Monday, June 13, 2016

The Turner Sisters' Grave

This last weekend I attended the 2016 Mormon History Association annual conference. Because it was being held in Utah this year, I took the opportunity to visit a few places with connections to Tennessee.

I started my first day with a visit to the Salt Lake City Cemetery. I wanted to visit the graves of Josephine Turner and her sister Ada Rex. For those of you who may not remember, it is my theory that it was the baptism of Josephine Turner in May of 1884 by John H. Gibbs that led to a violent opposition to Mormon preaching in Lewis county, Tennessee. Josie and Ada left for Utah later that month to attend school. The missionaries continued along with their travels and didn't return for a couple months. By the time missionaries returned the opposition fervor turned violent and led to the death of Gibbs and another missionary William S. Berry on August 10, 1884. This has since become known as the Cane Creek Massacre.

Back in the west the sisters finished school and lived their lives. Josie's life took her for a while to Chicago, while Ada went to Idaho. Ada married, had a son, and divorced. Josie never married. Eventually the two moved in to a home in Salt Lake City, where they raised Ada's son together. It was there that the two lived the rest of their life, and died; Ada in 1940 and Josie in 1956. Not being flush with cash, Ada's son had them buried in the same plot. You can read more about them here.

The location of the plot was easy to find online. (W-6-7-1-E). But there was no photograph of the gravestone. This I intended to remedy on my visit. Armed with plot numbers and a cemetery map I drove to City Cemetery. I quickly found section W-6. Admittedly I had little understanding of the number scheme but I guessed I could wander section W-6 until I found what I was looking for. After 20 minutes in the section, and an encounter with a curious fox, I was unsuccessful. 

This cemetery, unlike many in Tennessee I have haunted, had an office with a very helpful staff. In 5 minutes I had a more detailed map than the one I found online marking the location of the plot along with neighboring graves for reference. This time it would be easy. I parked close to right section and walked straight to right place and found nothing. To be more specific I found grass but no marker. 

The neighboring graves told me I was in the right place but probably due to the families lack of resources, no stone marker was ever placed on their grave. I knew from my research that the family had struggled with money. I can only guess that in the midst of that struggle, money a stone marker was not forthcoming. 

I can't help thinking they deserve one. But for now I will have to be satisfied with writing about them; the one kind of memorialization I can do best.  

Monday, May 16, 2016

Historic Preservation

The other day a friend in Georgia posted a photo of an historic LDS church in his area that was really deteriorating. Honestly, I'm not sure I would be willing to walk inside. But it got me thinking about the condition of some of the historic LDS Churches in Tennessee.

Sadly most of them have been torn down. A few burned down. I was looking at a photo of one in Nashville that is now a multi million dollar home (photos of that one to come later). Probably the oldest still standing is in Northcutts Cove. Built in 1909, it was replaced by a stone church in the late 1940's. It too was replaced with a more modern structure in the early 80's that is still used today.

So this weekend I took a trip to Grundy County. It is only about an hour from my house. But it feels like it is so much further.
It was a gorgeous day. Perfect for photos. Also perfect for checking out the damage. You see, last year, there was a terrible ice storm in this part of Tennessee. And I heard that this chapel had sustained more damage than the owners were capable of repairing themselves. Efforts were made to raise money for repairs. I wanted to see how they went. Right away I didn't see anything. I compared it to to some photos I took on my last visit. It looked pretty good. There were big cracks in the steps, but those have been there for years.

I had heard that the owners keep it unlocked so people can visit and look around whenever they like. I guess it is easier than trying to run over there to open it up for every one who wants to stop by. So on this trip I went up to the from door and sure enough, it wasn't locked. Not that there is anything inside worth taking, but where I come from, everything is locked.

Immediately the ceiling lights jumped out at me. I can't help but think they are original. Others lights have been added along the side walls are obviously not original.
Stories are told about how the pews were hand made, so I had to take a picture of them too.
It is a simple building, with nothing more than the absolute essentials. A raised section at the far (east) end of the building. A podium, which looks newer than the rest, and a wood burning stove. It does get cold in Tennessee. Remember the ice storms?
I did find some holes in the wall, and in the ceiling. None of them appeared to go all the way through to the outside. It is an old building, so that doesn't surprise me. It does appear that someone has been doing enough work to keep the elements at bay. In 1979, thanks to efforts of the owners the building made it on the National Register of Historic places.

It is perhaps an example of preservation that is working. I know that the owners are descendants of the original converts who donated the land. Ownership reverted to them once the church replaced the church in the 40's. They should be commended for keeping it as it was. I can cite another church the was in a similar situation that did not survive. The owners tore it down to build a new home.  And another that is being used as a personal storage shed. But those are stories for another day.

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Missionary Report From East Tennessee - 1896

[Written from] Blount County
February 19th 1896

     Elder  Robert R. Judd, laboring in East Tennessee Conference, writes that "Elder J. B. Woodward of Wellsville, and myself have been laboring together in Polk County, Tennessee. We have been treated royally while traveling in this country, having the privilege of associating with the leading and wealthiest men of the county. We obtained access to any and all of the schoolhouses, and I think we have done much good in allaying prejudice.
     "There is one instance I will speak of to show that the hand of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save, neither is His ear heavy that He cannot hear. We went to a place about sundown one night and asked if we could get entertainment for the night. The lady informed us that the gentleman was not at home, but that he never turned off anybody, and for us to come in, that he would be home soon. So being somewhat tired of our day's journey we accepted the invitation. A little after dark her husband came in. I told him our business and who we were, and that his good lady had partly promised us the privilege of staying all night. But he said: 'Gentlemen, I can't keep you, but you can stay down below about a quarter,' and as we could not talk him into the notion of keeping us we left and went to his good neighbor. Well when we got to this neighbor we were invited in and when we made known our business, and who we were, they commenced to throw up all of the old grudges that had ever been held against our church or people. With the help of the Lord we were able to answer their questions satisfactorily." The Elders stayed all night and spent the next day preaching the Gospel to the people, and stayed another night. "The next day we had a talk with the gentle  man who would not keep us, and he proffered to let us hold meeting in his house. So we accepted the proposition and gained many friends." Both families became friendly with the Elders, and manifested interest in the Gospel.
     "We have just closed this (Polk) County and we are on our way to Madison county, North Carolina, where we expect to open up a new field of labor."
     Elder J. R. Halliday, conference president, had been released on account of the illness of his mother. Elder J. H. Hart was appointed president in his place.

Robert R. Judd