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.


Jim Jones said...

I have enjoyed your blog over the years. I too, was a Tennessee Missionary from 1977-1979. 70 years after the date of these conferences. In 1977, our Zone Leaders took our zone to Cane Creek and read us the story of the massacre. We walked up the hill and saw the graves of the two young men who had been killed. The name of William Shanks Berry, stuck with me, because in the ghost town where my maternal grandmother was born are Robert Berry, his wife Isabella, and Robert's brother Joseph that were attacked and killed by Indians on the border of Utah and Arizona. In 1854, while delivering a message to Salt Lake to Daniel Wells, John Berry, the oldest Berry brother, was shot in the wrist by a Ute Indian leaving his hand crippled. Of the four sons of Jesse and Armelia Berry, three were killed violently and the other was crippled. In my research I have visited the grave of William Berry to photograph his headstone, and felt it to be some of the holiest ground on earth. Thanks.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks for taking the time to post. It is good to hear from you. I would love to hear more about your 1977 visit to the graves I think my readers would find your recollections interesting.

There are a few homes around the Cane Creek cemetery now. Were there any when you were there in 77?

I had not heard about John being shot in the hand, but I knew the sad story about Robert, Isabella, and Joseph.

Jim Jones said...

Sent me an email at and I will send you some information you can use in your blog.