Thursday, May 28, 2009

Arrest brings conversion

I stumbled across this letter from a man who was once in a mob. The mob was led by an officer of the law in Carter County, Tennessee who arrested Elder W. F. Garner and Elder C. F. Christensen for teaching polygamy. The year was 1884.

The letter is addressed to Elder Garner in Clifton Idaho and is dated 11 January 1898.


Dear Sir and Brother --For the first time in this life I seat myself to drop you a few lines to tell you something perhaps that will do you some good. I am one of the men that were with the officer in Carter County Tenn when Elders Christensen and Garner were arrested and if you remember one of you said to the other “We might preach to these men as they did to the jailor of old.”

Little did I think that I would find your words of any benefit to me but God for my sake put me in that wicked officer's hands to help do that work that my prejudiced heart might be softened and I can bear my testimony that from that very day I commenced to search for the truth.

But I never saw another pair of Elders until 1893 at which time I was ready for the water. Elder Thomas W Sloan baptized me and Elder John R Terry baptized my wife last spring. I had been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints in belief for four years before I or my family had heard a Mormon Elder preach. The little book known as the Voice of Warning did all the preaching to me except what you and Brother Christensen did that lonesome night going from the head of Shell Creek to Roan Mountain

I am the oldest man that was in that gang and the one that did the most of the talking and asked so many questions. But it was God's will for me to be there one reason was that I should protect you from harm and the other was to show me the way of the truth for without that I would perhaps be today where I was before that notable night.

Now brother as you know God always sends His judgments on those who will not heed His teachings but seek to do evil. That wicked constable who had the papers for you Elders came to his death on the railroad at the station. He was standing on the road and did not seem to try to get away. His body was torn to pieces and he filled a drunkard's grave. We can only pray that our Heavenly Father will hasten the time when His Spirit will cover the land as the waters do the sea and when there will be no drunkards. We send love to you all.

Your brother in the Gospel



Amy said...

What a surprise it would be to receive a letter like that in the mail. What interesting source materials you're finding!

Ardis Parshall said...

Keep "stumbling," Bruce -- this is a marvelous find. Are you planning on doing any more research into the life of William Sutphin?

In The Doghouse said...

It certainly would be a great gift to receive a letter like that one, years after the actually religious discussion took place! Loved that he studied from "A Voice of Warning"!

BruceCrow said...

Amy, Yes it certainly would be a surprise. I can't imagine receiving such a letter from some of the people I met on my mission.

Ardis, I'll keep stumbling. :)
And I was planning on looking Sutphin up soon, but not if you beat me to it. ;)

In The Doghouse,
I realized I haven't read "A Voioce of Warning" yet. It being such a widely used "tract" at the time, maybe I should.

Bookslinger said...

That's an example of why we should sow as many seeds as possible "at all times and in all places". We never know which ones will sprout.

Curtis said...

William F. Garner was the second bishop of Clifton Ward. The ward was formed in 1877; the first bishop was Harvey Dixon. The history of Oneida Stake does not give the dates of Bishop Garner's sustaining. A photo of the large "Clifton Group" in Newell Hart's "Hometown Album" has "Bishop W.F. Garner", but often the title stayed with the man long after his release. The photo is not dated but from the clothing I would guess around 1910.

BruceCrow said...

Curtis, thanks for that extra little bit. Although the article I found this in said that Wm F Garner was on his mission in 1884, it did not say anything else about him. Many missionaries at the time were much older than we normally associate with missionaries today. It would not be out of the question for him to be called as a Bishop shortly after he returned home. If you want to send me a link to the photo, my email address is bruce_crow at

Carol said...

This is indeed a marvelous find. I and many others have done considerable research on the William Sutphin family.
This letter and much in the article was unknown.
Thank you for posting it on your site.

BruceCrow said...


Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I'd love to know what you think of my post on William C Sutphin
himself. I am relatively new at this and would love to know if my information needs updating. Tomorrow I have on of William F Garner too.