Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Greene County Mobbing: Part 2

This article from the The Elders Journal is a detailed treatment of the Greene County Mobbing

The month of May, 1905, witnessed two brutal attacks upon President F. J. Sorenson, of the East Tennessee' Conference, and two ofhis missionary companions, Elders Olof Jensen, whose home is in Independence, Idaho, and Elder W. L. Battie, who lives in Toquerville, Utah. The first of these outrages occurred on Monday, May 1. Elders Sorenson and Jensen had been holding a, series of very successful meetings near Whig, in Greene County, and on the night of May 1 had held another crowded meeting in a storehouse there belonging to a Mr. Gentry, they having been denied the use of the only church in that place.

They had the evening before, on their return, home from meeting, found a letter on the porch, addressed, "To the Mormons," notifying them to leave that neighborhood immediately. It was signed, "True Followers of Christ." During their final meeting of May 1 about a dozen shots were fired, and on their way through the woods to- the home of Brother W. L. Fillers, with whom they Were staying, they could distinguish forms moving among the trees. There were in the company President Sorenson, Elder Jensen, Brother and Sister Fillers, and Brother Fillers' father, an aged man. "As we came to a dark spot in the road," says President Sorenson, "several men who had been in hiding sprang out of the thicket and seized my companion and I, saying, 'You come with us, we will take care of you deceivers.' We asked them the cause of the sudden outbreak, and told them that if we had taught any doctrine we could not prove from the Scriptures we would make amends. We cited the laws of the land to them providing for the punishment of those who were lawbreakers, and said we were willing to go before the courts and stand trial. They then became quite calm, and would have released us, but suddenly out from the darkness came the real rioters, two Northern females, at the head of about fifty men, armed to the teeth, with rocks and pistols. These fiends of hell were chuck full of the devil, and their eyes- glared like the eyes of wild animals. Their names were Amy A. Smith, of Peoria, Union County, Ohio, educated at Oberlin College for missionary work, and Uphemia Davidson, of Iowa>,a graduate of the Moody Institute, of Chicago, each of them about 35 years of age. Their mission was to teach the people the ways of the lowly Nazarine and to organize Sunday schools. Instead they had now, like many of their pretended Christian brethren before them, organized an armed mob to come out against a couple of unarmed Mormon elders. Like tigers they sprang at us, and demolished the two lamps we were carrying. We were now in the dark, and two of these brave ( ?) men grabbed my companion, and giving him a start down the road, told him to 'git.' Like hail the rocks rained thick and fast about us. I got a few hard jolts with the rocks, and then sidetracked into the pines, followed by a fresh shower of the missiles. The cowards did not follow me, but flew down the road after my companion, yelling like madmen, and shooting at every step in the two-mile chase that. followed. Fully two hundred shots were fired, although not aimed directly at his body. He told me afterwards, however, that he heard them whiz past his head. Being an able-sprinter, Elder Jensen soon left his pursuers in the rear. After the uproar had quieted down and having in the meantime found Brother Fillers, I went in search of my companions, whom we found about a mile down the road, and who were also searching for us. It is needless to state our meeting was one of joy, more especially when I found Elder Jensen only suffering from a few bad bruises like unto myself. Providence interfered in our behalf or we would have suffered violence to a greater extent."

This mobbing was followed by another on May 19, when President Sorenson and Elder W. L. Battie were brutally assaulted. On the night of the 8th of May, Elders Battie, Litchfield, Jensen and President Sorenson stopped at the home of Marion Jones, about four miles east of Greeneville, spending the night there. On the morning of May 9, Elders Battie ad Sorenson, wishing to visit Brother W. L. Fillers and wife—the latter being sick, due to the mobbing of a, week previous—started for their home through the woods. They had not intended to go into that neighborhood after the ill treatment they received, but meeting Brother Fillers going to the mill, and being told that his wife was very sick, they concluded to go and see if they could not be of some use. On the way up Camp Creek, they met some of the men who were in the mob of May 1, who asked the Elders if they were not afraid to go back. President Sorenson replied, "Why should we ? We have broken no law, and we are American citizens, entitled to protection." One of them, whom Elder Sorenson recognized, said, "There ain't no law that can reach us here, and especially for driving Mormons out of our district." They told them to go back down the creek, and commenced to drive them in the direction they had come from. The Camp Creek section of country is well supplied with telephones, nearly every house being in possession of one. By this means these mobbers apprised the people of the Elders being- in that neighborhood again, and were able in a short time to raise a posse of men. They told the Elders they could soon muster 250 men, if they needed them. As Elders Sorenson and Battie passed the houses on their way down the creek, they heard the alarm being sounded on the 'phones, loud and long.

The Elders not going quick enough to suit the mob, they commenced to use violence toward them, running up against them, and shoving them, and bunting them in the back. Elder Sorenson told them that they were going, and that they ought not to lie cruel toward them. "We have had enough of you d—d Mormons," said one of the men, "and you had better get out of here quick." Being overpowered and being unarmed, Elders Sorenson and Battie could do nothing but do what the mob told them. When they were told to run, they did so, and when they were not going quick enough, a volley of rocks was hurled at them, bruising them up badly. Elder Battie was one mass of bruises in the small of his back, and Elder Sorenson was hit mostly on his arms and back. The mob increased in numbers as they went down the creek. On account of the rains the creek was out of its banks in places, filling the road ankle deep with water and mud. The mob made the Elders go right through it; if they attempted to take a by-path, they hurled rocks at them., so that they were soaked with water and mud up to their knees. Finally the Elders were made to run at a lively gait, and came to a foot log across the creek. The creek was about thirty feet wide here and about four feet deep. When Elder Sorenson was about half way across, one of the mob pushed him into the water, and then they all rushed to the opposite bank, and as Elder Sorenson tried to crawl out the opposite side, they stood over him with rocks. One of them said he would brain him if he did not get out of the water pretty quick. President Sorenson was dressed in a Prince Albert suit, and had his umbrella in his hand when he was pushed in the creek, so that he was now unable to walk quickly. The mob, however, pelted him with rocks, trying' to- make him run.

When the Elders came to the crossing near the Whig store, a man on a mule rode up, whom the Elders recognized. Elder Battie said to him, pointing to the howling mob behind him, armed with rocks, "They're a nice set of Christians you have got up here!" This man rode up to the crowd- and entered into a. conversation with them, the result of which was that most of them turned back. Two of them, however, continued to chase the brethren for another half mile, and then, with an oath of vengeance to kill them if they returned, they allowed them to go.

Wet, and covered with mud, Elders Sorenson and Battie proceeded to the home of Marion Jones, where they had only but a short time before separated from Elders Jensen and Litchfield. Here they procured suits of apparel while their clothes were drying. They showed Mr. Jones the bruises 'they had received, and rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the Gospel's sake. The morning after the first mobbing, Brother Fillers, at whose home the Elders stayed that night, received a letter from the two Christian (?) women, who led the attack and smashed the lamps the Elders carried, as follows

"May 2, 1905.

'Mr. Fillers: You will receive pay for the lamps very soon. The people will pay for them.

" I , Miss Smith, kept the people from doing this thing last fall. Two weeks ago Sunday, Miss Davidson and I were given orders tostay away from your home while the Mormon Elders were there. Since we found the fight must come, we notified the American Sunday School Union, and the secretary of the National Anti-Mormon Missionary

Organization, with whom I am personally acquainted. Both gave us their support by offering help and sending literature to further inform us as to the teachings of the Mormons.

"We will say, the man (Elder Sorenson) who remained last night had better leave today. The people do not intend to harm either you or Mrs. Fillers, but the last words last night were to reassemble tonight should he still be here. The good crowd of last night will be reinforced by others from both creeks. I fear there will be many ruffians, and you know what angry mobs thoughtlessly do.


These two women, graduates for the ministry, but whose sole mission seems to have been to foment trouble against the Mormon Elders, had been well treated by Brother and Sister Fillers. Sister Fillers had fitted them up two rooms in her home, rent free, furnishing them with every convenience, while Brother Fillers' father had provided them with flour and other food, and this, too, notwithstanding the fact that they have been drawing their salary from the organizations to which they are attached.

President Ben E. Rich has decided to vigorously prosecute the leaders of these mobs It will be remembered that in September, 1901, Elder B. F. Stewart, of Alpine, Ariz., and L. F. Zundel, of West Portage, Utah, were brutally assailed by a mob in Georgia. President Rich determined that the matter should be handled, and, knowing the local courts had not dealt justly with other perpetrators arrested for brutalities to our Elders, he sought the aid of the Federal authorities. Judge C. D. Camp, United States District Attorney at Atlanta, Ga., was employed to bring suits for damages in the sum of $50,000 for each of the Elders assailed, against the perpetrators of the outrages at that time, and so vigorously was the case pushed that the defendants were glad to compromise the trouble by paying court expenses and attorneys' and witness fees, amounting to $560.

President Rich and Elder James H. Wallis went to Atlanta, Ga., to see Judge Camp about the outrages committed on Elders Sorenson, Jensen and Battie. That gentleman manifested a very friendly feeling and discussed the legal grounds upon which the other suits were brought in the Federal courts, assuring President Rich that if any such occurrences happened again in his jurisdiction that he could rely upon him using every means in his power to protect our Elders. As a result of the conference it was decided to go to Knoxville, Tenn., the district in which the outrages were committed, and consult Gen. Will D. Wright, United States District Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee. President Rich made an appointment with Judge Wright for May 20, but on account of attending the Ohio Conference at Xenia that day, he could not go, and sent Elder James H. Wallis from the office at Chattanooga. Elder F. J. Sorenson accompanied Elder Wallis, and they were well received by Judge Wright, who, after listening to a recital of the outrages, expressed himself in unqualified terms, assuring the brethren that he would at once commence proceedings against the leaders of the mobs. He has since filed damage suits against the leader's of the mob, in the amount of fifty thousand dollars for each of the Elders- assaulted, while President Rich has arranged for the Attorney-General of Tennessee to commence criminal proceedings against them. This news has had quite an effect upon the perpetrators of the outrage. The two Christian (?) women have left, for parts unknown, and the men who were in the mob are afraid to get away from their homes after night. Their Sunday school is all broken up, and many have declared themselves as friends of the Mormon elders since the mobbing.


Ardis Parshall said...

Wow. We read about missionary mobbings but seldom hear the details of a full account like this one.

Most interesting is to see the evidence that women are fully equal to men, in all spheres of human activity. You go, girls. Um...

BruceCrow said...

There is so much here, it is hard to know where to start.

These two women were obvious well educated. I'm hoping to find some thing else they wrote about the event.