Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Ellen Ruth Jacklin's Mission to the Southern States

While trying to identify the people in this photo, I made the acquaintance of a granddaughter of John Jacklin, one of the missionaries in the photo. She has graciously provided me with some information about a sister missionary in her family, her aunt Ellen Jacklin.

Ellen's mission photo
"Ellen had just got engaged to Austin Elmer Tracy just before she was called on her mission. He waited for her. She didn’t feel she could go on a mission because her father had just died a couple of years before, and she didn’t think they could afford it. Clifford E Young gave her some money and helped her go."

Ellen Ruth Jacklin was born on 1 June 1899 in American Fork, Utah to John & Martha Jacklin. Ellen had met her future husband while teaching school near Ogden, Utah. In retrospect it is plain that she wanted to serve a mission before she got married. Ellen Jacklin was set apart for her mission on July 8th 1924, and departed the next day.

"She was the oldest child of a missionary to the Southern States Mission to go to the same mission field, from 1924 1926, her oldest son Jacklin Elmer Tracy went to the Southern States Mission from 1948 to 1950 and his oldest son Jacklin David Tracy went on a mission to Florida."

Although I haven't found it stated anywhere, perhaps I can be forgiven for imagining that Ellen's interest in serving was in part due to her father's service. There was certainly an interest passed down to her son and grandson.

"Ellen went as a proselyting missionary but when the President Charles B Callis, saw her handwriting, he made her his secretary and she traveled the mission with him. She enjoyed traveling with President Callis, but would have loved to proselyte."

 Ellen arrived in the mission on July 13th and was assigned to the Ohio Conference to proselyte. In late August or early September she wrote "This week in our tracting we have placed four Books of Mormon and taken an order for some other standard Church works." which was quoted in the Church's missionary newspaper "Liahona: The Elders Journal"(147)All told, Ellen spent the first half of her mission proselyting and most of the second half working in the mission office.

The text reads "Ellen with
a family of colored children
 On September 14th 1924 she was transferred to South Carolina, While there she worked with Sister Pearl Wilson in Columbia, South Carolina.(239)When Sister Wilson was made the mission recorder, Ellen was paired with Sister Olive Berg.  They reported that "We have in Columbia two Primaries, and they are being well attended. Several mothers have become very friendly with us because their children are interested in the Primary work. We are also having good success in our tracting." (282)

It is impossible to know how many other projects they were involved in at the local branch, but she might have been involved with a Relief Society bazaar held on November 16th, 1924 by the branch. And the branch Sunday School started a competition between the classes called "Trip Over the Pioneer Trail to Salt Lake" Each class moved further along a symbolic trail each week based on attendance. No indication for which class made it first. Sister Jacklin and Berg were named in the same report which noted their good tracting record. (318)

Sisters Jacklin & Berg
South Carolina 1925
By March Sisters Jacklin and Berg had moved on to Greenville SC. Although the reports of their work were unsigned, they were obviously made by someone who knew their work first hand "Their book and tract record is a splendid one. They sold six Books of Mormon last week. They are having as good success in their new field of labor as they had In Columbia."(402)Later that month another report reads "Sisters Ellen Jacklin and Olive Berg are meeting with continued success in their work in Greenville. They have an excellent book and tract record." (424)

Let me take a moment to point out the repeated mention of the book or record of tracting that Sister Jacklin kept. Coupled with the how Elder Callis would later make her the mission recorder, presumably because of her handwriting, I think we can begin to guess about the care with which she performed even this most basic task. I will add to that her training as an educator and librarian which we know about from other sources. She taught school even after getting married and while having three children, a rarity at the time when married women teachers were often forced to retire.

During the switch to summer assignments on April 30th, 1925, "Sisters Jacklin and Berg to Greenville city." which does not appear to have been a change for them. (464)

On May 31st, 1925 Ellen was transferred to the mission office where she was the Southern States Mission Recorder, aggregating and submitting the mission reports to the Liahona and probably the church office as well. Several of the reports give her direct credit for her work. But her work was more than just filling out reports. One one occasion on Aug 16th, 1925 she "gave instructive address" during a mission conference.(142)It isn't clear how often she spoke at mission conferences, as most of the time individual speakers, other than the mission president, were not named. But this one case substantiates the description of her traveling with President Callis.

"On August 18, 1925 the Ellen's mission group went on a trip to the base of Stone Mountain, [near Atlanta, Georgia] where they were carving the figure of General Lee. There were some steep steps in back that the workers used to get to the top and they invited the missionaries to go to the top. Ellen and several others did . She said It was a thrilling experience walking across the face of the mountain. As they stood over the carving of General Lee, they saw the magnificent view of the surrounding country."

The text reads "Ellen Jacklin
Jennie Gwyn and Reva Sheffield
 - Smyrna, Tenn Sept 1925
On September 30th, 1925 she was transferred to Middle Tennessee along with Reva Sheffield to serve in Nashville (181). Sisters Sheffield and Jacklin wrote: "We are very happy to report our success in Nashville. We have a splendid tracting district and the people receive us kindly. Many of them tell us that ours is the first 'Mormon' literature they have ever read. We have organized a Relief society and two Primaries." (221)

Ellen wrote, "Sister Gwyn[1] had a home in Smyrna, Tennessee and rented out rooms. Her servant was Aunt Tobe.[2] Father stayed in this rented room when he was on his mission in 1895 and I stayed in the same room and slept in the same bed when I was on my mission in 1925."

Aunt Toby
Ellen spoke at length with Aunt Tobe, who remembered her father and mother. She later wrote that "Mother knew her as a young girl, and when I was there while on my mission in 1925, she told me things about my father in the Mission Field and that had been thirty years before. She also remembered mother. She was so very happy to meet and love me because father had been kind to her. Her daughter also remembered father." I already had a photo of Aunt Tobe - spelled Toby in some sources - who was included in a Gwyn family photo taken in about 1897.

Ellen's parents met in Tennessee. Her father had just started his mission when he attended Martha O'Neal's baptism. [Details on that can be found here] Ellen's family was not happy with her decision. It would be an understatement to say they at times turned a cold shoulder to her. One story has passed down through the family about Ellen's own interaction with her mother's family, and their inconsistent treatment of her.

"When Ellen was on her mission she visited one of her mothers brothers and he showed her a bible with pages of family names, she didn’t have time to get the information then and when she went back he said you must have imagined it, we have never had a bible like that and she never got the information."

Ellen spent only one month in Middle Tennessee before she was called back to the mission office. Although she served primarily in Nashville, Smyrna is only a short 24 miles southeast of Nashville, a trip she took at least a couple of times. It is perhaps not by accident that she got the opportunity to serve near her mother's home town, an opportunity she obviously took advantage at least twice.

On October 31st, 1925 after one month in Middle Tennessee, Sisters Jacklin and Sheffield were transferred together to the Mission office together.(222)After another five months of service in the office, Ellen Jacklin was released to return home on March 25th 1926.

Her trip home was indirect. A trip that normally took a day at most was stretched out to 6 days. Although I have no information about where she went, I like to think this was when she took the time for her second trip to see her mother's family and some sightseeing along the way. Ellen arrived back in Salt Lake on April 1st, 1926 and then to her home in American Fork.

1. Virginia "Jennie" Richardson Hager Gwyn (1860-1938) baptized on 7 November 1897 by James Larson.
2. I have not been able to definitively identify Aunt Toby. This might be Tobbie Seay, but she and her family lived in neighboring Wilson county, which would be a little far to travel to Smyrna regularly. However she could lived with the Gwyn family while she worked and returned home periodically, not an unusual arrangement for the time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a terrific post! One really minor point: you suggested that the trip home might have been "a day at most" but the little evidence I've found suggests otherwise. One site shows that Chicago to San Francisco--which included the ferry from Oakland--took 68 hours in 1925. Factor in the time required to get to Chicago (or Omaha) from Nashville, and subtract the time of the trip from Salt Lake City to San Francisco, and toss in the time for connections, and the trip probably took four days, if one went directly.