Tuesday, November 14, 2017

George W Brandon writes a Letter.

On July 6, 1842, George wrote the following letter in Nauvoo. George was an early convert to the Church in Tennessee (in 1835?) and he eventually became a local leader in the branch and was called as a missionary there before he emigrated in 1842 to Nauvoo.

[To put this letter in context, let's talk a little bit about memory. George Brandon wrote that he was baptized on 25 March 1835 by Wilford Woodruff and that his wife was baptized by Elder Woodruff in September 1835. Assuming his "autobiography" was indeed an autobiography - of which I am not convinced - there is at least one issue. Brandon's claim is certainly wrong since on the 25th of March 1835, Wilford Woodruff was mucking through mud in Arkansas, no where near Henry County. He would not arrive in Henry county until the 9th of April. Does that invalidate the whole account? Not really. Well, maybe. If he didn't really write it, then yes. But assuming that he did I would start by believing it was his memory which was at issue. Either he got the date wrong or the person wrong. It happens. As malleable as memory is, either is possible. With that example of an already proven faulty memory I present something else he wrote, from memory. -  BCrow]

This 1845 map is the closest I could find to 1842, the date of
Geo W Brandon's letter, that correctly showed Benton County
which until 1836 was part of Humphreys County. It also shows
the location of the Cumberland Irons Works which he names.
Dear Brother:
In as much as I have lately arrived at the place from Tennessee, I feel it a duty that I owe to God and myself and also my brethren to give you a short account of the state and condition of the Church and brethren in the counties of Henry, Stewart and Mongomery, Tennessee, as far as I have knowledge of their standing.
I will give a short account of the Charity Branch which branch was raised up by myself in 1839, and was organized with seven members, some of whom lived in Henry County and some in Benton County. Our most usual place of holding meetings was in a few hundred yards of the county line between the aforesaid counties and near to where they cornered.
My labors since I was ordained an Elder have been extended from Joseph Chunness on Blood River, Henry County, through the northeast corner of Benton County, thence across the Tennessee River in a southeasterly direction to Wills Creek, thence north across the Cumberland River at the Cumberland Iron Works. Thence a little east at north nine miles to Nathaniel Abners, in Montgomery County . . . My labors were extended, as before stated from Blood River, Henry County, to Montgomery County, Tennessee. Although Benton and Stewart Counties, making a circuit of 80 miles in length.     
Throughout this circuit I have preached all I could. My circumstances being very limited I suppose I have preached about 500 sermons in the last three years and baptized some 26 persons. My circumstances have been such that compelled me to labor all the while for the support of my family and not only this, I was near $200 in debt, which I had no way of paying only by my labors, which I have paid, excepting a few dollars that was given to me this last spring by my sister, Abigail Brandon. I suppose she gave me as much as $15 in money. A good many of the poor sisters and brothers have helped me to a little provision as they could spare. I have suffered some loss by the mobs of Benton and Henry Counties, Tennessee. But out of all these troubles the Lord has delivered me, for which I thank and adore His name. . .
And here is where the letter, at least the copy I have, ends. George was eye witness to the early days of the Church in Tennessee. Had he lived longer, he might have written about those early days and we'd know more of what he remembered. But he died in 1849 in Iowa, earning money to make it to the Salt Lake Valley. His widow, Keziah Brandon made it a couple years later. Now if only Keziah wrote something....

Friday, September 1, 2017

Names You Can't Read: The Badam Family

I can't say I found the Badam family. As far as the Church is concerned, that happened years ago in a corner of Putnam County Tennessee. But I will say I found a piece of their history.

One of my current projects is identifying each convert from the state of Tennessee. It isn't a greatly needed project, or even something valuable to anyone but perhaps me. But it is something that has led me to a number of historical puzzles which I find satisfying. It's a hobby and I know it. Part of me wants to fill in the gaps in the historical record cause there are gaps.

One means to that end is an index of early mission records. I'm sure that somewhere in the LDS records is a way of collecting what I want. Perhaps there is even an index already created for the record I am transcribing. Sadly no one has volunteered it when I asked so here I am making out names in a digital scan of a poorly preserved record.

I am on the third page of names beginning with "B" when the quality of the image deteriorates. I can't make out the last names, though I know they begin with B. The first names aren't as bad. I pick three to work on: Laura, Ernest, and Paul. All of them baptized on the same day.

I can see elsewhere in the record why they were baptized the same day. All three of them share the same parents. W G Badam and Aletha Neal. And their birthdays are pretty clear. A quick look on Family Search reveals their full names and for a couple of them, the right baptism date. Family search isn't a great source, but it isn't bad for what I'm doing, which is comparing it to early records.

Turns out that the father is back on page 2 of names beginning with "B". His name was pretty bad too. I had mistranscribed it as "Brandon" and so was able to fix it now: Wm G Badam.

But I couldn't find their mother. A theory started forming in my mind. Had William joined the LDS Church in 1907 followed by the kids in 1911, even though Aletha had decided against it? How did those family dynamics work them self out? The Family Search records says she was baptized in 1966. It was clearly a proxy baptism after her death in 1927. But was it really her first baptism or was her baptismal date lost because of poor record keeping? Don't get me started on that rant.

And this is why I carefully transcribe every name I come across, even if I cannot read the name, some other piece of information may come to light the reveals a name I cannot read. As my list of "B" names came together I find that one name I can't read lists the father's name as William Neal. And while I can't read her name I can just make out a birth date which happens to match the one for Aletha baptized in 1908

I searched for additional details about the Badam (or Baddam) family. But I found very little.

Civil record show they remained in Putnam County Tennessee, buried in the same county where the lived when the missionaries first met them. They owned their home and owned the land which they farmed for a living. They could read and write.

William's first marriage was at age 22 (abt 1883) and Aletha's first marriage was at age 15 (abt 1886). Their marriage to each other was in 1890, making it both of their second marriages. I have found no indication of their previous spouses' identities.

I have found only one written account of their baptism and it was for the children.

"Elder J. F. Hiatt and [President Callis] left Sheffield, Rhea county, May 25, for Monterey. In a few minutes after reaching that place [they] were preaching to a large and attentive audience. Then [they] went out in the country about three miles, held a cottage meeting, Sunday, May 28. Nine converts were baptized by Elders E. J. Curtis and J. C, Burrell."

I found no writing left by the Badam family. There were a few missionaries who were involved in the family's conversion. But I have not been able to locate any missionary journals or letters that might shed light on how the family became interested in the Church. If one of you know or are related to these missionaries I'd be interested in hearing if you have anything they wrote about their mission.

Meacham, Arnold Rose (1884-1959)   1907
Orton, Silas Taylor (1881-1972)   1907
Jensen, Jorgen George (1885-1919)   1908
Curtis, Erastus James (1873-1934)   1911
Hiatt, Jacob Franklin (1870-1941)   1911
Burrell, John Charles (1884-1966)   1911

While I didn't find much I'm glad I at least could put this family together in my records.

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.