Legacy of the Black Pioneer
In 1824-26 the first black man came into Utah Territory. He was a trapper for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. His name was James Beckworth. In succeeding years many black people would follow to contribute to the development of Utah, socially and economically.
In July of 1847, three (3) black men, slaves, were selected to journey with Orson Pratt, Mormon apostle, into the Salt Lake Valley. They were: Green Flake (see his grave here), Oscar Crosby, and Hark Lay, each in turn provided by their owners, James Flake, William Crosby, and William Lay, members of the pioneer groups of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Utah was a slave state (territory) and remained so until the Emancipation Proclamation was effected.
Many black pioneers followed in pioneer groups. They assisted their owners as directed. When they were freed, the owners assisted them in acquiring lands of their own in the Cottonwood, and Fort Union areas. They cultivated the land, built homes and raised families and in every way contributed to the socio-economic growth of the Salt Lake area.
In this, the Mill Creek Area, land was secured by Sylvester James, Samuel Chambers, and Sylvester Perkins. Each proved to be successful farmers who would market their produce to leaders of the community.
In 1888 Paul C. Howell and his family established their home in the 12th-14th Ward in Salt Lake City. He became the first black policeman in Salt Lake City.
Don Bankhead Freeman was the first black child born in Utah.
The black pioneers of Utah have left a great and lasting contribution that is remembered and appreciated. Their descendants have excelled in the arts, athletics, and education.
Descendants of these pioneers reside in the East Mill Creek area at this time. They are respected and appreciated neighbors.”
Note: In 2011, this monument was to have been removed by Salt Lake County to make way for a new County Building – Millcreek Community Center, 2266 E. Evergreen Ave., Millcreek Township, UT 84109. It included a new Senior Center. Their announced intention was to replace the monument. Due to some questions concerning the historical accuracy of the original narrative and an attempt by someone to change the original wording by scratching an incorrect change to the plaque, new wording was proposed. Due to fiscal restraints, the county built around the monument without making any changes.