The first Mormon who came to White County for any length of time was named Miller. He preached here and in adjoining counties all summer, but when autumn came, his dead body was found under a flat rock in Putnam County. This was in 1887. Two years later, the Southern Convention of Mormons with headquarters at Chattanooga was held at the Sparta Courthouse. At that time forty-five members were taken into the Mormon Church. Prof. James Nowlin, a prominent teacher, and Van Haston, County Surveyor, joined them, the former going to Utah.
There is so much here, where do I start.
To misquote Mark Twain, I think the report of Elder Miller's death was exaggerated. I have so far found four Elder Millers in Tennessee. Jacob Franklin Miller who served in an area from Wilson to Putnam County area from 1883 to 1885. He was sought for by a mob, which through a series of commedic actions they kept missing each other. Thankfully he made it home safely or he would never have met and married my great grandmother.
The second and third were Joseph Miller who was in White County in 1901, and Melvin P. Miller from Murry, Utah who was in Humphries County in 1902. I don't really have anything else on these two.
The fourth was Heber Chase Miller who served in Tennessee from 1905 to 1907 He also made it home to get married in 1908. Certainly this Elder Miller was too late to be the one who was in White County. Plus he served in the far Eastern part of Tennessee, in Jonesboro, No where near White County.
As for the rest of the history of Mormonism, Sparta, the White County seat, did serve as a headquarters for the missionaries in the east Tennessee Confernce for a few years. So I have no doubt there was a conference in Sparta at some point.
And the names of two converts: James Nowlin and Van Haston, I find particulary interesting.
James Edmond Nowlin joined the Church on Dec 11th 1897. His wife had joined in 1895 and three children in later years. Mission records indicate he emigrated to Salt Lake City, though no year was given.
Van Haston perplexed me. The closest I found was a David Levander Haston who joined in 1897 too (his wife also joined in 1895).
But I think that we can safely assume the writer knew little of Mormonism, and took even less time verifying the stories he heard. For example, earlier in the book he wrote the following poorly constructed sentence.
Our early history was one of religious polemics, as is been in the rise of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Mormon Church in 1810,...
I just don't what to say about that date.
Today there is not a chapel in White County, but there is a branch in Sparta which includes all of White and Van Buren Counties