Wednesday, June 3, 2009

History of the Southern States Mission, Part 17: Tensions Build

The remains of Elder Robinson were taken home under the charge of Elder Easton October, 1883. The first of this month Elders Parish and Wilson were transferred from the Georgia to the East Tennessee Conference. On the 10th of this month Elder Butler was released to return home on account of failing health. On the 19th a company of Elders arrived from Zion, and on the 23d a party of five Elders arrived, and on the 28th Elder Josiah Richardson arrived. During the latter part of this month President Roberts visited a portion of the West Tennessee Conference, a considerable number of meetings were held and many valuable instructions were given. On Nov. 13 President Morgan arrived in the mission and on the 15th Presidents Morgan and Roberts conducted an emigration of seventy-three Saints to Zion. During this month many baptisms were reported.

On Dec. 4 a small party of Saints left Arkansas en route for Arizona. Feb. 6, 1884, President Roberts arrived in the mission from Zion, where he had been visiting relatives and friends. On the 14th of this month a party of thirty-three Saints left Chattanooga en route for Utah and Colorado. President Roberts accompanied the party. During this month many baptisms were reported.

The statistical report for six months ending Feb. 29 is as follows: Traveling Elders, 87; branches, 25; local Elders, 27; Priests, 25; teachers, 7; lay members, 832; baptisms, 135; emigrated, 83, and children blessed, 50.

On March 25 a company of emigrating Saints were met at Shawneetown, Ill., by President Roberts and accompanied by him as far as Topeka, Kansas. On the 5th of April Elder William Moultrie arrived in Chattanooga, accompanied by Russell Pendergrass and family, who had left Alabama on account of threatened violence. On the 12th and 13th of this month a conference was held in East Tennessee, but President Roberts was unable to attend, having to remain in Chattanooga to meet a company of Elders who arrived on the 14th. On the 19th and 20th of this month a conference was held at Baird’s Mills, Wilson county, Tennessee, the Elders of the Kentucky and East Tennessee Conferences attending it. On the 22d of this month President Roberts and Elder J.G. Kimball met eight Elders at McEwan’s Station, and organized the Northwest Tennessee Conference, Elder J.H. Gibbs being called to preside over it.

At this conference two public meetings were held and instructions were given the Elders regarding their duties, etc. It may here be mentioned that there was a judge in Tennessee at this time who lived above the low prejudices, and charged the grand juries in many counties that the “Mormon Elders” were American citizens and must be protected in their religious rights. His name was Stark, and he was a lawyer and a gentleman. At this time Elders J.H. Gibbs and W.H. Jones were called to travel from county to county on a sort of a roving mission to inform the people on the historical, social, political and religious phases of the work.

On the 27th of this month Elder N.W. Kimball and his brother, Hyrum, who were laboring in Amherst county, Virginia, were invited by a minister by the name of Fitzgerald to come and listen to a lecture he was going to deliver, and proffering to grant them an opportunity to reply. The Elders accepted the invitation, but on arriving at the church Mr. Fitzgerald announced that there would be no debate, and thereupon launched out into a vituperative arraignment of the Mormons. At the close of his diatribe the reverend gentleman said he would give ten minutes’ intermission and would then preach a sermon, but only four remained to hear it, the balance having left in disgust.

Elder Kimball gave out an appointment for a meeting that evening at the house of John Layton. There was a large crowd present and the Elders refuted the false charges made by Mr. Fitzgerald, and preached the Gospel, pure and simple. That night about 10 o’clock a drunken mob surrounded the house of Mr. Layton and demanded the Elders to come out. Mr. Layton seized his pistol and was about to fire on the mob, when the Elders prevailed on him to desist. They then went out to where the men were and remonstrated with them all night. The mob told them they would give them until morning to leave—they didn’t leave.

A conference of Elders convened on May 4 at Venus, Lawrence county, Tennessee. They were unable to procure a church, and as the weather was inclement they did not hold many public meetings, but several council meetings were held, in which all received a great deal of benefit.

Elder Fuller had arranged with the sheriff and judge at Lawrenceburg for President Roberts to deliver two lectures in the court house, but some base characters secured the keys, thereby preventing the lectures. On the 5th Elder Fuller and companions, while crossing the public square, were accosted by a crowd of drunken rascals, who insulted them outrageously, but no physical violence was done them.

(To be continued.)

Latter Day Saints Southern Star, Vol. 1, No. 20, Chattanooga, Tenn. Saturday, April 15, 1899, p 153.

The picture of the replica of the Davy Crockett cabin in Lawrenceburg, Lawrence County, Tennessee from http://www.flickr.com/photos/brent_nashville/3330756510/in/set-72157614122974346/. The old courthouse is no longer standing in Lawrenceburg.

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