Question: Alexander McRae was in Liberty Jail with the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum. What do we know about Alexander McRae?
Answer: Alexander McRae was born 7 September 1807 in Anson County, North Carolina. He left his home in April 1829 to follow his occupation of tailoring. He then joined the United States Army for a five-year term. In April 1834 he was discharged and moved to Kentucky. Here he met and married his wife, sixteen-year-old Eunice Fitzgerald, on November 2, 1834. He then moved to Ripley County, Indiana in January 1835, where his oldest son was born in January 1836.
In 1837, Alexander and Eunice first heard of the Mormons. She and her husband walked eight miles to hear the Elders preach and made the return journey that same night, carrying their nine-month-old babe in their arms. They were both baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in June of 1837 by Elder Elisha P. Davis.
In the fall of 1837 Alexander moved to Far West, Missouri, where his son Joseph was born. This son Joseph was named and blessed by the Prophet Joseph while in Liberty Jail. Alexander was involved in the Mormon conflict in October 1838 and was subsequently imprisoned with the Prophet Joseph in Liberty Jail (Clay County Jail) in Clay County, Missouri from December 1, 1838 to the first part of April 1839. Alexander and Caleb Baldwin acted as scribes for the three epistles Joseph dictated while in Liberty Jail. Two of the epistles became D&C 121 and 122. “I was one with Joseph and Hyrum Smith that was cast in prison, where we were shamefully treated.”
Alexander later wrote of one experience while appearing before the judge, writing, “On one occasion, while we were there, the above-named William Peniston, 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 this 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.”
While en route to another county for a change of venue, the guards allowed the prisoners to escape. Alexander met his wife in Quincy who told him, “everything we had was plundered by the mob.”
Alexander was ordained a seventy at Quincy. They went for a visit to his wife’s parents in Indiana, where his wife gave birth to their third son on March 11, 1840. They then moved to Nauvoo in about 1841, where their fourth son was born in 1842. He was appointed aide-de-camp in Nauvoo Legion, 20 Feb. 1841 and served as a body guard to Joseph Smith.
Alexander served a mission to North Carolina in 1844 and took his family to his wife’s parents to remain until he returned. His fifth child, a daughter, was born there in December 1844. The family returned to Nauvoo on April 4, 1845 where Alexander was ordained one of the Presidents of the 22nd Quorum of the Seventies. “As I approached the conference ground on the 6th of April 1845, President Brigham Young was speaking to the congregation. I heard him before I could see him, and thought his voice was like Joseph Smith’s, and when I got where I could see him, I thought he looked like Joseph.”
Their little daughter died in Nauvoo on April 24, 1845, at age four months. Alexander McRae received his endowment December 18, 1845. The next day he was called to officiate and labor in the temple by Brigham Young. Eunice was endowed February 7, 1846. Another son was born to Alexander and his wife on April 12, 1846 in Nauvoo.
By May 1847 the family was at Winter Quarters, where a daughter was born in September 1848. They then went on to Kanesville (later Council Bluffs), Pottawattamie Co., Iowa, by Sept. 1850, where another daughter was born in 1851. They lived here for two years, and Alexander was elected sheriff of Pottawattamie County.
In 1852 Alexander and his family migrated to Utah in the Allen Weeks Company. Alexander served a mission to the southern states 1869-1870. Eunice served as the Relief Society President for several years, and Alexander was a Bishop until his death. Four more children were born in Salt Lake to Alexander and Eunice, giving them a total of twelve children.
Alexander died in Salt Lake City on June 20, 1891 and is buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Eunice spent the last sixteen years of her life as a widow. She died December 3, 1906, at the age of eighty-eight.
Source: The Joseph Smith Papers; FamilySearch.org; findagrave.com