Wednesday, March 25, 2009

James Roskelley

I had given up. Elder Ross Kelley was nowhere to be found. Then just the other day I was referring back to an article in the Millennial Star. At the bottom of the article was the beginning of the next one. It read "Almost Another Martyrdom: Elder James Roskelley, of Smithfield, Shot and Wounded." Like a ton of bricks it hit me that I knew that name! I had recently posted about Elder Ross Kelly. But I was unable to locate him in all the other usual sources. Now I know why.

Armed with this new information I find him elsewhere. In the Deseret News, 27 Aug 1884, (quoted from the Logan Leader) is an article about the shooting of Elder James Roskelley. There is some understandable confusion with the Cane Creek Massacre. Other than that it matches the Millennial Star Article which it says is quoted the Utah Journal. (See below)

James Roskelley was born on 10 January 1865, in Smithfield Utah; the son of Samuel Roskelley and Rebecca Hendricks. Samuel was a Bishop, Recorder for the Logan Temple and later Patriarch for Smithfield. In an answer to a prayer Samuel once saw Nephite warriors guarding the temple against Federal agents intent of using temple records to prosecute polygamists. But that is another story.

James left on his mission in May 1884 and served in the East Tennessee Conference. Their headquarters was Lee Valley, Tennessee; a small rural community east and north of Knoxville.

On one occasion Elder Roskelley participated in the healing of the son of a prominent man. Colonel Green was well known, as was the condition of his son, who was very sick with typhoid fever. He had been delirious for a days. Knowing that the Elders preached healing of the sick, the family asked the Elders to administer to their son.

"They did so, the delirium was rebuked, and in five minutes the patient was asleep, the first rest he had had for three days and nights"
As you can guess this caused quite stir in the community. Many people would come to the Green home to talk with the Elders.

On the 8th of August 1884, while conversing with someone who had come to inquire about the church,

"they saw a negro walk along the road past the house. A moment after the negro had disappeared from their sight, they heard the sharp report of a pistol, and at the same instant Elder Roskelley felt a sharp pain in his left arm."
A doctor was called and Elder Roskelley was treated. The bullet had actually grazed him across the chest before it entered his left arm. Mr Green roused his neighbors to look for the shooter. He was soon found a brought before a magistrate.
"He plead in court that he was shooting at a tree, and that the wounding of Elder Roskelley was purely accidental. The magistrate placed no confidence in this story, which was too evidently a miserable subterfuge and bound the negro over to await the action of the grand jury at its next session"
Elder Roskelley expressed the desire to finish out his mission, and I expect he did. His wound was not life threatening, though it easily could have been. His story would have made bigger news of it had not been for what happened two days later at Cane Creek.

I have found nothing about the fate of the man accused of the shooting. Did he make it to a trial? Was he lynched? or released by someone who put him up to it? I have no idea.

After Elder Roskelley returned home he married Frances Annie Emery on 18 Sep 1890 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He served in the YMMIA Stake Presidency until November 1893. In 1905 was named as a deputy county assessor with a pay of $2.50 per day. Later that same year he appears to be involved in the Cache Commercial Club, an organization like a modern Chamber of Commerce (Interestingly enough, also on the club is John H. Gibbs, son of the Elder Gibbs shot at Cane Creek. The younger Gibbs would begin his mission to the Southern States in April 1905). In September 1910 Roskelley was considered for the position of Sheriff of Cache County. Then he disappears from public record so I'm guessing he didn't win.

He and his wife would have 14 children before he died on 8 May 1919 in Smithfield, Utah at the age of 54.


Anonymous said...

I am a LDS Bishop lived here all my life in the stake that includes Lee Valley Tennessee--the Stake center is very close to Lee Valley--even closer is the Rogersville Chapel to Lee Valley---hard to imagine full time LDS missionaries once served there due to fact this is one of the most rural areas of the state--always been that way! Ironically I served part of my full time mission in Smithfield UT in 1977 Mark S.Mears

BruceCrow said...

Thanks for your comment.
For many decades LDS missionaries preferred the most rural locations in Tennessee. As for why, that would be a matter for debate. I think it allowed them to continue the practice of preaching without purse or scrip, which was frowned on in the cities. The unintended side effect was that it allowed for more violence against the missionaries, since there were fewer law enforcement authorities.