Friday, November 20, 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Keeping the Saints Informed: John Morgan and the Southern States Mission

While he served as President of the Southern States Mission, John Morgan or his missionaries sent regular letters to the Deseret News keeping the Saints in Utah Territory up to date about the missionaries and converts. Here is a letter I saw today while looking for something else.

The letter is written from Covington, Indiana, December 1879. Morgan describes the immigration of the Southern converts to Manassa, Colorado, both a company that left in November and one scheduled to leave in March. Negotiating with the railroads was an important part of his mission, and he mentions a detail or two about that. He mentions specific missionaries and encourages those missionaries called at Conference to show up: " would lighten the burden on the rest of us materially, and be the means of doing much good; thousands and thousands of people in this mission have never met an Elder and are in absolute ignorance of what we teach."

He tells about a visit to St. Louis, and, "Passing through Illinois, I called to see my parents, whom I had not met with for four years; a church house was opened for me and I was invited to preach, which I did to a crowded house who paid close attention." He met Elder George Nebeker in Covington, and was planning to head immediately to Kentucky.
Asking an interest in the faith and prayers of Israel, that our missionary labors may be crowned with success, I remain your brother in the Gospel of Christ,
John Morgan.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Maria Tanner Lyman, Plural Marriage, and the Godbeites

I am slowly starting to build a case that the Tanner family disliked plural marriage and, with the possible exception of Nathan, only practiced it later and with great reluctance, and then largely as a social safety net for needy women. Here is one more data point.

In 1872 more than 400 Utah women sent a petition to Congress requesting that the Territory not be admitted as a state as long as the Church was still practicing plural marriage. The petition was created and circulated by the spiritualist Godbeites, who were seeking to wrest political and economic power from Brigham Young. 

In the case of a similar petition the Church claimed that its signers did not know the exact contents of the petition, but it is probably impossible to tell if it was the case with the women listed in this petition. There were a number of acute stresses in the Territory in the early 1870s, and many families would have been struggling.

Here are three excerpts from the petition; the first from the cover letter, the second from the actual petition; the third from the list of names.

The language is very strong, but Louisa Maria Tanner Lyman had suffered greatly as the first of many wives of the polygamist and probably mentally ill Amasa M. Lyman. By this point he had been ousted from the Quorum of the Twelve and excommunicated. Is it possible that he put her name on the petition without her consent? It's probably impossible to say.

(In case anyone questions the identification, although she went by the name "Maria," she usually went by the name Louisa M Lyman in government documents, and there were no other women of the same name in the Territory.)

Additional Reading

Edward Leo Lyman, Amasa Mason Lyman: Mormon Apostle and Apostate, A Study in Dedication, 2009.
Ronald Walker, Wayward Saints: The Godbeites and Brigham Young, 1998.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Autobiography of Ann Prior Jarvis

In 1890 Ann Prior Jarvis sat down with a new blank book and wrote out a clean copy of her autobiography. She got 33 pages in and then never finished, so years later her daughter Josephine copied the rest of her mother's history from another book, added some biographical information, added a history of her father, and donated the book to the Washington County DUP.

DUP President Jeanine Vander Bruggen kindly sent a copy of the book along with biographies for the other women in the Eminent Women of the St. George Temple project, a project I'm planning to resume once I finish my book on the slaves in Utah Territory.

There is a copy in the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, and several years ago I added a link to the catalog entry. The link became broken over time and a Jarvis cousin wrote to ask about the document, so I added the entire autobiography to Ann's FamilySearch Family Tree Memories section, split into three parts since it's so large. (Look in the "Documents" section and click "More..." The three files are near the end.)
Ann Prior Jarvis: Memories
Here are images of the first few pages.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Finding John Tanner among the Country Roads and Farms of Greenwich, New York

From Flickr, used as is.
Sometime in 1810, perhaps in the later half of the year after the harvest was over, a census taker followed the winding country roads of Greenwich, New York, to provide an accurate list of all the inhabitants of the town, black or white, free or slave.

The census taker recorded two John Tanners in Greenwich, both men with families of about the same age.

Unfortunately neither entry matches our Tanner family genealogy. The most likely scenario is that the second John Tanner is ours, since he is listed close to his mother Thankful, but neither entry is a perfect match.

Here are the numbers. The first group is how the Tanner family should have looked in the census, based on the genealogy. The next group is a John Tanner family living with two free blacks. The third group is the John Tanner family living close to the widowed Thankful Tanner. Neither family has slaves; by 1810 there were only eight left in Greenwich.

Note that extra individuals in the family do not matter one way or the other since families were often more fluid than today due to early deaths. The more concerning data points would be the lack of small children who should have been at home with their mother.


Under 10  2-3 William (age 7-8), Sidney (age 1), possibly Elisha (age 9-10) unless he was living with the Bentlys
Under 16  0-1 possibly Elisha (age 9-10)
Under 26  0
Under 45  1   John Tanner (age 31-32)

Under 10  1  Matilda (age 5-6)
Under 16  0
Under 26 0
Under 45  1  Lydia Tanner (age 26-27)

OPTION 1 (Page 4, bottom half, line 6)

Under 10  2
Under 16  1
Under 26 0
Under 45  1

Under 10  0
Under 16   0
Under 26   1
Under 45   1

Free blacks 2
Slaves  0

OPTION 2 (Page 5, top half, line 14)

Under 10  1
Under 16  1
Under 26 0
Under 45  1

Under 10  2
Under 16  0
Under 26 0
Under 45  1

Free blacks 0
Slaves  0

The first entry works if Elisha was counted as 10, Matilda was put in the wrong age group, and the Tanners had two free blacks living with them. The second entry works if Elisha was counted as 10 years old and the census taker accidentally recorded one of the little boys as a girl.

Note that Thankful's entry is strange: she is listed in the under-45 category, but she was actually in her 50s. She also has four boys ages 10-26 living with her (Pardon, Francis, Joshua, and William) and one girl under 10 (perhaps a granddaughter; could this be Matilda?).

Another option is that John Tanner was living elsewhere, but this is not supported by the family history or by any online indexed copy of the US Census. If anyone wanted to read through the entire Washington County Census to check for a wrongly-indexed entry, the easiest way would be to read the copy at
Washington County Census
Washington County starts on page 291 and goes through 379. Greenwich is at the very end, and the concluding page of the census (381) notes that it was filed on February 7, 1811.

Another avenue of investigation would be to figure out the identity of the other John Tanner and decide out if he is an obvious match for one of the census records.

This is a case where we do not have enough data to make a final decision, but since John was shown farming his father's land in the tax records, it's likely that he was located close to his mother, if we can assume that the census was geographical in nature.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Freighting the Tabernacle Organ ... or Whoops, Did I Repeat an Urban Legend?

From Wikipedia.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir was broadcasting from the Salt Lake Tabernacle instead of the Conference Center this morning, so I told my son the story that I saw in the family history and wrote into a biography of Sidney Tanner:
The Tanners lived in San Bernardino until 1857, when Brigham Young called the settlers back to Utah Territory at the time Johnston’s Army was threatening the Saints. Sidney and his family settled in the beautiful valley of Beaver, Utah, after Sidney delivered the new Tabernacle pipe organ to Salt Lake City.
Sidney Tanner
I pointed to the great bank of organ pipes and said that it had some of the original pipes that Sidney would have helped transport. Then my History Hogwash Meter™ kicked in and I remembered that the Tabernacle was built in the 1860s, several years after the Saints left San Bernardino.

An official History of the Tabernacle notes that Joseph Ridges constructed the organ for the new Tabernacle out of ponderosa pine from Pine Valley, Utah, a logging settlement in the mountains above St. George. Like our Bryant-Parkinson-Stapley family, Joseph Ridges was an English emigrant from Australia. His family settled first in San Bernardino, then moved to Salt Lake City during the Utah War

But it would be a mistake to abandon the family story even though it doesn't fit into this timeline: the Tabernacle shown above was the second Tabernacle the Church built. The first one was an adobe building situated where the Assembly Hall is now, and it did, in fact have an organ built by Joseph Ridges in Australia and transported across the Pacific Ocean and then across the Mojave Desert and through old Utah Territory to Great Salt Lake City.

1855 Carl Flemming map of the Southwest, David Rumsey maps

Here is the story of the first organ from a Church News article provided by Joseph Ridge's family.
[Around 1853] Joseph became convinced of the truth of the gospel. He and his wife were later baptized. 
In his spare time he began to build a small, seven-stop pipe organ. Fascinated with the instrument, Mission President Augustus Farnham asked Ridges to donate it to the Church in Salt Lake City. Ridges agreed, and when Pres. Farnham sailed for Utah, he was accompanied by the Ridges—and the organ—who were among a company of 120 aboard the Jenny Ford. When the ship landed in California, they accompanied the members to San Bernardino.... 
Joseph H. Ridges
The following spring Brigham Young sent teams and wagons to haul the organ to Salt Lake City, where it arrived in June 1857. The small organ was installed in the small adobe tabernacle that was built on Temple Square where the Assembly Hall now stands. But with Johnston's Army approaching Utah, the organ was dismantled and packed, and was evacuated to the south along with the population of Salt Lake City. When the fear of war was over, the organ was returned to the old tabernacle, and when the Assembly Hall was built, many of its pipes and better parts were incorporated into the Assembly Hall organ. 
In the 1860's, construction on the present Tabernacle began. Brigham Young asked Ridges, who was then farming in Provo, if he could build a grand organ for the new building. Although Ridges' only previous organ-building experience was on the small organ, he had no doubt that he could build a large organ.... (Source.)
Stuart Grow's thesis "A Historical Study of the Construction of the Salt Lake Tabernacle" specifies that the organ was transported by teams sent from San Bernardino by Charles C. Rich and Amasa M. Lyman (Sidney's brother-in-law). The organ was played for the first time in the Old Tabernacle on October 11, 1857. (Link.)

The Old Tabernacle to the left of the New Tabernacle.

Since the family preserved this memory and Sidney was one of a small group of Mormon freighters running the dangerous trade route between Salt Lake City and San Bernardino, the biographical note about transporting the Tabernacle organ is undoubtedly true, and I will leave his biography mostly as is, but add a note about it being the Old Tabernacle organ.

According to the Church News article, part of the Australian organ was used for the Assembly Hall organ after the Assembly Hall was built on the site of the Old Tabernacle. Here is a picture.

Creative Commons, used as is, Aaron Goodwin, Flickr. 

Note: There's a new well-reviewed history, Michael Hicks, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: A Biography (2015). I haven't read it yet, but the reviews are positive.

Friday, September 25, 2015

... still screening ...

The front page of the October 27, 1857 Daily Alta California is still not showing up in FamilySearch. If there is a review process, it is very slow. If it has been censored, it would be good of FamilySearch to let me know the reason.

(The newspaper shows as "Screening in process" in multiple accounts. I added the document to three entries on August 19.)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

... still screening ...

After I put up the last post about Sidney Tanner and the Mountain Meadows Massacre, I added the newspaper to his FamilySearch entry and also tagged William Mathews and Ira Hatch. The terms in the title or description must have triggered a review by a human, because two weeks later the newspaper still shows as follows.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wills and Probate: Sidney Tanner

Have you heard about Ancestry's wonderful new U.S. Wills and Probate collection? I've been using it all day and have found some great information for my book, including a notice that was misfiled into a probate folder although it belonged elsewhere, but was valuable in explaining a strange part of the history of a Missouri family.

Since I've been concentrating on Sidney Tanner's history recently, I pulled up his probate record. It was a difficult situation, since he had two wives, but only one was legally able to appear in court.

Each probate file is indexed by contents, as you can see in the right sidebar, making it easier to navigate through the file. I do wish it were possible to download the entire file with one click!

Sidney's file does not include a detailed inventory, which is disappointing, since that's my favorite part of any probate, but it does give a snapshot into the circumstances of his later years.

Have you used this new collection yet? Find anything interesting?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sidney Tanner and the Mountain Meadows Massacre

Daily Alta California, Mountain Meadows Massacre, October 27, 1857, 1.

Sidney Tanner and William Mathews were freighting between Salt Lake City and San Bernardino. They left Salt Lake City and made their way down along the rough pioneer road and drove into Cedar City just after the horrible tragedy at Mountain Meadows.

Their wagons were stopped and they were not allowed to go any further. Finally they negotiated travel through the area, guided by Indian missionary Ira Hatch. They could not have known that Hatch had just murdered Abel Baker, the last of the Arkansas emigrants killed in a massacre directed by Isaac C. Haight and John D. Lee and others, and carried out by the men of the Iron County Military District of the Nauvoo Legion. 

The account in the Daily Alta California was collected by a reporter writing under a pseudonym, and included the accounts of two travelers, George Powers of Arkansas and P. M. Warn of New York, who had been traveling with Sidney Tanner and William Mathews.

Sidney Tanner and William Mathews were not participants in the Massacre, and although they were taken past the massacre site at night, they must have seen proof of the awful carnage, which was represented to them as being the work of the local native tribes. Mathews was a former Southerner and a slave-owner and had a fiery temper, which is evident in the newspaper report of his comments after the Massacre.

For reliable information about the massacre, see the book Massacre at Mountain Meadows (Walker, Turley, Leonard), with important data summarized at