Monday, March 27, 2017

Elders Eardley & Camp Strike Out On Their Own

The following is a letter written to John Morgan. Two of the incoming missionaries got tired of waiting for instructions and struck out on their own. One of them [Richard Camp] having relatives living in the area who had not joined the church, they decided to go find them. The other [James W Eardley] wrote this letter.

Dresden Tennessee
December 14, 1880
John Morgan

     Elder John W Taylor and myself arrived at St. Louis on time. We stopped four days and no tidings of Brother [Matthias Foss] Cowley. In the meantime Brothers Camp and [Abraham O.] Smoot rejoined our party, and thinking proper Brother C[amp] and myself wended our way to Dresden. Brother C[amp] found many who was acquainted with his parents but no relatives nor have we found any saints. Immediately after arriving, I wrote Bro. [Lorenzo] Hunsaker, Benton Co., but up to the present time, being five days since our arrival I have received no reply. Notwithstanding our delay we have not been idle; by conversing with this family and that, we found a great spirit of inquiry in regard to the Latter-day Saints. They visited us and a great many seemed very anxious, even requesting us to hold a meeting, although we felt that a little experience would be of great service. Still under the circumstances we felt the duty resting upon us.   We engaged the Court House, the largest building in the town, places up a few notices, and soon after the appointed hour, to our surprise, the house was full, with the humble and the meek and aristocracy, men and women. You may imagine that with comparitively(sic) speaking no experience, we felt our weakness, and we needed to rely upon some one beside ourselves, and I can assure you we were assisted. They paid the utmost attention. We entertained them about an hour and a quarter. At close of service by request, I gave away over thirty tracts, which I had with me, and had calls for more, and could have sold several Books of Mormon if I had had them. Brother Camp has loaned several of his books to inquiring parties. Notwithstanding this spirit of inquiry, there is an opposition spirit; the Methodist minister is greatly opposed to us; another party threatened us, "should we have a meeting we should be tarred and feathered." but the opposition comparatively speaking, amounts to nothing.
     Brother Camp having and inclination to go to Paris, Henry county, 25 miles east, to see some of his relatives, I have concluded to travel with him. We will travel on foot, taking it slow, and advocating our principles as we journey.

[Post Script]
I imagine they got retroactive permission for their initiative since they continued preaching in the Weakley and Henry county area for three months before returning by way of Carroll County. "In Huntington, Carroll County, they had obtained a hall and held a meeting with a good attentive audience." Afterwards the two were split up, Eardley going to Perry county and Camp going to Kentucky. Elder Cowley arrived in St Louis shortly after Camp and Eardley struck out on their own. Cowley and John W Taylor went on to Dawson, Georgia.  Abraham O Smoot went to Owen County, Kentucky.


Amy T said...

Great letter. Thirty years would not have been enough to erase the memory of the Camps, given some of their experiences in their last days in Weakley County. Also, we really could use a good biography of A. O. Smoot.

BruceAllen said...

Yes, who could forget the Camps? As for the need for a good A O Smoot biography, yes. And it seems like there would be enough material on which to base it.

Ardis said...

A lot of missionaries would have taken the excuse to laze around waiting for instructions -- good for these two for going ahead!

I really like this intimate glimpses into life of the past, the kind of thing that doesn't show up in formal histories all that often.

BruceAllen said...

Thanks Ardis. As we said on my mission, it is easier to get forgiveness than permission. Well, actually, I'd say that to my companions who most of the time just shook their head.