Thursday, September 8, 2016

Middle Tennessee Conference - Spencer Tenn., Sept 1894

[The caption names the people in the photo from left to right starting in the front row.]
John Maynard Ex Baptist minister now Mormon, Owen M. Sanderson, Prest W. W. Bean, Prest Elias S. Kimball, Fred M Bollwinkel, John Jacklin, Don C. Rushton, Heber C. Iverson, Francis B Rolfson, Henry Smedley, Adolphia Y. Duke, J. R. Baldwin, Isaac W. West, Hyrum L. Hunter, Jonathon H. Hale, Wm T. Odgen, Erastus L. Larson, George S. McAllister, James S Farrill   (over)

Mr Baldwin is 76 years old and is an Elder in the Methodist Church at Spencer where we held conference and where I stayed while at Spencer. Met at his place a grand niece of Sidney Rigdon.

[The following summary appeared in the Deseret News on Oct 11, 1894 under the title "Conferences in Tennessee". It was written by Heber C. Iverson a few weeks after the conference and mailed to the newspaper.]
Willette Tenn., Sept. 27, 1894. -
     The annual conference of the Middle Tennessee convened Sept 8th and 9th, in the M. E. church house, Spencer, Van Buren county, Tennessee. There were present: Elias S. Kimball, president of Southern states mission; Elders Willard W. Bean, conference president, Hyrum L. Hunter, George S. McAllister, Don C Rushton, Henry Smedley, A. Y. Duke, Heber C. Iverson, Fred M. Bollwinkel, James S. Ferrill, Owen M. Sanderson, Isaac W. West, Jonathon H. Hale, Erastus S. Larson, William T. Ogden, F. B. Rolfson, and John Jacklin.
      Five public private or council meetings were held, in which timely instructions were given.
     The Elders' reports and testimonies are encouraging as well as inspiring. All are enjoying good health and the spirit of their calling.
     Since our annual conference of last year (October 14 and 15) we have organized a branch of the Church on Mine Lick, De Kalb county, with fifty members, baptized thirty-six souls into the fold of Christ, blessed twenty-four children, distributed about 8,000 tracts, closed ten counties, and each pair of Elders have held, on an average, from six to ten meetings per month. Our conference has been increased since February from ten to sixteen Elders, and we will soon be able to handle several more efficient young men.
      "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few." Those, who a few years ago could not be approached by a Mormon Elder because of the prejudice against our people, are now, many of them, sending for our Elders, proffering them houses to preach in, entertainment, etc, Among these are many of the best citizens - the most highly educated, wealthy and influential. The change that has, during the past eighteen months, taken place in the minds of the people of this country can be but poorly imagined. In the midst of the present perilous times, when pestilence and famine, desolation and carnage are transporting countless millions to that bourne (sic) whence no traveler returns, the people are hungering and thirsting tor more substantial spiritual food than that which man's wisdom affords. They are now desirous of hearing those who speak in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
     Elder Bean and your correspondent, with the assistance of the Lord, will shortly carry the Gospel message to the inhabitants of the city of Nashville.
     Many people in this country will suffer for the necessaries of life before next harvest. The late frosts, one of which came on the 19th of May, killed all the fruit and thousands of fruit trees. The summer has been unusually dry. The drought has cut the corn crop very short; cholera is playing havoc among the hogs, and prospects for "hog, hominy and hog" this coming winter are slim; but such is the hospitality of the Southerner that he will share his last piece of hoe-cake with a stranger. Ever praying for the blessing of the Lord to rest upon Zion and her interests at home and abroad, we remain
     Your brethren in the Gospel,
ELDERS OF MIDDLE TENNESSEE CONFERENCE, 
per HEBER C. IVERSON, 
Clerk of Conference.


[The following summary appeared in the Latter Day Saints Southern Star on January 20, 1900 on page 63 under the title "History of the Southern States Mission"]
     President Kimball left Chattanooga on the morning train to attend the Middle Tennessee and Kentucky Conferences. He was attacked with a very distressing ailment, also with the chills and fever, and only with much difficulty and exertion was he enabled to attend the Conference. The Middle Tennessee Conference was held at Spencer, Van Buren county, in the Methodist church, which was kindly offered by J. R. Baldwin, the head Elder of that church in that district.
     A very intelligent congregation, including the President and professors of the college located at Spencer, assembled to hear "Mormonism" discussed. All were deeply impressed with the discourses delivered; and agreed that the "despised creed" had been much misrepresented.
     Mrs. Hill a Grand niece of Sidney Rigdon, a very intelligent and well informed lady, attended the meetings. She was very entertaining and kind to the Elders. At the conclusion of the conference the Elders presented her with a beautifully bound copy of the Book of Mormon, which she accepted as a "choice gift. Elders Heber C. Iverson and W. W. Bean were invited to participate in the commencement exercises of the college. Such hospitality is so seldom manifest toward the "Mormon" Elders that this particular demonstration is doubly appreciated.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What Weird Trick Will Identify These People? #5 Will Surprise You!

[This blog post will be cross posted at Keepapitchinin and Juvenile Instructor.  - BCrow]

A while back we did a post where we tried to match the names of missionaries on the back of a photo to the faces of the missionaries on the front. Well, today we are going to try that again. Only this time it will be a little harder. We can thank Quincy D. Newell, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Hamilton College for her interest in this photo.



For a higher resolution and uncropped version of this photo please follow this link to the Church History Library: https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE7714343

The photo above has a vague label "Elders at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee," a date range from 1894 to 1905, and no readily visible identifying marks. When viewed in person there is some undecipherable writing in the margins written in black ink on a black background which might be names or perhaps only notes from when it was submitted to the Church Historian's office. None of those marks are visible in the scanned image.

It is a great looking photo. Aside from the scenery, the figures are relatively clear, positioned aesthetically, with a mixture of power poses and casual indifference. It has been used in scholarly and church publications before. LDS Church History tweeted the photo last Sunday. Sometimes it came with a description that disagrees with our tentative identification, though as far as I know, none of the descriptions have named any of the individuals in the photo.

The red letters you see on this version I have added for the sake of this exercise. Amy Tanner Thiriot's (you can see some of her work here: http://theancestorfiles.blogspot.com/) quick eyes identified one of the people in the photo as possibly being Ephraim Nye (marked as 3 above). For those who may not have heard of Elder Nye, don't worry. He was perhaps the shortest tenured mission president at the time.

In the 1902, when Ben E. Rich was President of the Southern States Mission, a decision was made to split the mission in two; north and south. The Northern portion was called the Middle States Mission and Elder Rich was called to be the president. A small portion of the Eastern States Mission (West Virginia) was moved into the Middle States as well. The southern portion would keep the name Southern States Mission. A new president was selected: Ephraim Nye. Within a year, however, while attending to mission business in South Carolina, Elder Nye passed away. The two missions were quickly reunited under President Rich and the Middle States Mission ceased to exist.

But this is not a story of the Middle States Mission, or even President Nye. Our story is about the photo. It is President Nye's possible presence in the photo that is a boon for us. It was common for arriving missionaries to do the tourist thing and visit the top of Lookout Mountain. The mission office was in Chattanooga, and Lookout Mountain was an afternoon excursion for them. The Church History Library has scores of such photos, some labeled, many not. This one falls squarely in the "not labeled" group.

And here is the important part. Chattanooga, Tennessee and the northern portion of Lookout Mountain, was not in President Nye's mission. Tennessee was now part of the Middle States Mission. With the split of the mission, Elder Nye moved the office to Atlanta, Georgia. Thereafter, new missionaries met the mission president in Atlanta, not Chattanooga. A trip to Lookout Mountain would have taken perhaps two days for the round trip, with train and hotel expenses on top of that. A side trip out of the mission with the mission president and new missionaries would be unwarranted. Such a trip likely never happened.

So what about the photo? That looks like President Nye. And those are missionaries, right?  Well, it turns out that there was one time of which we know when President Nye was in Chattanooga with a group of missionaries. On the 28th & 29th of June 1902, President Nye was at the old mission office. President Rich invited President Nye and President McQuarrie of the Eastern States Mission and brought in the Conference presidents from the three missions involved for a chance to meet their new leaders. At the meeting were...

A. Ben E. Rich (Middle States Mission President)
B. Ephraim H. Nye (Southern States Mission President)
C. John G. McQuarrie (Eastern States Mission President)
D. Walter Wright (North West Virginia Conference)
E. John A. Morrison (South West Virginia Conference)
F. Edward John Smith (Chattanooga Mission Office Staff)
G. Joseph H. Peterson (Chattanooga Mission Office Staff)
H. Charles H. Hyde (Chattanooga Mission Office Staff)
I. Nathan Harris (Chattanooga Mission Office Staff)
J. Milton Moody (Mississippi Conference)
K. Lorenzo Crosby (Virginia Conference)
L. Anders Mortensen (Virginia Conference)
M. William H. Wilcox (North Ohio Conference)
N. Jacob Crosby (Florida Conference)
O. Ozro Crockett (Middle Tennessee Conference)
P. Limhi F. Zundel (Georgia Conference)
Q. Joseph Johnson (Kentucky Conference)
R. Henry B. Elder (South Ohio Conference)
S. Eugene C. Miller (North Carolina Conference)
T. Clarence E. Ranck (Alabama Conference)
U. Theodore P. Henderson (South Carolina Conference)
V. Frank L. Brown (Alabama Conference)
W. Howard H. Hale (East Tennessee Conference)

Of course there aren't that many people in the photo. If the photo is related to the conference, our assumption is that not everyone from the meeting opted to go on the trip to Lookout Mountain. President Rich and his office staff had probably been there dozens of times. Most of the other missionaries who were part of the Southern States mission had probably been there once or twice themselves. It is easy to imagine a few of them deciding to not join the others. And sometimes missionaries had to forego doing the tourist thing because their train was scheduled to depart before the group would return. Many new missionary group photos on Lookout Mountain do not include everyone who started that day for exactly that reason. With so many people returning to so many places, it was unlikely the train schedules would cooperate.

With that in mind, our task has two parts. First: Demonstrate that this photo could indeed have been taken during the June 1902 meeting. If we could identify two or three of the people in the photo as being people on this list, particularly if those identified were not already in the Chattanooga area, that would do it. Second: If this is the list, connect the names with the faces.

Those of you with a keen eye will have already noticed that there is a black man in the photo. His inclusion was certainly deliberate. But I have no clue about his name, or his relationship with the others, thus the mystery. It isn't likely he was one of the missionaries above. I think we all know why (and wish it were otherwise). Identifying the others in the photo might lead to a journal entry or letter describing the event, which in turn may help in identifying him.

So without further ado, on your mark, set, go!

1. John Roland Halliday ? - CHL
2. Angus Kepp Nicholson ?  - CHL
3. John Mathew Johnson Allen - Tyson
4. Isaiah Cox Jr ? - Whizzbang
5. Pond ? - Ryan
6. William Henry Hindley ? - CHL
7. Leonard Spencer Harrington ? Bruce
8. Frederick Moroni Houston ? - Ryan
9. Francis Bent Rolfson - Ryan
10. John Jacklin - Ryan
11. Thomas Rawlings Smith ?  - Ryan/CHL
12. Albert William Buckwater ? - by default
13. George Thomas Taylor ? - Bruce

For extra credit (bragging rights?) Someone with the ability to inspect this photo in person, perhaps someone who lives in the Salt Lake City area, might be willing to look at the writing in the margins to see if they are decipherable. If even one of the names could be teased from the writing that would help in the identification of the photo.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Four Things To Remember When Asking a Stranger for Research Help

Charles Crow (and sons) and his Harness & Saddle Shop in SLC.
So you decided you are going to do some family history research. Good for you. Millions of people find it a satisfying, even rewarding endeavor. But like most people (well, everyone, really) you have run into the metaphoric brick wall. You've done the basics, like asking your living relatives, but you have reached the limit of what they can tell you. Public records have run dry and you have no idea how to proceed. There is someone you think might be able to help. You may have seen their name on message boards or in blog posts. Perhaps you noticed they are also working on the same line as you or perhaps they are an expert in the area you are lost in. Whatever the reason, you believe that he or she can help. The only problem is you don't know this person at all.

This is not a primer on how to find someone's contact info. I'm assuming you already have the right email address, but you are not sure what to say. It can be tricky, especially if you are like me and have introvert tendencies. With that in mind I'm going to pull from the scores (I don't think it has been hundreds) of people who have reached out to me over the last 9 years with varying degrees of success. So here we go...

1. Don't expect people to devote their time to your issue. 

This may sound harsh, but hear me out. Many people perform research for a living, or at least wish they could. Sometimes we Mormons expect other Mormons to donate their time and talents to the greater good. And while a bishop may ask a ward member who is a plumber to help out a needy family, it is a bad manners to ask strangers, even Mormon strangers for the same treatment, especially when we are not talking about necessities. While many people will be happy to help others - and I've had the family history consultant calling where I did exactly that - few have the resources to regularly give away their livelihood for free. (I know. I'm a cranky old man)

As an amateur, however, I don't make a living at this. And while I wouldn't lose any income, I have a life outside of my limited time dedicated to this hobby. So I will pick and choose the people I help and the people I direct elsewhere. Honestly, I am far more likely to help someone I know. Which brings me to the next point.

2. Introduce yourself first. 

Remember that although you don't know this person, you do know enough that they might have some knowledge you need. The reverse, however, is not true. They are not even aware you exist. Now is the time to fix that. Tell them who you are and how you know about them and why you think they will be able to answer your question. For Example:
Hi, my name is Bruce, and I am new to family history. My ancestors came to New York in 1854.  I understand from your blog that you are an expert in 19th century LDS immigrants and how they found jobs in New York. 
Notice I started with my name, and added my specific interest. I also stated how I came to know about this fictitious expert.

3. Offer something. 

It doesn't have to be grand or earth shattering. It shouldn't be too large to consume in a brief reading. But it should grab you expert's interest.
One of my New York immigrant ancestors found work making saddles, a job which included a contract for Johnston's Army. He would often have to deal with the procurement officer who had already made up his mind about the Mormons. Charles loved to relate how he told that officer that they were going out west to be licked.
The ones I receive that catch my interest tend to describe a story about a Tennessee Mormon conversion story. They are the hardest to find, especially when the subject is relatively unknown, because they rarely make it into the official record. So when someone offers one that has been locked away in a personal journal, hold me back!

Notice in my example I have yet to ask my question. While I tend to value getting to the point, most requests I receive get to the point far too quickly. Which brings me the item.

4. Don't ask for "everything."

Even if it is just on a particular family, its too much to ask. In some of the email contacts I have received in the last 9 years, the request was for exactly that.
Can send me everything you have on the [X family]? 
Uh, No!

First of all, I have no idea what you have and what you don't. There is no way I'm going to waste time sending you something you already have (see #1, above).

Second, I don't know what you have tried that isn't working. If you haven't even checked the census cause you don't know how, then you need serious help which I'm not inclined to give (see #1, above). Have you overlooked the 1870 census because your search has been too strict? I might know the one piece of info you need for a breakthrough which will let you continue finding more on your own. But because you were not specific about your problem (i.e. you can't find Charles Crow in the 1870 census) I can't tell you that he was listed as Henry Crow that year - his middle name - because his mother who lived with them that year answered the census taker and that was what she called him. (Note to family: I made that example up. Repeat with care.)

Third, I don't know what you really want. Are you looking for citations & references? Are you hoping for journals, letters, or stories? Do you just want enough dates to submit the name to the temple? Are you trying to go back one more generation? All of those things tell me what kind of family historian you are, and what kind of info you might think would be worth my time to send to you (see #1, above) (Note that if you are asking about a relative I just spend 6 weeks fixing, I will get protective)

Instead, pick one thing, THE item that has you baffled, and ask that, just that.
I know Charles' father was a needle maker in England, but I've always wondered how Charles got into the saddle making business once he arrived in New York. Was it a business that hired emigrants? Did the church have emigration agents who helped him find a job? Is there somewhere you can direct me that might have some hints about this?
Then let the stranger set the tone for how much she (or he) wants to share. I could go on about other things to be aware of, such as the size of your first email (Short. No more than 300 words.) and the need to proofread, but I think if we all could get these four right, I'll be happy. All told, a successful first contact with a stranger who might be able to help with your research can lead to years of collaboration. Take the time and the effort to do it right and although you may not get "everything" right away, you will be better off in the long run.

(disclaimer: I may be a cranky old man, but I secretly enjoy being asked, and helping people who share my interest.)