Monday, November 23, 2015

A Trip to Mullins Hill Cemetery

Living in Rutherford county affords me a whole new set of places I can visit when the opportunity arises. Case in point is a trip I took one Sunday afternoon a couple weeks back. I had been doing some work on the Gwyn family, who were split between the Baird's Mill branch in Wilson county and the Smyrna branch (coming soon) in Rutherford county. In particular I was working on George Washington Gwyn, who had relatives join as early as 1881. I wanted to know where his home stood and when it had been torn down. But in the process I found where he had been buried. Sunday afternoon was open for a change so I on a lark I hopped into my car and drove out to Smyrna.

Of course I checked a map first, and found the cemetery was right across from a big box hardware store. It seemed rather easy to find, though it was pretty far off the road, and it wasn't obvious where the access road would be. So I would have to guess, and keep circling the rather large block until I found it. As luck would have it, I found the entrance on my first try.
Tennessee law allows cemetery visitors to cross private land to reach the graves of their relatives, provided that they are maintaining the site. Of course I'm not related, but I've not let that stop me, not do I worry too much about the private property signs. As long as I stay on the dirt road to the cemetery, I'll be fine. The gate isn't locked, but there is a chain hooked on a nail keeping it closed.  I make sure I close it after I drive through.

A the top of the hill I get a better view of the are and the cemetery.It is larger than I thought, [ when I get home I check Find A Grave and see that it lists over 300 graves, larger than most cemeteries I visit.
But since it is larger I will have to spend more time finding the one I want. Cemeteries are sometimes organized. Often the older graves will be near each other. So I look around for markers with the style used in 1917. It only takes about 10 minutes to find the one I want. And it only took that long because I stopped when I started seeing other names that might be related. Once I focused however, I found the one I was looking for: George Washington Gwyn and Jennie R Hager.
The two shared a single marker. For those who want to follow my path, the marker is straight back from the gate. Follow the ridge that runs along the center of the cemetery for about 150 feet. The stone will be facing you.

Right next to this stone I find another one with the same last name. It is in pretty bad shape but it sounds familiar so I snap a photo thinking I can figure out the relationship later.
Turns out it was George's brother [William] A Gwyn, which I could confirm based on the partial information still visible. I count this as a very lucky find since William (called Bill by his siblings) was  possibly the earliest convert in the family, and maybe the first convert at Baird's Mill. 

Though it was raining, and cool, I couldn't think of a better way to spend the afternoon.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Joel Ricks Jr - aka "Hagoth"

I was fascinated by the mind of someone who would use a pseudonym to write letters home from his mission. His writing style is little flowery for my taste, but still it was appropriate for the time. Perhaps even better that many of his contemporary missionaries. I wanted to know more. Did he write any other letters? Did he write anything else at all?

The Southern States Mission Manuscript identifies his home town as Logan, Cache Co., Utah. It turns out that there aren't many Joel Ricks juniors in Logan Utah. I could only find one the right age.

Joel Edward Ricks was born in Farmington, Utah on 21 July 1858 to Joel Ricks and Sarah Beriah Fiske. The next year the family moved to what would become Logan, Cache county. At 18 he served his first mission in the Northern States. When he returned home he worked in a variety of industries from farm implements, to railroad, to lumber manufacturers. On 18 Jan 1881 he married Susette Cardon, daughter of Paul and Susannah Cardon, of Logan.

In 18 Jan 1883 he was sealed to a second wife. How Ricks knew her or why he chose to marry her the day before beginning his mission is unknown, a casualty of the secrecy of the times.

On 19 Jan 1883 he was set apart to a second mission. He does not appear to have arrived on his mission for two months. The trip did not normally take that long, one to two weeks being more typical.  There are at least three reasons which come from a missionary journal kept by Jacob F Miller.

Miller wrote that Joel Ricks Jr left Salt Lake City with his group of missionaries on 27 February 1883, far later than immediately after being set apart. Miller didn't explain why he was with their group, only that he was on the train with them. But there is another clue in his journal that we'll need to keep in mind as we work through this puzzle. Miller wrote that Ricks was assigned to labor in Stewartsville in Bedford Co., Virginia. More on that later.

In St Louis, Miller wrote that five missionaries separated from the main company. Two went north to their missions, one to Chicago to complete some unspecified business, and two "Brothers [Joel] Ricks and [Hampden S.] Beattie" stayed behind in St Louis. Remember that Brother Ricks had served his first mission partly in Missouri, so it was likely he had friends, and possibly converts, who lived there and who wanted to see him. We presume that he was to continue on to Virginia when he was done in Missouri. Beattie was to go on to Alabama, he shows up in Kentucky in April 1883.

On 19 March 1883, he landed along the Tennessee river at or near Cedar Creek. I don't find any notes about his going to Chattanooga first in John Morgan's journal who was in Chattanooga directing missionaries to the assigned areas. I don't have any information that he went on to Virginia either. But if he did and later had his assignment changed to Tennessee, that would explain in part why he arrived when he did. I will add that the Martineau family were friends with the Ricks family back in Cache valley. It was likely that Joel knew his future companion and that their friendship might have had influence on their assignment together.

Another missionary, John H Gibbs kept a detailed record of the letters he received. Two of them, one on July 5th, 1883, and one on July 21st, 1883. No hint on the content.

A biography on Family Search indicates that in addition to Tennessee he spent part of his mission in Kentucky, though I have no evidence of that, nor of any missionary work he did after July 1883.

One blog reader found a Nov 1883 article in the Juvenile Instructor describing the Modern Wonders that he sees in the world, ponders the possibilities of the future. It continued the use of the pen name Hagoth. I can only imagine what he would think of today.

There is a cryptic reference on December 21st 1883 in John Morgan's journal with only the following "Received and left a letter from bishop Lewis of Logan, Utah, relative to Joel Ricks case." Cue the creepy music.

Following his mission Joel went back to work for the railroad. In 1901 he opened a grocery and then sold it a year later. He became heavily involved in politics and was very good at moving the machinery of political process. But by then (as early as 1888) Ricks was writing again as Hagoth (thanks for finding that too, Jojo). This time on the Book Of Mormon in a sort of apologetics vein.  But perhaps he was best known for his work in Book of Mormon geography.

Some of you who have spent a lot of time on BoM geography are thinking "Oh! Thaaaat Joel Ricks!" Yes, he wrote extensively on the subject. Made several trips to South America, and was a proponent of the South American model, even as many moved on to a Central American model. His gave away copies of his maps to publishers, published articles & pamphlets, and wrote five books.

From a biography of his...

During his last days, he spent most of his time sitting at his old typewriter tapping off his conclusions about the Book of Mormon Archaeology and refuting the suggestions of the new Central American Theory. ... He died peacefully, a worn-out, old man of 86 after a life of intense activity and study in many fields. 

Joel Ricks died 21 November 1944

Monday, November 9, 2015

Who was Hagoth of Tennessee?

This is a continuation of a series on Hagoth. You can find the two earlier post here and here.

How do I go about unmasking a man who has chosen to remain hidden for 130+ years? The methodology I chose is just one of many. Perhaps not even the most direct. Of course with the benefit of hindsight I could easily decide the best way to proceed. But I'm no prophet and it didn't start that way.

I began with listing the missionaries serving in west Tennessee at the time. Sadly the records are not as centralized as they would be in later years. Though the information is mostly available, it requires some manual sorting to make sense of it.

My first stop is a list of missionaries who attended the West Tennessee conference in May 25-27th 1883. The names are incomplete, but detailed enough to ferret out what I think I need. It isn't a perfect match for the dates of the letter, but Hagoth, whoever he was, had just arrived on his mission so he'll be one of them for sure.

B H Roberts, T H Merrill, E R Miles, A Hawley, J J Fuller, C F Martineau, W Robinson, J H Gibbs, J Styler, J Linton, Robert Pearce, H Thompson, J Ricks Jr., J Hawks, A Bean,  J A Taylor, I Bennion, R A Crump, & Minor Wilcox

I have too look up the names one by one in the Southern State Mission Manuscript Index, since a compiled list wasn't put together for just 1883 (that didn't start until 1885). But the index does give me plenty of info on each missionary included when they started. I know I'm looking for a missionary who arrived in west Tennessee in March. For some missionaries I only have a set apart date. So I assume that Hagoth could have been set apart in Utah as early as February. Below is an expanded list of missionaries at the conference with their full names and their service dates.

Leo Albert Bean (Apr 1883-Nov 1885)
Israel Bennion (Apr 1883-Sep 1883)
Reynold Alexander Crump (May 1883-Nov 1884)
Jesse J Fuller (Sep 1882-Oct 1884)
John Henry Gibbs (Feb 1883-Aug 1884)
Joshua Hawks (Feb 1883-Oct 1884)
Asa Smith Hawley (May 1882 - Apr 1884)
John S. Linton (Dec 1882-Nov 1884)
Charles Freeman Martineau (1882-1883)
Thomas Hazen Merrill (Jul 1881-Jun 1883)
Edwin Ruthven Miles (Apr 1882-Feb 1884)
Robert Pearce Jr. (Feb 1883-May 1883)
Joel Ricks Jr (Jan 1883-Jul 1883)
Brigham Henry Roberts (Mar 1883-Nov 1884)
Willis Eugene Robison (Oct 1882-Aug 1884)
John Styler (Jan 1883-Nov 1884)
James A. Taylor (Oct 1882-Apr 1884)
Henry Thompson (Oct 1882-Sep 1884)
Minor Wilcox (May 1883-Apr 1884)

As you can see only four names come up with starting date that would work.
John Henry Gibbs (Feb 1883-Aug 1884)
Joshua Hawks (Feb 1883-Oct 1884)
Robert Pearce Jr. (Feb 1883-May 1883)
Brigham Henry Roberts (Mar 1883-Nov 1884)

A quick check John H Gibbs journal shows he was working with Thomas H Merrill for much of March 1883 and then with Robert Pearce until the May 1883 conference. So he's not our guy, and neither is Robert Pearce.

B H Roberts was appointed as acting president of the Southern States Mission in March 1883, and was not laboring with Elder Martineau in Tennessee. So he's not our guy.

That left Joshua Hawks. I started looking around for records of Hawks' service. As luck would have it, I already had his journal. It isn't as detailed as Gibbs or Roberts, but it will do. Funny thing though, as I start looking at dates it doesn't fit. Hawks arrived in March 1883, but not on the 19th. He arrived on the 3rd in Chattanooga. By the 19th he had been in his assigned area near Shady Grove for 9 days, working with Elder Taylor. The two stayed there until the May Conference.

So if it wasn't any of my four suspects, then who could it be? I didn't have Elder Martineau's journal. That would be too easy. But I have a few others for missionaries serving at the same time. Maybe one of them will give me a clue. And so it was in the journal of Willis Robison that I found the following entries:

Tuesday March 20th 1883
... We all took dinner on White Oak at Bro Maxwel Keeling. Met here a new Elder By the name of Joel Ricks we all went to Cedar creek and stoped(sic) at Bro Dentons. The Saints desired us to hold meeting there at night so Bro Thompson & myself walked across to the other prong of the Creek to inform the saints there. At night we held meeting Bro Myself and Bro Geddes being the speakers Bro Geddes Thompson and myself stoped(sic) here all night

Wednesday March 21st 1883
Weather cold and Snowing. [I]t was concidered(sic) advisable for Bro Martineau and Ricks to travel together for the present and for Bro Thompson to accompany Bro Geddes up to Mc Nary County and for Bro Styler to remain on Beech Creek with me for the present.

First, Robison said Joel Ricks was a "new Elder." Second, he said that Ricks would be working with Elder Martineau. Going back to the Mission Index, I see that Ricks was set apart on the 19th of Jan 1883, but there was no indication about when he arrived in Tennessee. Could he have been delayed? Might he have gone straight to Cedar Creek instead of Chattanooga? I'll save those questions for later.

But as though to confirm my suspicion, later that year the Deseret News summarized a letter from C. F. Martineau describing some of the work he and Elder Ricks were doing in Tennessee. And the long time member mentioned in Hagoth's second letter is named here.
We learn by letter from Elder C F Martineau that he is laboring in the West Tennessee conference, where, notwithstanding that there is some persecution, some success is met with. The Elders are spreading out into new fields. In one of these he and Elder Joel Ricks found Bird Williams and wife, who were baptized forty years ago, still holding to the faith, although no Elders had been there since the time of their baptism until now." (Deseret News, 18 July 1883, Just Forty Years Ago.)
And that's how these things sometimes go. Hindsight being what it is, had I started with looking up Martineau in the newspapers the search would have been much shorter. Either way Hagoth is unmasked.