27, 1992; and Wood and
Shields, p. 27. See also Arthur H. Estabrook and Ivan E. McDougle, Mongrel Virginians, and Morton, p. 139.ers, unpublished manuscript edited by G. Douglas Larsen, (BV Family History
Library, 1974).
100 For insight into Appalachian mountain religion and how it differs from mainstream
Protestant denominations, see Loyal Jones, Faith and Meaning in the Southern Uplands (University of Chicago Press, Urbana, 1999); McCauley; andWhisnant.
101 Myrtle Wilhelm Coleman, interview with author,
December 27, 1992.
102 Thelma Lilley Conner manuscript; Will Southers, interview with author, December
26, 1992; and Garvis Wheeler, interview with author, December 27, 1992.
103 Myrtle Wilhelm Coleman, interview with author,
December 26, 1992.
104 Elders
Alvin Pocock and John E. Paget. Alvin Pocock handwritten manuscript,
transcribed and edited by Steven A. Pocock on
September 4, 2003 (L.D.S. archives,
circa 1960).
105 Will Southers (1898-1994), interview with author,
December 26, 1992; Alvin
Pocock manuscript, circa 1960; and Lizzie Southers manuscript. Alvin Pocock
wrote, "I met a fine man there [near
Cornwall] by the name of William Southers.
We baptized his wife into the Church. Will was already a member and a good one
at that!" Pocock also recorded several stories about the multiple meetings he and
Elder Paget held there for audiences as large as 600. On the first Sunday he was
there, he said that a female minister showed up for the meeting, where people
were already sitting on hayracks outside. She brought her whole congregation,
with their Bibles, in the backs of five trucks. Pocock said, "I quoted scripture
faster than the minister could find it, even as I gave her chapter and verse. Of
course, the rest of their congregation was like a lot of Mormons, unlearned in
the letter and word, and could not find the quotations I was giving them by the
Years later Will Southers sent Alvin Pocock a telegram asking him to come to
Cornwall. The minister’s daughter had prophesied that she would die in a month
and wanted Elder Alvin Pocock to preach at her funeral. Pocock preached the
funeral and the minister’s congregation provided the music. Alvin Pocock manuscript,
circa 1960.
106 Elijah Clark, interview with Wilford Teerlink, December 12, 1990, and Nellie
Cash Clark Southers, interview with author, December 26, 1992.
107 Will Southers (1898-1994), interview with author,
December 26, 1992.
108 Brigham D. Madsen, Against the Grain: Memoirs of a Western Historian (SignatureBooks, Salt Lake City, 1998), p. 85.
Alvin Pocock knew that some other elders thought he had baptized African
Americans in and near
Buena Vista in 1932 and again in his second mission
there, from 1934 to 1936. Elder Maurice P. Monson, who held a leadership position
at the mission home in
Louisville, initially applauded the Buena Vista baptisms,
but later insisted that Pocock had baptized blacks. Pocock wrote, "Little did
he know." Then Pocock added, "There was a great deal of prejudice concerning
the color and different class of people there. But who am I to pass judgment on
people? It says in Acts 17:26, ‘God had made all men of one blood.’ So I labored
among them. . . ." He said that the people diligently did their own genealogy and
the research showed that they were "Cherokee Indians." He noted that two early
missionaries, B. H. Roberts and J. Golden Kimball, also believed that they were
Indians. Alvin Pocock manuscripts, circa 1960 (includes a clipping from an unnamed
mission publication, circa 1932); email correspondence between Steven
234 P roceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society — Volume XIII
125 Claude Edward Clark, interview with author,
December 26, 1992. The author
has in her possession seventy-six pages of the Atha Sorrells court documents that
Claude Edward Clark printed from his grandfather’s microfilm.
126 Ernest Lilley married Fannie Clark in June 1933. Fannie Lilley Conner, unpublished
manuscript, circa 1982; "History of the Latter-day Saints in
Buena Vista,"
1993 (BV Family History Library); and Claude Edward Clark, interview with author,
December 26, 1992.
127 "History of the Latter-day Saints in
Buena Vista," 1993 (BV Family History Library),
and International Genealogical Index,
128 Hansford Vest, "The Gospel and Jacob Lee Hamilton," unpublished manuscript,
circa 1980 (BV Family History Library).
129 "History of the Latter-day Saints in
Buena Vista," (BV Family History Library,
1993). A branch president presides over small congregations, called branches. A
bishop presides over larger congregations, called wards.
130 Claude Edward Clark, interview with author,
December 26, 1992.
131 Brochure for Southern
Virginia University, 2003. Because of the university’s
rapid growth, several large congregations of Latter-day Saints attend church in
Rockbridge County every Sunday.
132 Juanita Wheeler, interview with author,
July 25, 2003.
133 J. David Smith, "Legal Racism and Documentary Genocide: Dr. Plecker’s Assault
on the Monacan Indians," in Lynches Ferry: A Journal of Local History (Spring/Summer 1992) and Houck and Maxham, p. 193.
134 In the twenty-first century, establishing Indian identity in
Virginia remains difficult
in the face of hundreds of years of records that support the contrary. While
genetic testing can be useful in establishing relationships, it is less reliable in
proving or disproving Indian identity. See Eric Beckenhauer, "Redefining Race:
Can Genetic Testing Provide Biological Proof of Indian Ethnicity?" Stanford LawReview, volume 56, number 1 (2003); Christian Sundquist, "The Meaning of Race in the
DNA Era: Science, History and the Law," in
Temple Journal of Science,Technology & Environmental Law (Fall 2008); Kim TallBear, "Can
DNA Determine Who is American Indian?", in
Indian Country Today (December 3, 2003). 135 Loving v. Virginia , 338
U.S. 1 (1967).136 Doctrine and Covenants, Official Declaration 2 (1978).


  1. Trying to find info on Minnie Viola Carter (married name Freeze, married name Lake), date of birth-January 15, 1884. Possibly a Catawba Indian child adopted at birth by missionaries (unknown church affiliation). Lived in NC until death April 4, 1972. Widow of Frances Mahlon Lake.

  2. Looking for relatives of Ole Joe Clark. I am a direct decendant of John Henry Clark, being my grandmother Sara's father. I am easily found on Facebook under Ashleigh Roberts, or email me at I was adopted at 17yrs of age and taken away from my family when I was 7yrs old. I have many questions.