Wednesday, April 15, 2009

History of the Southern States Mission, Part 12: Friends and Enemies

The success which attended the arduous labors of the Elders expended during the year 1880 did not terminate therewith, but merged into the following year.

During the month of January, 1881, the cause of truth seemed to prevail in Georgia and North Carolina, as many honest souls were initiated into the fold of Christ.

While Elder B.H. Roberts was laboring in the Tennessee Conference (now known as Middle Tennessee Conference), he was forced to enter the arena of religious discussion.

The people of Wilson county manifested a desire to overthrow the teachings of the Mormon Elders and therefore procured one of their most able biblical scholars to meet the (at that time) young but fearless advocate of the Gospel of the Lamb of God.

The debate began February 5th and lasted three days. Listeners came from far and near, curious to learn the supposed absurdities and defeat of Mormonism. The discussion was an ardent one and proved to be far-reaching in its results, so far as Mormonism is concerned. Many honest people were brought to a realization of their true condition before the Father, and thus seeing their mistakes, repented thereof and turned unto Christ.

During the month of April, 1881, it was deemed advisable to make a change in the locality of the Mission’s headquarters. Previously having been at Rome, Georgia; but now its location was to be in Nashville, Tennessee.

No striking incidents occurred in the missionary field during this month.

The pleasantness of May and June seems to have been imbibed by all the people of the Sunny South; the Elders were treated with kindness and generosity. The harvest reaped by the indefatigable labors of the servants of Christ during this month was encouraging indeed. Many baptisms being recorded and success generally followed the Elders. The brightness of these months was not to be perpetuated by that of July. There was to be a change; night was to follow the day; the calm was to be dispelled by the gale.

While President Morgan, with Elders Bean and Houston, were holding a series of meetings at Mount Lookout, St. Clair county, Alabama, an intoxicated mob, headed by a Baptist preacher, assaulted them and commanded them to desist from further dissemination of Mormonism in that part of the country. The name of the mobocrats were Rev. Archie Newburn, Samuel P. McClellan, Frank Simmons, Benjamin Phillips, Ross Cooper, William McDill, Jefferson Hood, Floyd Gray and Walter Price.

[I’m not finding all of these men listed in the 1880 census. Ross Cooper, Ashville and Old Town, St. Clair, Alabama, was born in 1857 in Alabama. He was about 24 years old at this time and a single, white male, clerking in a store. The Simmons, McDill, Hood, and Gray families were well represented in St. Clair. “J.F.” Gray was a 26 year old married, white farmer at the time and may have been the “Floyd” listed.]

After the difficulties at Mt. Lookout the Elders made their way through the country to Springville, where they spent the week. Several times they were visited and told to leave the country, but they steadily refused; they insisted that they were delegated to preach the Gospel in that county and rather than ignore their commission they would lay their bodies in a martyr’s tomb.

Securing Brother Wm. Posey’s house, the Elders circulated an appointment to the effect that they would preach at the above named residence Sunday at 11 a.m. The meeting had no sooner commenced, at which there was a large crowd, before some forty men on horseback hove in sight. Recognizing them as being there for no good, the audience became alarmed and left the house in confusion. The Elders stepped into an adjacent log cabin and armed themselves with shotguns, and as soon as the mobocrats discovered that the Elders were armed and befriended by many of the people and were prepared for the attack, they became intimidated and skulked away.

The aid given the Elders in this hour of trial by Messrs. Allen Nichols, W.C. Murray, W.T. Bowling, Noah Franklin and Amos Posey should ever be held in fond remembrance. The names of these defenders and lovers of justice and equity should be enshrined in the hearts of the Elders of Israel.

[The 1880 census lists an Alfred Nichols, age 41, white, “working at ore,” married to Norah Nichols in Springville, St. Clair, Alabama. I see a number of Murrays and Franklins, but not these ones in particular. A.M. Posey, married to C.C. Posey, born in Maryland, a 63 year old farmer, is listed as the father of W.M Posey, and they are shown as living in Kellys Creek, Shelby, Alabama.]

Latter Day Saints Southern Star, Vol. 1, No. 15, Chattanooga, Tenn. Saturday, March 11, 1899, p 113.

Photo of the St. Clair County, Alabama, Courthouse from www.flickr.com/photos/ednoles/213656822/. Photo of the St. Clair, Alabama, family from www.flickr.com/photos/7847587@N03/1071478852/.

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