Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wilford Woodruff in Memphis part 2

Wilford Woodruff finally made it to Memphis Tennessee where he reached an agreement with Josiah Jackson, the owner of a large local tavern to preach in exchange for some food and a place to eat. In Woodruff's own words.....

"He took my valise and the landlady got me a good supper I sat down in a large hall to eat. Before I got through the room began to be filled by some of the rich and fashionable people of Memphis dressed in their broadcloth and silk while my appearance was such as you can imagine after traveling through the mud as I had done. When I had finished eating the table was carried out of the room over the heads of the people I was placed in the corner of the room with a stand having a Bible hymn book and candle on it hemmed in by a dozen men with the landlord in the center.

There were present some five hundreds persons who had come together not to hear a gospel sermon but to have some fun I read a hymn and asked them to sing. Not a soul would sing a word. I told them I had not the gift of singing but with the help of the Lord I would both pray and preach. I knelt down to pray and the men around me dropped on their knees. I prayed to the Lord to give me His spirit and to show me the hearts of the people. I promised the Lord in my prayer that I would deliver to that congregation whatever He would give to me. I arose and spoke one hour and a half and it was one of the best sermons of my life. The lives of the congregation were open to the vision of my mind and I told them of their wicked deeds and the reward they would obtain. The men who surrounded me dropped their heads. Three minutes after I closed I was the only person in the room.

Soon I was shown to a bed in a room adjoining a large one in which were assembled many of the men whom I had been preaching to. I could hear their conversation. One man said he would like to know how that Mormon boy knew of their past lives. In a little while they got to disputing about some doctrinal point. One suggested calling me to decide the point. The landlord said No we have had enough for once. In the morning I had a good breakfast. The landlord said if I came that way again to stop at his house and stay as long as I might choose.

Memphis was a young city at the time. It's founding in 1819, and incorporation in 1826, was funded by a group of investors which included Andrew Jackson, a general of the war of 1812. Coincidently, Jackson was President of the United States when Woddruff made his visit to Memphis in 1835. That there would have been a tavern large enough to hold 500 people is remarkanble since that number of people would fill an average LDS chapel. In addition, the population of Memphis in 1830 was only 663, and in 1840 was only 1,799. The number who lived there in 1835 would be just a guess, but was probably between the two figures. Since I don't hink the 500 number is realistic (though not impossible) I can only conclude that there was some understandable embellishment.

I did look  for a record of Josiah Jackson or this tavern at which Woodruff stayed but found nothing. I did find The Gayoso House Hotel was built a few years later in 1842 and was a large first class hotel included indoor plumbing with marble tubs, silver faucets and flush toilets. That there could have been a large tavern prior to it is certainly plausible.

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