Monday, July 27, 2015

Preaching under fire; first rocks then guns. Britt's Landing Branch Conference

Britt's Landing was little more than a general store, a warehouse and a loading dock on the east side of the Tennessee River. It is about four miles south of where Interstate 40 crosses the river today. Active before and after the Civil War, it was abandoned with the arrival of the railroad. Today nothing of the historic buildings remain.

The branch at Britt's Landing was also short lived. It centered around the family of Columbus and Lillie Fuller. The two had married in 1895 in Houston, Wayne county, Tennessee but were living in Tipton county when the met the missionaries. Columbus was baptized, along with his sisters Cora and Carrie. But it would be almost another year before his wife too joined the Church. By then they were living at Britt's Landing in Perry county. It was the Fuller family that brought the missionaries to preach at this out of the way place. I have no first hand records of the missionaries who preached there, only a quick historical note.

Last year [1907] the elders were forbidden to tract in Britts Landing. They are now meeting with success in that city.

The two missionaries who were having success had arranged for a branch conference at the home of Mr Brigg. I've not found a Brigg family living at Britt's Landing, but there was a Britt family who had a magnificent white home with a large curved stairway and lavish furnishings. They owned the warehouse and a general store.

A branch conference was held at Britt's Landing [Perry County, Tenn] June 27 and 28, [1908] Four elders were present on the first day and two Elders D. S. Dorrity and George Shaw, on the last. Everything went smoothly until the night of the 28th. A meeting was held at the home of a Mr. Brigg. While it was in progress, some of the neighbors with more bigotry than religion, threw rocks through the windows in the hope of breaking up the meeting. The people were plucky and not easily disturbed. A little later guns were fired on the outside, but the meeting went on, and no harm was done. The honorable people of the community were indignant over the mobocratic outbreak and are determined to bring the offenders to justice.

Four were baptized that day by Elders Dorrity and Shaw
-Mavis Pearl Beasley, a niece of Columbus Fuller
-Reginald Buchanan, a brother of Lillie Fuller
-Walter Brown Bell, probably a nephew of Columbus Fuller
-Harmin Duglas Fuller, a son of Columbus & Lillie

Missionaries returned a couple weeks later and baptized two more: Benjamin Harrison Bell and Sam Bell and the following year Monroe Harrison Branch. By 1910, however, the Fuller family had moved to Utah, and Britt's Landing fell off the radar. The branch quietly faded into history.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Who Were These Elders?

Recently I received some great biographical and autobiographical information on Elder John L Bench. who served a mission to Tennessee from 1896 to 1898. There is a great deal to sort through, and I'm just getting started, but I wanted to share some of the process I am going through. One part of that process is to place Elder Bench in context with his contemporaries. Today that involves a photograph that includes him and two other missionaries.

I love the Prince Albert suits and the white bow ties are cool. The setting is typical of photography studios for the period. Elder Bench is on the right. But who were the other two Elders? If I could identify them perhaps I could learn a little more about Elder Bench's mission.

As was customary at the time the location of the studio is right on the photo; Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is a good place to start. As far as I know there were two times Elder Bench was in Chattanooga, he may also have visited white he was organizing Sunday Schools for the mission, but for now we'll ignore that.

The first was in 1896, when he started his mission. He arrived and received his assignment from  Elders John Wesley Chipman and St. Joseph White. Afterwards the whole group visited lookout mountain, had their photo taken at Umbrella Rock with the new missionaries and left for Paris Tennessee with Elder Barker.

The missionaries who arrived with him from Utah were, William Malden Dye, Theodore Wilford Turley, George Arthur Parkinson, Franklin William Andrus, Newton Andrus, James Nutter Stanworth, Charles Robert Spencer, Allen Burt Snowball, Frederick Thomas Ballam, Alma Swenson, Leon Brigham Hampton, William Marcellus Woolley, Joseph Albert Manning Williams, Benjamin Wilcox Dansie, Calvin Fife, George Hubbard Lytle, and James John Barker.

It is a long list of names to sort through. But since there are only three in the photo I doubt it was taken at the beginning of his mission. They had already had their photo taken at the top of Lookout Mountain. So I think this photo was more likely at a later date.

During the last part of his mission, Elder Bench was assigned to work in the office in Chattanooga as the commissary clerk. He was there for several months, so it could have been at any point during his stay. The other missionaries working in the office, besides President Ben E Rich, were, Nels Peter Nelson, Lewis Robert Anderson, George Aird MacDonald, and George Elbridge Hill Jr.

With this shorter list I took the time to look up a photo of each one. The internet is wonderful so I was quickly able to find a time appropriate photo for all but one: Elder Nelson. His only photo was from when he was much older. But even with the ease of finding photos none of them were a match.

Not really looking forward to looking up each person on the first list, and justifying my reluctance by saying it probably isn't two of them anyway, I was left to my third option. Elder Bench could have been in Chattanooga during his stint setting up Sunday Schools. And it is possible that these were missionaries visiting Chattanooga with whom he spent a day-off.  My list of candidates is getting way too big. So I thought, how about a different approach? I started looking through the photos I already had. That's when I started thinking I should take the advice I got online and start using photo recognition software. Maybe I will.

In the meantime I found these two photos. I put them together for comparison. The both served at the same time as Bench but in different conferences. I haven't found how they might have cross paths.

The first is Lehi Aldridge Thorley. Most people (80%) I have asked agree this is probably the same person.

 The second is James William Funk. Only 20% so far agree this is the same person, so I probably have more searching to do.
What do you think? Have I found my missionaries? Do I keep looking?

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Letter from Somerville Tennessee

This letter appeared in the Latter Day Saint Southern Star in 1900.

Somerville Tenn Oct 2 1900 
     As I haven t seen anything from Fayette county, I will pen a few lines to the much prized little Star that visits our home once a week. We are always anxious for it to come, it has so much valuable reading in it that it does my soul good to read it. I think it ought to be in every home. I never saw a Mormon Elder until last March two came to our house -- Elder Larson and Elder Redd. They were invited in they came in and talked a little on their faith and left a tract which we read with interest. Sunday following Elder Larsen spoke to the people at a school house nearby. Myself and family attended and were well pleased with his sermon. In May following Elder Osborn and Elder Redd came back and preached to the people at the same place again. 
     They stayed with us while in the neighborhood and while here spoke of wanting a place to spend a few days for their President [of the North Alabama Conference] to visit them. We were only too glad to hear them speak pf wanting to stop in the neighborhood. We invited them to come to our house and told them that our doors would always be open to receive them that they were welcome at any time. 
     President [Alvin C.] Strong, Elder [Ray Rich] Humphreys, Elder [Frank Loren] Osborn, and Elder [James Monroe] Redd came to hold a three or four days meeting. They preached Saturday night, Sunday night, and Monday. We attended every time. I never heard the Scriptures explained so clearly in my life The people most of them in the neighborhood would not go to hear them: they treated the Elders very unkindly. As for myself and family we went to hear them and treated them the best we were able to while here. I thank the Lord for sending His servants in our midst, for if they had not come I would have been groping in utter darkness yet, for I fail to see the right Gospel preached in these other churches. I am no member of the Church, but hope at the earliest opportunity to become a member of the Latter day Saints for I do believe that they teach the Gospel that Christ taught while here on earth. I also believe that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet of God. May the blessing of God attend all the Elders and Saints in His service is the wish of your most devoted friend.
Mrs S E Cox 

     Athough in Tennessee, Somerville was part of the North Alabama Conference, and would be until late in 1902, when it became part of the short-lived Middle States Mission.
     Mrs. S. E. Cox is probably Sarah Elizabeth Cannon Cox, who with her husband Thomas Cox lived in Fayette county, Tennessee for the 1870, 1880 & 1900 Federal Census. In the 1880 census there were two of Sarah's brothers living with them and their last name was Cannon. Sarah and Thomas moved to Cass county, Texas before 1910 and where she died in 1916, and he died in 1917. I have no evidence that she joined the LDS Church before her death, though someone did submit a pedigree resource file for her and her family. No baptism date was indicated on that file.