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
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.
by Karen Bray Keeley
by Sandra Shuler Bray