Monday, March 22, 2010

Elder Bean's investigation of Robert Edge

In 1895, at the end of his mission in Tennessee, Willard Washington Bean made a visit to Cane Creek to perhaps photograph the Conder home and sleuth the facts concerning the massacre. In closing his report on Cane Creek, he noted that he would next go to Henderson County to learn what he could about Robert Edge. After some searching I was able to locate his account.

Elder W. W. Bean's Account

After being released from my mision (sic) I proceeded to Lexington, Henderson county, Tenn., where I had heard something concerning the mysterious preacher who was there some sixteen years ago. He created considerable excitement and I was desirious(sic) of knowing where he came from and where he went after leaving Henderson county. I conversed with a number of the influential citizens, some of whom were intimate friends of this preacher, and gleaned information as follows:

A certain man going by the name of Robert Edge came into the settlement and claimed to be a preacher of the Gospel. He was rather an ordinary looking man and rather smaller than the average in stature. The people did not think that he amounted to much judging from outward appearance, but when he got into the pulpit he was considered a wonder. He surprised the people very much as they say he knew the Bible by heart.

He found a number of people who were in sympathy with his doctrines, and also had a number of enemies who persecuted both him and his disciples. He was such a convincing talker that the other denominations offered him several thousand dollars per year to preach for them, but he declined, preferring to preach the Gospel free of charge as he was not peddling the Gospel of salvation.

About sixty people accepted his teachings. He said that all of them would not be able to stand the test of persecutions that would be heaped upon them, but he called a fast of three days and told them that all who could hold out to the end of the three days fast were of the blood of Israel, and might be able to stand the test. Hence they began the fast, and at the end of the three days there were only seventeen who had continued.

There were a number of them, in fact, all of his disciples in the beginning pled for baptism He refused to baptise(sic) them saying there would be other men follow him who would have the authority and would baptise(sic) those who remained faithful. He also told them to mark the passages of scripture that he mentioned and that when these men came they would use the same passages of scripture and would preach the same identical doctrine which he had been preaching. Finally he left the neighborhood and the people really did not know what became of him. It is thought by some that he went to North Carolina, but they have lost track of him entirely.

In a short time two Mormon Elders came and preached the very same doctrine that he did, and the people recognized them as being the men of whom he had spoken, and at once applied for baptism. The seventeen who had fasted three days connected themselves with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, and the greater part of them went to Colorado and located. Some afterwards became dissatisfied and joined the Josephite Church and some returned to Tennessee again, their former home. One of them being ordained to the office of an Elder in the Reorganized Church has become a preacher of that faith and they now have a small branch about six or seven miles distant from Lexington, but it is in a very weak condition as the presiding Elder is a man who drinks and does not have a very good reputation in the neighborhood.

This Robert Edge did the most of his preaching at Perryville about five to six miles from Lexington but preached some in the Lexington court house. Among his converts were some of the best citizens of that neighborhood. He was a man of great faith and administered to the sick for the restoration of their health. He was a very exemplary man in every respect with the exception of one habit that of smoking a pipe. The people were much enthused over his doctrines, and also somewhat divided, some thinking he was a wonder and others thinking that he was a religious fanatic. They are all puzzled unto this day to know where he came from or what he was here for, or his object in preaching as he would not preach for hire.

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