In my research into Tennessee LDS history I have frequently come across references to a group of two hundred saints who left Tennessee in 40 wagons to gather at Far West, Missouri. Exactly who they were has, until now, eluded me.
In November 1836, the priesthood quorum in Kirtland, Ohio to which Brother Sherwood belonged, took a vote. It was in response to a request from the Tennessee Conference that the Church send more missionaries to supervise the missionary work there. As a result of that vote Henry G. Sherwood was sent to the Tennessee Conference, an area that included a handful of counties between the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers in both Tennessee and Kentucky. Sherwood left Kirtland, Ohio in late November and probably didn't arrive in the Tennessee/Kentucky area until early December.
Sherwood labored by himself for over four months. Twenty five more converts joined the church during his tenure, bringing the total membership in the area to just under 140. It is interesting to note that the growth of the church was almost equal to the number who were emigrating to Zion. So total Church membership in the Tennessee Conference was fairly stable between 100 and 150.
After the arrival of Abraham O. Smoot in April 1837, preparations were made to lead a company of saints to Far West, Missouri. Although Smoot had been sent by Joseph Smith to organized the company, and we know about their work and the trip from Smoot's journal, it is pretty obvious from other journals that the saints from the conference were following Sherwood. At a conference held just before the company left, Elder A. B. Wilson, probably a local Elder, was placed in charge of the Church in the Tennessee portion of the conference, by a popular vote. Another Elder, James Beaty, was placed over the Kentucky portion of the Conference.
There were only a handful of families named that came from the Tennessee Conference: Simeon Hendrickson and Keziah Paddocks and at least one child, Randolph Alexander and Myrza Murphy and their four children, Lindsey A. Brady and Elizabeth Hendrickson and their three children, Daniel S. Thomas and Martha Jones and their five children, Brother Smith and his family, Emanuel Murphy and Nancy Easters and their two children, and a widow Margaret T. Atkinson. Including the two missionaries, and a few not named, including slaves, servants, and hired hands like teamsters, the group was probably only 35-40 people and some of them were from Kentucky. Along the way to Missouri, they met other families also on their way to Zion. Some of them joined the group while others refused to submit to the leadership of Elder Sherwood.
One group that refused to submit was nicknamed the Judas company. That group never got far out of sight, usually traveling just ahead or just behind Sherwood's company. The other company's presence was felt by those in Sherwood's company for most of the journey. Sister Thomas recorded an instance when leadership began to breakdown.
One day it was very hot; both man an beast were suffering for water. Our leader went ahead and found running water, "but you must not noon here," he said: " loose your cattle, let them drink all they want and you can pack enough for dinner." We did not like the idea, but we had not forgotten the windstorm. We all moved except one family. Sister Margaret Atkinson was with them. She did not like to stay back but she did.
It was about a quarter of a mile to the edge of the grass. There was not a tree nor a bush to shade us. Brother Sherwood had crawled under our wagon, I thought he was asleep. Old father [Simeon] Hendricks came walking up to our wagon, harmless as a child, saying "I don't see why we can't travel without a leader as the Judas company do. They get along as well as we do." I wish you could have seen our leader roll out from under that wagon and call the attention of the company.
We soon got it for he spoke with such power we were fairly paralyzed. I cannot think of the hundreth part, but he said if we not do better and acknowledge him as our leader, the judgements of God would come down upon us. "Now hitch up your teams and start."
Our beloved sister Margaret, who was back with the family at the water, saw we were starting and thought she would overtake us, as it was lonesome to be so far behind. The sun was very hot. She had a large umbrella she usually carried when walking. When she was over half way between her wagon and the company she noticed a black cloud rising very fast. We were all watching it. It was but a few minutes when we were in the most severe storm that we ever saw.
It thundered, the lightning was so vivid that it almost blinded us. The rain and hail came down with such force and the wind was so strong the teamsters hand to stand with their oxen, to keep the wagon quartered with the wind, for fear we might all go rolling together.
But where is Sister Margaret. Brother Allen, I think it was, looked back and saw her sitting in the middle of the road. He went to her as quickly as he could, helping her out of the mud and water. Her umbrella was wrong side out, the wind and hail were so strong she could not stand up. Where she sat down in the road, the mud and rubbish drifted around her. Her skirt where it was gathered full of mud and rubbish. She was frightened nearly to death.
Where the storm came from I do not know, whether it was called down from above or from below we could not say, but we all acknowledged the hand of God in our deliverance.
By the time they arrived at Far West enough people had joined the company that Elder Smoot estimated they numbered two hundred souls and forty wagons, though that was certainly hyperbole. He may have even included the saints who travel close with them but who had refused to join them. After leading his company to Missouri, Elder Sherwood returned to Kirtland where he made his report.
6 days ago