Monday, January 31, 2011

The Followers of Robert Edge

[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

Friday, January 28, 2011

Haley's Creek Branch

Earlier this week I started looking at a rumor passed to me about a colony of people called Smithites who once lived in Decatur County, Tennessee and their reputed origins among the followers of Robert Edge.

I started by reviewing the documents I already have on Mr. Edge and found a reference in the writings of W. W. Bean to the fate of some of the converts. It read...

In a short time two Mormon Elders came and preached the very same doctrine that he did, and the people recognized them as being the men of whom he had spoken, and at once applied for baptism. The seventeen who had fasted three days connected themselves with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, and the greater part of them went to Colorado and located. 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, but it is in a very weak condition as the presiding Elder is a man who drinks and does not have a very good reputation in the neighborhood. - Bean

I don’t know how to check for historic membership in the Community of Christ (a.k.a. the RLDS or Josephite Church), so I may have come to an end there. It may be that this branch of the Josephite Church “about six or seven miles from Lexington”, describes a community in Decatur County. But more likely it describes what is today the Jacks Creek Community of Christ congregation, which is about 10 miles south west of Lexington. Decatur County is in the other direction. There are only a handful of CoC congregations in Tennessee. Many are in the larger cities. But a few are in such rural locations, including this one, that I have to think there is an historical reason for their existence.

I also found that instead of being in the city of Lexington, which is the Henderson County seat and where Robert Edge frequently preached, most of his converts lived at the confluence of Haley Creek and Beech River, about six miles east of Lexington.

As the greater part of his followers lived on the banks of Beech River, near the south of Haley’s Creek this place was selected for the purpose of fasting. These three days were spent in singing and praying and rejoicing in the Lord. Once a day they were allowed to bathe in the waters of Beech River. - Belnap

Later in June 1880 when a branch of the LDS church was formed there, it was called the Haley's Creek Branch.

Late in the fall of the same year [1880] Hailey’s Creek Branch, save one soul, emigrated to San Jose, Colorado. - Belnap

Interestingly enough, the area called Utah, Tennessee is also on the Beech River albeit about 15 miles further downstream. I did take a trip to the State Archives, but didn’t find anything about the tiny Utah locality outside side Perryville. Maybe I have to make a trip to Utah in person.

[Next: The Followers of Robert Edge]

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Come Come Ye Saints

I was attending a Eagle Scout Court of Honor at a local Church of Christ in Chapel Hill, Tennessee last week. While I was waiting for things to get started, I picked up the hymal and began thumbing through it. I was curious because a friend of mine told me that if I ever got the chance to hear a Church of Christ congregation sing, that I should do so. The members of the Church of Christ, once known as Campbellites, learn to sing from a young age. Many learn to sing a cappella as some denominations do not allow accompaniment during services; a point of contention that led to at least one schism. As a result of this training they develop wonderful singing talents. I wasn't going to hear any singing that night but I was curious about the hymnal itself.

I opened it up and saw there were 999 hymns, far more than the 341 in ours, almost three times in fact. I wondered if I might recognize some of the hymns. My daughter sitting next to me followed suit and picked up a hymn book herself and started looking as well. In short order she found one: "Come Come Ye Saints"

What!? I expected to find "Go Tell it on a Mountain" or perhaps "Come Thou Fount". Not an LDS hymn.

The hymn was written in 1846 by William Clayton as his pioneer company crossed Iowa. But as I soon leanred it was latter picked up and included in other church hymn books; not just the Church of Christ - with altered verses- but also in a 1985 edition of the Seventh Day Adventist hymnal, and the Mennonite hymnal as well (h.t to Coffinberry)

I found it fascinating the hymn has found such a wide audience considering it's origin. I wondered if there are any other hymns that have an specific LDS origin that have spread beyond those limits.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Smithites of Decatur County

Part of historical research is being willing to listen when people tell you stories. What follows is hearsay. I heard it from a friend, who heard it from a friend who was told this story. But this week I am going to start digging into this to see what I can find.

There was a member of our local ward (Chester) who has since passed away, who joined the church later in life. He liked to fish on the Tennessee River in the area of Decatur County, and had been doing so for many years. Long before he joined the LDS Church, he saw a collection of abandoned cabins near the bank of the river. Chester had become frieds with many of the people who lived nearby. They explained that the community was settled many years earlier by a religious community that called themselves Smithites.

Somewhere along the line the story became connected with that of Robert Edge. It seems that a number of the people from that area who joined the LDS Church because they had first been taught by Robert Edge, later emmigrated to Colorado. After living there a short time, they becamed disillutioned with the LDS Church over the practice of Plural Marriage, and returned to Tennessee. And here is hwee the stories merge. Somehow, someone got the idea that these Smithites were those people who had returned from Colorado.

There is indeed a small locality in that area called Utah and running through it is a Utah Road. It is actually about two miles up a tributary of the Tennessee River called Beech River.  But I can only learn so much from a map. It is time to see what the archives say.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Clinton Tennessee Gets a Chapel

When the Clinton Branch was formed in 1992, the Church purchase property I-75 and the Anderson High School on which to build a chapel. But for a little while theny met in a storefront on Clinton Highway. Described as a "shoe store" members were determined to make it feel like a chapel. The membership came from two other established wards in Grove Park and Oak Ridge, each with beautiful chapel of their own. There was understandably some trepidation about the temporary home.

So Jeanne Phillips put in many hours, some of her own money and even brought things from her home to make the store front into "a place of beauty."

Only the Branch President's office had walls that went all the way to the ceiling. So room dividers were brought in to create spaces for different meetings. The Relief Society had the space neaerst the front plate glass display window, so one divider prevented pedestrians from staring at the meetings. The window itself was decorated with lace curtains. Even a foyer was created with a old easy chair with placemats to cover the holes in the arms.

The shopping center was open for business on Sundays, making the experience a little sureal for those who were used to a traditional LDS Chapel who attending the first time.

The Branch continued using the storefront until late 1996 when the boundries of the the branch were expanded to include enough members to form a Ward. The new unit was called the Clinch River Ward, and due to the size they moved their meeting into the Grove Park Chapel for about six month. As the finishing touches were placed on the new Chapel, the local saints were excited. Here was the completion of a dream that began years earlier when their own chapel had burned to the ground.

The first meeting in the Clinch River Ward building was on Sunday May 4th, 1997.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Elder William Edward Dawson

The subject of this sketch is an Idahoan, having made his advent into this world at the town of Weston, in Oneida county. April 8th, 1872, was the memorable day in the Dawson household. When he became old enough to labor the farm was awaiting him, and soon his muscles became hardened and his complexion bronzed in the sunshine and rain of farm life. He, in common with a great part of the Elders in the mission, acquired his early education during the reign of King Frost, while farm work is at a discount.

During the year 1894 he took a course at B.Y.A., Provo, absorbing all the information he could, although he but took what is known as the M. I. A. class.

Soon after returning from Provo he took a strong notion to secure a position of railroading, thereby giving him a better opportunity for seeing the country. He secured a lucrative position at which he continued until overtaken in the State of Montana with a letter from Box B., Salt Lake City, informing him that his presence was desired in the Lord’s vineyard. To this call he responded, arriving home on Christmas day of 1896, and two weeks later left all that is near and dear to receive the rebuffs and jeers of the world "for Christ's sake."
On his arrival he was assigned to the South Carolina Conference, where he labored assiduously in the various duties of the traveling Elder until the spring of 1898, when he, with Elder S. H. Topham, was among the "special Elders" called to make up the Georgia Conference, This call involved a walk of 500 miles; here he was detailed to labor with Elder A. C. Pyper, who became ill, necessitating an immediate removal to Chattanooga. From this city he was reassigned to the East Tennessee Conference as the Superintendent of Sunday Schools. He tilled this position until August 29, when he assumed the first position, qualifying him for the Presidential Toga, and on the release of President Samuel B. Thatcher he became his logical successor as President of the East Tennessee Conference, a position that he is holding with marked ability. He has great executive qualities and enjoys the love and esteem of his thirty-five Elders, besides the hundreds of people he has met in his travels. His reports come in promptly and with extreme care, showing him to be well qualified for the duties required of him.

I was unable to find out much about Willam Dawson's later life. It is a pretty common name. I don't know if he went back into railroad work, or if he found another career that let him stay at home with his family.  The 1920 census does describe him as a farmer. And then in 1930 as a "Dist Agent" of some sort. But I can't make out what it says. The left cell is the occupation. The cell on the right  is the industry. "News" perhaps?
He married Effie Estella Smith on October 11, 1899, in Logan Utah. They lived in at least three different counties in Idaho, so they didn't stay in just one place. They had six children all of whom lived long lives. He died on November 11, 1950 in Weston Idaho, ten years before his wife.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Another Church Burned

The following is a continuation of a previous post.

Another Church Burned.
Clinton, Tenn., April 3, 1899.
By Elder W. E. Dawson.

To the Southern Star.
Our dear little church here at Hart's Chapel was burned yesterday (Sunday) morning, and at day-break the Saints assembled to find their hopes of worshiping God in their dearly cherished church blasted. They gathered on the spot at 9:40 a. m. and held mournful services over the ruins of a once beautiful church where they had so often met in Sunday School and meeting, praising God in verse, text and song. The services consisted of songs, prayers and short addresses, thanking God the Father for the knowledge that we are persecuted for righteousness sake, and for the testimony of the Gospel which burns within our breasts. Calling upon our Father, that He may forgive them, for they knew not what they had done; this was the spirit that prevailed. The trustees had just met the week before and nearly completed arrangements for painting the church, and we were looking forward to the time when the little Mormon church would become the Star of the Valley in neatness and beauty. The janitor, though not a member of the church, has taken such pride in keeping it neat and clean inside. His name is Mr. J. F. Brown: be it said to his honor he has given the land on which the house stood and a deed for it is held; this he did when the church was first built; he has always been a faithful friend of the wayfaring Elders since they first came to his door.

Although the Saints are all heartsore at their present loss, they hope it will redound to their infinite gain. They feel to take lessons from the ant and set to work to build them another place of worship. This time they want to build it of brick and feel to put their trust in God, feeling that faith without works is dead; feel to ask the Lord, through the agency of His Saints in all the world (if they wish), to help to rebuild. The hearts of the Saints are sick at the thought of doing without a house of worship, and our only refuge for support is the Saints of God at home and abroad.

I can find no indication that they did rebuild the chapel. For quite some time they met in isolated groups until the formation of the Oakridge Branch in 1944 (which became a Ward in 1972). A branch in Clinton was formed in 1992 and they got a building of their own: an old store from in a busy shopping center. It was described by some as a “shoe store.”

Next time: Making the "shoe store" their own.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A New Conference President

What follows is a letter from Elder Dawson, President of the East Tennessee Conference, to the Latter Day Saint Soutthern Star.

East Tennessee Conference
By Elder W. E. Dawson. To The Star.
Milligan, Tenn., March 2, 1899.

It was with great pleasure we greeted our beloved President, Ben E. Rich, with his ever smiling countenance and words of kindness and fatherly advice.

Our session or conference was held on March 7th, 1809, at Milligan, Tenn., in the Hart's chapel, seventeen miles northwest of Knoxville.

The gist of the instruction given by President Rich was taken down and will be converted into a circular letter and mailed to each pair of Elders for thorough study, in connection with the other inspired instructions contained in the Scriptures.

On the evening of the same day a public meeting was held at which an excellent sermon was delivered.

Wednesday morning the Elders all met again and were assigned to their respective fields, feeling to rejoice in the rich flow of the Spirit that prevailed. The new President, Elder W. E. Dawson, with his two counselors, F. B. Hammond, Jr., and John Peterson, were unanimously sustained, with Elder R. T. Mitchell as Sunday school superintendent.

The Elders greatly enjoyed the cordial hospitality of Saints and friends who will forever be remembered in their petitions to our father in heaven.

We all feel to bear testimony that the visit of our President ,was productive of much good. We return to our labor with humble prayer that we may be able to abide by all the counsel given. We hope that our future conferences will be held in large cities, feeling that many "benefits will be derived thereby.

Elder R. T. Mitchell, the Sunday school superintendent, was detailed to call out the local Elders, thereby increasing outworking force, and also redound to their everlasting benefit, viz., preaching to their fellow men the new light they have received.

Like most conference reports, every thing is wonderful. But it was not to last.

Next time: Another Church Burned

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Samuel B Thatcher: President of the East Tennessee Conference

[The following article about Samuel Baugh Thatcher appeared in the Latter Day Saint Southern Sar February 25th, 1899.]
This week The Star presents, under "Our Conference Presidents" Elder Samuel B. Thatcher, who presides over the East Tennessee conference.
President Thatcher was born on the 11th day of January 1872 at the beautiful city of Logan where he acquired a good education, and at the time of his call to preach the gospel, held the position of deputy treasurer for Cache county, under the Hon. A. F. Farr.
Elder Thatcher has had a share of the gloom that seems to be the part and portion of mankind having had to part with his beloved wife in May of 1896. [Samuel married Vernie Isabel Lufkin of September 5, 1894. She died in the same month as their son Samuel Thatcher was born and died, which leads me to believe her death was a complication of childbirth].
He left home on March 15, 1895, and on his arrival in the south, was assigned to labor in the Virginia conference, where he remained until taken down with a severe attack of malarial fever, necessitating a return home [in late July 1895], where he remained until June 15, 1897, when he again left home for the mission field. [Samuel's illness allowed him to be at home with his wife when she died.]
Arriving here he was then sent to the East Tennessee conference where he has continued laboring in various capacities until the annual conference of Aug. 27, 1898, where he was selected to preside over the conference, which position he has filled with signal (sic) credit to himself and all with whom he comes in contact. His methods of business are excellent, showing great promptness in making reports or other matters pertaining to his conference. The reports from his conference also indicate good judgment in organizing his force to the best possible advantage. His faculty to make and hold friends is par excellence and in view of the time drawing near for his return home to loved ones his many friends are sorrowful. President Thatcher will leave for home about March 1 [1899] and will be succeeded by Elder W. E. Dawson, who, with F. B. Hammond, have labored in the capacity of counselors.
The conference reports as published weekly indicate that the East Tennessee conference is in the front ranks in every respect, and much credit is due the retiring president for this condition. May she so continue is the wish of The Star.
[After his return home he married Maud Bowen on June 28, 1899 in Logan, Utah, and the couple moved to Fanklin, Idaho. They had two children. Their first was a son they named Samuel Bowen Thatcher who was born on September 11, 1900 in Franklin ID, but died that same month. After moving back to Logan, they had a daughter they named Jayne Adeline Thatcher who was born December 14, 1902.
Having moved back to Logan, Utah Samuel secures a job as a railroad mail clerk in March 1903. He must have then gone to school, though I can't find which one, and eventually graduates with a degree in Dentistry in 1912.
In 1917, he shows up in the history of the Fortieth Division of the U. S. Army as a First Lieutenant in the Dental Corps.  And later he shows up as a member of Delta Sigma Delta, an international fraternity for Dentists, in 1920 living in Logan, Utah.
He also joined the American Legion where he serves a term as President ending in 1920. At the end of his term he won an election as a Logan city judge in November 1920. In 1922 he serves as the American Legion Chaplain.
Sometime after 1923 he and his family moved to Los Angeles where in 1930 he lived with his wife, daughter (who had married a man from California), and two grandchildren. He goes back and forth between Logan and LA so often that if it wasn't for his daughter living with him I would have thought I had two different people with the same name, age and married to women with the same name. Anyway, he doesn't stay in California long. In 1932, he is back in Logan where he was elected Vice President of the Utah State Dental Association.
Samuel died December 8, 1941 back in Los Angeles, California. He was buried in the Logan City Cemetery in Cache County, Utah.]

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sarah Church shares her testimony in Tennessee

I noticed the other day an entry in the Latter Day Saints Southern Star. It was a historical note about a sister sharing her testimony through the South.

History of the Southern States Mission
June 1880. Sister Sarah Church of Utah visited the south and while thus engaged made a number of appointments to preach bearing her testimony to the Gospel as revealed through Joseph Smith. She traveled through portions of Tennessee and Mississippi.

The note almost assumes she was of such stature that she need no introduction. Like Amy I wanted to know more about her.

Any project like this starts with the question “What do I know already?” For Sarah Church I know she had preached in both Tennessee and Mississippi and that she was from Utah, but little else. However, I made an assumption that if the saints in the South knew her by name, maybe ones in Utah knew her by name too. So my first stop was the Utah Digital Papers. There I found several references to Sarah Church, but most were to recent and the person too young to fit the bill. Except, that is, for two letters from George H Carver. The first reads...

Kosciusko, Miss
July 20, 1880

Editors Deseret News

Sister Sarah A. Church, who left her home in St. George, June 2d, to visit her relatives and friends in the South, was accompanied by Elders Scott and Bean as far as Nashville.

The Elders continued on to Rome, Ga., where they were assigned to their fields of labor.

Sister Church visited her friends and relations in Hickman, with whom she stayed for two weeks.

I accompanied her to this place, where she met her brother, sister and many other relations whom she had not seen for over 35 years, and who were overpowered with joy when they met each other with a brotherly and sisterly greeting.

She had enjoyed excellent health and a pleasant trip, and has been enabled to get the genealogies of many of her relatives. If all be well, she will leave for her home, in company with her sister, about the 1st of August.

The health of the people is generally good, and the weather mild and pleasant for this time of the year.
Your brother in the Gospel,
G. H. Carver.

The second letter is too long to quote, but I have excerpted the relevant portion here ...

Aug 14, 1880
Editor Junction [Ogden Standard Examiner]

...On the 12th inst., in company with Sarah A. Church, who was on a visit to see her relatives whom she had not seen for 35 years, I visited the northern part of Attala county, and the news was soon in circulation that a “Mormon” elder was in the neighborhood; so the patrons and builders of the Shiloh school house invited me to preach for them; but no sooner had I done so than a modern divine became very much alarmed and prescribed the mild treatment of “black-jacking” (whipping) for me. ...

Geo. H. Carver
Lodi, Montgomery Co., Miss.

OK, so now I am pretty sure this is the same person. I now know she has relatives in both Hickman County Tennessee, and Attala County, Mississippi. I also know she left the area 35 years prior to 1880, (i.e. 1845). Sounds like someone who went to Nauvoo, right? So, I quickly checked the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel Database. Only one name came up: Sarah Ann Arterbury Church. Immediately, I knew who this was. Sarah’s husband was Hayden Church whose family was from Hickman County. Hayden had served two missions to the South and died in 1875 while serving a mission in Tennessee. He was buried in Hickman County, Tennessee and Sarah likely made the visit to see her husband’s grave and visit his family. It all made sense. Sarah would have been like a celebrity in 1880. But who was she seeing in Mississippi? Sarah's family was from Alabama.

A check of FamilySearch and the 1850 census cleared that up. Sarah parents had passed way in 1848 and 1850, but in 1880 she still had a brother and sister living. And they were in Mitchells Mills, Attala County, Mississippi. Her brother: John Arterbury had a wife and a family with seven children. Her sister Paralee Arterbury had never married and was living with them.

Indeed, just as the letter predicted, Paralee accompanied her sister back to St. George, Utah. Paralee had been baptized in 1845, but had stayed with her parents instead of going west. This time, however she joined the saints. She went through the St. George temple in June 1881. But tragically Paralee passed away in St. George in October of the same year. In keeping with their understanding of the temple ordinances at the time, Sarah had Paralee sealed to her own husband Hayden Church on December 15th, 1881.

What I didn’t find, but would have made this journey complete, was a glimpse of the testimony Sarah shared with those she met in Tennessee and Mississippi. Sarah Church passed away on 29 July 1889.