Monday, August 25, 2014

Mapping the Middle Tennessee Baptism Record

Recently I have been working in an old membership record book for the Middle Tennessee Conference of the Southern States Mission. The book doesn't have a lot of explanatory notes, but appears to cover from about 1888 to 1920. There are a few entries from prior to 1888, but the entries are few and far between, and only for people who had stayed in Tennessee and stayed in the Church. 

This was about the period when members were no longer being encouraged to gather, whether that be to Utah, Colorado, or Texas. There was still some emigration, but for the most part people were staying where they lived, unless they needed to move for better employment.

The map below shows entries in the book, specifically baptisms, in the County listed as the members postal address. In some cases, this was not where the person was baptized, but where they lived between 1888 and 1920. In most cases, people stayed where they were. There is some fluidity which makes the graphic less precise, but when taken as a whole it isn't too bad of an indicator of both membership and baptism.

Note that East Tennessee is under represented. There was at the time a separate conference for East Tennessee, and a separate membership book. The line dividing the two changed frequently. The few records I have for east Tennessee counties were baptized in Middle Tennessee but subsequently moved to East Tennessee.

I know you can't read the county names, but there are three counties (in red) that stand out as high baptizing areas. Lawrence County - in the center bottom - had been the focus of Church activity after 1884 and led the Conference with 111 baptisms in 32 years. Shelby County (Memphis) followed next with 96 baptisms in the same period. Perry County - in the center - came in third with 87. Shelby County is the only urban center among them, and was virtually ignored by the Church until 1900.

My next plan is to look at this over time, perhaps add East Tennessee, and baptisms from other sources prior to 1888.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Linden Ward Open House

On August 10th, 2014 the Linden Ward of the Franklin Stake held an open house. You can almost feel the intent behind the event. On the 130th anniversary of the Cane Creek Massacre, members of the congregation which included the site of the massacre wanted to open their church to their neighbors.

The event was to be 3 hours long, and included stations throughout the building that showed off specific aspects. This ward has four missionaries. Sister Curtis and Sister Ferrin and Elder Goal and Elder Steve. In an inverse relation to my age, missionaries are getting younger. And these seemed more youthful than the current age limit would appear to allow. They spoke about their testimony of the newest paintings in the foyer.

After seeing the foyer, we moved on to the Chapel where members of the Ward discussed what happens during a typical LDS service. There was time for questions, and several people took advantage of that. We moved on to the Young Men's room, which was positioned behind the not-so-sound-proof dividers at the rear of the chapel. In any other building this would be the overflow before the cultural hall (Translation: indoor carpeted basketball court). But this building does not have one ... yet.

Our tour led us back across the foyer to the Clerk's office and the Bishop's office. A member of the Bishopric was there to describe what the Bishop does and answer more questions. My tour was interrupted as more "real visitors" (translation: non members) arrived. I missed out on seeing the Young Women's room, the nursery and the Primary room. I did see the media center, and the kitchen, which were unstaffed.

For those of you imagining your own building as we walked through these rooms, I have to stop here and say you are thinking too big. I could have stood in a single spot and seen the door to everything on my tour. The stations were only feet away from each other, so I could see and hear many conversions going on all at once. Despite this, great effort was made to create an environment conducive to  feeling the spirit, and they were successful on several counts.

Refreshments were available at the end. More sugar than is healthy for the average person, let alone a diabetic. Plus reading materials on church programs for food storage, family history, and more. One enterprising Ward member created DVDs with the combined video clips from the scriptures that the Church has put online. These were given out as gifts to the visitors.

I was there for 45 minutes, much longer than the 15 minutes the local thought each tour would take, and I did not get to see everything or talk to every one. Before I arrived about a dozen people had been through already. And another two dozen or so arrive while I was there. I left by 3:00 with another two hours to go. To put that into perspective, this ward covers all or part of four counties: Perry, Decatur, [most of] Lewis, and [northern] Wayne. The meeting house sits in a rural location 7 miles outside of the town of Linden which has a population of just over 900.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A visit to the Conder Cemetery

Yesterday I visited the Conder Cemetery once again. It was the 130th anniversary of the Cane Creek Massacre. I have heard it said that we can never take the same trip more than once, for even if the journey is exactly the same, and the location has not changed, we most definitely will never be the same person we were before.

Today's visit achieved a trifecta in its uniqueness. August 10th perhaps allows us to simulate the weather on that fateful day; humid and sunny. The cemetery had seen some great work. The dead tree threatening to fall on the very next person to walk through the gate had been removed. There were no weeds, no overgrown bushes. Even the grass, what little there was, had been neatly trimmed.

There was some inevitable entropy. Just last week I wrote about how  (Malinda's 1st husband) J R Hudson's grave stone has the same inscription as that of W J Conder (her second husband), and that the stones were practically identical in design and material. The biggest difference was the name and the date, and that the second had broken in half. Well, now Hudson's stone has broken, nearly in the same way as the other, albeit a little lower than the first. This time the inscription was completely above the break.

Other than that I noticed things I had not remembered before. I saw the older stones for the graves of Eli  and Barby Talley, right next to the new ones. It was like I never saw the old ones until that day. Were they invisible? Memory is a tricky thing. (I'll save those photos for later)

I also noted the foot stones for the two boys killed at the massacre: William Martin Conder & John Riley Hudson. It made me wonder. Whatever happened to the original stone markers? The story about the placement of the current marker in the 30's never hints. There were three foot stones all about the same (and the same as Jim Conder's foot stone at Trace Creek.)  And that they had foot stones leads me to believe they had headstones, and likely they each had their own. (Did Malinda order four headstones and foot stones at the same time?) You can see the foot stones for William Martin Conder, his half brother John Riley Hudson, and Riley's father J R Hudson in the fore ground. Martin's foot stone in leaning up against a moss covered cinder block since it too had broken off at its base. There were still the remains of rubber cement someone used to try and repair it.

Of course every time I visit I see different things. Repairs someone else has done, repairs that need to be done. And like any kind of research, it creates more questions than answers.