Thursday, November 24, 2016

Alvin Verd Washburn's Mission

[Since this is intended to be primarily about Verd's mission I have left much of the detail about his life before and after out of the narrative. What I have included was done for the sake of understanding what his mission was like for him. - bcrow]

Alvin "Verd" Washburn was born on 16 July 1897 to Jesse and Luella Washburn at Huntington, Utah. Verd was their first child and the family moved around for few years (school in Provo, a mission to Arizona, etc) before homesteading in Duchesne. As the oldest Verd took on more than his share of work. One of those responsibilities led to an accident when he was 16 years old. Although I have found a couple different recollections of the accident, they agree on the most important points. While driving a wagon his right leg was caught in the front wheel. The damage to the bones of his knee & leg were significant and he spent three months in recovery, and some of that in traction. Because of the damage to the flesh, which had to be regularly cleaned to prevent infection, a proper cast could not be used, so the bones did not knit back together properly. The knee joint healed two inches out of place.

Although Verd wrote that his recovery "seemed like an eternity" he did take advantage of the of the time to hone his musical talents. The accident did nothing to hinder his "fine baritone voice." He apparently already knew how to play the trombone and "through considerable sacrifice, the family acquired a piano for him to play." Miraculously, Vern learned to walk again though he did have crutches he used at least part of the time. After graduating from 8th grade, Verd studied music at Brigham Young Academy, where his father went to school.

"Returning to Duchesne at the end of the school year, he was set apart as the Sunday School Superintendent in his local church congregation. Although young, this experience prepared him for the Church mission call to the Southern States Mission which he received in July 1914 at the age of seventeen. The mission headquarters was in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Verd had been promised in a priesthood blessing that he would complete a mission. Luella records, “Had it not been for this promise I wonder if we would have had faith enough, considering the condition of his leg, to have accepted the call.” Before leaving for Tennessee, Verd was fitted with a lift for the shoe on his injured leg. The family reports that he left his crutches behind. Despite his physical limitations, he walked hundreds of miles in the mission field, successfully completing his mission." 

Verd described his mission this way. “The [missionary] work was very difficult and there were few rewards but serving my Heavenly Father was a wonderful experience for me which I have never regretted.” Of course, teasing out what he actually did on his mission is the point of this post so lets get to it.

Elder Alvin Verd Washburn arrived in Chattanooga on October 19th, 1914. According the mission records he was assigned to the East Tennessee Conference. But there was something going on about Elder Washburn's assignment that was different from assignments of other missionaries. It may have been due to physical limitation his leg or it may have been due to how people thought he should be treated because of his leg.
  1. There is no note in the East Tennessee conference report welcoming him into the conference, which is odd since the customary welcome happens so regularly that it was nearly formulaic.
  2. He is not included in many of the reports made on the East Tennessee Conference. When the conference president names people and the places they are working, Elder Washburn is seldom included. For the first six months, I can find no record of where he served within East Tennessee.
  3. In some cases when he is included, he does not appear to have a steady companion, or his work is noted as being done with a member of the mission office staff, or someone who is normally working elsewhere.
  4. He does appear in some photographs of the missionaries in the conference, but not all of them. The first is at the start of his mission. The second shows him with East Tennessee missionaires at a time when he was serving in Georgia, The third doesn't even look very much like him, though that may be due to the poor quality of the image. 
With that said there are some key events that show Elder Washburn had a normal proselyting mission. There were at least six baptisms he performed in Tennessee alone. I don't know of any in Georgia, since I don't have baptism records for that area. He was teaching school while he was there, so he might not have had any.

Verd was in Chattanooga for the 1914 visit by President Joseph F Smith. There weren't many times the President of the Church visited missions, so this one made news all over the Southern States. Verd had been on his mission for only 5 weeks so probably had no idea how big this was. 

In fact although he was assigned to the East Tennessee Conference, he probably stayed the entire first month in Chattanooga. And I don't see him him getting out for several months, though he certainly could have. In the meantime there was a photo taken (based on who is it in) sometime between Oct 29th and Nov 28th which shows all the missionaries in the East Tennessee Conference. My best guess was that it was taken at Chattanooga, either just before or just after Pres Smith's visit. Elder Washburn is on the left in the red box.

For the next five months I see nothing about where Elder Washburn is working. Missionaries were often give different assignments in the winter months, often in the cities instead of the countryside. If I had to speculate as to Verd's whereabouts based on later events on his mission, I would suggest he could have been teaching at one of the mission sponsored schools. These were small one to two person operations. He would teach the following year in Georgia, so it isn't much of a stretch. Not all of these schools were documented, but there was one in Brockdell, Tenn in 1916. The school could have been active in 1915 as well. This could explain why he was not with the other missionaries. Even beginning with that pure speculation, however, I can find nothing to support it.

It is April 1915 when we find Elder Washburn in Cumberland County with Elder Walter H Todd. Todd arrived in East Tennessee from North Carolina and jumped from area to area each month, probably spending only one or two months with Elder Washburn. The reports show the two doing missionary type stuff, meeting people and preaching to some. Elder Todd does not stay around for long. By June Todd was reassigned to Ohio.

In June Elder Washburn appears again where preached five meetings in an unspecified location with the help of Elder Arias G. Belnap who was assigned to work in the mission office. Were they preaching in Chattanooga near the office or somewhere else in East Tennessee requiring Elder Belnap to travel? The record doesn't say.

Two weeks later Elder Washburn and Elder Lewis G. Winter are working in an unnamed community where the missionaries have been preaching for "five years." The report describes a singing master who was teaching the people in the vicinity the songs of Zion. Knowing Verd's love of singing and that he studied music at BYA in Provo, I am tempted to think it is Elder Washburn who is doing the teaching. Elder Winter was a brand new missionary and Elder Washburn was his first companion. By the end of July, Elder Winter in baptizing in Warren county with Elder Workman, so the two did not stay together long.

In early August Elder Washburn has his first two baptisms; a married couple: Matilda Bedwell & Andrew J Bedwell Jr. in Pikeville, Bledsoe county. Elder Washburn reported two more baptisms in Bledsoe County  in September though I haven't identified them yet. It may be that the two in this report were the same as the two from the previous report. 

In November 1915 there were two more baptisms: Nancy Shannon & George Shannon at Soddy in Hamilton county. "A large crowd assembled at the river to witness the baptism, and previous to this ordinance a meeting was held - on the bank of the river." Nancy & George were a young couple - 18 & 22 - with a one year old son named William. George was confirmed by Henry Levi, who was not a missionary, but a neighbor who had joined the church two years earlier. It appears that Henry's wife Amanda was George's sister.

At the end of the month Elder Washburn was transferred to the Georgia Conference where he taught school for the winter in the town of Buchanan, Georgia. While he was there a branch was organized in February 1916 and an M.I.A. was organized. In March 1916 there was a conference held at which Verd played a trombone solo. Below is a photo taken at that conference, sans trombone. 
I have to say that this photo needs some kind of explanation. The record is quite clear that Elder Washburn is teaching in Buchanan, Georgia. Yet here he is in a photo of East Tennessee missionaries. He does not get transferred back to East Tennessee for another month. But there are several possible explanations for this. 1) Verd could have been one of the visitors from Georgia and the photo is therefore just mislabeled. 2) Verd could have been considered still part of the East Tennessee conference and was only on loan to Georgia to teach school. 3) The transfer in April could have really happened in March at this meeting but was incorrectly recorded. Which one is right? Or are none of them right? We may never know.

In April 1916, Elder Washburn was (officially) transferred back into the East Tennessee Conference.

In May, Elder Washburn teamed up with Elder Samuel E. Rockwood in Bledsoe county. Elder Rockwood had been teaching in Brockdell in Bledsoe county for the winter. Later that month Andrew J Bedwell Sr. - father and namesake of an earlier convert - was baptized in Pikeville. Elder Washburn officiated the confirmation.

For June, July and probably most of August, Elder Washburn stayed in Bledsoe county. He had three different companions this month. Elder Joseph F. Mecham was in the first part of June. Elder Mecham became ill and by the first part of July was on his way home. That illness led to Verd getting a new companion. In the later part of June Verd was working with Elder Judson L Tolman, but he too leaves for Fentress county before the middle of July. By August we learn that Verd's third companion is Elder Walter G Willis, and the two of them baptized five people that month; four of them by Elder Washburn, one by Elder Willis, all in Bledsoe county. The two spread out into neighboring Sequatchie county, holding street and hall meetings.

On Aug 29th, Elder Washburn is participating in street meeting being held by Elders Joseph Soelburg and Brigham R Wheeler who were both assigned to the mission office. I can't say whether the two mission office Elders went to Elder Washburn or if he went to Chattanooga. Either would have been quite possible.

At the end of September Elder Washburn and a new companion, Elder Merlin G. Shumway, were transferred together to the Middle Tennessee conference where they preached mainly in Memphis all of October and into November. The two worked closely with the local leadership to strengthen the recently organized Memphis Branch.

After six weeks in Memphis both Elder Washburn and Elder Shumway were released to return home.

Whatever concerns the mission leadership may have had about Elder Washburn and his leg, they appear to have dissipated by the end of his service. He may not have traveled as much as some other missionaries, having spent some time teaching school or preaching mostly in a single county. But he taught, preached, and shared his talents. And that led to more than just a few people joining the Church. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Ellen Ruth Jacklin's Mission to the Southern States

While trying to identify the people in this photo, I made the acquaintance of a granddaughter of John Jacklin, one of the missionaries in the photo. She has graciously provided me with some information about a sister missionary in her family, her aunt Ellen Jacklin.

Ellen's mission photo
"Ellen had just got engaged to Austin Elmer Tracy just before she was called on her mission. He waited for her. She didn’t feel she could go on a mission because her father had just died a couple of years before, and she didn’t think they could afford it. Clifford E Young gave her some money and helped her go."

Ellen Ruth Jacklin was born on 1 June 1899 in American Fork, Utah to John & Martha Jacklin. Ellen had met her future husband while teaching school near Ogden, Utah. In retrospect it is plain that she wanted to serve a mission before she got married. Ellen Jacklin was set apart for her mission on July 8th 1924, and departed the next day.

"She was the oldest child of a missionary to the Southern States Mission to go to the same mission field, from 1924 1926, her oldest son Jacklin Elmer Tracy went to the Southern States Mission from 1948 to 1950 and his oldest son Jacklin David Tracy went on a mission to Florida."

Although I haven't found it stated anywhere, perhaps I can be forgiven for imagining that Ellen's interest in serving was in part due to her father's service. There was certainly an interest passed down to her son and grandson.

"Ellen went as a proselyting missionary but when the President Charles B Callis, saw her handwriting, he made her his secretary and she traveled the mission with him. She enjoyed traveling with President Callis, but would have loved to proselyte."

 Ellen arrived in the mission on July 13th and was assigned to the Ohio Conference to proselyte. In late August or early September she wrote "This week in our tracting we have placed four Books of Mormon and taken an order for some other standard Church works." which was quoted in the Church's missionary newspaper "Liahona: The Elders Journal"(147)All told, Ellen spent the first half of her mission proselyting and most of the second half working in the mission office.

The text reads "Ellen with
a family of colored children
 On September 14th 1924 she was transferred to South Carolina, While there she worked with Sister Pearl Wilson in Columbia, South Carolina.(239)When Sister Wilson was made the mission recorder, Ellen was paired with Sister Olive Berg.  They reported that "We have in Columbia two Primaries, and they are being well attended. Several mothers have become very friendly with us because their children are interested in the Primary work. We are also having good success in our tracting." (282)

It is impossible to know how many other projects they were involved in at the local branch, but she might have been involved with a Relief Society bazaar held on November 16th, 1924 by the branch. And the branch Sunday School started a competition between the classes called "Trip Over the Pioneer Trail to Salt Lake" Each class moved further along a symbolic trail each week based on attendance. No indication for which class made it first. Sister Jacklin and Berg were named in the same report which noted their good tracting record. (318)

Sisters Jacklin & Berg
South Carolina 1925
By March Sisters Jacklin and Berg had moved on to Greenville SC. Although the reports of their work were unsigned, they were obviously made by someone who knew their work first hand "Their book and tract record is a splendid one. They sold six Books of Mormon last week. They are having as good success in their new field of labor as they had In Columbia."(402)Later that month another report reads "Sisters Ellen Jacklin and Olive Berg are meeting with continued success in their work in Greenville. They have an excellent book and tract record." (424)

Let me take a moment to point out the repeated mention of the book or record of tracting that Sister Jacklin kept. Coupled with the how Elder Callis would later make her the mission recorder, presumably because of her handwriting, I think we can begin to guess about the care with which she performed even this most basic task. I will add to that her training as an educator and librarian which we know about from other sources. She taught school even after getting married and while having three children, a rarity at the time when married women teachers were often forced to retire.

During the switch to summer assignments on April 30th, 1925, "Sisters Jacklin and Berg to Greenville city." which does not appear to have been a change for them. (464)

On May 31st, 1925 Ellen was transferred to the mission office where she was the Southern States Mission Recorder, aggregating and submitting the mission reports to the Liahona and probably the church office as well. Several of the reports give her direct credit for her work. But her work was more than just filling out reports. One one occasion on Aug 16th, 1925 she "gave instructive address" during a mission conference.(142)It isn't clear how often she spoke at mission conferences, as most of the time individual speakers, other than the mission president, were not named. But this one case substantiates the description of her traveling with President Callis.

"On August 18, 1925 the Ellen's mission group went on a trip to the base of Stone Mountain, [near Atlanta, Georgia] where they were carving the figure of General Lee. There were some steep steps in back that the workers used to get to the top and they invited the missionaries to go to the top. Ellen and several others did . She said It was a thrilling experience walking across the face of the mountain. As they stood over the carving of General Lee, they saw the magnificent view of the surrounding country."

The text reads "Ellen Jacklin
Jennie Gwyn and Reva Sheffield
 - Smyrna, Tenn Sept 1925
On September 30th, 1925 she was transferred to Middle Tennessee along with Reva Sheffield to serve in Nashville (181). Sisters Sheffield and Jacklin wrote: "We are very happy to report our success in Nashville. We have a splendid tracting district and the people receive us kindly. Many of them tell us that ours is the first 'Mormon' literature they have ever read. We have organized a Relief society and two Primaries." (221)

Ellen wrote, "Sister Gwyn[1] had a home in Smyrna, Tennessee and rented out rooms. Her servant was Aunt Tobe.[2] Father stayed in this rented room when he was on his mission in 1895 and I stayed in the same room and slept in the same bed when I was on my mission in 1925."

Aunt Toby
Ellen spoke at length with Aunt Tobe, who remembered her father and mother. She later wrote that "Mother knew her as a young girl, and when I was there while on my mission in 1925, she told me things about my father in the Mission Field and that had been thirty years before. She also remembered mother. She was so very happy to meet and love me because father had been kind to her. Her daughter also remembered father." I already had a photo of Aunt Tobe - spelled Toby in some sources - who was included in a Gwyn family photo taken in about 1897.

Ellen's parents met in Tennessee. Her father had just started his mission when he attended Martha O'Neal's baptism. [Details on that can be found here] Ellen's family was not happy with her decision. It would be an understatement to say they at times turned a cold shoulder to her. One story has passed down through the family about Ellen's own interaction with her mother's family, and their inconsistent treatment of her.

"When Ellen was on her mission she visited one of her mothers brothers and he showed her a bible with pages of family names, she didn’t have time to get the information then and when she went back he said you must have imagined it, we have never had a bible like that and she never got the information."

Ellen spent only one month in Middle Tennessee before she was called back to the mission office. Although she served primarily in Nashville, Smyrna is only a short 24 miles southeast of Nashville, a trip she took at least a couple of times. It is perhaps not by accident that she got the opportunity to serve near her mother's home town, an opportunity she obviously took advantage at least twice.

On October 31st, 1925 after one month in Middle Tennessee, Sisters Jacklin and Sheffield were transferred together to the Mission office together.(222)After another five months of service in the office, Ellen Jacklin was released to return home on March 25th 1926.

Her trip home was indirect. A trip that normally took a day at most was stretched out to 6 days. Although I have no information about where she went, I like to think this was when she took the time for her second trip to see her mother's family and some sightseeing along the way. Ellen arrived back in Salt Lake on April 1st, 1926 and then to her home in American Fork.

1. Virginia "Jennie" Richardson Hager Gwyn (1860-1938) baptized on 7 November 1897 by James Larson.
2. I have not been able to definitively identify Aunt Toby. This might be Tobbie Seay, but she and her family lived in neighboring Wilson county, which would be a little far to travel to Smyrna regularly. However she could lived with the Gwyn family while she worked and returned home periodically, not an unusual arrangement for the time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Conversion of Martha Elizabeth O'Neal

[One of the benefits of posting photographs with names online is that the relatives sometimes come out of the woodwork. And sometimes that leads to another story. That is exactly what happened in this case. The life of Martha O'Neal encompasses more than just her conversion. But in the interest this blog's focus I will keep it to her time in Tennessee - BCrow]

Martha was born on 14 December 1874  in Smyrna, Rutherford County, Tennessee to Brittian Burrs O'Neal and Tennessee "Tennie" Elizabeth Rockhold. She was the sixth of nine children. She shows up only a few times in historical records in Tennessee, but does show in the 1880 US Census.

Her parents married in Georgia 1863 and had their first child in Dekalb County, Georgia shortly after the Battle of Atlanta. It is hard to imagine a more difficult time and place in which to start a family. So it is perhaps understandable that the family moved to Smyrna, Tennessee, which had come through the war in much better shape than Atlanta, Georgia. The remaining 8 children were all born in Smyrna. In 1870, the family shows up in the home of Martha's maternal grandfather in Smyrna, though there is no indication whether he invited them to join him in Tennessee, or if he accompanied them to Tennessee when they moved.

Martha age 16
When Martha was still young, her mother died from causes which no one bothered to record. Two years later her father remarried. All of the stories I have found about Martha's step mother describe her as a mean woman. One source says she kept Martha's hair short just so she wouldn't have to wash or comb it. Martha's daughter Ellen went looking for the step mother and other family members in 1925. She was told by one family member that the step mother was so mean he would not tell Ellen where to find her, or even her name.(1)

It is perhaps then not surprising that Martha took an opportunity for work which allowed to get away from home. She did house work for Richard & Sarah Vaughn. Richard was a successful physician. Sarah had joined the Church in 1881 while the couple were living in Baird's Mill. Although Richard was not a member, he had consented to Sarah's baptism, as was customary at the time, and welcomed the missionaries in his home.(2)

According to her daughter Ellen, Martha met the missionaries at her parents home probably in 1894. Two missionaries, Heber Charles Iverson and Willard Washington Bean left some pamphlets with Martha. Although she had little opportunity by then to learn to read well, she apparently knew enough to understand a portion of what she was reading which led her to attend Mormon services.

"Martha was the only one who paid any attention to them, but she carefully hid the tracts and every spare minute was spent reading them and trying to understand those printed pages. The message went straight to her heart, she knew it was the truth. Everyone mocked and scoffed at her for attending the Mormon meetings." (Tracy)

What isn't clear is whether Martha's introduction to Mormonism led her to employment with the Vaughn family, or her working in the Vaughn home influenced her interest in Mormonism. Either way, On October 14, 1894 (one record says Oct 4th), Martha was baptized by W W Bean and confirmed by W S Hunter.

"The baptismal service was held on the bank of a pond near the Vaughn home in [Murfreesboro], Tennessee. ... A crown of rowdy men, thinking to have some fun, threatened to tar and feather the Elders if they baptized that innocent girl. The Elders were frightened but put their trust in the Lord with faith that He would care for them if they did what was right. They sang a Hymn, had prayer asking God to guide and protect them, then proceeded with the ordinance. By the time thy had finished the ceremony, the mockers had all disappeared. The Lord had answered their prayer and all was well." (Tracy)

"She was now a member of an unpopular church, so all her relatives feeling she had disgraced them, turned against her and would not even recognize her when passing on the street. One day she had an errand which took her to her brother's home. He saw her coming and met her at the door. He had a large ear of ripe corn in his hand. He struck the door sill so hard with the ear of corn that it broke all to pieces, then told his sister Martha, that so long as she was a Mormon he would treat her as he had the corn if she dared to cross his threshold." (Tracy)

Because Martha worked for and lived with the Vaughn family, and the missionaries often spent time visiting them as well, she soon got to know many of the missionaries as they passed through. One in particular caught her eye.

"A group of young girls among themselves always picked out the Elders they would like to flirt with. One Elder was very bashful and had sandy red hair, so among them he was nicknamed “Reddy”. None of the girls could get “Reddy” to talk with them so Martha said, “Just you wait, I'll make him talk to me.” she was always busy working, so was out of most of the fun. One day Elder Reddy and his companion Elder A Y Duke of Heber City, stopped at the Vaughn home. It was after dinner time but the Doctor told Martha to prepare a meal for the Elders. She rushed out to the wood block and began to hastily cut wood with which to cook the dinner. Someone touched her on the elbow and said, “Here let me cut that wood for you.” It was Elder Reddy. After that Elder Reddy spent much time in the Vaughn kitchen and when he was around Martha never had to cut any wood." (Tracy)

Elder Jacklin wrote home about Martha, and the poor treatment she had received from her family after joining the church. It was Elder Jacklin's sister Lucy and her husband Charles Webb who offered to lend money to Martha so she could come to Utah. They also offered to let her live with them. Martha accepted their offer and in the summer of 1895 she went west to Utah.

When John Jacklin returned home from his mission the two were married. But that is a story for another time.

(1) The "Tennessee Marriages, 1796-1950" database shows Martha's step-mom as Nannie F. Earthman, married to Brittain O'Neal on July 08, 1883 in Rutherford County, TN. A family historian claims she was born in 1855 and died in 1910 but could not give a source. 
(2) Richard was baptized on 27 August 1896, a little over a year after Martha moved to Utah.