Thursday, August 27, 2009

History of the Southern States Mission, Part 25: Elders Berry and Gibbs

The causes leading up to the massacre in Lewis county, Tenn., originally started from the maligners of "Mormonism" in Utah. There, false statements concerning the Saints had been started, which spread to abnormal absurdities as they passed the lubricous mouths of crude truth handlers. Among the purported sayings and doings of the Saints was a sermon entitled "A Red Hot Address, Delivered by Bishop West." In this the Bishop is said to have called upon the Saints to "avenge themselves, as the time had passed when they should meekly submit to the bigotry of the national government." The address was never delivered by a Bishop or any other member of the church, but the canard served the deserved purpose. It was scattered promiscuouly [sic] throughout the land; copies of it reached Lewis county and were used with other nefarious publications and fabrications by a preacher named Vandever, against the Elders. This so filled the people with animosity against the Elders that the final outcome was the enactment of the murder as narrated.

The lies circulated through the county about the Elders were of a most revolting nature, scarcely credible to a sound-minded person. They served the purpose, however, of enlisting people on the enemies' side, so that no attention was paid as to facts.

When Elder Roberts had done his duty in caring for the dead, his attention was next directed to vindicating the character of the Elders. A petition was presented to Gov. Bates, signed by Elders B.H. Roberts, J.G. Kimball, W.H. Jones, Henry Thompson and W.E. Robinson, and sworn to before James Everett, notary public, on the 20th of August, 1884.

This petition refuted the several charges circulated, and asked for state's protection in the advocacy of the principles believed in by the Elders. Besides this, it asked that a reward be offered for the arrest and conviction of the mobbers.

To all this Gov. Bates was most indifferent; he offered a reward of one thousand dollars, however, as asked, which was to be divided pro rata according to the number convicted. The offer held good, as well, for the apprehension of the party, or parties, who shot and killed David Hinson [one of the mob].

Gov. Eli H. Murray, of Utah, sent a message to Gov. Bates upon the receipt of the news, that showed much care in the preparation, but regardless of what the consequences might be. After hollow pretenses of approval for the reward offered, he says: "Lawlessness in Tennessee and Utah are alike reprehensible, but the Mormon agents in Tennessee were sent from here as they have been for years by the representatives of organized crime, and I submit that as long as Tennessee's representatives in congress are, to say the least, indifferent to the punishment of offenders against the national law in Utah, such cowardly outrages by their constituents as the killing of emigration agents sent there from here, will continue."

This dispatch but added to the indifference of the Governor of Tennessee. The wilful and malicious lie told in it was but a license to cover over the terrible deed of Cane Creek, that its resurrection would not be apt to take place until the law of retribution should set in.

The reward, though a lucrative one, could not induce the officers of the law to bring to justice the guilty wretches who dropped themselves below the level of beasts to dip their hands in the blood of the noble martyrs. Thus the laws of the state of Tennessee were left unvindicated in one of the bloodiest acts, and certainly the greatest blotch upon its name, that ever rested upon its escutcheon.

Elder W.S. Berry was a man of reserved demeanor. His simplicity of conduct won for him many friends who loved him as a man of God. He was loved by those in authority over him for his willingness to sacrifice his own personal feelings for the welfare of his brother; his excellence of judgment, the wisdom of his counsel and the goodness of his heart, all joined to make him a noble among the nobles of mankind. His success in the missionary field was not so much owing to his ability as a public speaker, as to his conversation at the fireside; but above all else, the power of exemplary deportment attracted the attention of men to the message he bore.

Elder J.H. Gibbs was a noble man, brave and bold. Upon many occasions he was surrounded with low lying clouds of persecution. Storms may have raged, the vivid lightning of bigots' hatred flashed, the thunders of all the forces of hell may have resounded in his ears, but calmly at his post would have stood that man, unperturbable [sic], impregnable. Many times was he heard to say that if God willed his life to be yielded up for the cause of Christ, he was ready and willing to give it. He was full of faith in God, generally cheerful, while his constant kindness revealed the goodness of his heart; with all this he possessed a bold, fearless spirit, and whenever he came in contact with hypocrisy, succeeded in tearing from its face the smiling mask behind which it tried to hide. He possessed those qualities of mind and heart which naturally endeared him to all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. Every labor required of him was intelligently executed. He was untiring in his labors in the ministry, yet his zeal was tempered by an excellent judgment. His mind was well stored with information and he was naturally gifted, being fluent in speech, easy in conversation and an excellent correspondent—but to crown it all, he was ever prayerful and humble in spirit.

Latter Day Saints Southern Star, Vol. 1, No. 29, Chattanooga, Tenn. Saturday, June 17, 1899, p 225.

The photo of the Meriwether Lewis grave in Lewis County, Tennessee, from

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. I love reading all your pieces on Southern States history.