Thursday, March 9, 2017

Who's That Really Young Missionary?


It isn't every day that a photo I see in the archives has names clearly on it. But this one has names I know too. John L Bench, Nels P Nelson, George E Hill, George A Macdonald, Melvin Henderson, Lewis R Anderson & LeRoy Pugmire. But who is the little boy?

That took a little digging.

First I start by seeing when the mission service of these seven men overlapped. It turned out to be sometime between September 13th, 1898 and November 29th 1898. I knew Bench and Nelson had served in Tennessee. The other names were new to me, so I assumed they had served elsewhere. But what event would have brought them all together at the same time?

Then I found a description of a newspaper article printed in a few Utah papers, including the Sanpete Democrat, and the Manti Messenger. which had reprinted an article from the Chattanooga Sunday Times. The original article, which I have been unable to locate, had recounted the history of the Southern States mission and arrival of a new mission president: Ben E Rich. The article went on to describe the mission office staff and their roles. Nelson - first assistant, Anderson second assistant, Hill - Stenographer, MacDonald - Bookkeeper, Bench - commissary clerk & D P Felt - in charge of The Southern Star. With exception of Felt, this was like a mission office photo. Felt was not transferred to the office until October 23, 1898, so the photo was probably before then.

There were two other adults in the photo who were not named in the article. The first was Melvin Henderson. Melvin arrived at Chattanooga on September 13th 1898 and was assigned to East Tennessee, which included Chattanooga. In fact, up until President Rich, the policy established by John Morgan was not to proselyte in Chattanooga for fear that it would stir up animosity within the city making it difficult to conduct mission business. President Rich reversed that policy in 1898, making very possible that Henderson was in Chattanooga opening up the area.

The other was LeRoy Pugmire. LeRoy was not strictly a missionary, meaning his name does not appear on the missionary record.  He arrived with Elder Ben E Rich in September 1898. He was the son of Nancy Emeline Rich, a half sister of President Rich. It appears that LeRoy Pugmire had some kind of arrangement where he attended school in Chattanooga, possibly living at the mission home, and proselyted when not attending school.

That led me to discover that in September 1898, President Rich left Chattanooga to meet three people who were arriving by train in St Louis Missouri. They included his nephew LeRoy Pugmire, his son Lorin F Rich (age 18), and the wife of his first assistant Amanda Rosetta Bunnell Nelson. Amanda and her husband had two children, the oldest was a 3 year old boy named Leland. The record doesn't say Leland accompanied Amanda to Tennessee, but I did notice it is on Elder Nelson's lap that the little boy is sitting. Circumstantial? Maybe.

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