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Little is known about the first years of Green Flake’s life. Born enslaved, at the age of ten he was given as a wedding gift to James Madison Flake, who married Agnes Love in 1838 in Anson, North Carolina. They moved shortly thereafter to Mississippi. By April of 1844, the couple and several of their slaves, including Green, had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) and traveled to the Mormon center: Nauvoo, Illinois. Soon, the Saints were preparing for the largest religious migration in American history. From Illinois, they would journey on foot or in covered wagons to what is now Utah.
Green Flake, by then a strapping sixteen-year-old weighing nearly two hundred pounds, was chosen as one of three “colored servants” in the vanguard pioneer company. Many of Green’s descendants claim it was he to whom Brigham Young’s famous words were directed at the journey’s end: “This is the right place; drive on.”
Green married Martha Crosby, also a slave of Mormon pioneers and a sister of the other two “colored servants,” Hark Lay and Oscar Crosby. The marriage was threatened when a widowed, impoverished Agnes Flake requested that Green be sold. The sale never happened, and Green and Martha went on to have a large posterity. By the time Green Flake died, he had achieved some fame as a vanguard pioneer. He had already chosen and even helped carve his own epitaph: “In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions.” He is buried in the Union Cemetery of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Brigham Young University