Thursday, April 2, 2009

Manda Grimes Queen - The truth?

Recently I was reading in the journal of Mary Jane Miller which I received from one of her descendants [thanks Virginia]. Mary Jane Miller was a member of the LDS Church who left Tennessee following the Cane Creek Massacre. She tells of a "widow" named Manda Queen (Amanda C. Queen), who late in 1883, was coming "back from Utah" with her two sons (Thomas Filmore Queen and Charles Queen) and her brother Frank Grimes (Benjamin Franklin Grimes). They were not members of the LDS Church. But according to Mary Jane Miller she was the widow of a Brother Queen (Thomas Jake Queen) of Wayne County, Tennessee who was a Mormon. Brother Queen appears to have taken his family to Utah and after his death, his widow returned to Tennessee. Mary Jane Miller wrote;

“..they had written for them not to let anyone know they were figuring on coming, for the people in Salt Lake would not let them get away from there….They had created such a feeling telling their stories about the people in Utah and substantiating the terrible stories that the people had already heard. There was such a feeling. A crowd of men came to that meeting that day for the full purpose to break it up, but some way they never had the nerve. I heard her tell that they never would have gotten away from Salt Lake City only Frank had gotten on with a lawyer who helped them get away. Well such as that just kindled a feeling that kept growing and spreading.”

Some digging revealed some interesting details. According to the 1870 U. S. Census, Amanda (aged 16) and Thomas (19) were married in 1869. Their first three children appear to have died young. Her two sons in the above story are their 4th and 5th children. They were aged three and five in 1883; a tragedy to be orphaned so young. But it isn’t true. Thomas Jake Queen (see photo on left) was not dead in 1883. He died in 1913. In fact, it doesn't look like they ever made it to Utah. The only evidence that I can find that Thomas was Mormon was Amanda’s claim. Of course, her family believed her so they may have had additional evidence. Plus there is a Brother Queen in that town in 1882 identified in Willis Robison’s journal. But Robison provides no first name, and Thomas had a father and several brothers living close by.

Thomas remarried in 1883 to Katie C. Holmes in Tipton County, Tennessee. Tipton County is west of Wayne County (just north of Memphis). So did Manda and Thomas leave town, saying they were going to Utah, but then split up? Then she returns with her two boys, her brother who is in his mid 20s, and a whopper of lie to explain where her husband was? Of course, she relates the stories of Mormons and Utah she has already heard, making it more credible with her friends and family. But at the same time she fanned the flames of anti-Mormon sentiment. Her brother Frank would have to be in on it. But since he comes out as the hero, I can see why he would agree to it.

Mary Jane Miller, who was 17 in 1883, could only write what she heard. Her journal reveals just how problematic relying on an eyewitness can be.
[Note that in Hyrun Belnap's journal, William Grimes was named as one of the members of the mob that attacked the Mormon church in the Cane Creek Massacre. Manda had an older brother named William Grimes.]


Ardis Parshall said...

Oh, that's good, Bruce! You never take anything for granted.

BruceCrow said...

I'm glad you liked it.

Mary Jane Smith's journal is a great example of exactly what I am hoping to find: a story in need of expanding. And it is fun digging for "the rest of the story".