Friday, November 27, 2009

Will the real Johnston F. Lane please stand up

One of the problems in researching people is that often you only have a small amount of information to go on. Take Johnston F. Lane, for example. My first clue to his identity is the healing of his wife and their subsequent baptism in 1834. From there, however, it is difficult to be sure whether every person with that name is the same person. It is entirely possible that I have two or more people with the same name, who joined the same church, and yet for whom no documented activities overlap.

Johnston F. Lane was born in Virginia in 1801 or 1809. His wife Matilda Kelly was born in Tennessee in 1815. In 1834 near Paris, Tennessee, Mrs. Lane, who had not been able to walk for 8 years, heard about Elder Patten and sent her husband to bring him back. Elder Patten wrote

I took her by the hand, and commanded her to arise in the name of Jesus Christ, and be made whole; and she arose, and was made whole every whit.
They were immediately baptized and during the confirmation Elder Patten promised she would have a son, which had been previously impossible due to her health. The Lanes did have a son shortly thereafter and named him David Patten Lane. Brother Lane was called to serve as the Clerk of the Tennessee Conference and at the same time was ordained an Elder. In some places this is date September, 2, 1836 and in other it is dates December 2, 1836. Patten never names Mrs Lane. And so the only connection between some of these events in the name Johnston F. Lane. In some cases it is spelled Johnson F Lane. And sometime the iddle initial in E and sometime P. If only research were only more clear cut.

In 1836, the Lanes moved from Paris Tennessee to just across the state line into Kentucky. In 1838, Brother Lane signed a petition sent to congress asking for redress for the depredations in Missouri. Not everyone who signed the petition actually lived in Missouri. Soon they moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. They buried a one year old child in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois on August 17th, 1839. Between 1841 and 1844 he shows up in Nauvoo Tax records. In 1845-47, he shows up in Ward 3 at Winter Quarters.
Johnston then joined a community of saints led by Charles B Thompson, also known as Father Ephraim, who started the settlement of Preservation, Iowa in the fall of 1852. Under Elder Thompson’s leadership, they held all property in common. Johnston F. Lane was selected as the first sheriff of Monona County in the election on April 3rd, 1854. He was also the first to die in the settlement in April of 1855. The community eventually dissolved when Elder Thompson left for Philadelphia to avoid a confrontation with them members of his church over the disposition of the common property.

Sister Lane died in Chase County, Nebraska on March 30th, 1886.

Problems? After his birth, probably in 1835, David Patten Lane is never mentioned again. A biography of the Lanes names four children: Clara Melissa, Joshua M., Francis E. and Joseph, but also notes that she had two other unnamed children that did not survive her. That same biography never mentions Tennessee as one of their homes, claiming they moved from Virginia straight to Illinois, but doesn’t explain how Matilda, who was from Tennessee, met Johnston. I'm not sure which events belong to the Mr. & Mrs. Johnston F Lane who were baptized by David Patten. It is possible all of them describe the life of the same couple. But I may never know for sure.

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