Sunday, November 1, 2009

Wilford Woodruff in Memphis part 1

Those of you who have been following Keepapitchinin will know Ardis has been posting a treasure. Comics about the first mission of Wilford Woodruff. Today should be the first episode about the part of his mission in Tennessee.

Wilford Woodruff was not the first missionary to Tennessee, but he was one of the earliest. It was the evening of March 27th, 1835 he crossed the Mississippi River and stayed in Memphis, Tennessee. Those familiar with the tales of his life will recognize the story. He described it in an article printed in the Millennial Star.

I went to the best tavern in the place, kept by Mr. Josiah Jackson. I told him I was a stranger, and had no money. I asked him if he would keep me over night. He asked me what my business was. I told him I was a preacher of the Gospel. He laughed, and said that I did not look much like a preacher. I did not blame him, as all the preachers he had ever been acquainted with rode on fine horses or in fine carriages, clothed in broadcloth, and had large salaries, and would see this whole world sink to perdition before they could wade through one hundred and seventy miles of mud to save the people.

“The landlord wanted a little fun, so he said he would keep me if I would preach. He wanted to see if I could preach. I must confess that by this time I became a little mischievous, and pled with him not to set me preaching. The more I pled to be excused, the more determined Mr. Jackson was that I should preach. [Millennial Star, June 20, 1881, 391]

In an earlier version of this story, Wilford Woodruff explained Mr Jackson's motivations a little differently. "I was suspected of being an impostor. Mr. Jackson believed I was one of Murril's clan, who were then murdering and stealing negroes" Woodruff believed that Mr. Jackson wanted to test him to prove whether he was indeed a preacher. [Millennial Star, April 15, 1865, 231]

At the time, in Tennessee, the interstate slave trade was proscribed by law. Slavers did an illegal but lucrative business along the Mississippi River. In fact, Tennessee was a hotbed of abolitionist sentiment at the time. It wasn't until cotton agriculture took hold in western Tennessee in the 1850's that public sentiment in the State turn pro-slavery.

I find it fascinating that Wilford was dressed so that he would have been mistaken for a slaver. I'm guessing his clothes were not very clean, and probably not very fine to start with.

to be continued.......

1 comment:

Steve C. said...

I look forward to reading your posts about WW's mission to Tennessee.