Monday, February 20, 2017

George R Hill & Richard Ballantyne in East Tennessee

The earliest efforts to open up East Tennessee to missionary work were not very successful, or at least they were not well documented. The first was perhaps Elders Frost & Linzey in 1842. Elders Pratt & Stuart were the first to return after the Civil War in the winter of 1878-9. From there I don't see much more the early 1880's. But recently while looking for something else entirely I ran across this ...

A letter from Elder George R Hill, dated the 15th inst., [November 1879] at Carter's Station Tennessee, states that he is well and meeting with gratifying success, preaching the Gospel in that locality. About 10 or 12 persons were ready for baptism and would unite with the Church shortly. The prospects were encouraging for further success. The Gospel had never reached that place before, and a spirit of inquiry was gradually spreading among the people.

At first I was confused at what would attracted Elder Hill to Carter's Station[1] specifically. He had no family there. His companion, who I will discover in a later source was Richard A Ballantyne, didn't have any either. It may be that they were simply assigned to the area and were led to Carter's Station. One of Elder Ballantyne's letters says they were "appointed to labor here on the 11th of November" by Pres Morgan, though the first page of the letter is missing so where exactly that would have been was unclear, the date of the newspaper article above would imply that "here" was Carter's Station. But why Carter's Station of all places? More on that later.

Ballantynes letter went on to say "On November 29, 1879, we baptized into the church Jno. B., Floyd Burk and his wife, Martha Ellen Burk. January 30, 1880, baptized Geo. W. Perkins, his wife, Mary Jane Perkins, and their daughter Margaret Alice...." 

Later documents state the two were part of the Tennessee Conference, but they appear to have had no contact with the President of the Tennessee Conference in Shady Grove. They were more connected with the missionaries in Virginia, just to north. It makes sense. Virginia was much closer and easier to travel to and from. Pres Morgan perhaps felt constrained by state boundaries when it came to naming the conferences, assigning borders, and assigning missionaries to work in them, but not so much that he would actually make travel, coordination and meeting decisions that were impractical. For example, on February 8th, 1879, Hill was working with Ballantyne and the two were described as being from the Tennessee Conference, though at the time they were in Blande Co., Virginia for a conference meeting.

Of course, I am very interested in what they did in Tennessee. Travel distance is not an issue for me. Elder Ballantyne wrote on his return to Utah that he and Elder Hill had baptized 10 people during their time together in Tennessee. With the wholesale replacement of baptism dates on Family Search with newer proxy dates, I have limited ability to piece together a complete baptismal record. I did not have much luck finding the Perkins family. But a cursory search shows several Burke family members, siblings of John, Floyd, and Martha Ellen, who died in Utah & Wyoming. And here my mystery surrounding why Elder Hill and Ballantyne went to Carter's Station in the first place was solved. It turned out that the Burke family had originally come from Tazwell County, Virginia. There was already a strong LDS community there. Hill and Ballantyne were sent there because relatives who had joined the church in Virginia wanted to share it with family in Carter's Station.

In March the work in Tennessee came to an end. The two were moved to Virginia where they were sustained as traveling Elders.  After that the two split up. Elder Hill spent some time in North Carolina and East Virginia before heading home, while Ballantyne wound up his mission in the western portion of Virginia.

[1] I've had some difficulty locating Carter's Station. There is a Carter's Station Methodist Church in Green County. But by 1879, the town it was in was going by the name Albany, because another train station in nearby Carter County was using the name Carter's Station. The Carter County location went by both Carter's Station and Carter's Depot but now goes by the name Watauga. In the collected letters of Richard Ballantyne we notice that most of his letters for the period are written from Johnson City, Tennessee, which is about five miles from Watauga.

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