Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Where was Elder Berry?

What follows will make more sense if you already know about the Cane Creek Massacre. If you don't and don't want to read about it, I apologise in advance.

In every second hand account of the what happened at Cane Creek, there is one detail I have yet to see reported correctly. On Saturday night only three of the missionaries spent the night at Tom Garrett's home. Elder Berry spent the night at the Condor home. So that morning, it was not Gibbs, Thompson and Berry who left Mr. Garrett's home early to get to the meeting, just Gibbs and Thompson.

How do I know? Well, the primary sources say so. There are only a few people who would know. And only three people actually wrote about it. And I had no problem gathering them together.

First Elder Jones noted it in his interview with the Deseret News. Though in his description it sounds like he was thinking Elder Berry was staying at another house further down stream from the Condor's home.

Second Elder Thompson mentioned it in passing during the same interview. When he and Elder Berry were talking as the fateful meeting was getting started, they talked about how much fun Thompson had at the Garrett's and that Berry should have been there.

Third Elder Berry. Yes, that is right. Although Elder Gibbs stopped writing in his journal a week before his death, Elder Berry kept a journal up until the day before he died. In it we learn that he and Elder Thompson were both staying at the Condor's home, but that when Elder Gibbs and Jones arrived, Thompson decided to join them at the Garrett's home. Elder Berry most likely stayed at the Condors simply to be polite. Elder Thompson being younger probably didn't realize that leaving your host because you found someone one more interesting was a little rude. That Elder Berry was nearly twice the age of some of the missionaries may have contributed.

So what? you ask. Well, you are right. It really isn't that big of a deal. If he was sneaking out to meet a girl friend, well that would be one thing. But that certainly wasn't what was happening. It doesn't change much our perception of what happened that day. But what it does do is color my opinion of those who have written about the massacre already.

[Begin rant] Doesn't anyone go back to primary sources anymore? B. H. Roberts is a great source, but it is still a secondary source. And there are easily accessible primary sources here. I'm the amateur geek without the advanced degree in history. I won't give names here, but there are half a dozen historians who miss this detail. Apparently there is folly in always relying on the work done by others. Sometimes it's wrong! [end rant]

[akward silence]

[quietly and sheepishly looking around] I'm sorry.


Ardis Parshall said...

I'll rant about provenance, and you rant about original sources, and together we'll conquer the world! :)

Sooner or later you're going to have to take that word "amateur" out of your blog title, Bruce. Sooner rather than later, probably.

BruceCrow said...

I'll take "amateur" out of my blog title when someone pays me to do this. I'm pretty sure that will be a very cold day.