Mary McRee Black Brown
Contributor: Conyngham Created: 11 months ago Updated: 11 months ago
Mary McRee Black Brown was born in the state of Mississippi October 16, 1816. Her father was
a doctor and was the possessor of a large plantation and the owner of many slaves. His daughter Mary,
with several brothers and sisters were brought up in luxury and wealth and had every advantage that
money and the times could bring.
The mother of this noble woman was a very highly educated woman, with all the refinements
that education can give, and with this was connected a very religious mind. She brought her children up
to worship God. She would never allow any housework done on the Sabbath Day. Everything was
arranged in her household in such a manner that the slaves as well as her own family were not
permitted to do any work of any kind. They all had to attend church. I have heard my Grandmother tell
many times about going to the negro quarters after church and teaching them from the Bible and doing
what she could to make them understand who Jesus was.
When my grandmother was about eighteen years old her mother died and left a very large
family of almost grown sons and daughters. There was a very dear friend of this good woman who had
never married and spent a great deal of her time at the home of her friend. My great grandmother
thought she was the best woman that ever lived and asked her husband to make her his wife that she
might take her pace in being a mother to her children.
In time Dr. McRee married this dear good woman and I have heard my grandmother speak of
her as the best woman that ever lived after her mother.
My grandmother was a very delicate girl and was nurtured and taken care of by this stepmother who was never tired of doing for the children and husband of her dear friend.
When my grandmother was about twenty-two years old she married a good honorable young
man by the name of George David Black who had been brought up in the same strict religious way as
They had been married about two years when they heard of the new and strange doctrine
called Mormonism. Some elders were traveling through the country holding meetings. My
grandmother and her husband were convinced of the truth of the new doctrine, accepted it and were
The families of both grandmother and her husband were bitterly opposed, in fact grandmothers
brothers and sisters and even her dear father told her that she was being led away by the Devil.
They soon left their native home to cast their lot with the Latter Day Saints, giving up their
home, family ties and wealth to go through the hardships that our people had to pass through in those
early days. Brother Black, his wife and two children came up to Nauvoo. There he entered the
Mercantile business and was successful until his health failed him, and then to be better able to carry on
the business, took a partner in with him.
Brother Black contracted fever and Ague which sapped away his strength until he was also
taken to his bed with Typhoid-fever. He was too weak to withstand the dreadful ravages of this disease
and died leaving my Grandmother still frail and delicate, with two children o care for, and nothing to live
on. The business partner, a Mr. Gulley had previously defrauded her out of all they had. He was later
excommunicated from the Church.
In all this time my Grandmother had not heard a word from her people, but her husband’s
brother and some of the members of her father’s family had accepted the Gospel. They sent
word for her to come back to Mississippi but her husband on his death-bed told her to stay with
the Latter-day Saints and not go back to her old home. He feared the people would persuade her
to give up the religion he loved so well and even gave his life for. The doctors told him before he
died that if he would go to a warm climate he would get well. He said, “No.” He gave up all for the
Gospel and he could live or die for it which ever God desired of him.
taken down with the Fever and Ague and the doctors told her that she would go the same as her
husband. She sent for the Prophet Joseph Smith and he brought Brigham Young and they blessed
her and told her to go home to her husband’s people until spring, promising her that she would
recover and would do much good in spreading the Gospel and would bring some of her own people
to a knowledge of the Gospel.
peace with her father who died shortly after without receiving the Gospel, but felt more favorably
toward his daughter.
a dear friend in need. Grandmother was heartbroken by the death of husband and father and
was now called upon to part with her little daughter. Her brothers and sisters scorned her but
the mother stood by her in this dreadful ordeal.. Grandmother had many manifestations of the
goodness of God to her.
the land of the Saints again traveling by boat. She never regretted going back and just before the
martyrdom of the Prophet he told her she would be brought to the promised land where she
would be blessed beyond anything she could conceive at that time. This promise was fulfilled to
About the year 1844 she married Captain James Brown as his fourth wife. They started to the
valley with many other of the Saints but were called by the government to go to help in the trouble
between the United States and Mexico. They started, my Grandfather taking my Grandmother and
sending Grandma Roper on with President Young. Grandpa and Grandma had many hardships on that
journey but my Grandmother being of a hopeful ambitious disposition overcame all obstacles in the
way and arrived in Salt Lake City July 27, 1847.
My Grandmother refused to go, saying she would stay with the Church. She finally was
She took the advise of the Prophet and went back to her home. While there she made
The dear mother who had always been so good and true to Grandmother was at this time
When spring came, she in company with Daniel Tiler, then a traveling elder set out for
My Grandfather was sent to Ogden, then a barren forbidding looking place, to help build up and
settle so that the saints who come after might have a place to go.
My Grandmother gave birth to a baby girl, six months after arriving in Salt Lake, and when
Grandpa was sent to Ogden he took Grandma with him. She had been blessed with health and was a
strong healthy woman and could do the work of two ordinary women. She had to cook, wash, iron and
mend for Grandpa’s large family of boys who had been left to the mercies of the world, their mother
having died in Nauvoo, besides others who worked for Grandpa. She has had the Indians come and
threaten to take her baby if she did not give them food, sometimes all she had prepared for the men
in the field. She made the first cheese ever made in the state of Utah, was an experienced cook, a
splendid needle woman and was always happy in doing for others. When we take into consideration
that when a girl who was sickly and delicate and even when a woman, until she came to Utah, we must
acknowledge that the Lord blessed her for her obedience just as the Prophet had told her she should be.
She did a great deal of work in the Temples for her father’s family but her brothers and sisters never
forgave her. She never received one dollar from her brothers and sisters when they settled her fathers
estate, but the Civil War took from them what they deprived her of. So we will draw the curtain with
this and trust that all who have given so much for the Gospel will receive the reward of a righteous judge.
THE LIFE OF MARY MCREE BROWN
Contributor: Conyngham Created: 11 months ago Updated: 11 months ago
Mary McRee Brown was born October 17, 1819, in Copiah County, Mississippi, the daughter
of William McRee and Mary MCCorkins. Her parents were of Scotch descent and had immigrated to
Mississippi from North Carolina about 1816. MCRee was a wealthy planter and a doctor of medicine
of high standing.
In her younger life, Mary had every comfort and luxury available in those days, even to
having a colored personal maid. Her mother died when Mary was very young, and her father
married a life-long friend of McRee’s deceased wife. Her name was Mary Warnock. She was a very
devoted and wise stepmother. Mary was taught to sew by the family seamstress, and when she
learned to make good buttonholes, her brother, William, made her a present of two silk dresses –
when silk was very much more expensive than it is today. She was also taught to cook, and all her
life was considered a splendid cook of the old Southern type.
Mary, at 22, married George Black, son of a neighboring planter, Charles Black, and his wife,
Rebecca Brewer. When they set up housekeeping they had four colored servants.
In 1841, Mary and her husband joined the Mormon Church, having been converted to
the faith by Daniel Tyler. Mary had always been a religious girl. Her parents were very strict in
observing the Sabbath. No work was done by the family or servants on that day. Everything was
prepared on Saturday, and all went to church on Sunday. Mary spent part of Sunday over at the
quarters of the slaves teaching them about Jesus and reading the Bible to them. Her father had
a hundred slaves. He was opposed to slavery, however, so he gave them all their freedom, but
retained them to work on his plantation and provided for them.
In 1843, Mary and her husband moved to Nauvoo. When they joined the church, her father
told her she was being led astray by the devil, so when they left for Nauvoo, they gave up family,
friends and their land and property which they could not dispose of. Mary had a half section of
valuable timber which her father had given her as a “gift of love” at the time of her marriage; this
was later sold as taxes.
After arriving in Nauvoo, Mr. Black worked on the Nauvoo Temple for two years, and later
engaged in the Mercantile business. He took a partner in with him, and was successful until his
health failed. He died in 1845 of malaria. The partner of Mr. Black, a Mr. Gully defrauded Mary of
every cent that was invested in the business. He was afterwards excommunicated from the church.
During all these years, Mary had not heard from her family. She had buried three little girls,
and the death of her husband greatly tried her. Failing in health, and destitute of means, she was
written by her husband’s folks, who had been converted to Mormonism, to come back to
Mississippi. Her husband, however, on his deathbed, had told her not to go back to Mississippi,
because he feared her people would persuade her to stay. He had practically given his life for his
religion, as the doctors had told him that if he would go back to a warm climate he would recover
his health. But he always refused, saying. “I can either live or die for the gospel, whichever God
Mary became very ill, and the doctors told her she would die as her husband did, unless she
went away from that climate. Mary refused to go and sent for the Prophet Joseph. He brought
Brigham Young with him and blessed her, and told her to go home to her husband’s people until
spring, that she would recover and would live to do much good. She took the advice of the Prophet
and went back to Mississippi. While there, she made peace with her father, who felt more favorable
toward his daughter. Her stepmother, who had always been so good to her, stood by her in her
trials, as she was called upon to give up her last little daughter, leaving her with one son, five years
old. During all this time, her brothers and sisters scorned her.
In the spring, Daniel Tyler, with others of the Saints in Mississippi, took Mary and her little
boy back to Nauvoo. Later, James Brown proposed marriage to her and she became his wife in
When the Prophet Joseph was murdered, Mary was in Nauvoo, and in common with the
Saints, went through that ordeal. At the conference Mary saw Sidney Rigdon put forth his claims,
and when Brigham Young stood up at the pulpit, Mary exclaimed with many others, “The Prophet
had come back.” For the mantle of Joseph had fallen upon Brigham, and I have heard her testify to
this many times.
When they reached Council Bluffs, Iowa, the government drafted five hundred men for
the war with Mexico. James Brown was made Captain of Company C, and took Mary and her
son with him. She endured all the hardships incident to that long march. She washed for sixteen
men, and did many hard tasks she had never done before. She suffered with heat and thirst on
solders rations, and became footsore and weary. She waited patiently in the heat or cold, storm or
undergrowth, to make roads. She forded streams, some of which were treacherous with quicksand.
After wintering in Pueblo with the sick of the Battalion, where Mary was the ministering
angel, they finally arrived in Salt Lake Valley, July 29, 1847 and made their home in the fort where
Pioneer Park is now. Here, Mary gave birth to a baby girl, Mary Eliza, who was the third white girl
born in Utah. Mary Eliza, at fifteen years, became he wife of William F. Critchlow. When the baby
was three months old, per parents were called upon to move north, where Ogden now stands.
While enroute, as they came near Session’s Settlement, which is near where Bountiful is today, the
wagon in which they were riding tipped over into a large creek and spilled the occupants into the icy
water. Fortunately no one was injured, and being near the home of Perrigrene Sessions, they were
made welcome overnight. The next day they resumed their journey over Sand Ridge, and tired and
weary they arrived at their destination on the Weber River, near where Union Depot now is.
The home that awaited them was a log hut which had been occupied by Jim Bridger’s squaw
wife. When Mary viewed her new home and saw the loose dirt several inches thick upon the floor,
she exclaimed, “This is a hard way to serve the Lord.” The men shoveled out the dirt, made a fire
in the fireplace, and put up a one-legged bedstead. This performed, the next day they cut down a
large cottonwood tree and made a cradle for the little baby, Mary Eliza. They also built a dutch oven
in the door yard to roast meat in, and to bake what little bread was rationed out for them.
The Men folks’ (Capt. Brown and his grown sons by his first wife) first duty was to get the
ground ready for planting their precious seed. They had plenty of cattle, milk, and butter, but other
food was scarce. Mary used to bake the meat and when it was cold, cut it in slices, spread butter
upon it, and make believe it was bread.
One day, while she was engaged in cooking some meat, several big buck Indians came
bedecked in red paint and feathers and demanded the meat. By signs she explained that it was for
the men’s dinner. They pointed their bows and arrows at the cradle, making Mary understand in
no uncertain manner that if she didn’t give them the meat they would kill the baby. She ran to the
baby, snatched it from the cradle, and ran to where the men were working a mile away, expecting
to be pierced by a flying arrow, as the blood curdling yells of the Indians followed her. After this
incident one of the men stayed near the cabin.
Imagine, if you can, how this dear woman must have felt. Alone, except for her family,
forty miles from the nearest neighbor, in a lonely wilderness of snakes, wild Indians and animals.
Compare it with the life she was used to before she cast her lot willingly and gladly, for the Gospel’s
sake, with the Mormons. She, though of delicate nature, and slender build, was made of the stuff
pioneers are made of. She had courage, faith in God, and disposition to make the best of conditions.
She learned to make cheese, and was known as the first cheese maker in Utah.
History of Mary McRee Black Brown
Contributor: Conyngham Created: 11 months ago Updated: 11 months ago
History of Mary McRee Black Brown
Mary McRee Black Brown was born on October 17, 1820 in Copiah County, Mississipi, the daughter of William McRee and Mary Corkins. Her parents were of Scottish descent and had gone to Mississipi from North Carolina about 1816. Her father was a wealthy planter and doctor of medicine of high standing.
In her young days, Mary had every comfort and luxury available in those days. Her mother died when she was very young and her father married a life-long friend of his deceased wife, Mary Warnock. She was a very devoted and wise step-mother. Mary was taught to sew by the family seamstress and learned to make good button-holes when quite young. For this accomplishment, her brother, William, made her a present of two silk dresses when silk was considered to be in the luxury class. She also was taught to cook and was a splendid cook of the old Southern type.
Mary had always been of a religious turn of mind. Her parents were very strict in the observance of the Sabbath. No work was done by the family or servants on that day that was not absolutely necessary. Everything was prepared on Saturday and all went to church on Sunday. Mary spent part of Sunday at the Slaves (as the colored people were called in those days) quarters, teaching them about Jesus and reading the Bible to them.
Her father had many slaves, but he was opposed to slavery. He gave all of his slaves their freedom, but retained them to work on his plantation and provided for them generously.
In 1840, Mary married George Black, son of Charles Black and Rebecca Brewer, and in 1843 they were baptized into the Mormon Church and moved to Nauvoo. (See old County Records of Copiah County, Mississippi in Brookhaven, Lincoln County Courthouse, Mississippi).
After arriving in Nauvoo, Mr. Black worked in the Nauvoo Temple for two years and also engaged in the mercantile business, and was successful until his health failed him. He died of malaria in 1845. Mr. Black’s mercantile partner, a Mr. Gully, defrauded Mary of every cent that was invested in the business. He was afterwards excommunicated from the Church.
During all this time, Mary had not heard a word from her father and family. She had buried three little girls and the death of her husband was a great trial to her. Failing in health and destitute of means, her husband’s folks in Mississippi who had become converted to Mormonism, wrote to her asking her to come back to Mississippi fearing that her people would persuade her to remain there. He had practically given his life for his religion as the doctors had told him that if he would go back to a warm climate, he would recover his health. But he refused, saying, “I can either live or die for the gospel, which God desires of me.”
Mary became very ill after her husband’s death and the doctors told her she would go as her husband had, unless she went away from the climate. She refused to leave Nauvoo, but sent for Brigham Young and he went to see her. He took James Brown with him, and he blessed her and told her to go home to her husband’s people until spring, then come back in spring and go with the Saints to the Rocky Mountains. Brigham Young gave her a blessing and told her she would live to a great age and go to the Valleys of the Mountains.
She took the advice of President Young and went back to Mississippi. While there, she made peace with her father and her step-mother. Her step-mother had always been like a real mother to her, as her own mother died when she was two years old. She stood by her in need, when her last little girl died, leaving her with one little son five years old. During all this time, however, her brothers and sisters ignored her.
In the spring of 1846, Daniel Taylor, with the other Saints in Mississippi, took Mary and her little son David back to Nauvoo.
At a conference of the church in Nauvoo, called by the authorities to put a leader in the place of Joseph Smith, Mary saw Sidney Rigdon as he put forth his claims, and when Brigham Young stood up at the pulpit, Mary exclaimed with many others, “The prophet has come back!” For the mantle of Joseph had fallen upon Brigham Young. (I have heard her testify to this many times).
When the Saints reached Council Bluffs, Iowa, July 16, 1846 on their way to the Rocky Mountains, the government drafted 500 men for the war with Mexico, and James Brown was made Captain of Company C. On July 16, 1846 he married the widow Mary McRee Black, and she went with him, taking her small son with her. She endured all the hardships on that long march. She washed clothes for 16 men and did many hard tasks that she had never done before. She suffered from heat and thirst and on soldier rations, became footsore and weary.
When the Battalion reached Santa Fe, New Mexico, many of the men were too sick to go on to California. They were put under Captain James Brown’s command and taken to Pueblo for the winter, where his wife Mary was a ministering angel to them. In the spring, they took up the march to Utah and met up with the company of Saints from Mississippi, on their way to Utah, and finally arrived in Salt Lake on July 29, 1847, five days after Brigham Young and the pioneers arrived. They lived in the Fort which was soon constructed, where Pioneer Park is, and here Mary gave birth to a daughter, Mary Eliza Brown, three months after their arrival in Salt Lake. This little daughter was the 3rd white girl born in Utah, and the first white child in what is now Ogden City, Utah, where her father, Captain James Brown and family were the first settlers there in February, 1848.
While Captain James Brown and family were moving to Ogden, as they were passing through “Sessions Settlement” (later called Bountiful), the wagon in which they were riding tipped over in a large creek and the occupants were thrown into the icy water. Fortunately, no one was injured, and being near the home of Perigrene Sessions, they were made welcome overnight. The next day, they resumed their journey over the “Sand Ridge.” Being tired and weary, they arrived at their destination on the Weber River, near where the Union Depot now stands. The home that awaited them was a long hut, with a dirt roof and floor. When Mary viewed her future home, and saw the loose dirt on the floor several inches deep, she exclaimed, “This is a hard way to serve the Lord!”
The men folk shovelled the dirt out, made a fire in the fireplace, and put up a one leg bedstead. The next day, they cut down a large cottonwood tree and made a cradle for little Eliza. They also built a “Dutch oven” in the dooryard, so that meat could be roasted and what little rationed bread they could have was baked.
The men folks, Captain Brown and sons (by his first deceased wife) first duty was to get the ground ready for planting and had already plowed some of the ground.
As for food, they had plenty of cattle, milk, and butter, but very little bread. I have heard my uncle, David Black, say that a tiny biscuit a day tasted better than any cake he had ever eaten. Mary used to bake the meat and we would cut it in slices when it was cold and spread butter on it and imagine it was bread, or try to make-believe it was.
One day, while she was engaged in cooking some meat, several big buck Indians came, bedecked with red paint and feathers, and demanded the meat. By signs, Mary explained that it was for the men’s dinner. They pointed their bows and arrows at the baby in the cradle making Mary understand in no uncertain manner that if she didn’t give them the meat, they would kill the baby. She ran to the baby, snatched it from the crib and ran to where the men were working a mile away, expecting any minute to be pierced with a flying arrow, as the blood-curdling yells of the Indians followed her. After this incident, one of the men stayed near the cabin.
Imagine if you can, how this dear woman must have felt, alone, except for her family, forty miles from the nearest neighbour, in a lonely wilderness of snakes, wild animals, and Indians, etc., and compare with the life she had before she cast her lot willingly and gladly for the Gospel’s sake, with the Mormons.
She learned to make cheese and was known as the first cheese-maker in Utah. When the gold rush was on in 1849, she sold large quantities of butter and cheese to the travellers.
She bore four daughters and one son to Captain Brown, the same as she had to her first husband, George Black. Her daughter, Mary Eliza, born in the old fort in Salt Lake, married, when she was fifteen years old, William Critchlow, and had fourteen children, of whom I am the oldest.
Mary’s two sons, David Black and Joseph Smith Brown, lived in Idaho. She had not seen them for several years. Her daughter, Mary Eliza Brown Critchlow, died suddenly in March, 1903, of pneumonia. While Mary was grief-stricken over the death of her daughter, with whom she was making her home, the thought of seeing her two sons sustained her. While enroute to Ogden for the funeral, they had to change trains and wait several hours in Idaho Falls. While waiting, Joseph went out to town to pass the time away until midnight. On his way back to the train, he was held up and shot to death. David took the body back to Idaho and was unable to attend his sister’s funeral. When it became necessary to tell Grandmother about it, none of the family felt that they could do so. When Bishop McQuarty, an old friend of the family did so, she looked at him with grief-stricken eyes when he told her, and whisperingly said: “Providence knows best.” She was unable to take the long trip to Northern Idaho for her son’s funeral as part of the way was by team.
Such courage and faith and acceptance of trial in the face of the double bereavement and disappointment was another indication of her wonderful character. She was an example to all of us.
Compiled by her granddaughter: Hattie Critchlow Jensen
After Captain Brown’s death, Mary, with her two children, Joseph and Josephine, and her eldest son, David Black and his family, moved to Brigham City and put all of her means in the United Order which was being established there under the direction of Lorenzo Snow. When this project failed, Mary drew out her share in the money and moved to Oxford, Idaho, and again pioneered in a new, sparsely settled region. Again, she lived in a dirt-roofed log cabin with two rooms, which leaked like a sieve when it rained or when the snow melted. When we visited her in July 1878, the roof was covered with grass and sunflowers. After the marriage of Joseph and Josephine, she moved back to Ogden and made her home with her grandchildren and daughters Mary Eliza and Josephine.
She was always a most welcome guest. If we tried to insist on her taking life easy and resting all day, she wouldn’t stay very long with us. She was an early riser, and a very small eater, and never sat in any kind of chair except a straight-backed one. Her mentalities were as keen in her eighties as when she was young. She died in her 87th year in Ogden. Her father died in 1860 and when word was sent to her that if she would not go back to her father’s home, then in Louisiana, she could get a share of his estate, she told me she wouldn’t cross the plains again for all the money in the world. This was the last communication she ever had from any of her relatives in the South and the only one since she joined the church in 1843.