Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Franklin Spencer - notes from his daughter

In the course of searching for more details about Franklin Spencer’s mission in Tennessee, I came across a book written by his daughter Minnie Spencer Gonzalez, and published by his grandson Franklin Spencer Gonzalez.

The book quotes a little bit from Franklin Spencer’s personal writings, including a fairly detailed explanation of why he was being pursued by federal authorities which led to his changing his name from Nicholas Perkins. In the Spring of 1862, Perkins was accused of being one of the perpetrators of the Platt Bridge Railroad Tragedy near St. Joseph, Missouri on the previous September 3rd. Bushwackers had burned the bridge leading to a train accident killing many US soldiers. For reasons unknown, Nicholas Perkins was falsely accused of being part of the bushwackers, and it was believable because of his confederate sympathies, and his not being assigned to a traditional unit at the time due to his health. Although Perkins had witnesses who could account for his whereabouts on the night in question, he did not believe he would be given the chance to present his alibi. So he chose to run. The U. S. Court indicted him for the murder of U.S. Soldiers and initiated a manhunt.

The other part which interested me was the few notes from his mission to Tennessee. There was nothing written in his own hand about his mission, but instead only recollections from his daughter.

[Franklin Spencer] was called on a mission and left for Tennessee on September 3, 1879 where he labored as President of the Tennessee Mission Conference for two years. (p. 13)

Franklin Spencer was sent on this Tennessee Mission in part to escape as a polygamist from the Federal Marshals. He was not, however, released as Stake President, his counselors carrying the load until his return to again preside in the Sevier Stake. (p. 13, footnote)

It might be of interest to know that while father was presiding over the Tennessee Mission Conference something very unusual happened. On three seperate (sic) occasions a mysterious stranger, with a long white beard, appeared and preached the correct principles of the gospel to a gathered crowd. He was seen neither coming nor going, and due to the great power of his speech, he was thought to be one of the Three Nephites. (p. 14)

This short account doesn’t do justice to the Robert Edge story of which Franklin Spencer was so much a part. Franklin met with and interviewed those who knew Robert Edge best. I wish I could compare Franklin Spencer’s experience with Hyrum Belnap’s.

After two years in the mission field, father returned to Utah to pick up his work in Richfield as president of the stake, his counselors having carried on in his absence. (p. 16)

Despite Minnie’s memory, Franklin Spencer was not president of the Tennessee Conference for two years. He took over as President upon the release of Joseph Argyle on December 17, 1879 and held that position at least until February 2, 1881. Sometime after that he was replaced by John R Murdock as President of the conference. A surprise homecoming party was held in his honor in Richfield Utah on March 18th 1881, as noted in Deseret News.

Photo: Franklin Spencer, Hannah Jane Spencer, Joseph, Catherine, and Sara Jane, circa 1881 in Utah.

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