Monday, August 29, 2011

The History of the Church in Dyer County, Tennessee

The first Church activity concerning Dyer County was actually in Nauvoo, Illinois during an Elder’s Conference on April 10th 1843, when Elders F. D. Wilson and G. W. Branson, were assigned as missionaries to Montgomery and Dyer counties, Tennessee. There was no report back so very little is known of who they spoke to but by Jan 20th 1844, according to the Southern States Mission Manuscript, there was branch of 13 members, though this probably included Obion, and Gibson counties, and the future Crockett and Lake counties too.

At about that time Abraham O. Smoot was on his third mission to Tennessee [the first two were in 1836, and 1841-2]. He wrote in his missionary journal about a conference that was held at the home of a local member he named Robert McCarkles. [Actually Robert Andrew Hope McCorkle. Born in Mar 20th 1807 in Iredell, North Carolina. Died Sept 26th 1873 in Newbern, Tennessee. According to family records, by the time they moved to Dyer County, Robert was blind, though Smoot makes no mention of it.] The conference ran for three days, June 8-10, in 1844. Elder Smoot noted the names of some of the attendees, a mixture of missionaries send from Nauvoo and local missionaries. Presiding at the conference was Abraham O. Smoot, with A. B. Young as the secretary. Also there were W. L. Cutler, John W. Grierson, Elder Leath, Elder William Camp of Dresden, Tenn., and Elder David P. Rainey. There were six baptisms at the conference, all performed by Elder David P. Rainey. None of them are named in Smoot's journal.

The branch did not survive long. All the branches in Tennessee, through a combination of emigration and attrition, dissolved before the outbreak of the Civil War. A tiny handful of members in Tennessee remained true in the years without contact with Church officers. They would form the basis around which new branches were formed. This does not appear to have been the case in Dyer County.

After the Civil War, missionaries passed through the area and there were members in neighboring counties: Obion and Lauderdale. John H. Gibbs and William H. Jones preached in neighboring Gibson County in 1884. Gibbs wrote that he planned to go to further west, and he may have, though his journal for about two weeks is silent.

Sirenious Reed, a follower of Robert Edge and later a convert to the LDS Church, settled his family in Dyer County in 1890, though by that time he had left the Church.

In 1898, Mr. Witt, a local school teacher, provided the name for a new post office 4 miles north of Dyersburg. Though he was not a member, he named it Nauvoo, a name which the community still uses to this day.
In 1916 missionary work began again. Elders Clarence Yates and Thomas Wilson were generally well received. By March of that year, there was a two day conference held in Dyersburg. The local paper published the times and place and a large number of people turned out. Despite the general welcome reception, there were relatively few baptisms. By the end of 1918, the missionaries had moved on to other areas without even forming a branch.

In November 1935, the missionaries returned to Dyer County. Elders Cecil Wagstaff and Joe R. Dana reported a promising outlook. Within a month Elder Dana was transferred to Franklin and Elder Howard Smith took his place in Dyersburg. Again the activity was short lived.

It was 1942 before Dyersburg came in to mission news again. Elders Jerome Johnson and Kenneth Tobler were the first two back. Like before they were politely received.Today there is branch of the Church in Dyersburg, though I have been unable to determine when it was formed. It includes not only Dyer County but some of the surrounding counties as well.

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