Monday, January 3, 2011

Sarah Church shares her testimony in Tennessee

I noticed the other day an entry in the Latter Day Saints Southern Star. It was a historical note about a sister sharing her testimony through the South.

History of the Southern States Mission
June 1880. Sister Sarah Church of Utah visited the south and while thus engaged made a number of appointments to preach bearing her testimony to the Gospel as revealed through Joseph Smith. She traveled through portions of Tennessee and Mississippi.

The note almost assumes she was of such stature that she need no introduction. Like Amy I wanted to know more about her.

Any project like this starts with the question “What do I know already?” For Sarah Church I know she had preached in both Tennessee and Mississippi and that she was from Utah, but little else. However, I made an assumption that if the saints in the South knew her by name, maybe ones in Utah knew her by name too. So my first stop was the Utah Digital Papers. There I found several references to Sarah Church, but most were to recent and the person too young to fit the bill. Except, that is, for two letters from George H Carver. The first reads...

Kosciusko, Miss
July 20, 1880

Editors Deseret News

Sister Sarah A. Church, who left her home in St. George, June 2d, to visit her relatives and friends in the South, was accompanied by Elders Scott and Bean as far as Nashville.

The Elders continued on to Rome, Ga., where they were assigned to their fields of labor.

Sister Church visited her friends and relations in Hickman, with whom she stayed for two weeks.

I accompanied her to this place, where she met her brother, sister and many other relations whom she had not seen for over 35 years, and who were overpowered with joy when they met each other with a brotherly and sisterly greeting.

She had enjoyed excellent health and a pleasant trip, and has been enabled to get the genealogies of many of her relatives. If all be well, she will leave for her home, in company with her sister, about the 1st of August.

The health of the people is generally good, and the weather mild and pleasant for this time of the year.
Your brother in the Gospel,
G. H. Carver.

The second letter is too long to quote, but I have excerpted the relevant portion here ...

Aug 14, 1880
Editor Junction [Ogden Standard Examiner]

...On the 12th inst., in company with Sarah A. Church, who was on a visit to see her relatives whom she had not seen for 35 years, I visited the northern part of Attala county, and the news was soon in circulation that a “Mormon” elder was in the neighborhood; so the patrons and builders of the Shiloh school house invited me to preach for them; but no sooner had I done so than a modern divine became very much alarmed and prescribed the mild treatment of “black-jacking” (whipping) for me. ...

Geo. H. Carver
Lodi, Montgomery Co., Miss.

OK, so now I am pretty sure this is the same person. I now know she has relatives in both Hickman County Tennessee, and Attala County, Mississippi. I also know she left the area 35 years prior to 1880, (i.e. 1845). Sounds like someone who went to Nauvoo, right? So, I quickly checked the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel Database. Only one name came up: Sarah Ann Arterbury Church. Immediately, I knew who this was. Sarah’s husband was Hayden Church whose family was from Hickman County. Hayden had served two missions to the South and died in 1875 while serving a mission in Tennessee. He was buried in Hickman County, Tennessee and Sarah likely made the visit to see her husband’s grave and visit his family. It all made sense. Sarah would have been like a celebrity in 1880. But who was she seeing in Mississippi? Sarah's family was from Alabama.

A check of FamilySearch and the 1850 census cleared that up. Sarah parents had passed way in 1848 and 1850, but in 1880 she still had a brother and sister living. And they were in Mitchells Mills, Attala County, Mississippi. Her brother: John Arterbury had a wife and a family with seven children. Her sister Paralee Arterbury had never married and was living with them.

Indeed, just as the letter predicted, Paralee accompanied her sister back to St. George, Utah. Paralee had been baptized in 1845, but had stayed with her parents instead of going west. This time, however she joined the saints. She went through the St. George temple in June 1881. But tragically Paralee passed away in St. George in October of the same year. In keeping with their understanding of the temple ordinances at the time, Sarah had Paralee sealed to her own husband Hayden Church on December 15th, 1881.

What I didn’t find, but would have made this journey complete, was a glimpse of the testimony Sarah shared with those she met in Tennessee and Mississippi. Sarah Church passed away on 29 July 1889.


Amy said...

That's wonderful and exciting, Bruce! Thanks for looking her up! It was funny how the mission history did not think it necessary to explain who she was. I'm glad you figured it out.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks Amy,
I knew you would understand just how exciting this kind of research is to do. Not just because of your comment in your blog, but also because of the research you do along the same lines.

Amy said...

There is a nice bio of Sarah Church and a picture of her in her FindaGrave entry:

BruceCrow said...

Excellent Amy. That is a really good bio.