Sunday, January 18, 2009

William Shanks Berry

William Shanks Berry was born on February 3, 1838 in Dresden, Tennessee. His parents, Jesse and Amalia Berry, were among the first to join the LDS church in the state of Tennessee. To unite with the saints they went to Nauvoo, Illinois, arriving shortly after the death of Joseph Smith. In 1844, Jesse died and is buried in Nauvoo. Amalia took her ten children to Utah.They settled at Spanish Fork and later moved to Kanarraville.

In a biography found in the Lewis County book, he is described as having “a fine personal appearance, being fully six feet in height and powerfully built. He was somewhat slow of speech, but endowed to a remarkable degree with good, sound sense, and was of a mild and genial disposition.”

As a young boy William helped Charles Price defend cattle from Utes. The two charged and shot at the larger Ute raiding party scaring them off and saving the cattle. Price was shot in the leg and crippled during the attack. William was unharmed.

In the spring of 1866, two of his brothers and a sister-in-law were killed by Indians. Determined to exact revenge, he tracked down the leader of the Indian marauders and came close to killing him, even “held a knife to his stomach.” But when it came to actual bloodshed, William couldn’t do it. He let the Indian escape unharmed telling friends that he “wanted no human blood on his soul.”

On April 15th 1884, shortly after his arrival in Tennessee, he was described by Elder Willis Robison as being “a man of some experience.” Accordingly he was assigned to serve with Elder Reynold A. Crump on Tumbling and Indian Creeks. (Robison Journal, vol 4, Page 66). After just two weeks Elder Berry was reassigned to work with Elder Henry Thompson. While Elder Gibbs was on special assignment, Berry and Thompson periodically met with the branch at Cane Creek.

On August 10th 1884, when a mob attacked a church service at Cane Creek, Elder Berry died trying to defend his companion from being shot by holding or pushing aside the guns aimed at Elder Thompson, allowing him time to escape. He was immediately shot by another member of the mob.

He was the only polygamist at the meeting that Sunday, although it did not appear to have been public knowledge at the time. Even the mission president B. H. Roberts said when asked by the papers that as far as he knew none of the missionaries had more than one wife. Below are each of his wives and children with the ages of the children at the time of the massacre.

He married Rebecca Rocena Beck on 22 Nov 1860. They had 10 children: William Alfred (23), Amelia Rebecca (21), Hannah Margaret (19), Harriet Louisa (17), Martha Eleanor (15), Lucilla Diantha (14), Rocena Adeline (11), Mary Wilhelmina (10), John William (7) and Minnie Melvina (19 mos).

He married Diantha Allen on 15 Oct 1864. She died in 1873, 11 years before the massacre. They had no children together but Diana had these children from a previous marriage: Alfred Alonzo Higgins (27), Sarah Ann Higgins (24), Alfred Moroni Higgins (23), and Louisa Jane Higgins (22).
He married Lovinia Nicholson Sylvester on 22 Jun 1874 and had 5 children: James Sylvester (9), Jesse Arthur (7), Althea Rebecca (5), Emma Lovinia (22 mos), and William Andrew (3 mos).

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

After reading your account of William Shanks Berry (whom I have recently found to be my great grandfather), I noted the name of the child Emma Lovinia Berry. Recently, I found a photo of his wife's grave (Lovinia Sylvester) with the inscription of Emma R. as his child. I am questioning the correct middle name and looking for further research.

BruceCrow said...

It is not uncommon to find names with differeing versions. My suggestion is to find a birth certificate, if there is one. I certainly don't know which is correct.

Brian Hill said...

Wonderful information. I used your info to find the mormon massacre marker. William S. Berry is my mother's father's grandfather. Here are some photos of my trip, if you're interested...

http://picasaweb.google.com/bugpeople/CaneCreekWilliamSBerry?authkey=Gv1sRgCKm5lNjskKj2aA&feat=directlink

BruceCrow said...

Nice photos Brian. Thanks for sharing. I recently heard that a public road was built back to the grave markers in the Conder Cemetery. It isn't on any maps but it is called Charles Talley Road. The road does back to Charles Talley's home and part of the way back on the side is the cemetery. I'll be heading back there in a few weeks between Christmas and New Years.

Patti Haire said...

Bruce,
I don't know if you remember me. My son Elder Spencer Haire served his mission there in TN. Wm. Shanks Berry is my Great Great Grandfather. Tomorrow I am telling his story in church for Pioneer Day. I am in awe of this great man and his service to the church. It has been so much fun to read your blog and remember his life. I also have been reading B. H. Roberts account which is so heartfelt. We believe that Spencer was called to TN. to finish the work the Wm. Berry never got to complete. We took him to the grave marker and took pictures on the way to the MTC in Kanaraville, UT. Spencer is now home and speaks of the wonderful people of TN. He said it was the best time in his life. Thanks for your attention to this good man and his life. I am so proud to be his ancestor.
Thanks,
Patti Haire
Las Vegas

BruceCrow said...

Of course I remember you, Pattie. I also remember your son, though we didn't get to meet in person. He was well respected by his fellow missionaries who used words like "awesome" and "He rocks" to describe him.

I hope your talk was well received.