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.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Williams Washington Camp

Williams Washington Camp was born December 11, 1800, in Georgia. His unusual given name comes from his mother's maiden name; Margaret Williams. This did not prevent many people from using his name incorrectly.

While traveling in Alabama he met Diannah Greer, a wealthy Southern Belle. They married there in 1822 and later moved to Tennessee in 1832. They had a large home near Dresden Tennessee on 95 acres. They, with the help of many slaves, raised cotton, cattle and ran a blacksmith shop. He also joined the Campbellite church and soon became a preacher there.

Various biographies disagree on the details of his conversion. One claims that while living in Alabama, they heard of the Mormon Church, but they did not join the church until after they moved to Tennessee. Another says that they first heard about the church in Dresden, Tennessee where Williams saw two missionaries holding a street meeting. Williams approached the missionaries when they were done and asked to know more. He arranged for them to speak at his church.
Williams decided to be prepared in case there was any trouble and he placed an armload of hickory saplings just inside the door. When it came time for the meeting, Williams took his place by the door. Only a few came to hear the preaching. The meeting was just beginning when there came a knock and as Williams opened the door he could see a troublesome mob with pails of tar and several bags of feathers. The leader, which was one of his own Campbellite members, said in a burly voice that they had come to give those "blankety blank" and "you too" a little dose of real religion. Williams said they better not try it. As the leader stepped through the door, Williams soundly tapped him with a hickory stick and he fell to the floor as if he were shot! Others tried but each was treated to the same firm tap. After eight or ten unsuccessful tries, the mob took their stunned leader and their pails and feathers and left with their little dose of real religion. (Shauna S Pusey, History of Williams Washington Camp)
Williams was baptized "right after the meeting" on August 1st 1841.

Each of the biographies have problems. One claims David Patten and Joseph Smith visited the Camp home in Tennessee. However, Patten had been dead 3 years by the time Williams joined the Church and Joseph Smith never visited Tennessee. Others disagree on the date of his baptism, sometimes by years.

Williams' wife Diannah waited about a year to be baptized on 12 May 1842. I find it interesting that that same summer Williams Camp assisted Amasa M. Lyman on his mission to collect money for building of the temple and the Nauvoo house (Amasa Lyman's Journal, MS, No. 4 1842, p 32-34). Perhaps it was Elder Lyman's visit which prompted Diannah to join the church. One biographer, however, wrote that it was during a visit to Nauvoo that Dianna was baptized by John Taylor.

Brother Camp shows up in Abraham Smoot's mission journal beginning on May 14th 1844. Brother Camp offers shelter to  the missionaries, opened his home for for preaching, accompanied Elder Smoot, preached himself at least once, and even provided armed protection for the next 30 days.
Abraham O Smoot May 18, 1844
... I had secured ready a subject to my congregation before the truth of it was witnessed. A pistol was fired at the window like a thunder storm and was followed in quite succession by a shower of brick bits against the window glass. The congregation seemed much frightened & immediately began to leave the house. I hastened to inform them that if they wished to stay that I would protect them, from the fact that I knew had such mobs would abscond as soon as they had executed their diabolical designs. Brother Camp too offered the people protection by standing guard around the Court-house, while I would preach the words of eternal life, which I did in as plain manner as possible, for the space of one hour, then closed and returned to Brother Camp's house and spent the night. (Abraham O. Smoot, Missionary Journal, p 195)
Also Brother William Camp, ... somewhat noted as a fighting character, arose and called on the fleeing people to stop. He told them if they would only sit and listen to the preaching he would go out and look after the persons who were creating the disturbance. About two thirds of the audience again became seated, and he went outside and procured a shot-gun with which he patrolled around the court-house the remainder of the evening,... (A. O. Smoot, "Early Experiences of A. O. Smoot," Early Scenes In Church History, Eighth Book of the Faith Promoting Series. p 23)

The next night at another meeting at the same court house, an unnamed lawyer tried to stop the service. But after being prevented from doing so by a number of Freemasons in the crowd, he was forced to listen to the entire sermon in silence.
...at the close of the meeting Mr. camp took vengeance on the lawyer by knocking him down and kicking him around the courthouse yard (C. Elliott Berlin "Abraham O. Smoot, Pioneer Mormon Leader" p 32)
On May 27th Williams Camp was appointed Joseph Smith's elector for the district in the upcoming presidential election (Time and Seasons, Vol. V, No. 12, p 574).

On June 14th, Williams Camp made his last appearance in Smoot's journal. Williams sold a horse to Smoot for him to use for the remainder of his mission that summer. Smoot left for Benton county, and never returned to Dresden.

Williams was a blacksmith by trade. Just before the family moved to Nauvoo, he was fixing a wagon with the help of Ike, one of his slaves. His daughter Catherine was there as well. According to Catherine a mob of 15 men arrived with panted faces. They said they were there to give him some tar and feathers. William responded by first throwing or swinging the hammer he was using at them, which reportedly knocked down two of them. Then he picked up hot "irons in every direction and went after them." Ike and Catherine hid behind the bellows. In short order Williams had routed the mob and returned to the shop. When he got back he said
"Ike, you black rascal, why didn't you help fight those men?" Ike didn't look up but said, "Well, Massa William, I thought you was enough for them few men." My father laughed but said no more to him. (Catherine Ellen Camp Greer, Autobiography, BYU)
Williams' relationship to slavery appears to be more complex than stereotypical. His daughter Catherine recalls he offered Ike and his family their freedom if he helped him make it to Nauvoo. Yet, Ike shows up in one family story that happened at Nauvoo. When the family went to Salt Lake they reportedly took only three slaves with them, leaving the rest behind. One biographer wrote that he freed the slaves, telling the ones with him in Salt Lake that they should consider themselves free. Another wrote he sold some and sent the rest to the home of his father-in-law. On a later trip from Salt Lake to Tennessee, the family returned with four more slaves. The exact fate of each of Williams' slaves is a subject for another day, perhaps by someone with experience in this field. (Yes, I'm talking about you, Amy)

Some sources claim that Williams took his family to Nauvoo in 1843. Another says that as early as 1842 he had two homes, one in Nauvoo and another in Tennessee, and that he moved back and forth for a few years. Another says the Camps arrived in Nauvoo in the midst of the turmoil surrounding Joseph's death. According to Williams' daughter they spent two summers in Nauvoo (probably 1844 & 1845) and then resettled in Iowa.

In June 1850 they joined a wagon train heading for Salt Lake City, arriving in September of the same year. On a trip back to Tennessee in 1852, Diannah went to settle her father's estate while Williams served a mission to Texas. Diannah became ill delaying their return. It took them two years to get back to Utah. Williams spent the rest of his life in Salt Lake where he died on November 21st 1875.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Mormon(ish) Religious Enthusiasm in Ante Bellum Tennessee. Part 3

[This is a continuation of parts one and two.]

Billy and Alfred learned that Elder Lee was accusing them of teaching false doctrine and being responsible for the apostasy at the Putnam County Branch in Tennessee. They insisted on a hearing before the High Council. But it didn't go as planned. Alfred was quite ill, and had to leave the the defense entirely up to his brother. Billy explained that if there were errors they were done in ignorance, yet they had a testimony of the Book of Mormon. The decision was close but a narrow majority voted against them.

On their way home each brother met a prominent church leader, one met Brigham Young and the other Hyrum Smith. They each pleaded their case before them and were told all would be alright. Ultimately the matter was dropped, and their names were cleared.

“It seemed very severe on us as we had preached the gospel in all sincerity of heart, and in our simplicity had believed in the gifts of the Gospel as promised to the Saints in all ages. Whatever we had done we did it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ never failing to give him the glory. We at once demanded a hearing before the High Council, expecting that must be made up of men who believed in the gifts of the Spirit as we did. It soon commenced to hear our case. The charges were prepared by John D. Lee. They accused us of teaching false doctrine, of doing miracles under false pretenses and of depreciating the Book of Mormon as of Divine origin. At the time we believed the book according to our knowledge, but at that early period we had but little knowledge of it ourselves nor were we prepared to make much use of it. The Bible we, like other sectarian Christians, had studied and been traditionated in and we used what was in our hands and what was evidently at that time, the most effective weapon for the defence of truth, yet we had a testimony that the Book of Mormon was of God and ever bore that testimony when there was any occasion.”
“On account of feeble health I was barely able to attend the Council and it devolved on my brother (William) to do the talking necessary in our defence. After he was done I simply bore testimony to the truth of what he had said. The Council was much divided but finally decided by a majority vote that we should acknowledge that our labors in Tennessee were not of God, but of the devil, that we had been deceived and had acted under evil influences. I got on to my feet and said that I came there expecting to abide their decision, but I regretted that I could not do it. I bore my testimony to them that the gospel had been preached, the blind had received their sight, the lame had walked, devils had been cast out, and the dead raised in the name of Jesus. That I knew these things, and could not deny them, for to do so would be to deny Christ. The Council took no further action on the case at that time, neither were we ever again called before it.” 
“My brother and I parted as we left the house, and being feeble I took the nearest way home. On the way I met Elder Brigham Young, at that time President of the Quorum of the Twelve. I requested the privilege of talking with him and gave him a general account of the affair. He placed his hand on my shoulder and said, Brother Young let your heart be comforted and go your way, and it will be all right. We want such men as you in the church. Men of faith in the gospel. My brother (William) afterwards said that after parting with me he met brother Hyrum Smith (brother of Joseph Smith). After telling him of our case he said, Brother Young the things you have related in your labors are of God and I will go to the printing office and have your names published to the world as in full fellowship with the church. Such notice was afterwards published in the Times and Seasons but not until seven months afterwards (on) January 16, 1843:

'Notice -- Whereas fellowship has been withdrawn from Brothers William and Alfred for teaching false and erroneous doctrine etc, in Tennessee as published in the Times and Seasons of June 15, 1842. This is to inform the Saints abroad that they have made satisfaction to the High Council of the Church of Jesus Christ at Nauvoo and are restored to their former standing and fellowship in the Church, and we recommend them to all with their lot may be cast. 
Signed, Hosea Stout, Clerk of the High Council.’”