Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thomas Holiday Church & Harriet Elnora Birchet

[I ran across this interesting story about a Tennessee Mormon family. While I am having trouble replicating the research, the source is a paper presented at the Sunstone West Symposium in Cupertino California on March 28, 2009. I qualify this so you will not automatically accept this as true. But it probably is. -Bruce]

Thomas was born in Franklin, Tennessee on 20 January 1824 to Abraham Church and Mary Emmons. The family soon moved to Shady Grove where they settled. Thomas married his first wife, Nancy Maria Bryant in 1849. By the 1850 Census, Nancy has just given birth to their second child. Other sources suggest at least two more children were born to them.

Harriet was born a slave in Crockett County, Tennessee in 1843 to Remeus Burchard and Maria Wamock. Some sources suggest she is mulatto. In the 1880 Census, she listed her mother’s birthplace as Georgia; her father's birthplace is blank. She also lists her race as White.

Harriet was bought by Thomas Church in 1850. In 1859 she and Thomas had a daughter named Laura. I can't imagine their relationship was an equal one, and there is no evidence of how much Thomas’ wife Nancy knew about the relationship. Nancy died in 1861.

Thomas served in the Confederate Army during the war. After the Civil War, Harriet and Thomas were married. They would eventually have 11 children.

In 1877, Thomas’ brother, Hayden Wells Church, who had joined the church years before, returned to Shady Grove as a missionary to share the gospel with his family. Thomas and his wife accepted the message and were baptized. They shortly thereafter moved to Utah. Their last child, John Taylor Church was born in Utah in 1879 and Thomas received his temple ordinances in 1879. He is also sealed to his deceased wife Nancy, but not to Harriet.

In the 1880 Census, they are living in Deseret, Milard County, Utah. In 1903, they took a trip to Salt Lake City where they received their endowments and were then sealed to each other in the Salt Lake Temple. Five of their children also received their temple ordinances during their lifetime. The rest, although baptized and confirmed in the LDS Church, we apparently not allowed to receive their temple ordinances.

Laura Church (1859-1953) Temple work done in 1956 (proxy)
Mary Ann Church (1862-1925) Temple work done in 1879 (living)
William Church (1866-1940) Temple work done in 1941 (proxy)
Major Dorimus Church (1869-1936) Temple work done in 1939 (proxy)
Viletta Church (1871-1930) Temple work done in 1931 (proxy)
Henry Geboyle Church (1873-1931) Temple work done in 1935 (proxy)
Robert Robins Church (1875-1934) – Temple work done in 1901 (living)*
Arizona Church (1877-1962) – Temple work done in 1909 (living)
John Taylor Church (1879-1965) – Temple work done in 1952 (living)
Harriet Gertrude Church (1881-1963) – Temple work done in 1904 (living)
Della Ada Church (1884-1943) Temple work done in 1947 & 1979 (proxy)

[*Although the writer of the article gave this date, I have not been able to verify it. According to temple records the work is currently in progress. When it is completed, the new date will replace any previous date. ]

[There are many other aspects of this I have not been able to verify. The slave schedules referenced in the paper do not name Harriet. Nor have I located the marriage records for Thomas and Harriet. African American family history is a new area for me. The author of this paper is far more experienced at it than I am.]

LDS Historical Rhetoric and Praxis Regarding Marriage Between Whites and Blacks


Amy said...

Thanks for the link to this post. I ran into Connell at the Church History Library last month. He does some very good work. I don't always agree with his conclusions, but it's hard to quibble with his research.

BruceCrow said...

I've never met him, but his research skills are obviously so much better than mine.

Kali said...

Hi Bruce. I have read through your blog and found many things to be very interesting. Do you live in Utah or in Tennessee? I have been trying to research my Tennessee Church relatives for the past several years. My direct line goes like this:
Abraham Church
Thomas Holiday Church & Harriet Elnora Burchard
Robert Robins Church & Mary Catherine Neilsen
Robert Holliday Church & Edna Lenore Paulson
Lewis Robins Church & Karen Renee Facer
Kali Church (This is me)
I'm very interested in being in contact with you, finding out what you know, and where you fit in the Church family.
Thanks for sharing the info that is posted on your blog. It is wonderful.
Warm Regards,
Kali Church

Ben Ohran said...

Hey Bruce, thanks for the interesting research. I'm a maternal-line descendant of Harriet's. I recently had my mitochondrial DNA sequenced, and can confirm that Harriet's roots are from West Africa.

BruceCrow said...

That is very interesting and great information. Thank you for sharing.