Tuesday, April 7, 2009

History of the Southern States Mission, Part 9: We Meet The Mysterious Robert Edge

(Photo of Hyrum Belnap.)

Having completed the history of the Martyrdom of Joseph Standing, as written by Elder John Nicholson, we will proceed with the history of the Mission from our own records.—Ed.

January, 1880, President John Morgan made a trip through Kentucky into Virginia, visiting the Elders and Saints in the various branches en route. During this month an attempt was made by certain enemies of the work to induce the Governors of Mississippi and Alabama to force the Elders to leave the states over which they presided, which was unsuccessful.

Elders from Virginia, Georgia and Mississippi reported new districts covered by them with considerable success.

February, President Morgan and Elder Mathias F. Cowley made a trip into North Carolina from Virginia, arriving at Mt. Airy on the 18th inst., and held a series of well attended meetings resulting in much good.

Elder Franklin Spencer reported the conversion and baptism of five persons at the Cane Creek branch of the church, and that a general good feeling prevailed throughout the conference.

During this month Elder Charles H. Bliss reported success in obtaining the court house at Columbus county, Ala., for meetings, but that some enemies had disturbed them by turning off the gas, and had created a very offensive smell, which was diffused throughout the hall. The means being accomplished by the aid of sulphate of Hydrogen.

March, Elder Alexander Spencer reported a visit into Patrick county, Virginia, opening up a new district in which the court house had been secured and meetings held during which one convert was baptised. Elder J.H. Moyle also reported a successful trip through the interior of North Carolina, into fields not before visited. Reports from Fannin county, Georgia, by Elder Howard and Edlefsen, indicated the baptism of three, and a general spirit of earnest inquiry, and Elder Mathias S. Cowley reported the baptism of seven persons in Virginia.

On the 22nd of March a colony of Saints from Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky were gathered to emigrate to Colorado; they were accompanied as far as Cincinnati by Elder Frank MacDonald and Levi P. Helm, who parted from them at Cincinnati and proceeded to Muhlenberg county, Kentucky, to open up a new field.

April, 1880, in addition to reports of the distribution of many tracts, meetings held, and miles traveled in promulgating the Gospel—another company of Saints left for Colorado, leaving Chattanooga on the 28th inst., and arriving safely at their destination. They were accompanied by President Morgan and Elder H.W. Barnett, who were joined at St. Louis by Elders Cowley and Spence, they having been honorably released to return home.

During the month of May Elders Hyrum Belnap and George H. Carver had the pleasure of baptizing seventeen persons who had listened to the preaching of a mysterious Mr. Edge, who appeared in Henderson County, Tennessee. He came during the month of April, 1878. No one knew where from not where he went, except that he preached the same doctrines as those taught by the Latter-Day Saints, but steadily refused to officiate in the ordinances thereof, telling the people that an opportunity would soon be given them to embrace the Gospel in its fullness: that those having authority to officiate in the Gospel ordinances would soon be along.

As will be noted in the story as told by Elder Bench, Mr. Edge inaugurated a three days’ fast; promising those who maintained it they would remain faithful till the opportunity was presented. And, as a matter of fact, those seventeen persons did keep the fast: and when Elders Belnap and Carver preached in the county it was universally conceded that the doctrines as taught were identical with Mr. Edge, and the looked for opportunity had arrived at last; and these seventeen quickly embraced it.

Just prior to Elder Bench’s return home to Fairview, Utah, last December, he told the Star man the following story which digression, it is hoped, will be pardoned, as it seems to be very properly a part of the history of the Southern States Mission. This is what he told the Star representative:

While in Madison County my companion and I, Elder Ray Wentz, of Provo, Utah, met with an experience that will interest Star readers. One evening about sundown, on December 10th, 1896, we came to a house near the county line of Madison and Henderson, midway between Jackson and Lexington. We were very tired and had intended to solicit entertainment at this house, which appeared to be a well-to-do farmer. As we approached the house we were greeted with, “Go right in, men, I’ll be in in a minute,” from a tall stately looking man who was feeding some stock. This cordial welcome rather surprised us, as the neighborhood was very bitter and it was difficult to find any friends.

We promptly done as we were bid and when our host came in he said to us: “You’re Mormons, aren’t you?” After responding to him in the affirmative he remarked: “I thought you were; I entertained one of your men about fourteen years ago—a man named Robert Edge.”

Being tired we were indeed grateful to find a friend and what was our surprise to find we were given the same bed that the famous Robert Edge had used so many years before. Mr. J.W. Sweet, the kind-hearted farmer soon had us feeling thoroughly at home and during the evening the following description of this mysterious individual was secured and jotted down in my journal. It is as follows: “Mr. Robert Edge was somewhat poorly clad; a black suit, with sack coat, woolen shirt, soft felt hat; this constituted his appearance with a bible and some writing material tied up in a red bandana handkerchief. He was a short, heavy set man weighing about 135 or 140 pounds, long, black wavy hair, black eyebrows, and full, but medium length beard, blue eyes, heighth [sic] between 5 feet 6 or 7 inches, age between 35 and 40 years, well versed in scripture, being able to prove all he taught.”

Mr. Sweet is and was at the time of his meeting with Mr. Edge, a Christian or Campbellite preacher, and freely acknowledged that his earlier visitor could completely master any arguments he might advance against what Mr. Sweet called “Mormonism,” nor has he any desire to cross swords with any Mormon Elders.

Mr. Edge preached at Lexington about a week and it is said converted fully thirty people by his forciful [sic] exhortation and while here, at Mr. Sweet’s neighborhood, instituted a three-day’s fast promising those who maintained it they would have an opportunity of embracing the gospel. Seventeen of them did so, and eventually became members of the church, some of whom emigrated west, locating in Colorado.

Another peculiarity of this Mr. Edge: he was a strict abstinent, not eating any hog meat, nor drinking any kind of stimulating liquids. His fame was quite widespread throughout all Madison, Henderson, Decatur and Perry counties.

Latter Day Saints Southern Star, Vol. 1, No. 13. Chattanooga, Tenn. Saturday, February 25, 1899, p 97.

Photo of Hyrum Belnap from www.belnapfamily.org/Hyrum_Belnap.jpg.

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