Thursday, March 19, 2009

History of the Cane Creek Branch from 1879-1883

Missionaries first showed up in Cane Creek, Lewis county in 1879. Elder Martin Garn and Joseph Argyle met Isaac "Thomas" Garrett during a visit he made to Shady Grove. Impressed with what he heard, Tom invited the elders to visit him on Cane Creek. The Elders agreed to visit.

As promised the missionaries, Elders Garn, Argyle, and later Edward Stevenson, made their way to Lewis county. They met with Tom, but he never joined the Mormon Church; no reason is given. Regardless, he became a committed friend of church in Cane Creek. And a few of his friends and neighbors joined. So far I have identified Elisha and Barbara Talley, W. James Condor, Buwell Blanton and John Lancaster and his sister Rachel Lancaster who were baptized in 1879.

A few more were baptized in 1880 and some more in 1881. Late in 1880, Tom's daughter, Lizzie Garrett told one missionary she would get baptized when her school was out of session. She was a school teacher. I have no record of her actually getting baptized , but I did find an unnamed young woman's baptism at Cane Creek in early May 1884 told in a newspaper article. She was described as being so intelligent and well respected that news of her planned baptism brought crowds to see if she would actually go through with it. She was further identified as being the daughter of a man very friendly to the church who never joined because he was "inclined to infidelity."

Other Mormon missionaries taught and baptized on Cane Creek. Franklin Spencer, George Carver, Hyrum Belnap and Lorenzo Hunsaker just to name a few. Hyrum Belnap wrote much about his mission to Middle Tennessee. Some missionaries later became leaders in the Church. Edward Stevenson, and B. H. Roberts both served in the Presidency of the Seventy (J. Golden Kimball was as well, but he never served at Cane Creek).

According to B. H. Roberts, by the time Elder John H Gibbs arrived, a branch of about 31 members had been formed at Cane Creek. I have identified 17 of them, from journals and letters. There were several (9 at least) children in families where the parents had been baptized but for whom I have no record of the childrens' baptism. For some reason, many of the baptism records for the period have been lost.

We do have some written records. Starting around 1901, a book was kept with baptisms for the Middle Tennessee Conference. It is handwritten and many of the names have been crossed out making it even harder to read. An attempt was made to go back and record earlier baptisms as well. Most of the baptisms prior to 1901 are in the same handwriting and appear to have been added at the same time. Unfortunately only some of the baptisms I have identified from other sources are in the book; most are not. I have a few theories, but I'll get into that later.

Jeremy Ricketts claimed that many of the members of the Cane Creek Branch had joined the church somewhere else and had moved there. I'm still looking for industries or another source of employment that would have drawn members from elsewhere. The only one I have found was a couple of short lived iron foundries that might have started prior to 1884. But in truth, I have not yet found people listed in the journals and letters who were not baptized in the area.

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