Jane Johnston Black, daughter of Daniel and Marietta Chambers Johnston, was born June 11, 1801, at Lombag, Antrum County, Ireland. Her father was a Wesleyan Methodist preacher. Jane's parents died when she was sixteen, then she was called to fill her father's place in the ministry which position she held until she was twenty. Before his death Mr. Johnston named William Black, Sr., his daughter's guardian, and Jane lived in the Black home until she married William Black, Jr., July 31, 1822. The young couple made their home in Lisburn, Ireland. Jane became the mother of three sons and one daughter, George, William, Joseph and Mary. The family moved to Manchester, England, in 1835. It was here they heard of a newly organized church, called the Latter-day Saints and they were invited to go to a meeting to hear the missionaries preach. Following are Jane's own words:
"The meeting was held in Paul Harris's cellar and Elder William Clayton and Joseph Fielding addressed us and it was "Tidings of Great Joy" to my husband and myself. We both believed in their teachings and on January 14, 1839 we were baptized by Elder William Clayton. Then in the year of 1840, we (mother and children) moved to Nauvoo and heard the Prophet Joseph Smith preach and I can testify that he was a prophet of God. We came to Nauvoo under the Council of the Authorities and left my husband on a two-year mission. We moved to Augusta and remained there until my husband came home in 1845. We then moved to Nauvoo again and remained there until the Saints were driven from there. My husband being in Canada at the time, I went with the Saints to Montrose before crossing the Mississippi River. A posse of the mob rode up and surrounded our wagons and demanded we give up our fire arms. I had a pistol in my bosom and I drew it out and told them 'Here is my pistol, but I will use it before I give it up.' They did not take it from me but threatened to throw me in the river that night. Then we were ferried across the Mississippi River into Iowa and remained there a short time. I buried what arms I had in a quilt in a hole under the wagon wheel. We had nothing to eat but a half bushel of corn meal and a half-dozen cucumbers that were given to me by Martin Littlewood. There were a great many sick among us and [p.428] nothing to comfort and nourish them but corn meal, until the Lord sent quails among us which supplied our wants. Blessed be the name of the Lord. I, being a doctor and also a nurse, President Young set me apart to deliver all expecting mothers and care for the sick and I fully did my duty.
"We had nothing to sweeten anything with until the Lord sent honey dew, which we gathered from the bushes until we had all the sweets we wanted. I also boiled maple juice and got cakes of maple sugar. While preparing to leave Montrose, I was engaged in taking up the firearms I had buried under the wagon, when the mob came and asked me what I was doing. I told them the Saints were to have power to resurrect and that was what I was doing. 'Oh,' said one, 'she is crazy,' so I saved our arms. We then moved about eight miles up the river and pitched our tents and there my husband joined us. Then the Saints moved into Winters Quarters, where we stayed about a year. We started across the plains by ox teams in Captain Pace's company.
"After a weary trialsome journey over 1,000 miles walking fifteen to twenty miles a day on foot to ease the load on the team, we arrived in Salt Lake Valley in 1850. We lived there for a short time, then President Brigham Young called us to go to Spring City, Sanpete County. We remained there until 1861. Then we were called to go to St. George. Later we moved up the Virgin River to a place called Rockville, Washington County. I lived there until my husband died and was laid to rest in the Rockville Cemetery, Washington County. I lived there for many years after all my children had moved away. I felt very lonely and they wanted me to move where they lived in Deseret in Millard County, Utah. Finally I decided to go to my children so I moved to Deseret." (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 6, p.428)
Jane was one of the best known pioneer women in the different localities in which she lived. She gained recognition for her medical services, not only in the various settlements in southern Utah, but during the period which preceded the exodus of the Saints from Nauvoo. According to family records she was called and blessed by the Prophet Joseph Smith, setting her apart to give aid to those who were ill. It is known that she gave active support to the defenders of Nauvoo during the mobbings and administered aid to the men who were injured. She was frequently the only woman on the scene of battle.
Following the martyrdom at Carthage, President Taylor, who had been seriously wounded, would not permit a doctor to see him until Jane Black arrived after the bullets were removed from his body. Mrs. Black asked him later why he had sent for her. He said, "Because I knew there was none better at such a job, and wanted you to stand at the morning of the resurrection and testify to the Lord against the assassins who murdered the Prophet and his brother Hyrum." (p. 429) As an obstetrician Jane took a leading part in giving medical assistance when nine babies were born in the midst of winter as the Saints were being forced to leave Nauvoo under mob attack.
Her records show that she delivered more than 3,000 babies. Not only was she known as a midwife, but took the place of a physician whenever needed. On one occasion she was called upon to amputate a man's leg in order to save his life. She used an ordinary butcher knife and a carpenter's saw to perform the operation. The man recovered.
After a long and eventful life, Jane Johnston Black died at the age of 92 years and was buried in Rockville, Utah.