Sunday, September 27, 2009

Letter of Recommendation

I was looking through some documents I collected a year ago and found this one. Published on September 29 1900, the Latter Day Saint Southern Star included this letter signed by a number of those who knew the Missionaries who died at Cane Creek and knew their character.

The letter is interesting on a couple of points. First is that it refutes the claim that Elder Gibbs was guilty of the immorality of which he was accused. Specifically there was an anonymous letter in 1884 printed in newspapers around Tennessee which claimed Elder Gibbs was seducing women he had baptized and that this was the cause of the Massacre. The letter I post here is an important statement from those who would have been in the position to know the truth. (All this came back to the public attention when B H Roberts was denied a seat in congress)

The second point is far more interesting to me (since I was already pretty sure of the first point). This was not an anonymous letter. The five people listed below all lived in Tennessee at the time. In fact they lived in Lewis County, three of them lived at Cane Creek, and they all felt strongly enough about the importance of the gospel that they were willing to put their names on such a letter. Newspaper articles had claimed that every Mormon who had not left Cane Creek had renounced the LDS Church. This letter shows that there were still people at Cane Creek who believed in the restored gospel.

To whom it may concern
With the view of correcting the erroneous ideas which seem to be prevalent regarding the Cane Creek tragedy the undersigned being personally acquainted with the whole affair solemnly bear our testimony to the effect that not only was it an event absolutely uncalled for but was wholly and perfectly out of order The men who were thus called to yield up their lives for the sake of what they believed to be the Gospel were to the best of our knowledge honest upright straightforward and virtuous men Never in all our experience with them did we see anything in their characters unbecoming perfect gentlemen and true servants of their Master. The many evil reports circulated about them were to our knowledge entirely without foundation And we are forced to say that they were innocent and defenseless men martyred in cold blood.

 The mob who perpetrated the cowardly deed was composed of men who had neither respect for themselves nor regard for the rights and privileges of others. They were intolerant. They were ignorant. They were barbarious. And they premeditatedly and without the least cause committed the crime which now brands them as cowards and murderers.
Elisha Talley, Malinda Condor, Bannister Talley, Mary Ann Sealey, Wm. J. Condor


Ardis Parshall said...

What courageous people! Since violence against members and missionaries in some of the Southern States was still occurring in the early years of the 20th century, they were taking a real risk of retaliation with their strong language, weren't they?

This letter is something new for me. Thank you for discovering and posting it.

BruceCrow said...

It is a real switch from the understandable fear shown immediately following the Massacre. Or maybe they were expecting few of the mobbers could read.

Which makes me wonder, while three of the people on this list could read, only one could write (according to the way they answered census). It was common for missionaries to act as scribes for those members. Who wrote this letter? It does not have the syntax or grammar of someone who was marginally literate. Was it Mary Sealy, the only one who could write? Or someone else.