Monday, March 31, 2014

Jacob F. Miller's Mission to Tennessee - An introduction.

A couple years back I learned that my great grandfather served his mission in the Southern States, and in particular in Tennessee. Thanks to the work of my brother, his three journals have been transcribed and I now have a copy of that transcription.

While I am sure that some of you might find every word of his journal fascinating, I have resisted the urge to simply post it here in serial form. Why? I'm not entirely sure. Of course the length is one issue. It has almost 300 pages of detail greater than the average person can tolerate. It isn't light reading. But in the detail is a trove of information if your hobby is reading missionary journals. And his style is a combination of dry and clever. Some days he wrote only the barest details, and other days he was eloquent. He named names, and described places. He revealed customary missionary practices (i.e. he and his companions took turns asking for a place to stay the night), explained how he spend money, and sometimes speculated where other missionaries were. His journal described his own personal world, noting the letters he sent and received connecting him to Utah, while his awareness of the wider world around him comes through loud and clear.

On each day he wrote he noted his location. Taking those places I searched for the frequency those places are mentioned in his journal. Using my limited mapping skills I put together the following. For those of you not familiar with Tennessee, this covers an area east of Nashville and west of Knoxville. He spent most of his time in the Upper Cumberland region.

Jacob Franklin Miller1 arrival into the world was marked with this note in his father's journal "Tuesday, December 9, 1856, my 21st birthday was spent in getting my last load of wood for my winter fuel, green cottonwood, which we first cooked or dried in the stove oven and then burned. I arrived late and found my wife in labor and December 10, one-half hour after midnight, our first son, Jacob Franklin was born."

He was studious by nature, intelligent, and known for his mathematical ability. In his journal on Wednesday June 25, 1879 is an example:
"Yesterday my father read an account of a gentleman who had trained his memory to such perfection that he could multiply two numbers of fifteen figures each performing the operation mentally. 'I don't know that I could do that' I said half aloud. 'Could you with five figures' my father inquired. (The) answer on return from work in the evening. I brought an answer to the first problem mentioned, that of multiplying fifteen figure by fifteen. I had worked along with the boys in the field doing my share of the work and at intervals talking with the boys. The answer contained thirty figures. Upon proving the work I found three figures to be incorrect. The next forenoon I took the following example 987,654,321,987,654,321 x 123,456,789,123,456,789 obtaining 121,932,631,356,500,531,347,203,169,112,635,269 as the answer.2 I set the answer down at noon and working the example upon paper proved it to be correct. In the second example as in the first I was interrupted by conversation besides having to pay attention to my work. Those with whom I was working did not know that my mind was occupied aside from my work."

He was a deeply religious man. Another Farmington resident wrote about him and attributed the healing of her husband to his priesthood administration.3 He was President of the 40th Quorum of Seventies.4

He taught school both before and after his mission. He attended Wesleyan University in Illinois, though I have yet been able to identify when. In 1892 he became professor of History and Political Science and was listed as the Librarian and Registrar as well.5 He eventually was the chair of the department at Brigham Young College in Logan, was first counselor to the Faculty President, and a Fellow of the Historical Society of America.6 I've not been able to locate anything he published, but there are so many places to check still.

On September 18, 1901 he married Hulda Larson, daughter of Ola Larson (landscape architect. See here and here, and Ardis' post here) and Johanna Nilson. They had two children, Joseph Larson, born September 1, 1902 and Helen Mar, born November 13, 1903. "He would come home from school each day to eat with the family. He would enter the home from an outside door leading into the bedroom, change his clothes, and then go in to eat. He would take his two young children, one on each knee, and would play and talk with them while eating. When it was time to return to school he would go back into the bedroom, change his clothes again, and return to school. He loved his family dearly and would spend as much time as possible with them."

Late in 1905 he became ill with stomach problems. His condition was considered "very serious."7 It was eventually diagnosed as pernicious anemia, and condition now treated with Vitamin B12, but was then always fatal. He died at his residence on March 25, 1906 leaving his wife and two very young children, aged 4 and 3.


1I am drawing heavily on an existing biography

2In the interest of due diligence I tried to check his math  using my spreadsheet program (Excel). The program would not allow me to enter more than 15 significant figures, rendering it incapable of doing this calculation.

3Life of Laura Louisa Smith

4Pioneers and prominent men of Utah

5The American University Magazine, May 1896, Vol 4 No 1, New York City. See also Brigham Young College Catelogue 1895-1902

6The Improvement Era, Volume 9 page 581 see also Officers, Committees, Act of Incorporation, Constitution, Organization and List of Members 1905 By American Historical Association

7 Professor Miller Very Ill. Salt Lake Tribune, November 17, 1905, page 10 

Other Notes

The Tri-Weekly Journal of Logan, Utah in 1895 wrote: The Library at present contains upward of 2,500 bound volumes and 600 pamphlets and additions will be made during the year to meet the requirements of students in the several Departments. Professor Miller's valuable collection on History and Political Science will be the most desirable parts of Logan City, at the corner of First and College streets on the North Fork of Logan River.

According to a BYC Catalogue entry for him he was a Student in the University of Utah, 1873-74. 1875-76, 1885; On mission to the Southern States, 1883-1885; Superintendent of Public Schools, Davis County, 1889: Teacher of Advanced Department Davis Stake Academy, 1889-1891; D. B., Church Board of Education. 1896; A. B., Brigham Young College, 1902; Member of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and also member of the Historical Association since 1897; Present position since 1892.  [Member of the following standing committees] College Council, Scholarship and Graduation, Library

According to the same BYC Catalogue,  From 1902 to 1906 he taught courses on Church History and Doctrine, Ecclesiastical History, Church History II, Principles of the Gospel, European History, History of Orient & Greece, History of Rome, History of U.S., Establishment of the Church by Christ, Civil Government, Life of Christ, Political Economy, Old Testament, and American History. Newspaper in 1893 also noted he taught Higher Algebra, Commercial Arithmetic, Historical Reading, Ancient History and Ecclesiastical History.


JB said...

This post makes a mighty fine case for giving in to that urge!

Tod Robbins said...

I love that idea for visualizing journal entries! Very cool.

BruceCrow said...

JB, I aim to please.

BruceCrow said...

Tod, I can not claim credit for inventing this approach, but I loved it when I saw it. It was in Mapping Mormonism, and showed Wilford Woodruff's mission.