Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Franklin Spencer: Wanted Dead or Alive

In 1881 Franklin Spencer returned home honorably from serving in the West Tennessee Conference of the Southern States Mission. For the last sixteen months he was president of the Conference. But his honorable service hides the fact that Franklin Spencer was not his real name. His real name was Nicholas Summers Perkins Jr.

He was born on 26 June 1838 in Augusta, Bracken County, Kentucky to Nicholas Summers Perkins and Sarah Jane Bradford. His mother died in childbirth in 1841. A couple of years later, Nicholas Sr. took his children and followed his extended family to Missouri. But when gold was discovered in California, Nicholas Sr. was bitten by the bug. Leaving his children in the care of his sister in Missouri, he went west where he died in 1850.

Although Nicholas stuttered badly when he spoke he was very intelligent. So his career interests led him into teaching school and he studied to become a lawyer. All this came to an end with the start of the Civil War. Very much a Southern man he went to Tennessee, joined the Confederate Army, and was given a commission. Because of his native intelligence he was quickly promoted, eventually achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In his role he was involved in a watershed event in his life: the destruction of a railway bridge which resulted in the death of “several” Union soldiers. [Later evidence shows he was falsely accused of the crime]

After the war Nicholas returned to Missouri, but eventually had to leave in fear of reprisals for his Confederate past. It isn't clear whether these were government officials, bounty hunters or just bitter relatives of those he killed. Regardless, he moved to Pueblo Colorado, where he had sisters, and bought some land. It wasn’t long before he was tracked down by a posse of 10 to 12 men led by J. H. Russell. In the fight Nicholas stabbed Russell who died three days later.

On the run once again, Nicholas took his new wife Sarah Jane Dodd, on the trail to Oregon. But along the way they stopped in Ogden, Utah to let Sarah recover from an illness. Impressed with the Mormons, Nicholas was baptized late in 1864. He changed his name to Franklin Spencer and the family settled in Manti. His devotion to his new faith was such that by 1874 he was asked to serve as the Bishop of Salina. He sat in the Utah State Legislature and was called to serve a mission to Tennessee, working in the area around Nashville. He ended his mission as president of the Tennessee Conference just after the Branch at Cane Creek had been formed.

Following his mission he stopped in Kentucky and gathered genealogical records. After his return to Utah he took a second wife, and eventually a third, which put him on the run again. He spent the rest of his life in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, where he died in 1915.

16 comments:

Ardis Parshall said...

Oh, my goodness! I've never heard a word about this. What a dramatic biography.

BruceCrow said...

You can't make up this stuff. And if someone did, they got enough (but not all)of the details right to make it believable. The source is supposed to be Laurel Elben, a grandniece of Franklin Spencer. She passed away in 1995 so I can't really ask her for more info.

For example, I wasn't able to verify the Civil War record. But it isn't an area of research I've spent a lot of time doing.

Johnna said...

wow. that's a good story.

BruceCrow said...

Thank you. I'm glad you liked it. As one relative said, "It would make a great movie."

Anonymous said...

Hello Bruce,

According to Ancestry.com's Civil War soldier's list, Nicholas Perkins enlisted as a private in Company D, 11th Cavalry Regiment Tennessee. However, his name does not appear in their collection of that regiment's history. There is another Perkins who appears to have made a name for himself in that same regiment, but his first and middle names are different. Don't know quite what to make of this, but at least this gives you a starting point should you wish to pursue it

Anonymous said...

Oh, spoke too soon. There is an "N. Perkins" who enlists as a second lieutenant in Company H,
13th Infantry Regiment Tennessee. He could also be your man. Ardis, is the one who could track this down for you. She can ferret out anything in genealogy.

BruceCrow said...

Anonymous,
Thanks, I'll take a look at those. Maybe something in those records will provide me with a link.

Laurel Elben claimed he was a Lieutenant Colonel with the 11th Holmans Tennessee Cavalry. I didn't see him in the lists for that unit but I realized it isn't always that cut and dry.

birdchaser said...

Great story, thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

My mother, Laurel Elben Reed, had handwritten her family history, including this histry of Nicholas Summers Perkins, as she had remembered being told by her grandmother, Eliza Mary Perkins Elben, daughter, of NIcholas. Mother was born in 1906, and Eliza had died in 1928, so they'd had many years to know each other. I had typed verbatim, this history as written here. I have pictures of Eliza Mary Perkin before and after her marriage to John Elbin, my g. grandfather.

Anonymous said...

The anonymous above has an e-mail of preed648@aol.com

Paul Reed

Anonymous said...

Hello Franklin Spencer was my great great great (etc...) grandfather! Thank you for posting his story for all to see. I learned a bit myself :)

Anonymous said...

Email address for descendant above: erinforraz@yahoo.com
Thank you.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you liked it and I'm glad you learned something. I found Franklin Spencers story very imteresting

Michael Spencer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Spencer said...

Hi Bruce

What were your sources for this story?

Franklin Spencer/Perkins is my g. g. Grandfather. I've heard this story told at family events so I read his personal history in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and he didn't mention any of this. He said he came west because he thought he killed his neighbor over some dispute and found out later the man survived.

BruceCrow said...

So many sources, but probably the best source for this was his daughter, Minnie Spencer Gonzales, in her book "Franklin and Hannah Jane Spencer and Their Descendants" edited and published by her son Franklin Spencer Gonzales in 1983. I think I downloaded my copy from BYU archives.