Monday, April 14, 2014

Cheerful letter from a missionary in the south

Abner, Lawrence County, Tennessee Dec 19, 1884

Elder George C. Lambert

Elder McCuistion and I have just returned from a three weeks trip into Giles Marshall and Lincoln counties where there had never been any Mormon” Elders before.

We met many Fine people who treated us kindly, and invited us back, while on the other hand we met some who showed us the door, (when they learned we were “Mormons”) and warned us never to darken it again.

At Talley station in Marshall Co., we held two meetings, and had the pleasure of speaking to about 150 people each time, who had never seen a “Mormon” before. We also attended a Baptist meeting thinking to get an appointment in the evening. Parson Creeks on learning that we were “Mormons,” very kindly invited us to preach which we consented to do. One gentleman, however, objected to us preaching, stating that when the house was built it was with the understanding that “Mormons” should not be allowed to preach there. Quite a number of men then arose and took our part stating that we had as much right to preach as any one else and if they stopped one sect they should stop all. After parleying for nearly half an hour they decided to leave it to a vote of the house. Parson Creeks then put the vote and the whole congregation voted for us to preach except four. Mr Creeks then gave the meeting into our charge and I spoke to them for over an hour on the first principles of the gospel.

Elder Thos. H. Robins is with me now and we will likely take a trip to Marshall County again in about ten days.
Elder Fuller returned home last month and I have been appointed to take his place as president of the Southwestern Tennessee Conference. I feel my weakness and inability in undertaking the task, still with the help of the Lord and the faith and prayers of the brethren I shall strive to do my duty and fill the position to the best of my ability.
On the 30th of this month it will be 15 months since I left home and the time has passed so quickly that it scarcely seems half that long. My health is good and I am feeling well in the ministry. Above all things that I prize my mission for, is for the increase of testimony it has given me of the truth of the gospel . I have seen the power of god made manifest many times in restoring the sick to health and have felt free in testifying to all men that this is the Gospel of Christ restored to earth again in its fullness.

The weather here is very cold and the ground is white with snow I have suffered far more with cold here than I ever did at home but the open condition of the houses is no doubt the reason of it many of the people here live in railed pens that you might throw a cat through; but the people are all noted for having good beds.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Mabel Jane Pettit NcNeill

[This is a continuation of my series on Early Sister Missionaries of Tennessee. This sister and her companion may have been the first Sister missionary companionship in Memphis. -Bruce]

Mabel Jane Pettit was born on March 24th, 1894 to John Edward Pettit and Emma Matilda Wilde at Almy Wyoming. Mabel's father was in the coal industry, a career which kept them moving periodically. Mabel's mother was from Coalville so when the opportunity came to run the Church's coal mine in Grass Creek Canyon near Coalville, they took it. During a lull in the Church mine's productivity due to flooding the family moved to Wyoming for work, but longed to be back home. So when the chance presented itself, they moved back to Grass Creek again to work at the Church's mine. Her father's skill and reputation gained him an appointment as the General mine Inspector for Utah. That position allowed him to live where he chose, and the decided on Coalville. It was in Coalville where Mable graduated from 8th grade in 1909. [1]

Sister Pettit served in the Southern States Mission from June 13th, 1915 to March 26th, 1917. She started in Atlanta in the Georgia Conference,[2] where she worked with Sisters Hamilton and Huber.[3] In Atlanta their work included creating positive links with other Churches. A report described one such effort “Sisters Pearl Hamilton and Mabel Pettit, previous to Sister Pettit's transfer to the Florida Conference, upon invitation, attended a social of the Lady Missionaries' Society of the Baptist Church. They were treated with every courtesy and invited to return and pay them another visit at any time.”[4]

She transferred to Jacksonville in the Florida Conference on September 7th, 1915 and worked with Sister Peterson and Rindlisbacher.[5] The President of the Florida Conference wrote that “One [Jacksonville] lady said to them, "I thank the Lord that He sent you dear girls here this morning." [6] They didn’t just stay in Jacksonville. They also extended their efforts to nearby St. Augustine, Florida.[7]

Then she transferred back to Atlanta on May 28th, 1916 with Sister Rindlisbacher. She was quickly transferred to South Carolina on July 25th 1916 and assigned to work in the Greenville Branch with Sister May Ricks.[8] There she also met Elder McNeill and his companion Elder Hammer. Their work in Greenville, South Carolina could be considered typical of the work they were expected to do everywhere. They tracted, selling Books of Mormon as well as other books and tracts. The ran the YLMIA (Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association), Sunday Schools, and Relief Societies, organizing them when necessary.[9] The sisters traveled more in South Carolina than perhaps in other Conferences. They visited the Indian Nation or Roddy Branch, as well as Seneca, and Liberty. [10]  They were expected to use any talents they possessed. Mission records indicate Mabel played the organ and she did so for a meetinghouse dedication in Sarah, Mississippi.

This photo of Sis Pettit and her South Carolina companion 
was published in the LDS Church’s missionary newsletter 
Liahona: The Elders Journal Volume 14 page 366

Mabel was transferred to Middle Tennessee, along with Nellie Rindlisbacher as the first two sister missionaries in the Conference on December 8th, 1916.[11] Although reports only indicate that they "canvassed", and held meetings.[12] It was likely they did many of the same things they did in other conferences.
This photo of Sis Pettit and her fellow Middle Tennessee 
missionaries was published in the LDS Church’s missionary 
newsletter Liahona: The Elders Journal Volume 15 page 126.

Missions don't last forever. For Sister Pettit it ended on March 26th, 1917.[13] Her return was noted in the local paper [14] which also referred to her father by the title of Bishop (Coalville Ward 1912-1918).  By June she had moved to Salt Lake City, and her visits home were mentioned in the papers. [15] She obtained a position beginning in the Fall of 1917 to teach school in Coalville. [16]

In February 1918, Henry "Elmer" McNeill began visiting Mabel in Coalville. [17] He also served in the Southern States Mission and spent his whole tenure in the South Carolina Conference from Oct 12th, 1915 to January 27th, 1918. Elmer was from New Mexico, not Utah, so it is likely they met for the first time on their mission in South Carolina. Mabel married Elmer on June 12th, 1918. The couple settled in American Fork, Utah. They had two children.

From there Mable disappears from the public record. Little was written about her, though she did write about her parents, from which I have gleaned some of this information. Mable died on December 23rd, 1985 in American Fork, Utah.

[1] Park Record 1909-05-29 Untitled
[2] Liahona: The Elders Journal, 13:63
[3] Liahona: The Elders Journal, 13:141 & 189
[4] Liahona: The Elders Journal, 13:286
[5] Liahona: The Elders Journal, 13:237 & 606
[6] Liahona: The Elders Journal, 13:286
[7] Liahona: The Elders Journal, 13:731
[8] Liahona: The Elders Journal, 14:236
[9] Liahona: The Elders Journal, 14:284
[10] Liahona: The Elders Journal, 14:349 & 399
[11] Southern States Mission Manuscript Index, Page 301.
[12] Liahona: The Elders Journal, 14:447
[13] Southern States Mission Mauscript Index, Page 301.
[14] Park Record 1917-04-06 Coalville Notes; Salt Lake Tribune, 1917-04-08, News of the Women's Clubs
[15] Park Record 1917-06-01 Coalville Notes; Park Record 1918-01-11; Park Record 1918-01-25 Coal Ville; Salt Lake Tribune, 1917-06-03, Social Nortes from Utah Towns.
[16] Salt Lake Tribune, 1917-05-20, Teachers Assigned for Ensuing Year
[17] Park Record 1918-02-08 Coalville
See also Emma Matilda Wilde Pettit Biography by Mabel Pettit McNeill

Monday, March 31, 2014

Jacob F. Miller's Mission to Tennessee - An introduction.

A couple years back I learned that my great grandfather served his mission in the Southern States, and in particular in Tennessee. Thanks to the work of my brother, his three journals have been transcribed and I now have a copy of that transcription.

While I am sure that some of you might find every word of his journal fascinating, I have resisted the urge to simply post it here in serial form. Why? I'm not entirely sure. Of course the length is one issue. It has almost 300 pages of detail greater than the average person can tolerate. It isn't light reading. But in the detail is a trove of information if your hobby is reading missionary journals. And his style is a combination of dry and clever. Some days he wrote only the barest details, and other days he was eloquent. He named names, and described places. He revealed customary missionary practices (i.e. he and his companions took turns asking for a place to stay the night), explained how he spend money, and sometimes speculated where other missionaries were. His journal described his own personal world, noting the letters he sent and received connecting him to Utah, while his awareness of the wider world around him comes through loud and clear.

On each day he wrote he noted his location. Taking those places I searched for the frequency those places are mentioned in his journal. Using my limited mapping skills I put together the following. For those of you not familiar with Tennessee, this covers an area east of Nashville and west of Knoxville. He spent most of his time in the Upper Cumberland region.

Jacob Franklin Miller1 arrival into the world was marked with this note in his father's journal "Tuesday, December 9, 1856, my 21st birthday was spent in getting my last load of wood for my winter fuel, green cottonwood, which we first cooked or dried in the stove oven and then burned. I arrived late and found my wife in labor and December 10, one-half hour after midnight, our first son, Jacob Franklin was born."

He was studious by nature, intelligent, and known for his mathematical ability. In his journal on Wednesday June 25, 1879 is an example:
"Yesterday my father read an account of a gentleman who had trained his memory to such perfection that he could multiply two numbers of fifteen figures each performing the operation mentally. 'I don't know that I could do that' I said half aloud. 'Could you with five figures' my father inquired. (The) answer on return from work in the evening. I brought an answer to the first problem mentioned, that of multiplying fifteen figure by fifteen. I had worked along with the boys in the field doing my share of the work and at intervals talking with the boys. The answer contained thirty figures. Upon proving the work I found three figures to be incorrect. The next forenoon I took the following example 987,654,321,987,654,321 x 123,456,789,123,456,789 obtaining 121,932,631,356,500,531,347,203,169,112,635,269 as the answer.2 I set the answer down at noon and working the example upon paper proved it to be correct. In the second example as in the first I was interrupted by conversation besides having to pay attention to my work. Those with whom I was working did not know that my mind was occupied aside from my work."

He was a deeply religious man. Another Farmington resident wrote about him and attributed the healing of her husband to his priesthood administration.3 He was President of the 40th Quorum of Seventies.4

He taught school both before and after his mission. He attended Wesleyan University in Illinois, though I have yet been able to identify when. In 1892 he became professor of History and Political Science and was listed as the Librarian and Registrar as well.5 He eventually was the chair of the department at Brigham Young College in Logan, was first counselor to the Faculty President, and a Fellow of the Historical Society of America.6 I've not been able to locate anything he published, but there are so many places to check still.

On September 18, 1901 he married Hulda Larson, daughter of Ola Larson (landscape architect. See here and here, and Ardis' post here) and Johanna Nilson. They had two children, Joseph Larson, born September 1, 1902 and Helen Mar, born November 13, 1903. "He would come home from school each day to eat with the family. He would enter the home from an outside door leading into the bedroom, change his clothes, and then go in to eat. He would take his two young children, one on each knee, and would play and talk with them while eating. When it was time to return to school he would go back into the bedroom, change his clothes again, and return to school. He loved his family dearly and would spend as much time as possible with them."

Late in 1905 he became ill with stomach problems. His condition was considered "very serious."7 It was eventually diagnosed as pernicious anemia, and condition now treated with Vitamin B12, but was then always fatal. He died at his residence on March 25, 1906 leaving his wife and two very young children, aged 4 and 3.


1I am drawing heavily on an existing biography

2In the interest of due diligence I tried to check his math  using my spreadsheet program (Excel). The program would not allow me to enter more than 15 significant figures, rendering it incapable of doing this calculation.

3Life of Laura Louisa Smith

4Pioneers and prominent men of Utah

5The American University Magazine, May 1896, Vol 4 No 1, New York City. See also Brigham Young College Catelogue 1895-1902

6The Improvement Era, Volume 9 page 581 see also Officers, Committees, Act of Incorporation, Constitution, Organization and List of Members 1905 By American Historical Association

7 Professor Miller Very Ill. Salt Lake Tribune, November 17, 1905, page 10 

Other Notes

The Tri-Weekly Journal of Logan, Utah in 1895 wrote: The Library at present contains upward of 2,500 bound volumes and 600 pamphlets and additions will be made during the year to meet the requirements of students in the several Departments. Professor Miller's valuable collection on History and Political Science will be the most desirable parts of Logan City, at the corner of First and College streets on the North Fork of Logan River.

According to a BYC Catalogue entry for him he was a Student in the University of Utah, 1873-74. 1875-76, 1885; On mission to the Southern States, 1883-1885; Superintendent of Public Schools, Davis County, 1889: Teacher of Advanced Department Davis Stake Academy, 1889-1891; D. B., Church Board of Education. 1896; A. B., Brigham Young College, 1902; Member of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and also member of the Historical Association since 1897; Present position since 1892.  [Member of the following standing committees] College Council, Scholarship and Graduation, Library

According to the same BYC Catalogue,  From 1902 to 1906 he taught courses on Church History and Doctrine, Ecclesiastical History, Church History II, Principles of the Gospel, European History, History of Orient & Greece, History of Rome, History of U.S., Establishment of the Church by Christ, Civil Government, Life of Christ, Political Economy, Old Testament, and American History. Newspaper in 1893 also noted he taught Higher Algebra, Commercial Arithmetic, Historical Reading, Ancient History and Ecclesiastical History.