Monday, July 6, 2015

Who Were These Elders?

Recently I received some great biographical and autobiographical information on Elder John L Bench. who served a mission to Tennessee from 1896 to 1898. There is a great deal to sort through, and I'm just getting started, but I wanted to share some of the process I am going through. One part of that process is to place Elder Bench in context with his contemporaries. Today that involves a photograph that includes him and two other missionaries.

I love the Prince Albert suits and the white bow ties are cool. The setting is typical of photography studios for the period. Elder Bench is on the right. But who were the other two Elders? If I could identify them perhaps I could learn a little more about Elder Bench's mission.

As was customary at the time the location of the studio is right on the photo; Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is a good place to start. As far as I know there were two times Elder Bench was in Chattanooga, he may also have visited white he was organizing Sunday Schools for the mission, but for now we'll ignore that.

The first was in 1896, when he started his mission. He arrived and received his assignment from  Elders John Wesley Chipman and St. Joseph White. Afterwards the whole group visited lookout mountain, had their photo taken at Umbrella Rock with the new missionaries and left for Paris Tennessee with Elder Barker.

The missionaries who arrived with him from Utah were, William Malden Dye, Theodore Wilford Turley, George Arthur Parkinson, Franklin William Andrus, Newton Andrus, James Nutter Stanworth, Charles Robert Spencer, Allen Burt Snowball, Frederick Thomas Ballam, Alma Swenson, Leon Brigham Hampton, William Marcellus Woolley, Joseph Albert Manning Williams, Benjamin Wilcox Dansie, Calvin Fife, George Hubbard Lytle, and James John Barker.

It is a long list of names to sort through. But since there are only three in the photo I doubt it was taken at the beginning of his mission. They had already had their photo taken at the top of Lookout Mountain. So I think this photo was more likely at a later date.

During the last part of his mission, Elder Bench was assigned to work in the office in Chattanooga as the commissary clerk. He was there for several months, so it could have been at any point during his stay. The other missionaries working in the office, besides President Ben E Rich, were, Nels Peter Nelson, Lewis Robert Anderson, George Aird MacDonald, and George Elbridge Hill Jr.

With this shorter list I took the time to look up a photo of each one. The internet is wonderful so I was quickly able to find a time appropriate photo for all but one: Elder Nelson. His only photo was from when he was much older. But even with the ease of finding photos none of them were a match.

Not really looking forward to looking up each person on the first list, and justifying my reluctance by saying it probably isn't two of them anyway, I was left to my third option. Elder Bench could have been in Chattanooga during his stint setting up Sunday Schools. And it is possible that these were missionaries visiting Chattanooga with whom he spent a day-off.  My list of candidates is getting way too big. So I thought, how about a different approach? I started looking through the photos I already had. That's when I started thinking I should take the advice I got online and start using photo recognition software. Maybe I will.

In the meantime I found these two photos. I put them together for comparison. The both served at the same time as Bench but in different conferences. I haven't found how they might have cross paths.

The first is Lehi Aldridge Thorley. Most people (80%) I have asked agree this is probably the same person.

 The second is James William Funk. Only 20% so far agree this is the same person, so I probably have more searching to do.
What do you think? Have I found my missionaries? Do I keep looking?

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