First baptism in north Scotland

by William Dunbar

Alexander Wright

Alexander Wright, born 27 January 1804 in Banffshire, Scotland, following the death of his wife, emigrated to Canada and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 10 October 1836, and then walked to Illinois, United States. He was later sent on a mission to Scotland and wrote a 531-page journal (8 March 1839 to 8 January 1843) which has been transcribed, from which most of the following relevant information has been extracted. Both journals are at the Church History Department, Salt Lake City, Utah and can be viewed online.

Elder Wright’s companion was Samuel Mulliner; they baptised many in central Scotland. He proselyted alone in the north of Scotland from 24 December 1839 to 28 January 1840, and from 7 August to 20 October the same year, and from 1 July 1841 to 7 September 1842.

On 7 August 1841 Alexander Wright first met Peter Farquhar, a 60-year-old farmer, at his home at Hill of Mennie, Belhelvie, a 10-mile walk from Aberdeen. Peter’s wife Mary Valentine had died age 59 on 10 April 1840. It was the second time he had become a widower.

On 3 December he again met Peter Farquhar at Belhelvie, and the next day set off to preach in many villages north of Aberdeen, sleeping ‘under the stars’ when he could not find lodgings. He returned to Belhelvie on 10 December and met Peter Farquhar, and on 30 January 1842 baptised him there; Peter was the first person to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the north of Scotland.

Peter Farquhar’s last meeting with Elder Wright was on 6 September 1842.

No other baptisms in the north of Scotland were recorded by Elder Wright and records available for the Aberdeen Branch (Scotland) British Mission do not record any baptisms prior to Peter Farquhar.

Peter Farquhar's Gravestone showing the plaque

Research proved that Peter Farquhar was born 1781 at a small hamlet of Tough, Aberdeenshire, the son of Peter (or Patrick) Farquhar and Margaret Copland. Old Parish Records show that Peter Farquhar had married his second wife Mary Valentine on 12 December 1829; his first wife had been Isabella Robertson.

The 1841 and 1851 census records state that Peter was a farmer of 19 acres at the Hill of Mennie, with a son Alexander and a daughter Jane residing there.

He died 6 January 1856 at Belhelvie, where he is buried. A plaque was bonded to the gravestone and the grave was dedicated.

His will, in which a son named George is an executor, shares his estate equally between Jane and Alexander.

Six grandchildren and three great grandchildren have so far been identified and research continues to find a living descendant.

The Temple ordinance work for Peter, his wives and family, was completed in the Preston England Temple in March 2022.