Friday, October 22, 2010

Alphonzo Snow and the Church family of Tennessee

A friend of mine recently discovered members of his family in Tennessee had earlier contact with the LDS Church than he originally thought. In Eliza R. Snow's biography of her brother President Lorenzo Snow, she included a brief bio of (President Snow's grandson?) Alphonzo Snow. Alphonzo served a mission in Tennessee and Kentucky from 1881-1883, and for a while was president of the East Tennessee Conference.

Elder Snow's short bio included only the most basic information. He vaguely described a few events where he avoided persecution and commented on the difference between the persecution in the north and the south. He considered the northerners less violent towards the saints, but also less likely to come to the missionaries defense. In the south, your enemies will try to kill you, but your friends will defend you with their lives. The one exception was a family with whom he was staying which, when the mob came, placed a gun in his hand so he could defend himself, while they hid in the back room.

Most hosts in the south were more gracious. For a month in the summer of 1882, he stayed at the home of Uncle Robbins Church in Shady Grove Tennessee. He said his host had the priveledge of going hunting with Elder David W. Patten, but without indication of when or where. But I think we can narrow down the possibilities.

Elder Patten died in Missouri in Oct 1838. So it must have been before that. He served a mission in Tennessee from late 1834 to early 1835 and again in 1836. Late in 1836 he moved to Missouri. He also made a trip from Missouri to Kirtland in 1837, preaching along the way. He likely passed through Tennessee on his way there and back to Missouri.

There is no indication that Elder Patten made it as far south as Shady Grove. Most of his writings place him in areas around the Tennessee river in the north part of middle Tennessee and Kentucky. Shady Grove is far south of that. But the Church family didn't move to Shady Grove until 1835 or 1836, prior to that they were living in Williamson County, which is well within the area in which David Patten was preaching. And although Uncle Robbins would have been about 10 years old at the time, it is no stretch to believe the young Robbins Church joining his father Abraham Church and David Patten on a hunting trip sometime in 1834 or 1835 while the family was living in Williamson County.

The earliest baptism in the Church family on record is 1840 for Hayden Wells Church. Robert "Robbins" Church, Isaac "Emmons" Church, and Thomas Holiday Church, and Charles Houston Church were all brothers of Hayden who also eventually joined the LDS Church. What my friend is trying to determine, was who were the missionaries that converted his ancestors. Hayden Wells Church was baptized by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo in 1840. B. H. Roberts wrote that Robbins and Emmons were baptized by Orson Hyde a few years later also at Nauvoo. But all three went to Nauvoo only after already having heard the gospel. One story says Hayden went to Nauvoo after he was touched by the beautiful signing voices of some LDS missionaries. But the story gives no names. So the question is, from whom did they hear the gospel. Was it David Patten in 1835? And if so why wait until 1840 or later to seek out baptism? Or was it another pair of missionaries in 1840? Or both?

No comments: