Friday, January 8, 2010

What is it that interests you about Mormon History?

I ask myself that question from time to time. OK, I ask myself that a lot. And I have a lot of different answers. what I find is that the answers are pretty much the same regardless of what I am studying. Usually it has to do with the people who were involved. Lets take Cane Creek, for example.

I wanted to find out who was there, who left Tennessee when it was over, where did they go, who stayed, and did they stay with the Church? I wasn't optimistic that I would learn the reasons why, but there was always hope. Of course, I learned so much more about these peope in the process, so I have more than just their names.

So a few months ago I submitted a proposal for the Mormon History Association conference. The proposal was to be 300 words long.

In the area called Cane Creek in Lewis County, Tennessee, missionaries for the LDS Church were both well received and violently rejected. The treatment they received developed partially along family lines. The extended family of Elisha and Barbara Talley, for example, formed the core of a fast growing and successful branch of the LDS Church at Cane Creek for over five years. During that time over fifty people were baptized, most of whom were related to the Talley family. A few miles to the north, the family of George and Nancy Hinson, however, included some of those who opposed the missionary activities of the LDS Church in the area. On August 10th 1884, that opposition led to the violent death of two missionaries, one of George Hinson’s sons, two members of the extended Talley family, and the crippling of a third. The tragedy is sometimes known as the Cane Creek Massacre. Following the Massacre, a large number of members of the branch either emigrated to Manassa, Colorado or renounced their membership in the LDS Church. The branch at Cane Creek did not survive the tragedy. Although some descendants of the original branch members still live on or near Cane Creek today, the once large extended Talley family was temporarily disrupted by the bloodshed, the fear of persecution, and the conflicting church affiliations. Only a few members of the extended Talley family, mostly outside of Tennessee, remained affiliated with the LDS Church.

This short paragraph summarizes a much longer paper I have been working on for some time. Research notes and related texts have accumulated to over 200 pages. And this does not include the text of original documents, manuscripts, and previous related works by other authors.

Knowing there was no way I would be able to share 200 pages at the conference I began to weed through the disjointed writing and notes to come up with a coherant theme based article that might be interesting to a wider audience. So based on what enticed me to research Cane Creek in the first place I whittled it down to just 50 pages.

A couple of weeks ago I was told the proposal was accepted. I will still need to provide an abtract and a eventually the presentation itself. Of course, the presentation could be no longer than 20 minutes. By their estimate of 2 minutes a page, that comes to just 10 double spaced pages.

10 pages!!!? Really!!? I can certainly write 10 pages. But the trick is to make it the right 10 pages. So I have been mulling this over. Do I need to rethink my outline and make it shorter? I certainly can't cover every family member in the branch in just 10 pages. So what do I want to cover? Unfortunately, I may be a little too close to know what others would find interesting.

I do notice when some things interest the my friends online. Relatives of those involved comment here frequently, but the reason they are interested is pretty obvious. A few readers are fascinated with the lives of the vigilantes. Others love that some of the vigilantes' children and grandchildren married the children and grandchildren of the branch members who stayed. But I can't tell what those who don't comment find compelling.

So I ask you; what have you found the most interesting about the massacre?


DMI Dave said...

Bruce, you're not condensing your 200-page paper into just one article. You're culling the first of several articles from the larger paper. I'd resist the temptation to make it a 10-page summary. Instead, I would write a one-page summary, then spend nine pages covering in detail one intersting aspect of the massacre.

I look forward to hearing about the presentation.

BruceCrow said...

That is a good point Dave. I'm pretty sure I won't try to cover every thing about the massacre. There is just too much. And you are right that there are many good papers in those 200 pages that are really my research notes.

I am leaning towards how the massacre altered a single family unit, and I have one in mind. And perhaps I will compare that to a family that took a "different" role in the massacre.

But if you wanted to know one thing about the massacre that published history doesn't tell you, what would it be?

J. Stapley said...

Congrats. I look forward to meeting you in Independence.

As a side note, I recently aquired Hartley's biography of John Lowe Butler, which might interest you as it includes a lot of information on the early missions to the South. Butler was converted on the border of Kentucky.

Ardis said...

I think your idea of focusing on one family, whichever you have in mind. All we ever hear, outside of your blog, is about the missionaries and the reaction in Utah. It would be so novel and so interesting to hear about a representative local family and the effect it had on them (a member family, I hope, although I'm sure you could be almost as interesting with the family of someone on the other side). I don't suppose that helps much, except to say that you're already on the right track as far as I'm concerned.

And did I mention I was on the MHA program committee this year? Your paper wasn't even a close decision -- we all wanted it. :)

BruceCrow said...

Thank you for the kind words. I too look forward to meeting many of the people I know only online.

What little I read just now of Butler is really interesting. Thabks for pointing him out.

Ardis said...

Oh, and although you'll no doubt need to tell us something about the massacre itself, you should probably save time there by assuming that we're generally familiar with it, and merely summarize it quickly before getting on to the meat of your paper. (Unless, that is, you've figured out what the family involved did during the shooting, or otherwise need to retell the known story in order to put their actions in context.)

BruceCrow said...

I had already cut back the details of the Massacre itself to just four sentences. I figured that explaining the details I believe to be the most likely to have hapened would be a paper unto itself.

Amy said...

Great news! I don't have any advice, just best wishes! :)

Happy Lost Sheep said...

To answer your question, I find church history interesting because when I study it I find answers to important questions.

BruceCrow said...

Thank you Amy.

HLS, Some people argue that there is nothing we can learn from history. In the spirit of your answer I would say, if we don't find answers to important questions then maybe we shouldn't bother studying history.

Susan W H said...

Congratulations Bruce. I hope I make it to the conference this year as I do want to hear your paper.

You know that my interest in the massacre is because of the relationship of my family with the murdered missionaries. Thanks for the link to the Star. My grandfather served under Ben Rich for the last part of his mission. I found a couple of colorful quotes about Grandpa in the Star that I might never have found otherwise. Thank you and thank Google for indexing the paper so I could find the quotes within seconds.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks Susan. The missionaries have been a pivotal point of the hisotry of Cane Creek because they risked their lives, and in Elder Gibbs' and Berry's case, gave up their lives, so that the people who lived their could have the gospel. The missionaries knew and loved these people. I hope we can know them too.