Pioneer Park

I don’t remember what year it was, but some time when I lived in Salt Lake City (1977-1987), the city was doing some work at Pioneer Park. I’ve done some searches. From what I find, it seems it must have been 1986. Construction crews were digging a foundation for a new apartment building near Pioneer Park, when they found a human skeleton. And that discovery led to finding Salt Lake’s first cemetery, near the old fort.

I’d swear it was way before 1986, but I can’t find any online info to support me. The way I remember it, the city was doing some work at Pioneer Park itself. They found the graves or maybe they didn’t find the graves but everyone thought they might have, then for weeks afterward there was a general muttering around the city that they could be releasing old pathogens, and there were scattered claims that this person or that had contracted some unusual fever that must certainly have come from opening old graves.

Messing with the old cemetery was going to kill us all.

Anyway. However it happened, the city found 32 graves near Pioneer Park, which means near the old fort. The bodies were re-buried at This is the Place Monument in 1987.

At the start of the work at Pioneer Park I thought my ancestor Mary Adeline (Beman) Noble would be among the bodies interred there. She was the adopted mother of Ann (Quarmby) Luce. But no. Mary died in 1851, and was buried at City Cemetery.

But I didn’t know then — and wish I had — is my ancestor Malatiah Luce who died in 1849 was probably among the bodies. If there was anything left of him to move, he is probably among the bodies at the This is the Place Monument.

Edited Oct. 1, 2019 to add an additional source.

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Scottish Witch Map

Here’s something to fire the imagination of genealogists in Britain and its diaspora. A map of some 3000 witches in 16th and 17th centuries Scotland. Who doesn’t have (or wish for) a Scottish witch in the family tree?

It builds on the university’s breakthrough work on the Scottish Witchcraft Survey which brought to life the persecution of women during the period, with many burned at the stake or drowned.

There is a very strong feeling out there that not enough has been done to inform people about the women who were accused of being witches in Scotland There is still this Halloween concept surrounding them.

Moniac Problems

I just finished this wonderful book, Independence Lost. Like the rest of America, I’m used to reading and hearing about the American Revolution in terms of people in New England and Virginia. Events elsewhere are just part of an unimportant periphery. I read somewhere that we forget only 13 of the 22 British colonies in America rebelled. Cool fact, but it doesn’t add much.

The summary of this book at Goodreads says, “In the Gulf of Mexico, Spanish forces clashed with Britain’s strained army to carve up the Gulf Coast, as both sides competed for allegiances with the powerful Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek nations who inhabited the region. Meanwhile, African American slaves had little control over their own lives, but some individuals found opportunities to expand their freedoms during the war.

Cool stuff.

One of the recurring characters in the drama was Alexander McGillivray (1750-1793), a Creek leader. One of McGillivray’s wives was Elise Moniac, daughter of the Jacob Moniac. Here, I perked up. Moniac, that’s a familiar name.

Years ago, when I was looking for the ancestry of Elizabeth Lomax (1813/14-1895), I surveyed Lomax families throughout the South looking for her parents.

In those days before I had good dates for Elizabeth, one likely possibility seemed to be Sydney Lomax (1813-1877) and his wife Matilda Moniac (1830-1915). Matilda was a Creek, and said to be a descendant of that same Moniac family. It seemed like a good lead. Elizabeth married Rufus Roberson in 1841 in Platte County, Missouri. Probably I would find her parents in northwestern Missouri. One of my correspondents said Sydney Lomax was a stage driver who lived briefly in Clay County, Missouri, apparently some time between 1836 and 1851. I never did find out her source for that information.

It didn’t work out. Eventually I settled on Sydney Lomax’s cousin Asahel Lomax as the probable father of Elizabeth, and that meant there would be no Moniac connection.

One thing I learned in my brief foray into the Moniacs is how horribly tortured the various Moniac genealogies are. The Jacob who was father of Elise was not the same person as William, although they are almost universally conflated. Then too, dates for the early generations are all over the board.

I thought I might contribute some notes on that would help other researchers. I opened my old contributions. Jacob is now disconnected, his wife is married to William, and the whole area is mangled beyond recognition. I don’t have the patience for this. I did some light merging and some gentle pruning, then quietly closed the window and walked away. I’ll wait for someone who wants to do serious work.

Some Leads

Nothing special here. These are just some pages I had open when I decided to stop.

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Rev. Apr. 10, 2021 to remove broken links.

Fremont Village

They found this ancient Fremont village long after I left Salt Lake, but it’s not too far from one of the places I lived. The Fremont people were related to the Cliff Dwellers (Anasazi, Ancestral Pueblo, whatever we’re calling them now), further south. And like the Cliff Dwellers, the Fremont culture seems to have collapsed about 1300 C.E.

I’ve been fascinated since I was a kid. I’ve known about the Cliff Dwellers as long as I can remember. Probably because I started grade school in Brigham City, Utah and had friends whose families were at the Intermountain Indian School there. Very sad now, but back then we kids loved the mix of Anglo and Indian cultures.

I think the first I heard about the Fremont culture was my 8th grade Colorado history teacher, Mr. Meador. I think anyone who ever had him as a teacher probably ranks him among the best and most memorable. When I had him he was a student teacher for Mr. Legrani.

I wanted to do my “term paper” on the Fremont. If I remember correctly it had to be 3 pages, or maybe it was 5 pages. Handwritten, on notebook paper. This was 8th grade, remember. Anyway, there wasn’t enough source material. I don’t think anyone knew as much about the Fremont people as we do now, and besides, it seems like there has always been much more interest in the Utes, who were there when the Anglos arrived. I settled for doing my paper on the Meeker Massacre. This was 1969. Like every other boy in my class I was drawn to Nathan Meeker because the Utes drove a metal stake through his mouth. He was a preacher. They thought he talked too much. Best story ever.

There is a Fremont site at Glade Park, but I didn’t figure out where it is until many years later. Glade Park is a little community at the Colorado National Monument behind the Redlands, where we lived. And it was only recently that I discovered from Navajo historian Wally Brown that the ancestors of the Navajo lived as far north as the Book Cliffs, an area that would include what is now Glade Park. It seems likely to me there wasn’t as much difference between the Fremont and Ancestral Pueblo cultures, as it seems when looking just at their material culture.

Many years later, when I lived in Salt Lake City, I looked some more for information on the Fremont culture, and also came up empty. Same problems. Not much is known and what little there is gets lost among the volumes of stuff written about the Utes.

Then in 1999 they discovered a Fremont burial in Salt Lake City, at South Temple and 300 West:

Archaeological sites are not uncommon in Utah, but unearthing this human burial in downtown Salt Lake was a significant discovery. Further excavation by a research team from Brigham Young University uncovered several ancient pit houses, storage pits, fire hearths, and thousands of artifacts dating to 1000 years ago. Pottery, bone needles, arrow points and corn grinding tools provide clues about the Fremont people who lived at this spot. Animal bones found at the site, such as deer, rabbit, bison, and fish, provide information about the foods they ate and the surrounding environment. For example, the fish bones belonged to a minnow that probably came from what is now called City Creek, which flowed adjacent to this prehistoric village.” Archaeology Underfoot (2012).

I lived at 214 West North Temple until about March or April 1978. So close. I wish I had still been there in 1999, or at least still in Salt Lake. I would have enjoyed the feeling of connecting with history by living so close to a known site. (All of us live close to some historic site or another, whether we know it or not.)

Edited Sept. 23, 2019 to clarify the information from Wally Brown.

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Race vs Ethnicity

Masaman asks, “What’s the difference between the terms race, ethnicity, culture, ancestry, heritage, nationality and other terms that seem like they all should more or less be discussing the same thing?

What’s the Difference between Race and Ethnicity?

I’ve written about this before, including:

I come back to this subject over and over because it’s often a stumbling block for genealogists. Someone who doesn’t understand the differences will end up making mistakes when they interpret DNA results, and — very often — become confused about whether their own identity.

I’m going to keep posting and posting and posting.

Uncle Brother Joseph

The Luces have a connection to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Or maybe I should say we have a connection to Uncle Joe and Uncle Brigham. The connection goes through Annie Quarmby (1842-1904), the wife of Wilford Woodruff Luce.

Annie was born in England and came to America as a baby. Her father died at Nauvoo in 1845, probably of swamp fever, and her mother died, they say, at Winter Quarters in 1846/47. Annie was about 5 years old when she became an orphan. She was adopted by her mother’s bishop, Joseph Bates Noble and his wife Mary Adeline Beman.

Annie was orphaned so young she didn’t know her birthday or even her parents’ names. Today we know more about her origin than she did, thanks to the research of her grandson James Luce Marker. (I never tire of pointing out that I learned genealogy from him. I grew up with the story of his search for the Luce family Bible, so when I got interested in genealogy I went straight to him.)

Our connection to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young runs through Annie’s adopted mother. Bates Noble performed the first record plural marriage when he married his wife’s sister Louisa Beaman to Joseph Smith on 5 April 1841 at Nauvoo. After Smith’s assassination in 1844, Louisa Beaman married Brigham Young. There seems to be some uncertainty about the date of her second marriage but says 14 January 1846 at Nauvoo.

How fun is that? Two prophets in the family.

Early Black Mormons: Joseph Ball

When I was first researching the early Luce converts to Mormonism, I wanted to focus on primary sources rather than just repeating the same stories. I already knew the Luces were converted to Mormonism by Wilford Woodruff during his 1838 mission to Maine.

And that’s almost true. Actually, when Wilford Woodruff arrived at Vinalhaven, Maine on 13 January 1838, His mission companion Joseph Ball had already baptized six converts on the North Island: Malatire (sic) and Ruth Luce, their son and daughter-in-law Stephen and Nancy Luce, and their daughter and son-in-law Susan and Nathaniel Thomas.

Several years later, at Nauvoo in 1841, Woodruff wrote about the drowning of Stephen and Nancy’s two young sons—Samuel W. Luce and James F.C. Luce—saying he had baptized the couple himself. Regardless, the Luces seem to have credited their conversion to Wilford Woodruff. They even named a baby after him later that year.

Fun stuff, but that’s not the best part of the story. Several years ago I came across a source that said Ball was black. Really? That seems strange. Until 1978 the Church refused to give the priesthood to blacks. I heard different explanations over the years but the most common was that blacks sat on the fence during the war in heaven in the Pre-existence, so they were allowed to come to earth with human bodies but they were marked by the color of their skin.

With just a little research I discovered the ban on blacks in the priesthood dated from 1849. In other words, it was the teaching of Brigham Young, not of Joseph Smith.

Ball was ordained an elder sometime before January 1838 and the mission with Wilford Woodruff to the Fox Islands. Does that mean the early church allowed blacks to hold the priesthood? The answer isn’t clear.

Ball seems to have joined the Church in 1832. He was probably baptized in Boston by Orson Hyde and Samuel Smith. He might have been privileged to hold his priesthood because of his friendship with William Smith, who was the Prophet’s brother.

But it’s not clear his Mormon contemporaries thought Ball was black. Ball’s father was born in Jamaica. In 1796 he was a member of the African Society of Boston. The 1810 census shows the Ball family as non-white. The 1820 census shows them as “Free Colored Persons”. Then voilà, in 1830 Ball was white. And he was white thereafter. None of his Mormon contemporaries seem to have ever commented on his race, nor is there any evidence they regarded him as black.

I like this story. It pushes our boundaries. In his own lifetime Ball was black, then white. Later generations found out about his background, so retrofitted him to the role of a black man who held the priesthood against what had become the normative rule. For some, he could be pressed into service as an example of the difficulty of policing race in the Church. And now, now we discard all that and just notice the problems of defining race by something like the “one-drop rule“.

So, we have this little bit of history piled on top of the conversion to Mormonism. I like that a lot.

In 2015 I started a project at for Early Black Mormons. Just the breath of a beginning. It hasn’t gone very far but I’m hopeful that there is gathering interest in this kind of research.

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  • users, Early Black Mormons (updated July 26, 2018), visited Aug. 31, 2019.
  • Jeffrey D. Mahas, Joseph T. Ball, in Century of Black Mormons at University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library, visited Aug. 31, 2019.
  • Mica McGriggs, Darius Gray, and Christopher C. Smith, Episode 13: Early Black Mormons (Aug. 30, 2019), at, visited Aug. 31, 2019.