Tuesday, March 17, 2009

History of the Southern States Mission, Part 5: The Murder of Joseph Standing

Joseph Standing (seated), Rudger Clawson (standing) as missionaries in Georgia.

In Clay and Cherokee county, of North Carolina, the mob spirit prevailed to such an extent that the Elders were forced to hide themselves in the woods.

Elder Joseph H. Parry, while staying at the home of William Webster, was attacked by a mob and severely beaten with hickory withes.

On the night of July 20 a mob broke into the houses of some of the Saints in the Brasstown branch and severely whipped both men and women, threatening still further violence unless they left the neighborhood immediately. Some of the Saints were seriously injured and all were badly frightened, some leaving their lands, improvements and other property in the hands of their tormenters.

About the middle of the month Elder Joseph Standing and Rudger Clawson started from their field of labor in Union and Fannin counties to attend the state conference to be held in Haywood Valley, Chattooga county, Georgia. On the way they called at Varnells Station to visit the Saints, arriving there on the night of July 19th, 1879. They staid over night and Sunday at the home of Mr. Henry Holsten, where the day was quietly spent singing and conversing on the gospel.

After breakfast Monday morning, July 21st, they walked over to a Mr. Loggins, a distance of about a mile, to look after their clothing; as they were on the way back, while walking along the public roads near the line of Catoosa and Whitfield counties, they were suddenly arrested by an armed mob of twelve persons whose names are as follows: Jasper N. Nations, Hugh Blair, David Nations, Mac McClure, Andrew Bradley, Joseph Nations, James Faucett, Benjamin Clark, David Clark, Jefferson Hunt, William Nations, A.L. Smith.

All these men were citizens of the surrounding territory and the most of them claiming membership in the churches near their homes.

The Elders were turned from the road and with many threats of violence, compelled to accompany the gang through the woods to an isolated place; as they were walking along Benjamin Clark, a Baptist deacon, struck Elder Clawson a heavy blow with a club from behind, nearly felling him to the ground. While passing a spring of water, Elder Standing requested to be permitted to get a drink. A temporary halt was made while he drank, after which a conversation was had, the two men being separated some little distance, when suddenly Elder Standing was shot in the face, by one of the miscreants, the ball striking him near the bridge of the nose, killing him almost instantly, he only groaned heavily, as he reeled and fell to the ground not speaking a word after being shot. The crowd then turned and pointing their guns at Elder Clawson, threatened to kill him. He calmly folded his arms and told them he was “not afraid to die” and to “shoot!” After a momentary hesitation, some one called out “Don’t shoot” and the guns were immediately lowered. Elder Clawson then walked over to the martyred Elder and raising his head placed his folded hat under it for a pillow. Turning to the murderers, he said indignantly: “It is a burning shame to shoot a man down in this way and leave him to die in the woods, either go and get help or let me go.”

After a brief consultation they told him he might go, which he did immediately, proceeding to Mr. Holsten’s, he broke the startling news and securing a horse he repaired to the coroner’s office to advise him of the occurrence. The Holston family on learning of the horrible killing hurried to the spot where they found the gang had fired a number of shots into the dead body of Elder Standing—no doubt to cover the trails of the actual murderer. They erected a bower of leaves and branches over the remains to shield them from the glaring July sun.

Elder Clawson sought the nearest telegraph office and wired President Morgan, who was in Salt Lake City, also Governor Colquitt, at Atlanta, and the county coroner at Dalton, briefly reciting the terrible event.

Late in the evening the coroner arrived and summoned a jury who returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased had come to his death from gunshot wounds inflicted by one or more of the parties who formed the mob, mentioning the names already given in this article.

A casket was secured and the body enclosed in, after which it was taken by a wagon to Dalton and thence to Salt Lake City, accompanied by Elder Clawson. He arrived there on July 31st, and was met by relatives and friends, and interred at Salt Lake City, amid solemn and impressive ceremonies.

On July 25, 26 and 27 the Georgia Conference met in Haywood Valley and selected Elder A.S. Johnson, to succeed Elder Standing. The instruction there given were listened to with deep interest and the Saints, while resting under a solemn pall, as it were, still they returned to their homes strengthened in the faith.

(We expect to go further into all the details of this unfortunate affair, as well as the causes leading up to the same.—Ed.)

Latter Day Saints Southern Star, Vol. 1, No. 5, Chattanooga, Tenn. Saturday, December 31, 1898.

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