Monday, March 26, 2012

Elder Allred Visits Lewisburg Tennessee

One of the missionary journals I have been reading recently is that of  J. Urban Allred. His journal is amazingly well written, making me suspect it is more like an autobiography based on his missionary journal than the journal itself. To be fair, it presents itself as a journal, so until I have evidence to the contrary I'll accept it as it claims to be. Either way, the information in it is a pleasure to read.

Elder Allred presided over the Middle Tennessee Conference in 1899. For him serving in Tennessee was kind of a generational coming home. Although he was born in Utah, the Allred family lived in this part of Tennessee prior to joining the Church.The family moved to Missouri where they met missionaries and were baptized.  In Allred's journal he recorded making a visit to his grandfather's home, just north of Lewisburg. This kind of nostalgic searching was so common among missionaries serving in areas in which they had roots, that it must have been not just tolerated, but sanctioned and possibly even encouraged. Although the doctrinal reasoning seems obvious given the genealogical opportunities, I have found no direct evidence explaining this.

(Lewisburg, Marshall County, Tenn.) In this county my grandfather, Paulinas Harvey Allred, was born over seventy years ago; where he lived until the age of two years. He went with his father, Isaac Allred, and family from this state to gather with the Latter-day Saints in their trials in Mo. and Ill., and subsequently to Utah. Bent upon seeing his birthplace I had come to Lewisburg a route somewhat out of my direct route to Giles County. In the morning I began a search for the place, guided by letters from Uncle Redick Allred, my grandfather’s brother, and directions from old citizens. Finally I went to my (2nd) great grandfather's (William Allred's) place. I found the old homestead and house exactly where it was when he left the state 68 years ago when my grandfather was only two years old. The place is six miles northeast of Lewisburg, five miles west of Farmington, and one and a half miles west of Verdona [Verona]. The house in which my grandfather was born and homestead is owned today by Mrs. Cary Cunningham. [Eliza M. Field, born 1826 in NC] It stands about 100 yards northwest of the old well used by my foreparents, but today unused and marked by a small evergreen tree on its bank and the sweep that is well preserved.

Uncle James Allred's old house stood about 150 yards in a southeasterly direction. His old log house is today moved across the road some distance of where it was when he lived in it, it is still occupied. The old oak trees on the west are very large. The church on the west is in ruins.

Mrs. Cunningham showed me the room in which my grandfather Paulinus Harvey Allred was born. The house has been remodeled by being weather boarded so that it has the appearance of a frame, rather than a log house, The place presents a desolate appearance partly on account of a protracted dry season. I could see by contrast how the Latter-day Saints were and are a blessed people. I felt to thank God that He had led my foreparents from this to a more blessed land. 

Lewisburg is my current home, so I couldn't resist the urge to go see the home for myself. Not having access to his uncle Redick's letters, I am hard pressed to track down the homestead. The census records are not specific enough to pin down a location of the Cunningham farm. But I know the general area. And the Cunningham family cemetery is in approximately the right spot.

I selected a Saturday, when I could take the time to walk around. The drive is not long and the countryside is beautiful. I passed by the cemetery twice before I found it. The trees inside it were fairly mature, some being over 20-30 years old. Underbrush had grown to cover all but the tops of two gravestones, the only two I could see from the road. There was no visible gate or entrance, let alone a place to pull over and park, so I stop in the middle of the narrow dirt road.

As I got out of the car, raindrops appear on my windshield. Quickly I assess my options. I was not dressed for bushwhacking or for rain. Most of the land around me is part of a large dairy farm. Barbed wire fences keep the cows in specific fields, and me from wandering. Crossing onto private property is not my idea of a fun afternoon. A hundred yards away was a mobile home with a few horses in the yard, but no cars. Sadly no one was home. Between the mobile home and the graveyard is a perfect rectangle of trees, perhaps 20 by 30 feet. The tallest ones are along the edge, like they grew along a fence line or perhaps a foundation. More trees and undergrowth make it clear there was something on that patch of ground that make it unsuitable for any other use, like grazing cows. In this part of Tennessee that means either a limestone outcropping, unlikely since it isn't that big, or an abandoned man made structure, like a house. Unfortunately it was on the far side of the fence.

It wasn't long before the rain drove me back to my car. As I ponder how long I will wait for the rain to pass, I think about the drought parched land that Elder Allred saw on his visit in 1899. The rain and mud are a different scene for sure. Judging from the clouds it didn't look like it would let up anytime soon, so I admitted defeat and started back home. My only consolation was that it isn't that far of a drive. I'll be back.     


Dustin said...

One of the counselors in the Nashville Temple presidency (Bro. Sanstrom) often tells the story in stake conferences and such about Redick Allred (the Uncle of the journal entry I believe) being from TN and then going west and eventually saving one of his ancestors in the famous rescue sent by Brigham Young to the handcart companies trying to come into Salt Lake.

BruceCrow said...

Thats right. He told that story at the formation of the Shelbyville Ward three weeks ago. I had written a note about it thinking it would make an intersting post, but had forgotten about it until you brought it up. Thanks.