Monday, April 27, 2015

Academy Tennessee Branch

Academy Branch took its name from the educational academy in which the early saints met. It was about 10 miles from Paris, Tennessee and was near the home of Colonel Solomon Copeland, possibly in a town called Sandy.

The first clear reference was in Wilford Woodruff's journal on May 17th 1835. "Preached at the Academy to A large congregation Also in the evening at Col Copelands." The reference is manner-of-fact, as though it was already a well known location. Woodruff had indeed been to Col Copeland's home the prior month (April 21-22) when he and Warren Parrish administered to Mrs Copeland, following which she recovered from her illness. It is likely that during their visit they arranged for the use of the academy building for their sermon three weeks later, and asked the Copelands to spread the word of their coming.

Woodruff returned to the Academy to preach a little more frequently than every month. In 1835, he and Elder Parrish were there on June 14th, and then by himself on July 12th, August 9th & 23rd, September 6th, October 11th, and December 13th. In each case Woodruff preached to a crowd and spent the night at the Copeland home.

Although Woodruff does not specify the organization of the Academy branch or people being baptized into the branch, by February 26th, 1836 the branch has 8 members. Abraham O Smoot, the only other source for the history of the Academy branch, described meeting twice in April 1836 at the Academy near Col Copeland's home. By May 28th there are 10 members.

Near the end of his mission in Tennessee, Woodruff included more names in his daily journal. On September 2nd, 1836 he recorded that "President Patten represents the sulpher well Academy Branch in good standing. Two been added since last Conference Lewis & Robert Copeland & one been Expeled from the above named Church by the name of Emily Dyer." 

That gives me the names of three converts:

Lewis Copeland
Robert Copeland
Emily Dyer

Although I can only approximate the baptism dates (summer 1836) for the Copeland men, Emily Dyer must have been baptized before that in order for her to have been expelled over the same time period. As for Solomon and his wife (Sarah Tippett) there is no indication either ever joined the Church. It is clear in 1844 when he was approached to be Joseph Smith's running mate, that Solomon was not a member. But the membership list is only one of the mysteries. The actual location of the Academy branch remains unknown. But I have a theory.

I knew it was about 10 miles from Paris. Missionaries of the period were great about recording how far they traveled and 10 miles was the distance given again and again. I also knew it was near the home of Col Solomon Copeland, and based on the journal entries of Abraham O. Smoot it was near a town called Sandy.

On Sunday, the 3rd, [April 1836] rode 11 miles to fill an appointment in Sandy, at the academy; spent the night at Col. Coperland's house. (Abraham Owen Smoot Journal, p 34)

There is however no town by that name in the area today. I thought that Sandy may refer to the community of Big Sandy, on the Big Sandy river near where it flows into the Tennessee River. It is a little further than I expected, being almost 14 miles from the center of Paris. But within an acceptable margin of error, I guess. But its location is set by the current shoreline of Kentucky Lake, a man made lake that did not exist in 1836. Could the original academy, and the town of Sandy, be today under water?

Woodruff, provided another clue. In his journal, he used the name Sulpher Well Academy, a name he used only one other time. Sulphur Well turns out to be somewhat famous, or at least it was at the time.

Sulphur Wells, Tennessee.
Could one of the buildings in the background be the Academy?

Henry County's first tourist attraction, Sulphur Well, was created by accident in 1821, when an artesian well of sulphur water was struck in an attempt to locate a large salt bed on a former Chickasaw reservation. Eventually a summer resort was erected at the site to accommodate the large numbers of people who came to drink the water, which was believed to have health benefits. Many sought refuge at Sulphur Well during the 1837 yellow fever epidemic. In 1944 Sulphur Well was covered by the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kentucky Lake, the largest man-made lake in the United States and the second largest in the world. (

Pre 1944 historical references place the well "near the bottom of the Big Sandy River, and nine miles from its mouth." (State Board of Health Bulletin, Vol.4, No.12, 15 July 1889)

Although I could find no reference to a town being flooded at the same time, there most certainly were communities along the river that were inundated like Sulphur Well.

I did find a road in Henry county named "Sulphur Well Academy Road." It runs for about a mile toward Kentucky Lake, stopping about half a mile short of the shore. At its terminus is a church, named Sulphur Well Church of Christ. It is no where near old enough.

To cement the deal, I dug up a map of the civil district of Henry county from before 1944. Situated clearly on the map was civil district 15 with the town of Sulphur Well hand written near the center. Using that map I can place Sulpher Well on a modern map. And you guessed it: very much underwater. I guess I'll cross this one of my list of historic LDS branches to visit.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Converts from Paris, Tennessee - circa 1834

With the sad state of official LDS records from 1834 in Tennessee, it is impossible to know who the first converts were in this state. Oh, we know a little about them. They lived in or near Paris, a small county seat in west Tennessee. We know there were at least seven of them.

By the time Wilford Woodruff arrived, we start to get better records. Not official ones yet, but at least some details. Woodruff wrote almost daily in his journal. Sometimes with great detail, sometimes with average detail. We know that by the time Woodruff arrived David Patten and Warren Parrish had baptized 50 people. That's not a indefinite round number. 8 in October 1843, 16 in November 1834, 11 in December 1834 and January 1835, and 15 in March 1835. That the number adds up to 50 is just chance.

What we don't know is all their names and all the dates. Through some deduction and careful reading I've come up with the names of five saints from the Paris, Tennessee area who had been baptized prior to Woodruff's arrival in the mission. Were they part of the original seven? Who knows, but it's the closest I've got.

Johnston F Lane
Matilda (Kelly) Lane
Isaiah Benton
Lucinda Benton
Brother Sants

A couple of these names we have talked about before. Br & Sis Lane were the recipients of a blessing by David Patten, which made so much of an impression upon them that they named their first born son David Patten Lane.

The Bentons (Isaiah and Lucinda) lived on both sides of the state line. They appear to have owned some kind of shipping company, ferrying goods and people along the Tennessee River. Their route went from Henry County, Tennessee to Padukah Kentucky. Census records appear to catch them in different places along that route. I'll write more about them later.

As for Brother Sants, I have so far found nothing. No clue about his first name. And nothing outside of Woodruff's journal.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Paris Tennessee Branch 1834-1835

Arguably the first branch of the Church in Tennessee was at Paris, Tennessee. It was there, in the county seat, that David Patten and Warren Parrish baptized the first seven converts. Neither missionary recorded their names in a format that survives to this day. Although they used Paris as a base of operations, received and sent mail there, and perhaps met their converts there for sermons, no surviving documents indicate that formed a branch in Paris. They did form a branch, but it may or may not have been in Paris. Honestly, I like the idea of the first branch being in Paris. It is a hub for the area, there being nothing else of any size in the county. There is even a branch of the Church there today. But the letters written at the time are not specific.

"In our last communication to you, under date of October 27, [1834] we informed you, that we had planted a church in this vicinity, consisting of seven members" (Messenger and Advocate Vol 1 No 5 pg 76)

When Patten returned to Kirtland (Parrish stayed in Tennessee to continue missionary work) he reported that they had baptized a total of twenty in Tennessee. Parrish later wrote that they had baptized twenty four by December 1st, a total of 35 by February 1st, 1835. But it is pretty clear from the letters that by then they had expanded from Henry county south into western Humphries county (later to become Benton county).

When Woodruff arrived in March 1835 we begin to get a more detailed view of the work. The city of Paris still held a position of importance, sermons were preached in the court house, converts were met there, and mail was sent from there, but we no longer have the sense that there was an organized branch in the city. More preaching happened at Eagle Creek, and the Academy, than in Paris.

By May 16th, 1835 Woodruff reports that there were "multiple branches" in Tennessee though Woodruff does not name them. Months later when he does, Paris is not one of them. The record is silent, about why, leaving us to speculate. Three possibilities present themselves.
1) All or most of the seven members in Paris left the church. While possible, the evidence doesn't support this idea. Woodruff recorded that he expelled seven members in all of 1835, but only named two of them. Just one was from Henry county.
2) All or most of the seven members emigrated to Kirtland. This too is possible, but there is no record of any emigration so early. The earliest record of emigration from Tennessee was in 1836.
3) All or most of the seven members didn't actually live in Paris itself. This is where my money rests. Paris was the county seat so it was a convenient periodic meeting place. But for regular meetings, closer to home was preferred, so when branches were formed, they were created where most of the converts lived instead.

By December 1835, only two branches were in Henry county; the Blood River Branch, and the Academy Branch. Was there a branch in Paris in 1834? We may never know. David Patten died in 1838 at the battle of Crooked River in Missouri. He left very little in his own hand. Warren Parrish was excommunicated for his role in embezzling money from the Kirtland Safety Society. He joined a group of dissenters who later took control of the Kirtland Temple in 1838. Aside from the letters written during their mission, there is nothing recorded about their early work in Tennessee and the Paris Branch.