Thursday, December 17, 2009

History of the Southern States Mission, Part 34: John Morgan Finishes His Service

The year 1888 forms an interesting epoch in the history of the Southern States Mission. Elder John Morgan, who for ten years had presided over the Mission, was honorably released from his labors by President Wilford Woodruff. The same may be truthfully said of him as was said of Alfred the Great. He left the Mission "better, happier and wiser, in all ways, than he found it." By his untiring efforts large numbers of Saints had emigrated to the stakes of Zion, branches of the Church had been built up in the south [sic], and a larger force of earnest workers were laboring in the field than at any time previous. Elder William Spry [future governor of Utah, as I've mentioned a time or two], who had been honorably released from his labors as President of the Georgia Conference to assist in the office at Chattanooga, was called to succeed President Morgan, and on January 4th the affairs of the Mission were placed in his charge. Everything was propitious for a successful year's work. The Elders were contented in their labors and their health was exceedingly good.

Jealousy arose in Western Tennessee because of the success of Elder R.A. Shipp; he was severely beaten by six men, who inflicted forty strokes with a barrel stave. The brutal fellows endeavored to exact a promise from him that he would leave the country, but failed. A few baptisms were reported during the month, and in some instances there were prospects for more.

The month of February was uneventful. Names from Saints were coming in who desired to emigrate, and the arrangements were being perfected. President Spry visited the Elders laboring near Augusta, Ga., and found them vigorously pursuing their labors. After a few days' visit he returned to headquarters to meet a company of Elders. Toward the latter part of the month there was considerable threatening, and in some cases mobs were organized, but no violence was done.

During the months of March the Elders prosecuted their work in peace. Many of them assisted the Saints in preparing to go west, and through the untiring efforts of all, many were rewarded for their diligence. Elder William J. Woodbury returned home, having filled an honorable mission. The new Elders started for their fields of labor with a determination to do their duty and fill honorable missions, and with but one or two exceptions the Lord blessed them and gave them health. The month closed as it began—quiet.

April opened with great activity in preparing for emigrants, and on the 3d instant 177 Saints, in charge of Elders Morgan and Spry, left Chattanooga; 133 went to the settlements in Colorado, the remainder to points in Utah. The trip was a pleasant one and all reached their destination enjoying perfect health. Early in the month Elder Elias S. Wright was taken from his bed into the woods, where he was threatened vehemently, and a rope was placed around his neck and thrown over a limb. Elder Wright talked earnestly with the mob upon the unchristian act, and finally was released unharmed. The hearts of the men were softened, and after the Elder had explained to them the Gospel they were as willing to assist him as they were formerly to punish him.

In May President Spry returned from the west, bringing Elders Shepherd and E.T. Wooley, the latter having previously taken Elder Royal Gardner home. Each was assigned a field of labor, and attention was then turned to the affairs of the Mission. Some baptisms were reported during the month, and the Elders were meeting with fair success; as a natural result persecution increased, the adherents of the "isms" could not stand to see their numbers decreased, and this despised sect grow, so they resorted to the method that has been the only successful weapon used against truth and reason—brute force.

Early in July President Spry visited the Georgia Conference, calling on the Saints in Polk county. He held a series of meetings and made many new friends. After leaving here he proceeded to Augusta, Ga., and remained several days with Elders Bunnion, Smith and Van Leuven. Much good resulted from the visit with these brethren, and President Spry was elated with the prospects. Shortly after the return to Chattanooga, a company of thirty-three Saints started for Manassas [sic], Colorado, where they arrived safely on the 23d inst. Toward the close of the month a circular was sent to the Elders, advising them to be very cautious not to stir up the people, as most of their serious persecutions came in this season. The work of the Elders was confined principally among Saints and friends, much good being done. Some sickness was reported in the Mission, and Elder Loyd was obliged to leave for home because of his ill-health.

Latter Day Saints Southern Star, Vol. 1, No. 38, Chattanooga, Tenn. Saturday, August 19, 1899, pp 297-98. 

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