Monday, April 6, 2015

Paris Tennessee Branch 1834-1835

Arguably the first branch of the Church in Tennessee was at Paris, Tennessee. It was there, in the county seat, that David Patten and Warren Parrish baptized the first seven converts. Neither missionary recorded their names in a format that survives to this day. Although they used Paris as a base of operations, received and sent mail there, and perhaps met their converts there for sermons, no surviving documents indicate that formed a branch in Paris. They did form a branch, but it may or may not have been in Paris. Honestly, I like the idea of the first branch being in Paris. It is a hub for the area, there being nothing else of any size in the county. There is even a branch of the Church there today. But the letters written at the time are not specific.

"In our last communication to you, under date of October 27, [1834] we informed you, that we had planted a church in this vicinity, consisting of seven members" (Messenger and Advocate Vol 1 No 5 pg 76)

When Patten returned to Kirtland (Parrish stayed in Tennessee to continue missionary work) he reported that they had baptized a total of twenty in Tennessee. Parrish later wrote that they had baptized twenty four by December 1st, a total of 35 by February 1st, 1835. But it is pretty clear from the letters that by then they had expanded from Henry county south into western Humphries county (later to become Benton county).

When Woodruff arrived in March 1835 we begin to get a more detailed view of the work. The city of Paris still held a position of importance, sermons were preached in the court house, converts were met there, and mail was sent from there, but we no longer have the sense that there was an organized branch in the city. More preaching happened at Eagle Creek, and the Academy, than in Paris.

By May 16th, 1835 Woodruff reports that there were "multiple branches" in Tennessee though Woodruff does not name them. Months later when he does, Paris is not one of them. The record is silent, about why, leaving us to speculate. Three possibilities present themselves.
1) All or most of the seven members in Paris left the church. While possible, the evidence doesn't support this idea. Woodruff recorded that he expelled seven members in all of 1835, but only named two of them. Just one was from Henry county.
2) All or most of the seven members emigrated to Kirtland. This too is possible, but there is no record of any emigration so early. The earliest record of emigration from Tennessee was in 1836.
3) All or most of the seven members didn't actually live in Paris itself. This is where my money rests. Paris was the county seat so it was a convenient periodic meeting place. But for regular meetings, closer to home was preferred, so when branches were formed, they were created where most of the converts lived instead.

By December 1835, only two branches were in Henry county; the Blood River Branch, and the Academy Branch. Was there a branch in Paris in 1834? We may never know. David Patten died in 1838 at the battle of Crooked River in Missouri. He left very little in his own hand. Warren Parrish was excommunicated for his role in embezzling money from the Kirtland Safety Society. He joined a group of dissenters who later took control of the Kirtland Temple in 1838. Aside from the letters written during their mission, there is nothing recorded about their early work in Tennessee and the Paris Branch.

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