Monday, January 31, 2011

The Followers of Robert Edge

[This is a continuation of my research into the Smithites of Decatur County.]

One approach to this kind of research is to track the people. The idea is that if I know where the various  followers of Robert Edge spent their lives, I can verify whether the rumor is true. So I started out by reviewing my documents for the names of the converts from among Robert Edge’s followers.

Elder Bean numbered them at seventeen. Sirenious Reed says nineteen and Hyrum Belnap says twenty-one. Except for Belnap, there were very few names, and only as an indication that they followed Robert Edge. They include Sirenious Reed and James Henderson Scott (a first cousin, once removed, of Sirenious). Both were baptized April 21, 1880 during their visit to Cane Creek. Also listed in Belnaps official account is the wife of James Reed (probably Julia Threadgill). The only woman named in most accounts is Sirenious’ widowed mother: Telitha Cumin Reed (nee Fuller). In Belnap’s journal-like autobiography he gives a few other names: James McKenzie, Frances M Hare, Leland Roscoe Reed, Sarah Jane Reed Willliams, E. R. Reed (who is probably Ephraim Reuben Reed.) and J. L. Reed (who was probably John Leverett Reed). All of them he calls Brother or Sister. Only once does he attach a baptism date with names and even then he says "Baptized Br. Reed and his wife". With at least seven brother Reeds, that isn't very helpful. A little research shows a few more names. Really all I can do is look at close family members and see if they have something that indicates they joined the LDS Church.

I could safely assume that Sarah Ann Wallace (Mrs. Reed) and Margaret Delaney Rhoades (Mrs. Scott) joined as well, probably in May of that year (1880). I might also assume that their children who were older enough could have been baptized too. Sirenious and Sarah had five children over the age of 8 in 1880. James and Margaret had four. But I am less comfortable jumping to that conclusion. In 1880, all their children were 14 or younger. And the accounts of Robert Edge tell of a three day fast of which only those who kept eventually remained his followers. Although I could see a 14 year old participating I don’t think the younger ones would have. In addition, most converts in other areas of Tennessee, even among children of record, have been usually over 15, with only a few exceptions. So without direct evidence I’ll stick with adults.

Seventeen of the members were baptized on May 21, 1880, according to Hyrum Belnap’s official account. In another part of his writings he said “thirteen more” were baptized on the May 24, 1880 which is the date recorded in some other locations. On May 27th they baptized “Brother Reed and his wife and his sister Sarah Jane Williams.” Honestly I can’t buy a combined number of around 35. I think it is more likely that the seventeen Belnap mentioned on May 21st was really seventeen “in May.” Belnap was never really particular about getting dates right, and this isn’t the only time I’ve run into it. So I’ll stick an estimate of around 20.

So on to the actual names. Without an actual baptism date attached to a name, my next best clue that they joined the LDS Church is that they emigrated to one of the LDS colonies in Colorado. Both Sireniuos Reed and James H. Scott moved their family to Colorado in the fall of 1880. Ephraim Reuben Reed, a brother of Sirenious, had two children born in Colorado, so he and his wife Sarah Jane Maxwell were there too. Mary Ann Bird Reed, an aunt of Sireniuos Reed’s is buried in Colorado as well as five of her children and two of their spouses who were also from Henderson County, Tennessee. This is a pretty good proxy. It isn’t perfect but let’s put them all together.

Sirenious Reed & Sarah Ann Wallace
James Henderson Scott & Margaret Delaney Rhoades
Telitha Cumin Fuller
Ephraim Reuben Reed & Sarah Jane Maxwell
Mary Ann Bird
John Leverett Reed Jr. & Pricilla Adair
Mary Ellen Reed
James Warren Reed & Julia Frances Threadgill
Sargent Winfield Reed
Leland Roscoe Reed
Albert Lafayette Reed
James McKenzie & Mary Frances Reed
Frances Marion Hare
Sarah Jane Reed Willliams

In total that makes 20 adults so far. Of course some of these may have joined their family in Colorado without having joined the LDS Church. And other may have joined later than the May 1880 data. It isn’t a perfect science.

As a side note Mary Ann Bird's husband, and father to six of the names above, died shortly following the Robert Edge's visit, but before they met the LDS missionaries. If he had been a follower of Robert Edge that would make this list match the 21 number given by Hyrum Belnap.

So what happened to these people? Well, most of them died and are buried in Colorado, probably indicating they stayed true to the LDS Church. At the very least they didn’t return to Tennessee. So they can’t have been the source for the Smithite community in Decatur County. Appoligies to whomever thought these two groups are connected, I just don't think so.

Telitha doesn’t appear to have moved west. (Bringing our total to 19, again matching the number given by Belnap) But she passed away a few years later and is not likely the source for a colony of Smithites. But there are two exceptions worth noting. Sirenious Reed and James Henderson Scott. Both came back to Tennessee, but neither settled in Decatur County. Regardless, they do deserve some attention.

Next time: Sirenious Reed


Amy said...

Wow. I am so impressed. This is simply amazing. It is so wonderful that you are tracking down these people.

I am looking at the Morgan book right now. It is awfully weak on the Saints in Tennessee, as I've mentioned before, since John Morgan was closest to the Saints in Georgia. Out of your list of Edge converts, the only one mentioned in the book is Lafayette Reed. He was evidently living in the Haywood, Georgia, area in 1883 and provided assistance to a missionary after some mob violence. Can this be the same man?

Nick Morgan prepared a map of early Manassa, Colorado. Here are all the early settlers with the same names or last names as your list here:

James E. McKenzie
Albert L. Reed
Mary A. Reed
Thomas D. Scott
James Wallace

They are listed by deed holder, so they should have had other family members living with them. And of course, some of the settlers could have settled in other locations in the area including Ephraim and Richfield.

Would you like a copy of the town map, Bruce? It is a large, fold-out paper, but I can try and get a photograph of it.

BruceCrow said...

I recognize the first three names.

Albert Lafayette Reed was born in 1858 and went to Colorado in 1880. So unless he came back to the South on a mission or something in 1883, I don't think it would be the same person.

Mary A. Reed is Mary Ann Bird Reed. Her husband died in 1879, back in Tennessee, explaining why she is named as the deed holder.

The last two I don't know, but this is a good source to start with. I'll dig around and see what I find on the last two. Thank you.

I would love a copy of the map. What ever method that works for you would be fine.

Ardis E. Parshall said...

Great detective work -- this is a real how-to in doing historical research when the obvious sources aren't working.

Your study of Robert Edge and everything connected to him is so very like your study of the Cane Creek massacre: A lot of other people have written about both, using the same old sources. You go farther than anybody I've ever seen in both cases. It's obvious these people are real people to you and that you see history as something that was lived in all the complexity of today's world, rather than as a series of isolated, disconnected events. I wish we had more historians like you.

BruceCrow said...

Thank you, Ardis. That compliment means a lot to me.

Just how much these events melt into each other became more obvious when I as researching Henderson Scott. Many converts from different areas of Tennessee and the rest of the South, met and mingled in Colorado. Some became in-laws and, well, I'll post more about that on Friday.

g-man9999 said...

I am a grandson of John L. Bench Jr., who served as a missionary in Henderson County area of Tennessee in about 1896. He records his meeting with Sirenious Reed in his journal, noting the Reed had become disaffected and concerned about certain promises Robert Edge had made to him. My grandfather also records meeting a number of others who spoke of their firsthand relationship with Robert Edge, including notations in Bibles and seeing his signature in a Bible owned by a Mr. Sweet. who lived in Madison County. The journal also notes that by the end of his mission, among others, he had baptized 3 poeple also converted by Robert Edge. My Grandfather was a faithful and devout member of the Church from Fairview Utah. In his later life he lived with us during the winters in Phoenix. I spent many hours, as did my brothers and sisters, hearing about his mission experiences in Tennessee, including the Robert Edge stories, and his about his experiences as the first Elders to go back to the area where Gibbs and Perry were killed. Granddaddy knew the Condor family, and spoke with some of the mobbers (one now very repentent) who had participated in the fight. These incidences are also recorded in his journal and autobiography.

I would love to compare notes and discuss further.
Galen Updike, Mesa Arizona

BruceCrow said...

I've done some reading about your grandfather including a letter he wrote the Deseret News about his visit to the site of the massacre. I'd love to comparenotes as well. Send me a private email at