I was fascinated by the mind of someone who would use a pseudonym to write letters home from his mission. His writing style is little flowery for my taste, but still it was appropriate for the time. Perhaps even better that many of his contemporary missionaries. I wanted to know more. Did he write any other letters? Did he write anything else at all?
The Southern States Mission Manuscript identifies his home town as Logan, Cache Co., Utah. It turns out that there aren't many Joel Ricks juniors in Logan Utah. I could only find one the right age.
Joel Edward Ricks was born in Farmington, Utah on 21 July 1858 to Joel Ricks and Sarah Beriah Fiske. The next year the family moved to what would become Logan, Cache county. At 18 he served his first mission in the Northern States. When he returned home he worked in a variety of industries from farm implements, to railroad, to lumber manufacturers. On 18 Jan 1881 he married Susette Cardon, daughter of Paul and Susannah Cardon, of Logan.
In 18 Jan 1883 he was sealed to a second wife. How Ricks knew her or why he chose to marry her the day before beginning his mission is unknown, a casualty of the secrecy of the times.
On 19 Jan 1883 he was set apart to a second mission. He does not appear to have arrived on his mission for two months. The trip did not normally take that long, one to two weeks being more typical. There are at least three reasons which come from a missionary journal kept by Jacob F Miller.
Miller wrote that Joel Ricks Jr left Salt Lake City with his group of missionaries on 27 February 1883, far later than immediately after being set apart. Miller didn't explain why he was with their group, only that he was on the train with them. But there is another clue in his journal that we'll need to keep in mind as we work through this puzzle. Miller wrote that Ricks was assigned to labor in Stewartsville in Bedford Co., Virginia. More on that later.
In St Louis, Miller wrote that five missionaries separated from the main company. Two went north to their missions, one to Chicago to complete some unspecified business, and two "Brothers [Joel] Ricks and [Hampden S.] Beattie" stayed behind in St Louis. Remember that Brother Ricks had served his first mission partly in Missouri, so it was likely he had friends, and possibly converts, who lived there and who wanted to see him. We presume that he was to continue on to Virginia when he was done in Missouri. Beattie was to go on to Alabama, he shows up in Kentucky in April 1883.
On 19 March 1883, he landed along the Tennessee river at or near Cedar Creek. I don't find any notes about his going to Chattanooga first in John Morgan's journal who was in Chattanooga directing missionaries to the assigned areas. I don't have any information that he went on to Virginia either. But if he did and later had his assignment changed to Tennessee, that would explain in part why he arrived when he did. I will add that the Martineau family were friends with the Ricks family back in Cache valley. It was likely that Joel knew his future companion and that their friendship might have had influence on their assignment together.
Another missionary, John H Gibbs kept a detailed record of the letters he received. Two of them, one on July 5th, 1883, and one on July 21st, 1883. No hint on the content.
A biography on Family Search indicates that in addition to Tennessee he spent part of his mission in Kentucky, though I have no evidence of that, nor of any missionary work he did after July 1883.
One blog reader found a Nov 1883 article in the Juvenile Instructor describing the Modern Wonders that he sees in the world, ponders the possibilities of the future. It continued the use of the pen name Hagoth. I can only imagine what he would think of today.
There is a cryptic reference on December 21st 1883 in John Morgan's journal with only the following "Received and left a letter from bishop Lewis of Logan, Utah, relative to Joel Ricks case." Cue the creepy music.
Following his mission Joel went back to work for the railroad. In 1901 he opened a grocery and then sold it a year later. He became heavily involved in politics and was very good at moving the machinery of political process. But by then (as early as 1888) Ricks was writing again as Hagoth (thanks for finding that too, Jojo). This time on the Book Of Mormon in a sort of apologetics vein. But perhaps he was best known for his work in Book of Mormon geography.
Some of you who have spent a lot of time on BoM geography are thinking "Oh! Thaaaat Joel Ricks!" Yes, he wrote extensively on the subject. Made several trips to South America, and was a proponent of the South American model, even as many moved on to a Central American model. His gave away copies of his maps to publishers, published articles & pamphlets, and wrote five books.
From a biography of his...
During his last days, he spent most of his time sitting at his old typewriter tapping off his conclusions about the Book of Mormon Archaeology and refuting the suggestions of the new Central American Theory. ... He died peacefully, a worn-out, old man of 86 after a life of intense activity and study in many fields.
Joel Ricks died 21 November 1944
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