Thursday, March 18, 2010

Two missionaries find a place to stay in Sawdust

When J. Golden Kimball was president of the Southern States Mission (1891-1894), Elder Charles A. Hickenlooper of Pleasant View, Utah and Elder W. T. Ogden were canvassing the smaller communities in Maury County, Tennessee. About halfway between Columbia and Shady Grove, they came to one community called Sawdust. Sawdust was settled in 1811. It is smaller now than it was then, only about 100 families, and was built up around the lumber industry. The two Elders were well received as they visited home after home for two days. They obtained permission from the trustees to use the schoolhouse for a meeting and invited everyone they met to attend. All seemed to be going well and after two days the Elders returned to Columbia, anxious for the scheduled meeting.

While they were gone, however, the local minister returned from his trip to Texas. After learning about the Elders’ visit he immediately set to undo all their work. He convinced the trustees to rescind their offer to use the schoolhouse. He visited every home and extracted a promise not to give food or shelter to the missionaries. He visited the men on their lunch hour and told them lies about how Mormons wanted only to convince their wives and daughters to leave their families and go to Utah to be slaves to Mormon men.

On the day of the meeting, the two Elders made their way back to Sawdust unsuspecting anything was amiss. As luck would have it, their first stop was at the post office. They noticed the postmaster’s demeanor had changed toward them and they inquired why. He confessed that he had been charged with letting the Elders know that they were no longer welcome in Sawdust. He told them about the efforts of the minister and that they should leave.

Instead Elder Ogden asked where the minister lived. Upon receiving directions, they headed straight there, about a quarter of mile, and proceeded through the front gate toward the house. Just as they were through the gate the minister rushed out his front door waving his arms like he was trying to chase away birds out of a cornfield. He yelled as he came, tell them to “Get off my place!” Elder Ogden tried to speak with him, but he would have nothing of it. “Get off my place, you fiends! I don’t want to have anything to do with you. I would rather have a man with smallpox or leprosy on my place than you devils. Get off!”

Realizing they were better off leaving they started back down the road. But by then it was getting late and would soon begin to rain. They didn’t stop at any of the homes they passed, knowing the minister had done his best to prevent them from getting any kind of aid. Before they reached the edge of town, the rain, lightning and thunder had started. So they knelt for a prayer and Elder Ogden pleaded for direction on where to go for food and shelter. When they rose, the impression was very faint, and almost casually they decided to take a side road leaving the highway exactly where they had knelt down. After going over a hill they saw a house in the distance. Upon seeing it, Elder Ogden said “There is where we stay tonight”

They knocked on the door and the man who answered interrupted the Elders as they tried to introduce themselves. “Oh, You needn’t spend your time telling me: I know who you are. Tell me, though, who sent you here?” Elder Ogden replied the no on had sent them, and that this was the first home at which they had stopped. Disbelieving the man shot back “That will do to tell someone who doesn’t know better.” He turned to Elder Hickenlooper and asked “Is this the first house you have called at?” Yes, he replied, which seem to make the man stop and think. After apparently making a decision he said “Well, wait a minute” and he turn back in the house. They two Elders waited for what seemed like nearly 15 minutes before the man came back telling them to come in.

After they settled down the man told them that earlier that day, the minister had come to meet him and other men during their noon meal. After telling a wild tale of Mormon wickedness, he got all the men to promise not to feed or shelter the Elders. But this man said he refused to make such a promise. He had been to Utah before, traveling on business to Oregon and Washington. On his way he stayed in Ogden, Utah and met many Mormons. He knew what Mormons were like and would not be convinced otherwise by the minister. The minister did convince his wife, however, so it took him a bit of talking to persuade her to change her mind. Of all the homes they could have stopped at to ask for shelter, this was the only one they would have been received


Amy T said...

Sawdust! What a name.

That's a classic missionary story.

And, oh my, thanks for the sidebar links.

Bruce said...

Thanks Amy,

I'll have to drive through Sawdust and take pictures the next time I am in that part of Tennessee.

Ardis said...


J. Stapley said...


Bruce said...

Thanks, both of you. A friend found this article for me and I was very happy to see it.

Bookslinger said...

The Holy Ghost is like unto a GPS.

“… and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide,…” D&C 45:57.

“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:6.

“And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. ” Isaiah 42:16.

Bruce said...

So true. Thanks.

Mormon Soprano said...

Awesome story! Just think - the Mormons that man met on his business trip never knew how their positive influence would effect the future wellbeing of some missionaries. It's a good lesson for us all. The ripple effect of our influence is far reaching.

Congrats on being spotlighted by Mormon Times BBB today! - MoSop

Rebecca Irvine said...

What a great story--thanks for sharing it!

Bruce said...

Thanks MoSop. You are absolutely right.
I understand EmJen at Mormon Times has been told the effect her spotlight has on the traffic of tiny sites like mine. :)

Rebecca, I'm glad you liked it. And I'm glad you took the time to say so.

Jean Ohai said...

Thanks for this story. My great grandfather Charles A. Hickenlooper left his wife and five little children to serve his mission. She ran the farm in his absence and a sixth child was born five months after he left.

He was concerned about going to Tennessee because he knew the elders had been mobbed and even killed, but he said the Lord watched over them: "I had all I needed to eat -- although sometimes I would get pretty hungry between meals – and a bed to sleep in every night." He and his companion were assigned to open up Cane Creek 11 years after Elders Gibbs and Berry had been killed and were received with open arms by faithful members.

A simpler version of this story appeared as a Missionary Moment in the Deseret News Church section in 1992. It was based on a 1934 Deseret News article I've never seen and isn't available in digital form through the slco library system. May I ask your sources?

Bruce said...

Jean, it is an honor to hear from you. There is always so much more to learn that pften only family members know.

Actually, my source is the 1934 article to which you refer. I can send you a copy, if you wish. Just email me at bruce_crow at yahoo dot com, and I will reply with the attachment.

Patricia Emmons said...

I am Patricia Beckham Emmons. I am the grandaughter of E.L. Travis and the daughter of Helen Travis. The church building that is in the photo was located at Cathey's Creek (between Hampshire and Howenwald). It was built on land that my grandfather, Mr. Travis donated. It is now the home of one of my cousins Rita who is the daughter of Kenneth Travis. My mother, Helen, is living and could tell you much of this story and of the Abraham Church family of which we are descentants. My email is Contact me, and I will help you to contact my mother.