Monday, July 17, 2017

The Lost Records of Mary E Dukes

While transcribing an old baptismal record I happened across a cryptic entry saying

"Entered by Order of Pres Callis. No past Record of this"
The record was otherwise sparse. The name was almost unreadable but I was able to make out

Dukes, Mary E[illegible]
The baptism date only generally indicated as "about 1894" with the missionary's name who baptized her identified only as "Elder Williams" and her father was listed as "Stevne Dukes"

I can only speculate that Mary presented herself to the missionaries as already being a member. Being the staunch record keeping people that we are I can see the missionaries struggling over how to proceed without proof of baptism. Ultimately the issue was decided by President Callis who said to add her to the record of members.

Of course this then becomes a puzzle to me. Was she a member? Probably. There was little incentive to claim membership if it weren't true, and significant downsides to being a Mormon in the early 20th century Tennessee. But I have to ask, can we find evidence to support her claim?

I could look up her name in Family Search. I don't have a birth date or location, but I could estimate those. A quick search comes up with a few possibilities. One of them even has a Confirmation date of 1894 (the baptism date in Family Search is listed as 1994. I've ranted about that issue before). This Mary Duke was married to Hartford Prater. But I have long since learned not to rely on Family Search for evidence. At best it might provide me some clues that I'll have to verify elsewhere.

With nothing conclusive I try a different approach. Who was this Elder Williams? The Early Mormon Missionary Database narrows it down to two. Both served in the Southern States Mission in 1894. Taking those names to the Southern States Mission Manuscript I see that one served in Alabama and Florida, while the other was in Tennessee. I'm lucky that the list narrowed down so quickly. His name? Riley Garner Williams.

Mormons love to upload journals and biographies of their ancestors. So I head back to Family Search to look up Elder Williams. As luck would have it two years ago Elder Williams' family had indeed uploaded a missionary journal for him; 155 pages! And it is far more detailed than most. Before long I find this entry.

Jan. 29/94 Mon. Mrs. Mary Ellen Prater daughter of Stephen and Nancy Ann Duke was born Feb. 9 1853 at Hodgetown, White Co. Tennessee. Was baptized and confirmed a member in the church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints Jan. 28/94 Mitchell creek Prater town VanBuren Co. Tenn. Baptized by AY Duke, confirmed by Elder Riley G. Williams. 
So there it is. Every official detail I could hope for about Mary. The only thing missing would be something written in her own hand. Yeah, I know. But I can dream. Who knows maybe I'll find something in Williams' journal that will lead to more.

Williams missionary journal is done pretty well. Full names, dates, and places. I wish my journal was as detailed. It was a good distraction from my task. It took me away from the tediousness of transcription for a little . And I was able to flesh out a scant baptism record. Plus I downloaded a large missionary journal covering 1892-1894 Tennessee.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Slate Springs Tennessee Chapel

I won't go into a full history of the Slate Springs branch here, but I came across some photos of one of their meeting houses and thought I would post an addendum dealing just with this building.

In 1946 two sister missionaries, Rowena Russell and Meta Johnson, began collecting pledges from members for the building a chapel. Friends and local businesses chipped in as well. At the time the Church expected one third of the expected cost to be collected before construction could begin. At the time the branch was meeting in a school house. But when the school moved on to a new building, maintenance of the old building was discontinued making continued use of the building problematic

Land was purchased from Lawrence Smith for $100.00 about 6 1/2 miles north of Crossville on Genesis Rd. I have found no clear address other than a description that it was "above what is known as the Lavender Cemetery" I can only assume this was an early name for the Slate Springs Cemetery which is in about the right location and for which county land records still use the name James Lavender Cemetery.

Construction began in 1951 on a small four room building. It included masonry walls, concrete floors, and an acoustic tile ceiling. There were four rooms a foyer and two restrooms with a wood stove. Construction was slow, taking about 6 years. It was dedicated in 1957.

Land behind the chapel was steep and heavily wooded making it impossible to photograph from that angle.

After the dedication, the branch expanded. Auxiliaries were organized, since they could take advantage of the constant access to the building. In a few years it became obvious that it would soon not be big enough. It would only be used for 20+ years before being replaced by the current building.

For a more complete history of the Slate Springs Branch and what became of it, see here...

http://amateurmormonhistorian.blogspot.com/2011/07/church-history-in-crossville-tenn-1878.html

Monday, July 3, 2017

Speedwell Chapel

Speedwell Tennessee entered Mormon history in 1908 with the baptism of Josiah & Harriet Haynes. Several of their children joined too, including a daughter, Pearly Shipley. She opened her home to missionaries when they came through, though at first it was only about once a year. The missionaries split their time between the Shipley family and the Haynes family. But it was widely understood that it was Pearly who was primary support for the Church in the area. Will and Cora Smith joined a short time later.

In 1936 the Speedwell saints were organized into a Sunday School, meeting in the Piney Grove Church on Jones Ridge. It was shared by different denominations and the Mormons used it early Sunday evening. Using a shared meetinghouse was not without its problems. At least once members arrived to find the building locked up specifically to prevent them from using it and guards to explain why.

In 1954 (one source says 1957) Mark Haynes donated land on which the church could build a meeting house. The Shipley and Smith families took out lines of credit to purchase building supplies, which was paid back through various member supported fund raising projects, included selling "sugar beets and green peppers" and other vegetables grown by volunteers.


It was a small wooden one room building located on the crest of Haynes Ridge. You could only get to it by following miles of dirt roads, which became impassable mud roads when it rained.

Carl Shipley, son of Pearl Shipley led the small group. He lived in valley to the north of Haynes ridge (the town of Speedwell is actually in the valley). Each Sunday morning, Brother Shipley drove up the mountain to Haynes Ridge. "Members along the way would see Brother Shipley and his mother, Pearly. They would follow them to the Church for Sunday School."


At first the Sunday School was dependent on the Knoxville Branch, and when that branch was split, they became dependent on the Knoxville South Branch. In 1970, the Sunday School was merged with the LaFollette Sunday School and some members from Tazwell and Middleboro. Of course this meant that Haynes ridge was no longer the best location in which to meet. So meetings there were discontinued in favor of joint meeting location at a house in Fincastle.

The Haynes Ridge building sat unused for a few years before being sold.  Eugene Muggridge describe the circumstances of the sale this way...

"During the Spring of 1974, Silas Mosingo had indicated to Grover Smith that he wanted to purchase the Speedwell Chapel and convert it into a home. He was moving from Michigan to Speedwell as soon as he could obtain a home. A price for the building and the one-acre lot was given by Brother Jim Judge, Church Real Estate Office. The Power of Attorney was delegated to me by the Church to finalize the transaction. Brother Judge sent me a warranty deed which had been prepared and signed by the Presiding Bishop, Victor L. Brown. The strange thing was that Mr. Mosingo insisted on meeting at Cove Lake State Park to make the final exchange of money for the deed. He absolutely refused to meet at the bank in LaFollette. He and I agreed to meet on July 4, 1974 at high noon at a designated place in the park. Not knowing the man, I was very apprehensive about the meeting place and about receiving a large sum of money."

"I lay awake worrying about the unusual arrangement. In preparation for the meeting and in an attempt to remove the fear that was beginning to gnaw inside me, I made arrangements for Roy Gene Smith, Grover Smith, and Leek Mayes to stay close to me during the exchange. These men were Elders, each weighed 250 pounds or greater and carried no fat. The Lord had blessed each with much physical strength, They could be tough if they had to be. Leek Mayes had just moved to Cumberland Gap from Cody, Wyoming where he had been running a ranch and wrestling cows for thirty years. Grover was 6 feet, 4 inches tall and could run like a deer. Roy Gene worked at repairing coal mine equipment and didn't know his own strength. I felt good hiding behind these good men."

"We met at a previously chosen place. Mr. Mosingo came alone and counted out the cash money on the tail-gate of Grover Smith's truck, while we four looked on. While the money lay there in full view, I gave him the warranty deed for the Speedwell building and Grover Smith occupied Mr. Mosingo in small talk, I picked up the money and stuffed it into a bag, then we transferred the bag to the bank. I was a little nervous to say the least, until that money was safe in the bank."

It may sound strange, and I'm not adding this to make a point, but the building burned to the ground "a few years later." Of course that means no current photos are possible.