Monday, December 26, 2011

Missionaries Return to Pikesville Tennessee

Recently I was speaking with a missionary, Elder Miller, who in May of 2011 was serving in Pikesville, Bledsoe County, Tennessee. Elder Miller spoke excitedly about his time there, in part because of what the people of Pikesville told him. According to the members he met there, sixty years earlier, a couple of LDS missionaries were chased out of Pikeville. Elder Miller and his companion were the first to return since.

I haven’t had any luck confirming Elder Miller’s story, but I find it somehow compelling. It is both real and not quite right at the same time. Real because it sounds like a story long time members would love to tell. I know, I've many. But it is unlikely that exactly sixty years have passed by. That and I find it hard to believe that no missionaries came through in sixty years. Like most of these stories I have come across, the details are usually wrong. The sense and feeling, however, were usually true.

Pikesville and the rest of Bledsoe County are part of the Crossville Ward. Both appear only occasionally in the historical record. In 1896, R. G Archibald and S.C. Barrell were proselytizing in Bledsoe, Sequatchie, Marion, and Grundy Counties. The two preached for five months, and baptized nine people, leaving only when the climate changed to winter. Elder Archibald wrote home a letter admitting that winter on the cumberland plateau was too harsh for missionary work. He moved on to Coffee County where he worked with Elder W. J. Sloan. His companion, Elder Barrell, went to Rutherford County where he worked with Elder Larson.

A few years later, Elder J. W. Berry, a son of William Berry, was serving in Bledsoe County. But I found nothing after that in my regular sources. Even the history of the Crossville Ward, at least the copy I have, does not desribe any events in Pikesville at all, let alone any that could be interpreted as a mobbing.


Unknown said...

Yes, this story is pretty much true. I don't know of the exact dates that the missionaries were kicked out of Pikeville, but no there have not been any missionaries serving "in" Pikeville until now. The family who housed the missionaries were the Keener family. We hometaught Sister Esther Keener for years and this is a story that she told us. She remembers the missionaries as a little girl staying at her house and the town fathers came to her father and told them the missionaries had to leave immediately. Since then, any member in Pikeville has had to travel to other counties to attend church. Missionaries have not "served" in Pikeville since that time. They might come in for dinner or an appointment, but they haven't lived or spent serious time here other than that. we had the first missionaries actually "in" Pikeville when we had them staying with us back in 2011 where they would stay 2 days a week. September 2013, our very first set of missionaries moved to the Pikeville area--Elder Zebriskie, Elder Dudley and Elder Sannar. Before this time, it was an uphill battle to get missionaries in this area. They weren't allowed to come because of the lack of mileage--so yes, this story is true. The only person that can confirm it is Esther Keener who is now in a nursing home. However, this story is known to some of the older members in the Dayton Branch. When we first moved here in 2000, several people got up in a testimony meeting and said they remembered when the area was closed to missionaries. This area is a large area and Bledsoe County has been attached to other small wards and branches and since very few members live or lived in this area, it has been kind of forgotten. Just recently, at the county fair, we were able to get about 60 referrals for missionaries. For the past 2 months, we've been holding cottage meetings--so yes, the missionary effort in this area is moving forward.

BruceAllen said...

Thank you Hillary. This is very helpful. Your details will go a long way toward collecting this information together.

My own county has been without missionaries for just over 10 years. And we now have a set living in town. And cottage meetings too. Exciting isn't it?