Friday, February 4, 2011

James Henderson Scott - A Presiding Elder of Haley's Creek Branch

James Henderson Scott was born to William Carroll Scott and Savel Luvenia "Sarah" Jones on November 15, 1845, in Henderson County, Tennessee. He went by his middle name, Henderson, with friends. Although he was old enough, he does not appear to have served in the Civil War.

On September 7, 1865, he married Margaret Delaney Rhodes, also from Henderson County. Although Henderson could read and write, Margaret could not. In the 1870 Census, he described himself as a farm worker, and he did not own the home he lived on. At the time the total value of his assets were $150. But despite thier poverty, the two had an astonishing 18 children, 13 of which grew to adulthood. Margaret independently verified both numbers on the 1900 census, and it is also found in his obituary.

One advantage of this for historians is that it is easier to track how the family moved around by seeing where their children were born, and in some cases died. If I just looked at the census, I might think they didn’t leave Tennessee until they retired. In fact for many years they didn’t. Their first 11 children were born in Henderson County, Tennessee.

In 1878, the Scotts became followers of Robert Edge, a mysterious preacher who disappeared as quickly as he came. Nearly all of Robert Edge’s most dedicated followers would later join the LDS Church and moved to Colorado to live near other members of the Church. Henderson was one of the first to be baptized into the LDS Church in April 1880 and Margaret was baptized in May. When the Haley’s Creek branch of the LDS Church was formed in June 1880, Henderson was ordained and set apart as one of two presiding Elders. Sirenious Reed was the other. That same month Ada Lee Scott, their 11th child, was born. But her life was short. She died in March 1881. For some unknown reason the Scotts stayed in Tennessee for a year after the rest of the Haley’s Creek Branch emigrated to Colorado. Was it the health of the child that kept them there? Or perhaps the health of his wife? We don’t know. But eventually he did go west.

Their next two children were born in Colorado. Dollie Jane Scott (#12) was born in January 1882 and Ozara Scott (#13) was born in January 1884. Being a farm worker, it is likely he started off hiring himself out for farm work so they could save money to buy a place of their own. Most new emigrants began life in Colorado with very little, and Henderson was not wealthy to begin with.

In March 1884, there was a public disaffection from the LDS Church in Colorado which made it into national newspapers. One of the leaders of this disaffection was Tennessee native Johnson H. Totty. The Totty family came from Totty’s Bend, Hickman County, Tennessee, where they joined the Church in the 1870’s. Henderson and his family had become friends with the Totty family, and his oldest daughter Mary Frances Scott, married Henry Totty, one of sons of Johnson Totty.

The next year finds them in Missouri. The Scott’s next child, Viola (#14), was born there in January 1885. But they didn’t stay there long. Eight months later when their son Ozara died a few months shy of his second birthday, it was back in Henderson County, Tennessee.

The Scotts had four more children, all daughters, born in Tennessee. Their last daughter Willie was born in February 1892.

It is likely they were still in Henderson County when W. W. Bean passed through in 1895 on his way home from his mission. Elder Bean was tasked with investigating the Robert Edge story. If Mr. Scott was part of the RLDS congregation in Henderson County, that might have given Elder Bean reason to assert about the followers of Robert Edge that ...

Some afterwards became dissatisfied and joined the Josephite Church and some returned to Tennessee again, their former home. One of them being ordained to the office of an Elder in the Reorganized Church has become a preacher of that faith and they now have a small branch about six or seven miles distant from Lexington... - Bean

That Henderson and his wife were the only two followers of Robert Edge who did so might not have been clear to Elder Bean. Whether Henderson was RLDS Elder of which Bean spoke, I cannot say. But I don’t think so. Bean deprecates the man saying..

...the presiding Elder is a man who drinks and does not have a very good reputation in the neighborhood. - Bean

All indications, including his obituary, are that Henderson was well respected in the community. It is likely that Bean spoke with Henderson, as he was probably one of the only remaining witnesses to Robert Edge’s ministry in the county. Bean’s information regarding the return of some of Edge’s followers was certainly influenced by speaking with Henderson or someone who knew him. At any rate the Scotts are still in Henderson County in 1900 for the Census.

Bolstering the theory that they joined the RLDS Church, they show up on the 1910 Census back in Missouri, in Independence, Jackson County. Their youngest child lives with them. And they are sharing a house with their grandson Henry Jackson Totty and his family. Henry was born in Colorado but his parents were both born in Tennessee. He was the grandson of Johnson H. Totty, mentioned before, and his mother was Mary Frances Scott, Henderson’s own daughter.

Henderson’s close association with the Totty family and his moving to Independence Missouri, not once, but twice, are clues leading me to believe that he did not remain a member of the LDS Church very long; and probably not after 1884. Exactly what his relationship was with the RLDS Church isn’t documented.

In 1920 he was living with his son, Robert W. Scott and his family on Lilly Street in Blytheville. Arkansas. A few years later, in 1926, while living in Henderson County again, his wife Margaret passed away. He lived nearby for the rest of his life. In 1940, at the age of 94 and while visiting his daughter in the city of Henderson in neighboring Chester County, he passed away. His service was presided over by Reverend Lee Carrington at Oak Grove Baptist Church (which does not exist anymore) and was buried next to his wife in nearby Oak Grove Cemetery.

There is still today a congregation of the RLDS Church (now the Community of Christ) at Jacks Creek, just seven miles from where Henderson was buried. Although I believe it is likely he was a member of the RLDS Church, and a prominent member of the Jacks Creek Branch, I have no direct evidence.

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