Monday, September 14, 2009

History of the Southern States Mission, Part 26: The Long Session of Persecution

The long session of persecution fraught with great violence by mobs, was not at a close by any means. Throughout the mission mobs were organized to break up the meetings of the Elders and to run them out of the states. In East Tennessee Elders were shot at by negroes [sic] who, no doubt, were hired by others for that despicable purpose.

Elder J.J. Fuller reported that on Saturday and Sunday, August 9th and 10th, he and several other Elders held meetings on Wolf Creek in Alabama. The Sunday following the 8th, these same brethren held meetings in the neighborhood of Shoal Creek in Lawrence county, Tenn. Many people were present and some were baptized. This aroused the hatred of the people of the country, so threats were made to tar and feathering [sic] the Elders.

Elder Fuller wrote further in regards to this threatening. It developed that they were not idle threats, but were carried into effect, though not in that especial manner. He and Elder Woodbury were stopping at Brother Jenkins [sic], and after they had lain down for the night, they were rudely awakened and Brother Jenkins seized by a band of mobocrats. Several members of the gang came up to the bed the brethren were occupying and ordered them outside. The Elders remonstrated, but to no effect. They were asked to dress and come along with the mob. A gun was fired from without, to terrify the women of the house. At this Elder Woodbury jumped through an open back window and, having his hat on, leisurely walked through the crowd to a place of safety without being molested.

Elder Fuller did not succeed so well. Five of the mob took hold of him and dragged him a half mile into the adjoining woods. There two more mobbers joined them. Two of the men then cut persimmon sprouts, and standing one on each side of the Elder, unmercifully gave him thirty lashes, both striking at the same time. No serious injury resulted from this cruel treatment, but the women of the house were badly frightened and, having been sick previously, the scare nearly cost Sister Jenkins her life. Elder Fuller returned to the house about one o'clock that night, where he met Elder Woodbury and they laid their hands upon Sister Jenkins and she was almost immediately restored to health.

On account of the great persecution the brethren at the office counseled the Elders to be wise and discreet in moving among the people, as the excitement throughout the mission was great.

A Sunday school in Lawrence county, Tenn., had to be abandoned because of threats. Absurd stories were circulated in counties of Mississippi about the Elders placing poison on trees, gate posts and other places about the country, to poison the people by inhalation. However crude this might be, it was firmly believed in by many and caused great passion among the ignorant and superstitious. In this manner the persecutions were kept at a fever-heat, even when reasonable minded men could have spoken a few words and all would have been avoided.

Threats were made in several states, some of which were carried out while others died on the lips of those who threatened. Mob violence ran rampant the whole month of August, leading citizens degrading themselves by forgetting the duties of citizenship and the rights of others. "We are going to be rid of you," seemed the cry, the country over. The tumult was great. The farmer forgot his crops to attend meetings to organize against the "Mormons." Ministers left their avocations to lead bloodthirsty men against two or three humble men who chanced to be in their communities with the message of "Peace on Earth, good will towards men." Politicians seized the opportunities for a pretext of election and hurled stones to please the rabble.

Such an order as this was given by leading citizens of York county, S.C.: "Now, therefore, these presents are to civily and peacefully request and command you to vacate the state and to return no more among us; and you are hereby allowed five days to obey this order, to peacefully absent yourselves from the state without hurt or molestation, but if you are found within the limits of the state after the expiration of that time you may charge the consequences to disobedience to this order. We are going to be rid of you." Signed: Clingham Martin, Wm. Rithcart, Wm. Sarruthers, Charles Harrison, Paul Harrison, Alexander Millan and Clarence Colton.

Such a sentiment is an extract from a document delivered to two men who were practically friendless among a whole county whose passions were being appealed to by such men and such injustice. A travesty indeed, upon boasted justice.

September was not such a stormy month for persecutions. President Roberts left the mission for Colorado, where he met President Morgan on the 5th. Elder J.G. [Golden] Kimball had charge while the others were away.

A wave of sickness passed over the whole mission during the early part of the month and many Elders were quite serious for some time.

The Elders of South Carolina were to meet on the 6th and 7th for council meeting, but, owing to the state of affairs, it was decided that the meeting be postponed. By chance six Elders met, however, near King's Mountain and counseled together as to affairs in general. It was decided to move cautiously so as to avoid all difficulties.

On the 14th and 15th the North Carolina Elders held conference at Pilot Mountain, Stokes county; they had splendid meetings. On the 27th and 28th the Virginia conference met in Amherst county. Favorable reports were made as to the general conditions of the conference. Several changes were made, releases and appointment in the presidency, taking place. The whole month of September was peaceful, after the storms of August.

Latter Day Saints Southern Star, Vol. 1, No. 30, Chattanooga, Tenn. Saturday, June 24, 1899, p 233-34.

Picture of the persimmon branch from Photo of Lawrence County, Tennessee, from Photo of Pilot Mountain, South Carolina, from


  1. It is sad to see so much hatred among people.

  2. The Elder J. J. Fuller mentioned above is Jesse Johnson Fuller, the older brother of my great grandfather Asahel L. Fuller. It is weird to think that three years after this incident, Asahel was not only serving in the same mission as his brother, but also in the same general area.

    In his account of this incident, B.H. Roberts referred to Jesse as "a man well advanced in years." He was born June 1, 1835 in Stockholm, New York, so he would have been forty-nine years old at this time. (He married Hillyette Aitkins on February 21, 1856 and died on May 31, 1910.) Roberts, History 6:101.