Monday, November 24, 2014

Minor Historical Puzzles Are Why I Do This.

In the last few weeks I have been working on a history of the Baird's Mill Branch. Baird's Mill was a small community 9 miles south of Lebanon, Tennessee. Today it is even smaller. But from 1881 to about 1888, it was the center of Mormon activity in Wilson County. I have researched the history of a few LDS communities in Tennessee, and one way to coalesce the facts together is to produce a timeline of baptisms. While in the process of creating this timeline, I ran into a historical puzzle.

If I go strictly by the records, the first baptism at Baird's Mill, that I've found, was on June 6th, 1880; William Riley Barrett. I know better than to disagree with the records unless I have proof they are wrong. But in 1880 there does not appear to have been any missionaries in Wilson County. Elders Lorenzo Hunsaker was supposedly working alone in Lewis and Hickman counties at the time. From May 19th to Jun 17th Hyrum Belnap & George H Carver were in Lexington, Tennessee baptizing 17 of the followers of Robert Edge. On May 6th John R Murdock left Salt Lake for Tennessee. Somewhere, unrecorded by history, he met up with Franklin Spencer, who had left Lewis county for Bedford county on May 12th. The two of them returned together to Lewis County on Jun 17th. Reports indicate they proselytized in Bedford & Coffee counties, but do not indicate that they crossed over the 35 miles of Rutherford county that separated them from Wilson County. The two claimed only 6 baptisms in Coffee County. The Barrett family lore claims not one of the five missionaries in Tennessee at the time, but that they were converted by B H Roberts. But Roberts was not in Tennessee in June 1880. He would not arrive for another 7 months.

So here was the puzzle. how could he have been baptized if there were no missionaries in the area to baptize him? The answer was, of course, that one of my data elements was wrong. But which one? There are three reasonable possibilities.

1. The recorded date is incorrect: Sadly this is more often the case than I would like to believe. A surprising number of baptismal dates in the Church records do not agree with the dates I see on primary sources. (And there is no good way for me to suggest a correction to ordinance dates. But, I digress.) I don't like to jump to this conclusion unless I have a primary document indicating that the record is wrong.
2. The missionary record is wrong, or more likely, incomplete. The only remedy for this is more digging. This means carefully reading more missionary journals, letters, newspaper reports, and mission records. The clues are in there, but they aren't going to volunteer themselves.
3. My assumptions are wrong. With historical records there are holes and you have to make some assumptions. But the key is to know what they are so they can be rethought easily. In this case I assumed the baptism took place near his home in Wilson county. He could have been working somewhere else, where he met the missionaries and was baptized. It would not be the first time.

Clues can be anywhere. For example, when James Barrett (William's son) took his family to Utah, he and his wife stopped in Midway, Utah where they were the guests of John R Murdock, a former missionary to Tennessee. Their first child was born there, and James worked for Murdock to earn money before he continued on to Salt Lake. James was able to save enough money to bring his younger brother to Utah and the two later brought the rest of the family. Midway is not on the way to anywhere, so it is unlikely James' stay there was by chance. Murdock appears to be a friend of the family.

There were limited ways the family could have met Murdock.  He was in Tennessee from May 1880 to May 1881. There are no indications that he went to Wilson County during most of his mission, though there are several holes in the record of his service. One hole is right at the beginning, which matches William's June 1st, 1880 baptism date. He could have been passing through Wilson county on his way to meet Franklin Spencer, which might explain why no one else in the family except William was baptized in June 1880. While there might have been other times when the family could have met Murdock, this one makes the most sense.

The only other member of the family to get baptized during Murdock's tenure in Tennessee was William's wife: Charlotte Varshti (Herron) Barrett on May 1st, 1881. However, Murdock was in Hickman county on that day and was on his way home immediately afterwards. If the Barrett family were friends with John Murdock to the extent that he would open his home to them in Utah, then it makes sense that he was the one who introduced them to the gospel. And associating that with William's baptism also makes sense. But there were other undocumented periods of Murdock's service.

As for the family lore attributing their conversion to B H Roberts? Well, that led to another clue. Roberts did indeed proselyte in Wilson County. He formed a branch there in 1881 and probably got to know the families of all the members very well. In a nod that perhaps the date was recorded wrong (and solving this whole problem), Roberts wrote in his own journal that he baptized five people on September 4th, 1881, including "Wm Barrett" but with nothing to clarify which William Barrett this was, Yes, in a county full of Barretts, there is more than one William. Although Roberts' journal is far from an official record, it was recorded at the time, making it a primary source.

So now I have more paths to follow. I may eventually decide that I've got enough to make a reasonable guess about the truth, but for now I'm mostly enjoying the process.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Emigration from Southwest Tennessee

Most of us know about the the Mormon Pioneers. Over 70,000 people who followed the call to gather in the west because of their belief in the restoration. There is even an official list: Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel Database. But because someone decided it must have a cut off (I'm not complaining, just making an observation) people who made the same journey after 1869 are not included. Granted, after that date most people went by train for nearly all of the journey. Before that date the train was not an option for much of the way.

From 1869 to 1900, there were still Mormons heading west. My guess is after 1890 and before 1900 the push to gather in Zion was slowly dropped.  Exactly when they stopped is not the point of this post. What is the point of this post is that there were companies organized too late for inclusion on the official list.

In the last couple of years I have been collecting information on who and when. Nothing formal, just making notes when I find something. I have noted it before on this blog and I do so again today. This list comes from the records of the Southwest Tennessee Conference. Operating from 1884-1888, its records cover a little earlier than that since there was some cleaning up of the membership records.

sometime in 1882
Casteel, Florida
Casteel, [illegible]

19 Jul 1882
Detrich, Francis M.

14/15 Nov 1882
Denton, Sam E.
Denton, Geo T.

Sometime in 1883
Nunneley, Miranda
Nunneley, Wm

15 Mar 1883
Denton, Jesse M.
Denton, Mary A.

26 Mar 1883
Stanfield, Eliza J.

28 Jul 1883
Miller, Nicholas Wm

November 1883 (based on other sources)
Braly, Octavia E.
Braley, Gaston La[Fayette] (See here.)
Braley, Nancy M. S.
Braley, Byron E.

15 Nov 1883
Denton, Elijah C.
Woods, Martha F L M
Balcomb, Jones S.
Miller, Sarah B
Miller, Mary B
Miller, John F

22 Mar 1884
Inmon, Samuel
Rainbolt, David A
Rainbolt, Betsy A
Clark, Merry S G
Miller, Phillip
Detrich, Argant
Denton, John W.
Denton, Rebecca J.
Rainbolt, Sarah E.
Miller, Virginia
Miller, Elizabeth F.

May 1885
Brown, Walter F[illegible]

18 Nov 1885
Cummings, Gordon Harvey

sometime in 1886
Brown, Sam'l David
Brown, Margaret
Brown, David Hugh

25 Aug 1886
Gilbert, Mary Catharine
Chambers, David Samuel
Chambers, Julihe Isabel
Barnett, Martha Ann
Gilbert, Leander Jackson

11 Nov 1886
Downing, [Sister]

1 Mar 1887
Acklin, Francis
McMurtrey, Frances Adaline
Gilbert, Thomas
Butler, Virginia Caroline
Gilbert, Martha Jane
Aaron, Elizabeth Ann
Gilbert, Ada M.
Aaron, Carolone E.
Aaron, Geo J. M.
Aaron, James M. E. M.

22 Nov 1887
Helton, Nancy Francis

Monday, November 10, 2014

Jacob F Miller - I find these people regard pleasure as a much worse evil than sin.

[A continuation of my GGGrandfather's missionary journal in Tennessee. For all his entries posted so far look here -bcrow]

Laurel Hill, Saturday June 2, 1883 Stopped last night with Prettyman Jones. He is much interested at present in a volume of sermons by one Benjamin Franklin, a Campbellite preacher. Visited Jefferson Lee today.

Laurel Hill, Monday June 4th 1883 Stopped Saturday night H. with Squire Felix Smith. Attended the meeting at the Baptist The Church yesterday. Preacher first read the 19th Chapter of First Corinthians then offered prayer. The reading however had been preceded by singing and was followed by singing. The preacher then took for his text the 13th verse of the chapter he had read and labored very hard to show first that repentance always, in and of necessity, and as taught by the Scriptures precedes Faith, and Second that as soon as one believes by the act of belief he obtains remission of sins and is saved. The minister then called upon the Methodist, Mr. Clark who had objected to us the preceding Sunday to pray after which he sang a hymn, prayed and then arranged for a meeting Saturday June 30th for the people to decide whether they wished him for a pastor or not. As the meeting was dismissed, I announced that by permission, the people generally known amongst them as Mormons would hold meeting there the next Sunday, and also that we would hold meeting at the Garner schoolhouse that afternoon. The Minister at once spoke up that he had forgotten to give out an appointment for a meeting in the afternoon, which he was going to hold. After we had got out of the house, Marion Pullham, a deacon of the Baptist Church called the attention of the congregation and announced that the appointment given out for next Sunday was objected to by the Church. I replied that it would then be withdrawn. I understand that warm words occurred about the affair after we left the house. We took dinner at Squire Smiths and came on up to our appointment at the Garner schoolhouse where we are writing today but which is in Putnam Co. and must therefore belong to some other district aside from Laurel Hill. We had a good audience. Stopped with the Clemmens Brothers last night and until after dinner today.

Laurel Hill, June 6, 1883 Stopped night before last at John Jones' in Buffalo Valley. Yesterday Sophronia Welch a neighbor of Mr. Jones sent for us to come and pray for her. We had no oil but held prayer in the house and then prayed for her, placing our hands on her head as in administration. I asked her if she was in much pain. She replied "not now." I asked her if she felt better to which she replied that she did. I then  explained to her our method of administering to the sick, told her that we had so far been unable to procure any oil, but would endeavor to do so, and enquired as to whether she wished us to return if we got the oil. She replied that she did. We went to the drugstore kept by Mr. Gilliam the Baptist Pastor of the Sunday before. He had sent for Olive oil and received sweet oil instead. He was very polite and told us of a neighbor, Captain Mr. Gee who was wishing to see us. We stopped last night at S. H. Smith's. He told us that Mr. Bartlett had gone to a lawyer for advice about disposing of the Church and had been advised to complete it and then sell it if the Church did not pay him what he had advanced above his donation. Mr. Smith added that the Church would never pay him, they were not able to do so. Squire Smith had told us that Bartlett was talking of selling the Church and he hoped that he would do it. We came here to Dr. Sybert's today to write our mail. He informs me that Bartlett is intending to sell the Church and added if he does we are going to buy it for a schoolhouse and hold it free for all denominations to preach in. The weather is very warm with frequent showers. We stay at Dr. Sybert tonight.

Laurel Hill June 8, 1883 Fasted yesterday until supper. Visited Mrs. Welch. She was sitting up and is better. Both Mr. and Mrs. Welch urged us to call on them when we were passing and Mrs. Welch wished us to hold meeting as she was unable to attend at the Garner schoolhouse. We stopped last night at Capt. McGee's, a neighbor of his, Mr. Wallace spending the evening with us. McGee is a Christian without a Church. We meet a number of these men who unwilling to accept the Doctrine taught by any of the denominations, have established a code for themselves, and my experience has been that such men are more inclined to bend the truth to serve their opinions than men who have with their opinions the belief of the community and the tradition of their fathers. Perhaps this is from the egotism of human nature displaying itself in supporting out all hazards opinions so peculiarly their own both in origin and faith. The Captain received us very kindly and urged us to call again. Stopped last night at W. E. Bartlett's. Learn of a Methodist meeting this evening, which we are expecting to attend. 

Garner Schoolhouse, Monday June 11, 1883 Attended Methodist meeting last Saturday night. The circuit rider gave a discourse, taking for his text First Thessalonians Fifth Chapter Twenty-third verse. [I'll quote it here so you don't have to look it up: And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.]  I find these people regard pleasure as a much worse evil than sin. Saturday night we stopped with Mayberry Smith, a son-in- law of W. E. Bartlett's. Sunday we came here expecting to hear Mr. Chaffin, but it rained severely during the forenoon and no one but ourselves reached the schoolhouse. The rain ceasing, we went to George Jones' for  dinner and returning found a large congregation for the building. Elder Holbrook spoke less than ten minutes, I  followed speaking an hour, but being tired from our rapid climbing up the hill I found the effort at speaking very tiresome. We stopped over night with James Jones, an uncle of George Jones. Talking of war times, he relates an anecdote of a man with whom he was acquainted who fled to Kentucky, afterward attempted to visit his family here and was captured by some of his neighbors who first cut off his arms at the elbows, afterwards at the shoulders, then cut out his tongue and finally shot him. I gave out an appointment for meeting here on Sunday July 1st at 3 P.M. I think the Campbellites here were convinced yesterday that we were not teaching Campbellite doctrines. That has been talked considerably by them and by other parties but I think the remarks yesterday would give them some idea of a vast difference between us.