- Born 7 Sep 1807 , Anson, North Carolina
- Died 20 Jun 1891 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah
- Parents: John B. McRae and Mary McRae
- Spouse: Eunice Fitzgerald (md. 2 Oct 1834 New Castle, Henry, Kentucky)
- Children: John McRae, Joseph McRae, Kenneth McRae, Alexander McRae, Catherine McRae, Daniel McRae, Mary Jane McRae, Martha McRae, Charles McRae, Eunice McRae, David Fitzgerald McRae, Sarah Eunice McRae
- Spouse: Caroline Amelia Owens Webb (md. 1856 , , Utah)
A very complete biography of Alexander and Eunice McRae was written by Gordon Irving. Click here.
Preston Nibley's brief biography of Alexander is here.
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From 22nd Quo. of Seventy Record Book—Church Archives
The son of John B. (& Polly) who was the son of Daniel, who was the son of __________McRae was born in Anson County (North Carolina) Sept. 7th A.D. 1807. My Father moved in 1828 to Iredell Co. (S. C.) I left my Father’s House in April A.D. 1829 to follow my occupation (Tailoring) I then joined the United States army for a 5 years term -- the same fall I moved to Port-Gibson, west Cherokee nation -- in April 1834 I was discharged, and went to New Castle Henry Co. (Ken.) where I married a Wife Eunice Fitzgerald on Nov. 2d 1834. I then moved to Ripley Co. (Ind.) in Janr. 1835 where my oldest son was born Janr. 30 1836. Myself an Wife was baptised in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter^ day Saints in the summer of 1837 in Ripley Co. (Ind.) by Elder Elisha P. Davis next I moved to Far West (Mo.) in the fall of 1837 where my 2d. son Joseph was born March 3, 1338. I was in the persecution of the Saints in Missouri, and was one with Joseph & Hyrum Smith that was cast in Prison, where we were shamefully treated. Our food was rough, we had human flesh brought to us to eat for I think about five days in succession, we did not know at the time what it was, only that it was meat of some kind that we could not, nor did not eat, only Lyman Wight who was a prisoner with us, this we learned afterwards by one of the guards who told it to one of our friends who told it to us. In the spring of 1839 we got loose from our keepers and came to Quincy Illinois, where I found my family who was driven during my imprisonment, my wife came to see me Twice while in Jail, the last time she stay’d two weeks with me, after which she was driven out dependant on the Charity of the people, as everything we had was plundered by the mob. Mr. E. W. Leland who had been one of the Twelve and Burr Riggs being at their head to direct them. I was ordained and Elder in the quorum of Seventies by President Joseph Young, Josiah Butterfield, & Henry [Herriman?] in Quincy Adams Co. (Ill.) April 12th 1839. I moved from there to Ripley Co. (Ind.) on a visit to my Father-in-laws, where my 3d. son (Kenneth) was born March 11th. 1840 then I returned to Nauvoo, Hancock Co. (Ill.) in about 1840 where my 4th. son (Alexander) was born Oct. 22nd. 1842. I was sent on a mission to (N.C.) at the April conference in 1844 and took my family to my Fatherinlaws to remain untill my return, where our 5th. child a daughter was born Dec. 24th. 1844 in Ripley Co. (Ind.) I then returned to Nauvoo with my family April 4th. 1845 and was ordained one of the Presidents of the 22d. quorum of seventies under the hand of Presidents Israel Barlow, Edson Barney, & Charles Bird April 9th. 1845 ^ in the city of Nauvoo where I now reside-- My Daughter Catherine died 24th. April 1845 being just 4 months old. as I approached the conference ground on the 6th of April 1345, President Brigham Young was speaking to the congregation, I heard him before I could see him, and thought his voice was like Joseph Smiths, and when I got where I could see him, I thought he looked like Joseph, on the 12th day of April 1846, our 5th son (Daniel) was born in the City of Nauvoo. (Ill) In the fall of 18__ he was in the Nauvoo Battle by the Saints against the mob of Illinois. In the Spring ^ of ____ I left my family at Nauvoo and went to Winter quarters in the Omahaw Nation of Indians where the Saints went the previous Year, winter and called it by that name. In the summer of 1847 I had my Family brought to me to Winter quarters. In the spring of 1848, I removed with my family to what was called ____________ or Traiding Point.
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|Back row: David F., Joseph, Daniel, John|
Front row: Mary, Martha, Alexander, Eunice, Sarah
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From the Missouri Petitions Collection, Church ArchivesA bill of debt and damage against the state of Missouri in consequence of the governors exterminating order first for moving into the state [expenses?] from 25 to 30 dollars for time in moving and use of horse and wagon seven weeks at two Dollars and fifty cents _____ _____ _____ after I moved to the state I bought a house and lot in the town of Far West for which I have not been able to get any thing at all. I concider it worth at least 150. Dollars. how much it has cost me to come away I do not know I have been in Prison near six month without law or justice or unlawfully and my family was driven out while I was in prison. all this I shall leave to the generosity of the authorities of the United States.
I certify that the above is just and true according to the best of my judgment
Sworn before me this 13th day of May AD. 1839
C. M. Woods clerk
(Circuit court) Adams County State of Illinois
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"McRae, Alexander, second Bishop of the Eleventh Ward, Salt Lake City, was born in Anson county, North Carolina, Sept. 7, 1807; removed with his parents to South Carolina, and afterwards to Iredell county, in his native State, where he learned the trade of a tailor.
"When about twenty years old he left home, and in March, 1829, enlisted in the U.S. Army in South Carolina; he served five years. After his discharge in 1834, he removed to Louisville, Kentucky, and subsequently, Oct. 2, 1834, married Eunice Fitzgerald, at New Castle, Henry county, Ky. From there he removed to Ripley county, Indiana, where he embraced the fullness of the gospel and was baptized in June, 1837, together with his wife.
"In September following he removed to Far West, Mo., where he was elected a captain in the 23rd regiment of the Missouri . During the persecutions and mobbings in 1838 he took a very active part in the defense of his people until he was betrayed into the hands of the enemy by Geo. M. Hinkle, together with the Prophet and other brethren, Oct. 31, 1838. With them he passed through all the hardships and mock trials to which they were subjected and finally was incarcerated in Liberty jail. There he remained until the spring of 1839, when he, together with his fellow-prisoners, succeeded in getting away from the guard and escape to Illinois.
"At Quincy, where he remained for a short time, he was ordained to the office of a Seventy. Subsequently, he removed to Ripley county, Indiana, and later established himself as a tailor in Nauvoo, Ill., and also assisted in various ways to build up that city.
"In 1844 he filled a mission to North Carolina, and returned to Indiana after the Prophet's . In the spring of 1845 he returned to his home in Nauvoo, where he passed through all the persecutions and hardships which the Saints had to endure in those days. As a captain of the Nauvoo Legion, he took an active part in the defense of Nauvoo, and rendered efficient service in the famous battle fought in September, 1846. Previous to this he had served as an aide-de-camp to General Don Carlos Smith.
"After the capitulation of Nauvoo he went to Winter Quarters, and, later, located temporarily at Kanesville, Iowa. While residing in the latter place he was elected sheriff of Pottawattamie county.
"Finally, he came to Great Salt Lake valley, with his family, in 1852. Jan. 19, 1857 he was ordained Bishop of the Eleventh Ward, Salt Lake City, a position which he occupied until his . In 1869-70 he filled a mission to the States, laboring principally in Mississippi and Alabama, together with his son Daniel. After a long and eventful career, Bishop McRae died at his residence in Salt Lake City, June 20, 1891."
--from: Andrew Jenson, Latter-Day Saint Biographical Dictionary (Western Epics: Salt Lake City, 1971; reprint of 1901 edition published by Andrew Jenson History Company), vol. I, p. 620. Paragraphing added.
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Gaining his witness
"Writing to a friend in December 1880, Bishop Alexander McRae of the Eleventh Ward in Salt Lake City commented on the process of gaining a testimony and the circumstances in which he had gained his own witness of the gospel over 40 years earlier.
"McRae, a Southerner, had served in the U.S. Army from 1829 to 1834, being stationed in Arkansas Territory to police the Indians. After his discharge he worked as an itinerant tailor, accepting employment later that year with David Fitzgerald in a small town in Kentucky. He soon married David's sister Eunice and moved to Ripley County, Indiana, where Eunice's parents were then living.
"In 1837 the McRaes were visited on their farm by Mormon elders. Alexander, a Baptist, became interested when he learned that the elders taught baptism by immersion. Several times he and Eunice walked eight miles, carrying their baby son, John, to hear the missionaries preach.
"As Alexander listened to the elders, he decided that he must meet the Prophet before he could know whether or not the missionaries' claims were true. Bishop McRae records in his 1880 letter that he left for Kirtland, Ohio, over 300 miles away, to meet Joseph Smith, "but before I got a great way on my journey I concluded the Lord could show me whether Mormonism was true or not just as well without my going there as if I went, and I turned and went back and learned it was true without going anywhere out of my own neighborhood."
"After receiving a spiritual confirmation that the gospel was true, Alexander made a complete reversal of his life, as his wife later noted. The McRaes were baptized by Elder Elisha P. Davis in June 1837. They walked 16 miles to the place of baptism, despite the fact that a mob of 200 men had gathered to prevent their baptism.
"Alexander later had the chance to determine, through personal experience, what kind of man Joseph Smith was. Shortly after their baptism the McRaes gathered with the saints in northern Missouri, and a year later Alexander was one of five men imprisoned with the Prophet in Liberty Jail. During the rest of his life he bore testimony of the gospel and of God's selection of Joseph Smith as His instrument for its restoration in the latter days."
--Gordon Irving. An article in the LDS Church News, unknown date (prob. 1983 or 1984)
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Letters of Alexander McRae to the Deseret News
Letter of Alexander McRae to the Deseret News.
Salt Lake City, Utah, Oct. 9, 1854.
Mr. Editor:—In reading the History of Joseph Smith as published in the News last winter, and especially that part of it which relates to his imprisonment in Liberty jail, Missouri, I see there are many interesting facts which are omitted; and as I had the honor of being a fellow prisoner with him, I thought I would write some of those incidents for the satisfaction of any of your readers who may feel interested in them.
During our imprisonment, we had many visitors, both friends and enemies. Among the latter, many were angry with Brother Joseph, and accused him of a son, a brother, or some relative of theirs, at what was called the Crooked River Battle. This looked rather strange to me, that so many should claim a son, or a brother killed there, when they reported only one man killed.
Among our friends who visited us, were Presidents Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball [now—i. e. at the time this letter was written, 1854], of the First Presidency—the latter several times; George A. Smith, of the quorum of the Twelve; Don C. Smith, brother of Joseph, came several times, and brought some of our families to see us. Benjamin Covey, Bishop of the Twelfth Ward of this city, brought each of us a new pair of boots, and made us a present of them. James Sloan, his wife and daughter, came several times. Alanson Ripley also visited us, and many others, whom to name would be too tedious. Orin P. Rockwell brought us refreshments many times; and Jane Bleven and her daughter brought cakes, pies, etc., and handed them in at the window. These things helped us much, as our food was very coarse, and so filthy that we could not eat it until we were driven to it by hunger.
After we had been there some time, and had tried every means we could to obtain our liberty by the law, without effect (except Sidney Rigdon who was bailed out), and also having heard, from a reliable source, that it had been stated in the public street, by the most influential men in that part of the country, that "the Mormon prisoners would have to be condemned or the character of the state would have to go down," we came to the conclusion that we would try other means to effect it.
Accordingly, on the 7th day of February, 1839, after counseling together on the subject, we concluded to try to go that evening when the jailer came with our supper; but Brother Hyrum, before deciding fully, and to make it more sure, asked Brother Joseph to inquire of the Lord as to the propriety of the move. He did so, and received answer to this effect—that if we were all agreed, we could go clear that evening; and if we would ask, we should have a testimony for ourselves. I immediately asked, and had not no more than asked, until I received as clear a testimony as ever I did of anything in my life, that it was true. Brother Hyrum Smith and Caleb Baldwin bore testimony to the same: but Lyman Wight said we might go if we chose, but he would not. After talking with him for some time, he said, "if we would wait until the next day, he would go with us." Without thinking we had no promise of success on any other day than the one above stated, we agreed to wait.
When night came, the jailer came alone with our supper, threw the door wide open, put our supper on the table, and went to the back part of the room, where a pile of books lay, took up a book, and went to reading, leaving us between him and the door, thereby giving us every chance to go if we had been ready. As the next day was agreed upon, we made no attempt to go that evening.
When the next evening came, the case was very different; the jailer brought a double guard with him and with them six of our brethren, to-wit.: Erastus Snow, William D. Huntington, Cyrus Daniels, David Holeman, Alanson Ripley and Watson Barlow. I was afterwards informed that they were sent by the Church. The jailer seemed to be badly scared; he had the door locked and everything made secure. It looked like a bad chance to get away, but we were determined to try it; so when the jailer started out, we started too. Brother Hyrum took hold of the door, and the rest followed; but before we were able to render him the assistance he needed, the jailer and guard succeeded in closing the door, shutting the brethren in with us, except Cyrus Daniels, who was on the outside.
As soon as the attempt was made inside, he took two of the guards, one under each arm, and ran down the stairs that led to the door, it being in the second story. When he reached the ground they got away from him; and seeing we had failed to get out, he started to run, but put his foot in a hole and fell, a bullet from one of the guards passed very close to his head, and he thinks the fall saved his life.
The scene that followed this defies description. I should judge, from the number, that all the town, and many form the country, gathered around the jail, and every mode of and that their imagination could fancy, was proposed for us, such as blowing up the jai, taking us out and whipping us to , us, burning us to , tearing us to pieces with horses, etc. But they were so divided among themselves that they could not carry out any of their plans, and we escaped unhurt.
During this time, some of our brethren spoke of our being in great danger; and I confess I felt that we were. But Brother Joseph told them "not to fear, that not a hair of their heads should be hurt, and that they should not lose any of their things, even to a bridle, saddle, or blanket; that everything should be restored to them; they had offered their lives for us and the Gospel; that it was necessary the Church should offer a sacrifice, and the Lord accepted the offering."
The brethren had next to undergo a trial, but the excitement was so great that they [the officers] dare not take them out until it abated a little. While they were waiting for their trial, some of the brethren employed lawyers to defend them. Brother [Erastus] Snow asked Brother Joseph whether he had better employ a lawyer or not. Brother Joseph told him to plead his own case. "But," said Brother Snow, "I do not understand the law." Brother Joseph asked him if he did not understand justice; he thought he did. "Well," said Brother Joseph, "go and plead for justice as hard as you can, and quote Blackstone and other authors now and then, and they will take it all for law."
He did as he was told, and the result was as Joseph had said it would be; for when he got through his plea, the lawyers flocked around him, and asked him where he had studied law, and said they had never heard a better plea. When the trial was over Brother Snow was discharged, and all the rest were held to bail, and were allowed to bail each other, by Brother Snow going bail with them; and they said they got everything that was taken from them, and nothing was lost, although no two articles were in one place. More anon.
Second Letter of Alexander McRae to the Deseret News.
Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 1, 1854.
Mr. Editor:—Sometime during our stay in Liberty jail an attempt was made to destroy us by poison. I supposed it was administered in either tea or coffee, but as I did not use either, I escaped unhurt, while all who did were sorely afflicted, some being blind two or three days, and it was only by much faith and prayer that the effect was overcome.
We never suffered ourselves to go into any important measure without asking Brother Joseph to inquire of the Lord in relation to it. Such was our confidence in him as a Prophet, that when he said "Thus saith the Lord," we were confident it would be as he said; and the more we tried it, the more confidence we had, for we never found his word fail in a single instance.
A short time before we were to go to Daviess county for trial, word came to us that either General Atchison or Doniphan, would raise a military force, and go with us to protect us from the wrath of that people. The matter was discussed by the brethren (except Brother Joseph), and they naturally enough concluded it would be best; and although I had nothing to say, I concurred with them in my feelings. Brother Hyrum asked Brother Joseph what he thought of it. Brother Joseph hung his head a few moments, and seemed in a deep study, and then raised up and said, "Brother Hyrum, it will not do; we must trust in the Lord; if we take a guard with us we shall be destroyed."
This was very unexpected to us, but Brother Hyrum remarked, "If you say it in the name of the Lord, we will rely on it." Said Brother Joseph, "In the name of the Lord, if we take a guard with us, we will be destroyed; but if we put our trust in the Lord, we shall be safe, and no harm shall befall us, and we shall be better treated than we have ever been since we have been prisoners."
This settled the question, and all seemed satisfied, and it was decided that we should have no extra guard, and they had only such a guard as they chose for our safe keeping. When we arrived at the place where the court was held, I began to think he was mistaken for once, for the people rushed upon us en masse, crying, "Kill them:————them, kill them." I could see no chance for escape, unless we could fight our way through, and we had nothing to do it with. At this, Brother Joseph, at whom all seemed to rush, rose up and said, "We are in your hands; if we are guilty, we refuse not to be punished by the law." Hearing these words, two of the most bitter mobocrats in the country—one by the name of William ton and the other Kinney, or McKinney, I do not remember which—got up on benches and began to speak to the people, saying, "Yes, gentlemen, these men are in our hands; let us not use , but let the law have its course; the law will condemn them, and they will be punished by it. We do not want the disgrace of taking the law into our own hands."
In a very few minutes they were quieted, and they seemed now as friendly as they had a few minutes before been enraged. Liquor was procured, and we all had to drink in token of friendship. This took place in the court-room (a small log cabin about twelve feet square), during the adjournment of the court; and from that time until we got away, they could not put a guard over us who would not become so friendly that they dare not trust them, and the guard was very frequently changed. We were seated at the first table with the judge, lawyers, etc., and had the best the country afforded, with feather beds to sleep on—a privilege we had not before enjoyed in all our imprisonment.
On one occasion, while we were there, the above-named Williamton, partly in joke and partly in earnest, threw out a rather hard insinuation against some of the brethren. This touched Joseph's feelings, and he retorted a good deal in the same way, only with such power that the earth seemed to tremble under his feet, and said, "Your heart is as black as your whiskers," which were as black as any crow. He seemed to quake under it and left the room.
The guards, who had become friendly, were alarmed for our safety, and exclaimed, "O, Mr. Smith, do not talk so; you will bring trouble upon yourself and companions." Brother Joseph replied, "Do not be alarmed; I know what I am about." He always took up for the brethren, when their characters were assailed, sooner than for himself, no matter how unpopular it was to speak in their favor.
Yours as ever,
From History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, vol. 3, pp. 256-259.
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Death of Bishop McRae
Bishop McRae, of the eleventh Ward of this city, died peacefully and quietly on Saturday afternoon, surrounded by his family and friends, after a long and severe illness. The deceased was a staunch and upright man and was a veteran in the case of truth.
The date of the funeral has not been definitely decided upon, but it will be held from the Eleventh Ward meeting house on Wednesday next, providing that Joseph, son of the deceased, who resides in Arizona, and who has been apprised of his father's demise, will be able to reach this city before that time.
The exact time of the funeral, together with an extended account of the life and labors of the deceased, will appear in our columns hereafter.
--Deseret Evening News, 1891-06-22, p. 8
Bishop McRae's Funeral
Will be Held in the Eleventh Ward
Meeting House Tomorrow
It was expected that the funeral services over the remains of Bishop Alexander McRae of the Eleventh Ward would have been held this afternoon, but were necessarily postponed in consequence of the non-arrival, in time, from Arizona, of Joseph, son of the deceased. He, however, arrived safely in the city today after a long and wearisome journey. The time of the funeral has now been fixed at 2 p.m. tomorrow, and will be held at the Eleventh Ward meeting house.
--Deseret Evening News, 1891-06-24, p. 8
The funeral services over the remains of the late Bishop A. McRae were held in the Eleventh ward meeting house on Thursday afternoon. It was filled to overflowing. The floral offerings were handsome and numberous. The music was excellent. Appropriate remarks were made by Elders Joseph E. Taylor, Jacob Gates, Joseph B. Noble, R. T. Burton, C. W. Penrose, F. Keeler, F. M Lyman, Heber J. Grant, J. W. Taylor, J. H. Felt and R. Morris.
It was announced by President J. E. Taylor that Elder [unreadable] Morris would for the present conduct the affairs of the [ ]
A long cortege followed the remains to the cemetery.
--Deseret Evening News, 1891-06-26.
|Deseret Evening News, June 22, 24, and 26, 1891|
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|Gravestone of Alexander and Eunice McRae in Salt Lake City Cemetery.|