Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Turkey Creek Branch

Missionaries first began preaching in Humphries County in 1834. But the first converts at Turkey Creek were in around 1887. Elbert Sanford Bigham and his wife, Barbara Ann Fizer were baptized on May 8, 1887, along with Arminta Beechum. On April 2nd 1888, Barabara's father, John Fizer, was baptized. For years they were the only ones, but on 9 August 1896 Eliza Beechum was baptized followed by her husband Harrison Beechum 13 October 1896.

In 1899, 19 year old Elder Riego Stay Hawkins served part of his mission at Turkey Creek. He was well liked by the members there. They remembered him even years later.

More baptisms followed in 1907 and later. Family names like Allison, Beechum, Browning, Box, Carter, Durham, Forest, Hornburger, and Peterson, made up a slowly and steadily growing branch. In 1924, the community of saints at Turkey Creek had grown enough to justify building a "small frame chapel" on land belonging to Sam Bigham.

Sunday School enrolment was at 68 in 1935, 71 in 1939, and 74 in 1940. In 1944, the local membership was down to about 45. The war had meant there were factory jobs to be had if you were willing to leave your home. Many chose to do just that.

That spring the "only two missionaries [serving] in Tennessee" made their way to Turkey Creek. They had a list of names; members who had not been visited in a while: Bighams, Beechums, and Brownings. They were names that were oddly familiar to the older of the two Elders.

With such a large area to cover, these missionaries were driving a car. They followed the windy roads until they found the "small frame chapel" these faithful saints had built. It was still being used and the land was still owned by Sam Bigham. Now he was 71 years old, though he was active and still stood tall. He lived there with his younger brother, Joe.

The Elders, one younger and one older, introduced themselves; Elders Lindstrom and Hawkins. It was the latter name that rang a bell for Sam Bigham. He remembered that name from 1899. He asked if he were any relation to the Elder Hawkins that had served in Turkey Creek all those years ago. By now Elder Hawkins realized why this place seemed so familiar to him. It had changed somewhat since he was a young missionary 45 years earlier. The chapel was new, but the friends were the same. Both of the Bigham brothers remembered Elder Hawkins and now Elder Hawkins remembered them. During their three day visit other families in the branch remember Elder Hawkins too.

Without knowing it, President Graham H. Doxy of the East Central States Mission had assigned Elder Riego S. Hawkins to serve in the same area in which he had served in 1899 while in the Southern States Mission. And though Elder Hawkins knew he had served in Tennessee, little did he expect to meet anyone who remembered him so well.

[Addendum: When the Nashville Stake was formed, December 6, 1970, the Turkey Creek Branch was turned into a "Dependent Sunday School" of the Clarksville Ward. There it remained until it was re-organised into the Turkey Creek Branch in 1976. On December 2, 1979, when the Nashville, Tennessee Stake was split, the Turkey Creek Branch became part of the new Franklin, Tennessee Stake. The Turkey Creek Chapel was retired from use in the Fall of 1980, when the meeting house in Waverly was built. At that time the name was changed from the Turkey Creek Branch to the Waverly Ward Branch. The old building was sold as a residence. Sadly, it burned to the ground in 1985.]


Ardis Parshall said...

Usually one of the reasons given for gathering with the main body of the Church was so that members could strengthen each other and provide a nucleus for the Church to grow and thrive. I wonder just how valid that idea is, when I hear about the faithfulness of a few scattered Saints. It's fascinating how you can trace the progress of a single convert family through to the formation of a modern ward.

I love your stories, Bruce.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks. A compliment from you, a master story teller, is worth a great deal.

Amy said...

Lovely story. It would sure be a curious experience to be reassigned to the same area many years later as a missionary. I've had some contact with former members and converts from my mission recently on facebook, but to work with the same people 45 years later? Sounds like a wonderful opportunity.

BruceCrow said...

I too have contact with some people from my mission on Facebook. But I imagine it would be sort of like what some mission presidents experience when they return to the same mission they originally served in. I know it doesn't happen in most of the world, but in my mission Cantonese was the official language. Nearly every mission president had served in Hong Kong as a young man. For every one of them, it was like coming home.

Christopher said...

Bruce, you're really doing some fantastic work here. This is wonderful. What sources did you use to compile this information?

BruceCrow said...

Reveal my secrets!! Never!!

Oh, OK. But just for you. Most of it comes from two sources. There is an article in the Church News (Deseret News), week ending 19 August 1944, p. 12 that was pointed out to me (thanks). Plus a history of the Turkey Creek Branch I found in a Humphries County History in the Tennessee State Archives. I rounded it out with small details from biographies of branch members I found in the State Archives and early missionary journals like Wilford Woodruff and Abraham O. Smoot. Like most blog posts, though, it is just the tip of the iceburg.

Christopher said...

Bruce, is there any chance I could get a copy of that Turkey Creek Branch history? How long is it? Either a scan or photocopies would be wonderful, and I would happily reimburse you any costs incurred, and perhaps we could arrange for me to return the favor by doing the same for you for a source here at BYU? Let me know. Thanks.

BruceCrow said...

I have a photo copy. I'll try to scan it, along with the title page of the book, and email it to you.

suze said...

Loved finding the blog. My dad was bishop of Clarksville Ward and the Turkey Creek Branch in the early 70s. I grew up hearing stories about how he was chased away from certain properties as a"revenuer." He'll get a kick out of this site.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks Suze, Sadly I have since discovered that the Waverly Ward was actually the Waverly Branch, and that despite the years of history, the Waverly Branch has, since this post was originally written, has been combined with the Dickson Ward.

Hopfully your dad will get a kick out of it anyway.

btw, I'd love to hear any stories you or your father have to share.

Anonymous said...

Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. Contact me through my website, snarkesa.com, and i'll put you in touch with my dad.

Joyce Pruhs said...

Hi Bruce,
Thanks for the Turkey Creek Branch info. What a treasure!
I am a great grand-daughter of William Robert Box and Rebecca Jane Curry Box. I have two dates for their baptisms into the Church at Turkey Creek.(Swimming hole at White Oak Creek was the baptism font I have been told). Robert's date is 13 August 1889 and wife Rebecca's is 13 August 1899.
I am planning a visit to the Church History Library and Archives in SLC soon to take a look at the Southern States Mission Records. Hope to find an official year--as both Robert and Rebecca have same day and month, so it appears that someone transcribed a numeral wrong somewhere along the way.
Robert and Rebecca Box lived in New Hope Community on White Oak Creek. My mother stated that her grandpa Robert Box split shingles for the Turkey Creek Chapel roof.
I have been there many times and have a 1960 photo of the Chapel.
More to report later. Joyce Pruhs

BruceCrow said...

I may have something that will help you out. Send an email. bruce_crow[at]yahoo[dot]com

I am most interested in the process of getting that fixed. I have run into many such errors, and would like to know how successful you are at pushing it through.

tappingflamingo said...

This is an very interesting post. My husbands mother is a Bigham, and is now living down from that building mentioned in the blog. It has since gone, as it burned down many years ago. The Waverly Ward was actually a branch, and was dissolved a few years ago. The membership now meets in Dickson, TN. My mother in law is still a valiant member of the church, and travels about an hour to get to church, and then an hour to get back home each Sunday. As I read some of the posts, I gathered there is a book? How do I find it?