[This is a continuation of my research into the Smithites of Decatur County.]
One approach to this kind of research is to track the people. The idea is that if I know where the various followers of Robert Edge spent their lives, I can verify whether the rumor is true. So I started out by reviewing my documents for the names of the converts from among Robert Edge’s followers.
Elder Bean numbered them at seventeen. Sirenious Reed says nineteen and Hyrum Belnap says twenty-one. Except for Belnap, there were very few names, and only as an indication that they followed Robert Edge. They include Sirenious Reed and James Henderson Scott (a first cousin, once removed, of Sirenious). Both were baptized April 21, 1880 during their visit to Cane Creek. Also listed in Belnaps official account is the wife of James Reed (probably Julia Threadgill). The only woman named in most accounts is Sirenious’ widowed mother: Telitha Cumin Reed (nee Fuller). In Belnap’s journal-like autobiography he gives a few other names: James McKenzie, Frances M Hare, Leland Roscoe Reed, Sarah Jane Reed Willliams, E. R. Reed (who is probably Ephraim Reuben Reed.) and J. L. Reed (who was probably John Leverett Reed). All of them he calls Brother or Sister. Only once does he attach a baptism date with names and even then he says "Baptized Br. Reed and his wife". With at least seven brother Reeds, that isn't very helpful. A little research shows a few more names. Really all I can do is look at close family members and see if they have something that indicates they joined the LDS Church.
I could safely assume that Sarah Ann Wallace (Mrs. Reed) and Margaret Delaney Rhoades (Mrs. Scott) joined as well, probably in May of that year (1880). I might also assume that their children who were older enough could have been baptized too. Sirenious and Sarah had five children over the age of 8 in 1880. James and Margaret had four. But I am less comfortable jumping to that conclusion. In 1880, all their children were 14 or younger. And the accounts of Robert Edge tell of a three day fast of which only those who kept eventually remained his followers. Although I could see a 14 year old participating I don’t think the younger ones would have. In addition, most converts in other areas of Tennessee, even among children of record, have been usually over 15, with only a few exceptions. So without direct evidence I’ll stick with adults.
Seventeen of the members were baptized on May 21, 1880, according to Hyrum Belnap’s official account. In another part of his writings he said “thirteen more” were baptized on the May 24, 1880 which is the date recorded in some other locations. On May 27th they baptized “Brother Reed and his wife and his sister Sarah Jane Williams.” Honestly I can’t buy a combined number of around 35. I think it is more likely that the seventeen Belnap mentioned on May 21st was really seventeen “in May.” Belnap was never really particular about getting dates right, and this isn’t the only time I’ve run into it. So I’ll stick an estimate of around 20.
So on to the actual names. Without an actual baptism date attached to a name, my next best clue that they joined the LDS Church is that they emigrated to one of the LDS colonies in Colorado. Both Sireniuos Reed and James H. Scott moved their family to Colorado in the fall of 1880. Ephraim Reuben Reed, a brother of Sirenious, had two children born in Colorado, so he and his wife Sarah Jane Maxwell were there too. Mary Ann Bird Reed, an aunt of Sireniuos Reed’s is buried in Colorado as well as five of her children and two of their spouses who were also from Henderson County, Tennessee. This is a pretty good proxy. It isn’t perfect but let’s put them all together.
Sirenious Reed & Sarah Ann Wallace
James Henderson Scott & Margaret Delaney Rhoades
Telitha Cumin Fuller
Ephraim Reuben Reed & Sarah Jane Maxwell
Mary Ann Bird
John Leverett Reed Jr. & Pricilla Adair
Mary Ellen Reed
James Warren Reed & Julia Frances Threadgill
Sargent Winfield Reed
Leland Roscoe Reed
Albert Lafayette Reed
James McKenzie & Mary Frances Reed
Frances Marion Hare
Sarah Jane Reed Willliams
In total that makes 20 adults so far. Of course some of these may have joined their family in Colorado without having joined the LDS Church. And other may have joined later than the May 1880 data. It isn’t a perfect science.
As a side note Mary Ann Bird's husband, and father to six of the names above, died shortly following the Robert Edge's visit, but before they met the LDS missionaries. If he had been a follower of Robert Edge that would make this list match the 21 number given by Hyrum Belnap.
So what happened to these people? Well, most of them died and are buried in Colorado, probably indicating they stayed true to the LDS Church. At the very least they didn’t return to Tennessee. So they can’t have been the source for the Smithite community in Decatur County. Appoligies to whomever thought these two groups are connected, I just don't think so.
Telitha doesn’t appear to have moved west. (Bringing our total to 19, again matching the number given by Belnap) But she passed away a few years later and is not likely the source for a colony of Smithites. But there are two exceptions worth noting. Sirenious Reed and James Henderson Scott. Both came back to Tennessee, but neither settled in Decatur County. Regardless, they do deserve some attention.
Next time: Sirenious Reed
4 weeks ago