Tuesday, December 15, 2009

History of the Southern States Mission, Part 33

For more information on the attack on John Morgan mentioned later in this post, see the Ancestral Ties post "1887, September Southern States Conference."

On June 1, 1887, President Morgan returned from the West and began making preparations for the emigration of a company of 120 Saints, who were to leave Chattanooga on the 14th instant. Arrangements were perfected and the company, in charge of President Morgan, left on the above date.

About the middle of the month a party of rough men entered the house where Elders Spencer and Bennion were holding meeting and disturbed those present by their boisterous conduct. Elder Bennion accompanied a friend home, and when they approached the crowd, who were quarreling, Elder Bennion was struck a severe blow, which rendered him unconscious. On his recovery he thanked Maddox, who had hit him, that it was not more serious, and entreated his friends not to resent. The Elder's quiet demeanor won the respect of all present and no other violence was felt in the vicinity. Elders Barlow and Ruby, of the Mississippi Conference, were surprised by a mob, who detained them eleven hours, but after much threatening they were allowed to depart unhurt.

July was a very unpleasant month. There was considerable sickness among the Elders, and as is usually the case in this month, there was a lot of threatening indulged in by the mobocratic element, which in some cases materialized. In Augusta, Ga., persecution was very bitter, but the Elders were comforted and preserved by the power of God. Elder Richard Hartness, a local Elder of South Carolina, was unmercifully whipped and driven out of York county. Notwithstanding the threats and strained circumstances, considerable good was done during the month, a goodly number of baptisms were recorded and persecution created more and more the desire to gather to Zion.

The month of August was very hot and unhealthy, but by following counsel the health of the Elders improved. The work of the Elders was principally confined to Saints, who were built up, encouraged and strengthened in the work of the Lord. Arrangements were made to hold council meeting with the various conferences and the health of the Elders being usually good, an enjoyable time was anticipated. By the first of September reports were in from all the conferences, showing a gratifying increase in the number of baptisms over the years previous.

On the 10th and 11th of September the Mississippi Conference convened. Council meetings were held both days and all the Elders presented their views in relation to their labors and received timely instructions from President Morgan. The meetings were a complete success. The Elders were encouraged and left for their fields of labor with renewed determination to warn the people and present to them the glorious Gospel truths.

The West Tennessee Conference was held on the 17th and 18th, in Lawrence county. The meetings on Saturday were well attended and a good spirit prevailed, but on Sunday when President Morgan arose to speak he as assaulted by one Gilbert, who attempted to hit him with a crutch, but owing to the force of the blow being broken, President Morgan easily caught the crutch with one hand. After other fruitless attempts the villain and his associates withdrew. [The Life and Ministry of John Morgan (p 446) identifies this event as happening in Ilutts School House, Cowpers Creek, Alabama. I can't find a place of that name in either Alabama or Tennessee.] The Alabama Conference (24th and 25th) passed pleasantly. Owing to the great amount of territory it was deemed advisable to divide the conference; accordingly President W.J. Woodbury went into the southern part of the state and also opened work in Northern Florida. Another Elder was selected to preside over the north. Several baptisms were recorded during the month and prospects bid fair for a good work being accomplished during the coming season.

On the 1st and 2d of October President Morgan met the Elders of the Georgia Conference. Elder A.R. Smith was called to preside over the conference as successor to Elder William Spry [future mission president (1888-91) and governor of Utah (1909-1917)], whose time was to be solely devoted to the work in the office at Chattanooga. A good spirit prevailed throughout the conference. The East Tennessee Conference was held at Baird's Mill, Wilson county, on the 9th and 10th. Reports were so favorable it was decided to divide the conference, and thus the Middle Tennessee Conference was created. These conferences were in better condition than they had been for years, and a spirit of love and union was felt among the Saints and Elders. When the Virginia Elders assembled at Irish Creek it was decided to separate Maryland from the Virginia Conference and Elder Henry W. Miller was called to preside. From here President Morgan went to Jarrold's Valley, West Virginia, where he met the Elders on the 22d and 23d of the month. A gloom was cast over the assembly by the sad news of the demise of Elder J.E. Johnson's wife. Good instructions were given by President Morgan and the conference was left in excellent working order. The North Carolina Conference convened on the 29th and 30th. Few attended the meetings, as nine inches of snow had just fallen. The last of the conferences, South Carolina, was visited Nov. 5 and 6. Large crowds attended all the public meetings and a good spirit was felt. Elders were counselled to move out into new fields. Much energy was expended in preparing for the emigration of some Saints, and on Nov. 22 146 Saints and 16 Elders went to Zion.

Nothing of a striking nature transpired in December until the 23d inst., when Elders Milo Hendricks and John W. Tate, of the Virginia Conference, were assaulted by Jack Ramsey on the line of Augusta and Rock Bridge, in the neighborhood of Irish Creek. The Elders were making their way from Stony River to some Saints' homes, and in passing along the road were accosted by Ramsey and two young men, who prohibited them from proceeding further on the road. The Elders turned and went another road; in the meantime Ramsey and the boys took a path through the woods and again threatened the Elders. The brethren turned to take still another road, when Ramsey fired both barrels of his gun, the first only taking effect. Sixteen shot were found in Elder Tate's leg and six in Elder Hendricks'. The Elders had a hard task in reaching the home of friends, where their wounds could be dressed.

This year closed with the most encouraging results. New and fruitful fields had been opened and the future seemed brighter than ever before. The growth of the work was realized and a large number of Elders came in the months of November and December. The health of Elders was good. They were energetic in promulgating the principles of the Gospel and there were more workers in the vineyard than at any time previous.

Latter Day Saints Southern Star, Vol. 1, No. 37, Chattanooga, Tenn. Saturday, August 12, 1899, pp 289-90. The picture of Irish Creek Valley in Virginia from www.flickr.com/photos/jakehall/2465415618/.


  1. Amy, Nice stuff. Thanks for pulling it together.

    btw, Try Cowpens, Alabama. That is the spelling I have saw in the Ogden Standard Examiner (1886October 07, The Missionary Field)

  2. I'm a little slow in responding to this post, but thoroughly enjoying your History of John Morgan and the Southern States Mission. This one sent me to John Morgan's journal. I'm studying the last half of the year 1887, and your post. But was dissapointed to see I'm missing the Sept 6 - Nov 2, 1887 journal section. As soon as I rectify that, I'll have a point or two of interest. Your post this morning about the dear lady falling over the sleeping cow, and taking it all her stride, is choice. Thanks for sharing all you do!

  3. Asahel L. Fuller, clerk of the West Tenn. Conf., wrote a letter to the Deseret News detailing this event. He gives the location as Wolf Creek, Lawrence County, Tenn. I think the info from the John Morgan book is incorrect.

  4. Amy, Did you see Bessie's newest blog post?

  5. No, I actually hadn't. Thank you for mentioning that. My RSS feed is evidently not working right now and I've been busy enough that I hadn't wondered why no one was posting anything. : )

    Here's the post: