John Alexander Bray

JOHN ALEXANDER BRAY was born 8 September 1846 at Red Land near Houlka, Chickasaw County, Mississippi. It was former Indian land which had been opened up to white settlement, and the Brays had just moved here from Oktibbeha County (about 60 miles to the south). John was the seventh child in the family and the first one born in Chickasaw County. In the Civil War he served in the army of the Confederacy at the age of 16, as a water boy. After the war, times were hard for the Brays and their neighbors. The "carpetbaggers" from the north came and took whatever they wanted, and the farmers had to drive all of their stock to an island in the river, where they wouldn't be stolen. The Brays had owned a few slaves before the war, and had treated them well, so they stayed on after they were freed and lived on the Brays' land as sharecroppers.


At the age of 25 John married Irene Roland ("Molly") Berry, on 28 February 1872. She was a daughter of Abraham Marshall Berry and Elizabeth Owen. In the fall of 1888, after their first seven children were born, they were converted to the LDS Church and soon decided to gather with the Saints in the west, because the persecution in Mississippi was so strong against the Church.

At that time there were organized groups or "companies" of LDS converts from the Southern States Mission departing by train. Most of them were counseled by Wilford Woodruff, who was the prophet at that time, to settle in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado, in the area around Manassa. The reason for this seemed to be because the Church was trying to colonize this new area, and also because of possible resentful feelings between southerners and "Yankees" after the Civil War, and the cultural and socio-economic differences. Some of our other ancestors, the Elledges, Nations, and Wilsons, had come from the Southern States as converts and settled in this area of Colorado around 1879. (See ELLEDGE biography.)

The Brays, however, decided to go to Provo, Utah, be cause they had relatives who had already gone there. John's brother George Washington Bray and his family had gone the year before. (His grandson Verne B. Bray of Lander, Wyoming says that "Wash" had gone to the station to see his family off, not having enough money to go himself, and said that he was going to walk to Utah. However, an aunt gave him enough money to go with his family, telling him not to tell anyone that she gave it to him, since all the other Brays who had not joined the Church were very opposed to them joining and going west, and tried to talk them out of it).

John and Irene and their family had to change trains in Denver, and their oldest son, who was 13, got lost in the transfer; however, he arrived safely the next day. The children who made the trip were:

    1. SARAH ELIZABETH BRAY (1872-1958)
         later married Heber Samuel Harding
    2. WILLIAM HENRY BRAY (1875-1889)
         died the year after they arrived in Utah
    3. CLARENCE RALSTON BRAY (1877-1958)
         married Cecie May Morton
    4. OLLIE ARDELLA BRAY (1879-1939)
         married Almon Irista Carter
    5. CORA IRENE BRAY (1881-1955)
         married John Wesley Morton
  **6. CLEALON BRAY (1883-1932)
         married 1. Generva ("Jennie") Glenn
                 2. Alice Rose Sommerville
    7. JOHN EARL BRAY (1886-1954)
         married 1. Frona Myrtle Davis
                 2. Dora Johnston Jacobson

After they came to Provo three more children were born to the family:

    8. CURTIS BRAY (1890, lived only one day)
    9. ORA DELL BRAY (1891-1968)
         married Andrew Eugene Olson
   10. WILFORD BRAY (1894-1979)
         married Mabel Matson

The Bray family had a hard time when they first came to Utah; they had been farmers in Mississippi but the climate and farming methods were totally different in Utah, also there was the cultural difference. Farming in Utah didn't work out for them, so they got what work they could. They were helped out by bishop Myron Tanner and other saints (incidentally, Irene's younger sister Martha Elizabeth Berry married Bertrand Amasa Tanner, the bishop's son, in 1907). They moved to several different homes, and even went to Circleville for a year, but farming there didn't work out for them either.

Later the Brays moved to an area of Provo which is called "Carterville". They worked at the Carter family's dairy farm, milking cows and delivering the milk in Provo. It is said that the Brays pickled fish (suckers and carp) to last them through the winter.

John and Irene Bray stayed active in the Church. They went to the Salt Lake temple and were sealed 30 November 1898. They also did the temple work for those of their family back in Mississippi who had died. John Alexander Bray died 11 Feb 1908 in Provo, Utah, at 61 years of age, when he had a heart attack while digging a trench. Irene Roland Berry Bray died 2 April 1931 at 75 years of age. They are both buried in the Provo City Cemetery.

Many of the sons of John Alexander Bray and George Washington Bray found work in the mining industry in Utah. Some moved out to the Eureka mines, others to Bingham Canyon and Idaho.

Information Compiled
by Karen Bray Keeley

INTERNET Adaptation
by Sandra Shuler Bray