Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In the Archives Looking for Utah .... in Tennessee

Yesterday, while I was on my way to pick up my daughter from school, she called me saying she wanted to stay late and have pizza with friends. I was in Nashville already and it wasn't practical to drive home and then back into town, So very unexpectently I had some extra time. To make the most of it, I dropped into the Tennessee State Library and Archives. There was still about 90 minutes before closing time.

On an earlier visit I had struck out looking for the origin of the small town of Utah, in Decatur County Tennessee. I am trying to see if there might be a connection with a group of Smithites who were said to have built a community in that very area. This time I spoke with the librarian. I explained what I was looking for, where I had looked, and what little I had found already. I knew the area is still called Utah today, and that it was called Utah in 1966 (from an article on a Presbyterian Church there), and a photo of the "Utah School" is somewhere in the archives dated 1939 (the archive closed at 4 pm). But the small section in the State Library on Decatur County had no more. So he started digging. He got me the names and addresses, including an email address, for the Decatur County historian and the Decatur County Historical Society. We even checked for discontinued post offices. In the end we came up empty handed. But perhaps one of the contacts will yield something.

I thanked him for his help. and walked back to the stacks. I didn't want to come away empty handed, so I selected a Grundy County history from the shelf and began looking for something I knew was there. Then the librarian had another idea. He brought out two verticle files; one on Decatur County history and a second on Mormons in Tennessee. The library has these verticle files to hold clippings on popular subjects.  I have seen the one for the Cane Creek Massacre. But it had not occured to me to ask if there was one on Mormons.

The file had many of the same things I had already found in the last couple of years. Oddly enough it even had a diagram of the Mormon Cemetery at Winter Quarters, though I could not determine the connection to Tennessee.

But the most exciting thing I found was letter, transcribed and published in a newspaper in Putnum County in about 1929 from a woman in Nauvoo to her mother in Tennessee. The letter was dated January 25, 1845. It was address to the "great grandmother of Mrs. S Hayden Young" and signed R. B. and A. D. Young. I suspected this might be the same Young family I have seen before, so I pulled out my notes and found a match.

I am pretty sure this is Rhoda Byrne Jared Young and her second husband Alfred Douglas Young. The editor of the newspaper certainly felt it was written by the daughter to her mother. But more on that next time.


Ardis E. Parshall said...

You tease! Don't leave us hanging too long for the letter!

Makes me wonder what other bits of our history are preserved in places we couldn't possibly find if we went looking specifically for them, but just have to hope to trip over sometime. I search every newspaper database I can find, looking for Mormon material. More and more are coming up all the time. They're still mostly the big papers in the larger cities, though -- good Mormon material, but I suspect the best things, the personal things, will be letters like the one you've found, which probably had more chance of being printed and preserved in small, hometown papers than in big city papers.

Will watch eagerly for the continuation of this.

BruceCrow said...

He he. I won't keep you hanging on for too long.

But it goes to show that it pays to share with other what yp are doing and why. You never now when someone wil have something you didn't even know you were looking for.

jules said...

Wow, I wish I had thought to ask about a Mormon file when I was at the archive last summer. I only had 90 minutes before it closed. So nice to catch up on your posts.