Monday, August 23, 2010

"Lost while traveling to Zion" or "Have you seen this child?" 1883 Edition

[I have heard of stories where parents in Mormon Pioneer companies whose children had wandered off and had to be left behind. To me this is the Tennessee equivalent. It comes frm the autobiography of Mary Jane Miller Bailey. She and her family joined the LDS Church in Tennessee]

So in the fall of 1882 my father started to the West with his family. Having a sister [Applane Steffon] whom I have mentioned before in Evansville, Indiana, he figured on staying there for a while, then selling his stock that he was bringing with him and coming on West.

[The family stayed in Indiana for a couple months to earn more money to go west. Besides, winter was no time to travel]

My brother John was 14 in January [1883]. He was working at a plow factory at $2.50 a week. One Sunday he went out, and when evening came he never came home. We were uneasy, so next day we went to both of Emiline and Uncle William DePriest [who] had moved to Evansville, but none of them had heard or seen him. Father appealed to the police for help in locating him, but to no avail. Imagine the sorrow, grief and pain that brought to the family--more especially my mother who gave birth to my sister Lottie [Charlotte Angeline] the following March 3, [1883]. We never knew whether he was drowned in the big Ohio River which people always went down to for their sports, watching the boats and going out in small boats for rides. That was a terrible blow, so we decided to go back to Tennessee instead of coming West. ...We went back hoping and praying our brother and son would come back to us or that we would hear from him. I don’t think I ever failed to pray every night and ask God to send him home or care for him if he was alive

[In July 1883 Mary''s older brother Nicholas went to Colorado, and then in the following March 1884, Mary's father Philip took three of the children to Colorado to prepare a place for the rest of the family.]

In July [1884] one Saturday evening I had gone to the neighbors to take home a mule I had borrowed. I hadn’t been there long ‘til a neighbor boy, Jimmy Shipman, said, “I came after you.” “What for?” He said, “John's come home.” I believe I went up that big hill at two jumps. He had come to those neighbors [Shipman’s], and she sent her two boys home with him and told one of them to go ahead and let Mother know he was coming. We were so happy that the prodigal son had returned. [John was just a couple of years younger than Mary Jane.] He had worked on farms and stayed around and had never heard of the family--supposed we had gone on West. He came back to our grandmother [Mary Ann DePriest Davidson] and found out about the family and came home.

[Mary didn't explain exactly what happened to John that Sunday he went missing. Maybe they never asked. Special thanks to Patricia R. Major Miller who sent me this story.]


Ardis E. Parshall said...

Extraordinary. Calls for all kinds of speculation -- I wish she had reported what happened!

BruceCrow said...

Me too. I would have asked, no matter how long it had been. But perhaps it was something they decided not to talk about. Families do that kind of thing.