Monday, January 12, 2015

The Almost Forgotton Mission to Bedford County Tennessee

While browsing the pages of the Messenger and Advocate I found the following entry...

To John Whitmer Esq.
Hamilton co. Illinois, Nov. 2, 1835.
Dear Brother
I left Clay co. M[issouri] on the 23 of December, 1834 in company with elder J[oseph] Holbrook, we travelled and preached until we arrived at Salt River church. From this place I journeyed with Elder W. Ivy, we journeyed as far as Montgomery co. Ill. preached by the way and baptized two. From thence we journeyed to Bedford co. Tennessee: we tarried in this State about two months. The people flocked from every quarter, to hear preaching, many were convinced of the truth, but few obeyed the gospel. We baptized five in this State; we left Bedford co. [Tenn] the first day of June; arrived at Hamilton co. Ill. the 8th day of same month, here we tarried, and labored in company with elders E[lisha] H. Groves and I[saac] Higbee about three weeks, and baptized 33. After this elder Ivy and myself baptized seven, after the afore mentioned brethren left us. Elder Ivy left here the 29 of September, since he left, I baptized two more, I expect to baptize a number more in this place, who believe the work of the Lord. The Lord is blessing his children here with some of the gifts of the gospel.
I remain your brother in the new covenant,
Milton Holmes.

As early Tennessee Mormon history goes this is interesting to me for a few reasons. First, Bedford County is in my local ward. So I'm a little more interested than your average historian. Second it predates any LDS activity in that part of Tennessee by decades. Third, it makes me wonder why have I never heard of it before? Or these two missionaries?

My first thought was perhaps it was transcribed wrong. For example in a William McLellin biography I found that he was living in Paris when he met the missionaries. He was born in Tennessee so I thought it was Paris, Tennessee, but what was meant was Paris, Illinois. Big difference. Anyway, Elder Holmes did go from Illinois to Tennessee and then back to Illinois for no apparent reason. Was this also a error of mistaken location? A quick check finds no Bedford county in Illinois, nor in the surrounding states. And Bedford county is named twice in this except. It took eight days to go 250 miles, doable if they went by riverboat when possible. So maybe it is not a typo.

Other missionaries at the time would redirect the efforts away from their primary assignment, sometimes several hundred miles, so they could teach members of their own family. It was a practice known to church leaders and often encouraged. Many early missions by members of the Smith family were directed to distant family members. Milton Homes did not appear to have family in Bedford county. He was from Massachusetts and New York. There is a note in the Joseph Smith Papers on 7 December 1835 about receiving a letter from Holmes (i.e. the above excerpt). The note does not, however, mention Tennessee.

W. Ivy, however, might have been William Shelton Ivie. William shows up in an index of Early Members of the Church. He is the only person with the right last name and the right first initial. But is he the right person?

William was born in Bedford county, Tennessee. It appears to have been the portion of Bedford county that later became part of Marshall county since his parents joined the Rock Creek Primitive Baptist Church and Rock Creek is entirely in present day Marshall county. So his birthplace is evidence in the "yes" column.

It is not likely that the five baptisms were among his family. First, his immediate family had moved to Missouri by then. Second, His father's family still lived in Franklin County, Georgia. His mother's family had moved with them to Missouri. But he was 18 year old when his family left Tennessee. He would have known many people and the people he baptized could have been friends. OK, this one isn't conclusive, but neither is it evidence in the "no" column.

A review of his immediate family finds that many of them were baptized after their death by proxy. But even William's baptism date is recorded as after his death. This is frustrating since it is caused by the practice of showing only the most recent ordinance date in Family Search. One brother, Thomas and his wife, received their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple in 1846.

Anderson Ivie 1889* = Sarah Allred 1889*
Polly Ann Ivie 1836  = Ezekial Billington 1888*
James Russel Ivie 1832 = Eliza McKee Fausett 1832
John Anderson Ivie 1889* = Anna Robinson 1970*
Elizabeth Ivie 1932* =William Hackley Allred 1880 (1832)
William Shelton Ivie 1889* = Julia Louisa Van Dyne 1992*
Isaac L Ivie 1889* = Melissa Long 1992*
Thomas Celton Ivie 1932* (E 1846) = Amanda Jane Moore 1836 (E 1846)
Sarah Melinda Ivie 1932* = William Long 1932*
Martin Joseph Ivie 1889* = Lucy Harrison 1998*

Name, Baptism date, * means by proxy

For the sharp ones out there, yes Sarah Allred is related to the Allreds I have written about already. The Allred family, and their cousins, the Faucetts and the Ivies were living in Salt River, Missouri when they were baptized into the church. It looks like they moved there in about 1829-30. Missionaries would pass by the Salt River settlement as they traveled between Kirtland and Jackson county. Soon there were converts and a branch.

Salt River also served as a reference point for early Church leaders. When Zion's Camp formed, it did so in two groups, one leaving from Kirtland led by Joseph Smith, and a second leaving from Pontiac Michigan led by Hyrum Smith. Salt River was where the two group were suppose to meet up. Some members living at Salt River joined as well, Including William Ivie.  Notice that in the above excerpt it was at Salt River that W. Ivy joined Milton Holmes. Another piece of evidence in the "yes" column.

William married his wife on August 2, 1835 in Hamilton Co. Illinois. According to the excerpt above, he was in Hamilton county on that date, although there is not a mention of a marriage. I'll put this as a tentative mark in the "yes" column.

There are also other connections to Montgomery Co. Illinois. named in the above excerpt.  John McKee Faucette - who was the brother of Eliza Faucett, William's Sister-in-law - was baptized in Montgomery Co. Illinois, on April 1834. According to one biographer, Moses Martin Sanders and wife Amanda Armstrong Fausett Sanders were baptized in Montgomery County, Illinois, on 28 January 1835 by their nephew William S. Ivie. Another mark in the "yes" column.

Then I found this in Joseph Holbrook's autobiography. He wrote...

"On the 23rd of December, 1834, I took my leave of my family and started in company with Amasa Lyman, Heman T Hyde and Milton Holmes. We preached on our way whenever we could get a privilege, sometimes going a day and night without food in the winter season across the praires with the houses 25 miles apart which made it very severe upon me until we came to the Salt River church where there was a conference held. On account of being lame, it was counseled that Milton Holmes, my former partner, should take William Ive and go to Tennessee and that I remain a few days with the church and Martin Allred and go a heart mission in the part of Missouri and Illinois."

This is more than just circumstantial like the other evidence that I have been wading through. A strong mark in the "yes" column.

Many of the Ivie family appear to have left the church at about the time the Mormons were expelled from Missouri. Only one went to Nauvoo, probably because Illinois was not a slave state and the Ivie's did own slaves. A couple did go on to Utah (those two were cut out of their father's will) and they did not bring their salves with them, but most stayed in Missouri. William started for Utah, but part way he changed his mind and settled in Kirkville, Adair county Missouri. He would later help bring the Christian (Campbellite) church to Kirkville.

So the big question. why have I not heard of this before? They were roughly contemporary with David Patten and Warren Parrish, and certainly contemporary with Wilford Woodruff.  Sure, Patten and Parrish were first. But I have two other theories. First, David Patten later became an apostle, and Wilford Woodruff, later became President of the Church. Second, Woodruff wrote about his mission service in his journal. Combine that with how most of the Ivie family left the Church, I guess it demonstrates just how much it matters who gets to write the history.


Amy T said...

This is really impressive, Bruce. Historian as detective.

I ran into the Allred family recently, so I put a link to your posts in my files for when I get back to the family in about a year.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks, Amy. That is high praise coming from someone whose work impresses me.

Ah, the Allreds. So much family, so little time.