Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An Index to the History of the Southern States Mission, 1875-1888

John Hamilton Morgan was one of the first missionaries called to serve in the Southern States Mission, and he subsequently served as President of the Mission for many years. In an attempt to grasp the details of his missionary service, I typed up and posted the histories of the Southern States Mission from the Latter Day Saints Southern Star.

After Ben Rich was called as president of the mission in June 1898, he began a mission newspaper called the Latter Day Saints Southern Star. The Southern Star featured reports from the various areas of the mission, news items, talks, devotionals, and letters, and also featured a regular history of the Southern States Mission. It is not clear what sources were used to compile the histories, but they were probably written by a succession of missionaries who served as editors of the paper. The first editor was David P. Felt, followed by Ray Ashworth and his assistant, Ariel F. Cardon. When these missionaries were released, Lewis R. Anderson, mission bookkeeper and a member of the mission presidency, ran the paper until George E. Maycock arrived from Utah and took over.

Here are links to each of the sections, and a brief explanation of the contents. The histories included on this blog stop with the end of John Morgan's service, although he continued to be mentioned in the mission history from time to time. If time permits, I will return and finish the series.

An Introduction to the Latter Day Saints Southern Star

More on the Southern Star

Lula Falls, Lookout Mountain, Georgia.

Part 1
Beginning of the mission 1875-77 under President Henry G. Boyle, with the mission containing the states of Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Virginia.

1877. Missionary efforts extend to Texas. Over 240 converts move to Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.

1878. President Boyle released and John Morgan called as president of the mission. Headquarters moved to Rome, Georgia. Missionary work, yellow fever, first report of mob activity.

January-July 1879. Missionary work in Georgia. Fields of labor opened in other states including North Carolina. Church members move to Colorado. Rudger Clawson and Joseph Standing arrive in the mission. Mobs gather.

July 1879. Mob violence toward missionaries. Joseph Parry beaten by a mob. Joseph Standing murdered by a mob. Rudger Clawson's life spared.

Pilot Mountain in North Carolina.

Part 6
August-December 1879. The aftermath and trial for the murder of Joseph Standing. Missionary efforts in Georgia. Converts leave for Colorado.

February 1879 (?)-March 1880.  Henry Barnett and Mathias Cowley preach in Kentucky and Virginia. Henry Barnett and Seth Langton continue working in Virginia while Mathias Cowley and Frank Benson preach to people who had heard Jedediah Grant preach many years before. Many converts.

Links to the article “The Martyrdom of Joseph Standing” by John Nicholson.

January-May 1880. President Morgan and Matthias F. Cowley hold conferences and open up new areas of the mission. Saints emigrate to Colorado. Baptisms in Tennessee due to the influence of the mysterious preacher, Robert Edge.

June-November 1880. Sarah Church serves in the mission in Tennessee and Mississippi. Other missionaries come to the mission. Many new branches and converts and some persecution. More information on the mysterious Mr. Edge. The Saints from many branches, including Henderson County, Tennessee, emigrate to Colorado.

An old church in Neshoba, Mississippi.

Part 11
November 1880-July 1882. Saints move to Manassa, Colorado. Mathias Cowley and John W. Taylor preach and baptize in Georgia. Elder Cowley and others preach in St. Louis and publish in the local papers. Anti-Mormon sentiment in St. Louis. More Saints move to Colorado.

January-June 1881. Debate in Wilson County, Tennessee. April 1881 Mission headquarters moved from Rome, Georgia, to Nashville, Tennessee. A bright period of success followed by mob threats and violence in Alabama.

July 1881-March 1882. Due to the success of Elders Cowley and Parkinson in St. Louis, the 1881 Mission Conference was held in that city. Much success in the end of 1881 but 1882 began with much agitation against the church and missionaries in the population and press. Persecution particularly bad in Georgia so several missionaries were released home. Many elders threatened and persecuted and shot at. Very heavy rains in March flooded much of the mission and made work difficult. Emigrants led to Colorado by President Morgan and Elder Cowley. West Tennessee Conference opened.

July-November 1882. Mission conferences help keep the morale up. Threats of mob violence in Kentucky delay the Conference meeting. A marked increase in baptisms reported with 204 the first half of 1882. President Morgan arranges with the railroads for better fares for emigrants. Mission headquarters is moved from Nashville to Chattanooga on October 10, 1882. President Morgan released as Mission President after arranging the Fall emigration. [His service actually continues until 1888.]

November 1882-June 1883. One hundred Saints and eight elders leave for Colorado and Utah. New Elders arrive in December and another party of emigrants leaves North Carolina. In January a new set of Elders arrive from the Colorado settlements and are assigned to labor in their native states. New missionaries arrive each month. In March, John Morgan and 166 Saints and 12 or 15 missionaries leave for Utah and Colorado. Elder B.H. Roberts begins his service as Assistant President of the Southern States Mission.

A winter scene in Tennessee.

Part 16
June-September 1883. Elder J.T. Alexander is beaten by a mob. More mob violence. Meeting of the Mississippi Conference. Conference in Alabama sparsely attended due to violent threats. Other Conferences held, and one was actually held without threats of violence in South Carolina. Missionary work begins among the Catawba Indians. President Roberts continues to hold meetings. Mission statistics reported. Elder Charles E. Robinson dies in the mission field.

October 1883-May 1884. Elder Robinson's body taken home by Elder Easton. Missionaries receive transfers and releases and arrive in the mission. President Roberts holds meetings. President Morgan comes to accompany a party of emigrants to the West. Many baptisms. More emigrants leave the South. A new Northwest Tennessee Conference organized. Judge Stark given particular notice due to his support of religious liberties. Tensions continue to build. 

May 1884. Missionaries chased out of Etowah County, Alabama. Elder Charles Flake has tar poured on him in Mississippi. The Mississippi Conference meets.

June 1884. President Roberts meets with the missionaries in Alabama and advises them to go to quieter areas. Missionaries harassed in Tennessee. The church building in St. Clair County, Alabama, burned by arson.

July 1884. A mob kidnaps and severely beats Elders Joseph Morrell and John William Gailey in Neshoba County, Mississippi.

A historic photograph of a rail fence in Saint Clair County, Alabama.

Part 21
August 1884. Elders John Henry Gibbs, William H. Jones, William Shanks Berry and Henry Thompson met in Cane Creek, Lewis County, Tennessee. They planned to hold meetings on Sunday, August 10th at the home of the Condor family. On his way to the meeting Elder Jones was detained by a mob and was being held in the woods when he heard shooting from the Condor home.

The other missionaries had arrived earlier at the Condor home and sang some songs as they waited the start of the meeting. The mob rushed upon the home and seized Brother Condor who called to his son Martin Condor and step-son J.R. Hudson for aid. Elder Gibbs, Elder Berry, and Martin Condor were killed by the mob and then J.R. Hudson was killed but not before killing mob leader David Hinson. Elder Thompson escaped.

The mob continued to shoot into the house, wounding Sister Condor. The mob left with Hinson's body. The other bodies were washed and buried. Elder Jones, who had fled the area, met J. Golden Kimball and enlisted his aid. They traveled toward Cane Creek and encountered Elder Thompson who related the bad news. The three men went immediately to a telegraph station to notify President B.H. Roberts of the events. Roberts wired to President Morgan for assistance to remove the bodies to Utah but not wanting to wait, Roberts approached a Mr. Moses in Chattanooga for a loan to cover the costs of caskets and transportation.

The Cane Creek Area was in a furor and it was not considered safe for the missionaries to enter the area, so President Roberts disguised himself and with the assistance of J. Golden Kimball, a Brother Emmons, Robbin Church, Henry Harlow, William Church, Robert Coleman, and other local Saints, he removed the bodies of Elders Berry and Gibbs to Nashville where they were taken to Salt Lake City.

A discussion about the causes of the murders in Cane Creek and efforts to seek justice. Notes about the missionary service of Elders Berry and Gibbs.

A blackjack oak, a species of tree mentioned by B.H. Roberts in his account of the events at Cane Creek.
Part 26
August-September 1884. Violence and threats continue through the end of August. Elders Woodbury and Fuller were staying at the Jenkins home in Alabama and Elder Fuller was beaten by a mob. Sister Jenkins, who had been in poor health, almost died of the stress of the event but was blessed to return to health by the missionaries. Many missionaries were taken very ill in September. The South Carolina and North Carolina and Virginia Conferences meet.

October-December 1884. The year ended much more quietly although threats continued and members had to leave the Cane Creek area. A large company of Saints emigrates in November. While B. H. Roberts was absent at various times during the year, J. Golden Kimball took charge of the mission. John Morgan and B.H. Roberts met in December and advised church leadership on the state of the mission. President Wilford Woodruff and his counselors advised the mission leadership to continue missionary work but to immediately leave contentious areas.

January-April 1885. President Morgan visited the mission in January and sent B.H. Roberts home for a "much needed rest." A company of Saints emigrated in February. Elder Wilson was staying in Putnam County, Tennessee, when he was kidnapped and beaten before being released with a warning to leave the county. In March President Morgan returned from accompanying some Saints to Utah. He released Elder J. Golden Kimball. President Morgan returned home in April for the funeral of his young daughter Flora.

May-June 1885. Elders Garner and Christensen arrested and charged with violating a state law against the preaching of polygamy. They awaited trial in prison in Elizabethton, Tennessee, until President Morgan arranged bail, at which point they continued their labors in the mission. Elders Cragun and Fraughton were staying outside the Catawba Reservation when they were shot at and beaten.

July-December 1885. Georgia Conference meets in Haywood Valley. The case against Elders Christensen and Garner returned to court and Elder Christensen was indicted but Elder Garner was not. Work progressed in East Tennessee. In August Elders Christensen and Garner were sent home and President Morgan visited Elizabethton and found that their bail bond had been recorded as $5 rather than $500, so Elder Christensen was only liable for a sum of $5. Two Catawba members of the church were called to serve a mission to the Cherokee Indians. The year ended quietly.

Seneca Creek, West Virginia.

Part 31
1886. Emigration. Preaching the gospel. President Morgan tours the mission and holds conferences. Elder Harper arrested and taken to Stanardsville where he was acquitted.

October 1886-May 1887. Mission conferences in Georgia and Tennessee. Elders harassed. President Morgan visits at home then returns to lobby in Nashville against a bill prohibiting the preaching of polygamy. Bill tabled. Emigration. Successful work. Mission to the Cherokee Indians. More use of printed materials for public relations.

June-December 1887. President Morgan returned from the West and immediately prepared and led a company of 120 emigrants to the West. Mob violence directed against missionaries resulting in threats, kidnapping, and beatings. Many missionaries sick during the summer. Baptisms increase as the summer ends. Conference held in Mississippi then Tennessee. President Morgan attacked at the West Tennessee Conference held in Cowpens Creek, Alabama. The Alabama Conference split and work started in Northern Florida. Conference held in Georgia followed by the East Tennessee Conference. Middle Tennessee Conference created. Maryland split from Virginia. West Virginia Conference followed by the North Carolina and South Carolina Conferences. Large emigration in November. Elders Tate and Hendricks threatened and injured by buckshot. A generally successful year.

January-July 1888. Wilford Woodruff releases John Morgan as president of the Southern States Mission. William Spry begins his service as president on January 4. Missionaries arrive and depart. In April 177 members emigrate under the direction of John Morgan and William Spry. Mobs organized and violence threatened. Elder Shipp beaten, Elder Wright almost lynched. President Spry returns and holds conferences and encourages the missionary work and cautions the missionaries to be careful during the most violent season in late summer.

Part 35
July-September 1888. Quiet summer. Elder Edmund Z. Taylor dies. Elder Stookey or Stucki of the mission office retrieves his body and sends it to Ogden. President Spry holds Maryland Conference in West Virginia. Mob violence targets Elders James Douglas, Thomas Holt, Asahel Fuller, and their host James Brooks. They are severely beaten.

Additional Southern States Mission Content

He Being Dead, Yet Speaketh
The Faucett family provides the mission publication with some letters written by murdered missionary Joseph Standing. See follow-up post on Ancestral Ties.

The First Relief Society in the Southern States
Newspaper clipping from the Deseret News. See additional information at Amateur Mormon Historian (The First Relief Society Presidency in the Southern States) and Ancestral Ties (The First Relief Society Presidency in the Southern States).

Burned the Church (IntroductionPart 1Part 2Part 3)
1895. The Saints and missionaries in the West Virginia Conference at Two Mile, Kanawha County, organize a conference. The church meeting was burned. The community rallies and provides support to finish the conference.

Southern Star Obituary for John Morgan
J.G. Kimball: "I picked up a Chattanooga Times one morning, and I was very much delighted to see in print these words, speaking of Elder John Morgan. It said: 'To shake his hand was to be his friend.' I have never forgotten it. When you shook John Morgan's hand and he looked into your face you always knew that you were his friend."

Pictures of the Cane Creek Area
Missionaries are still visiting this area to pay tribute to the fallen.

The photos are from the Southern Star, www.flickr.com/photos/brent_nashville/116196125/, www.flickr.com/photos/skrobotic/21197208/, www.flickr.com/photos/nataliemaynor/149312252/, www.flickr.com/photos/sminor/387003576/, www.flickr.com/photos/lonecellotheory/519362995/, www.flickr.com/photos/dwineman/153502758/, and www.flickr.com/photos/auburnuniversitydigitallibrary/2925082092/, courtesy of the Auburn University Libraries.


  1. Thanks for your great resource. I had posted about the Cane Creek Massacre and had used a ref from the lds.org site, an ensign it had the wrong elders killed. so thank you so much


  2. "President John Morgan wrote that it would be well, if possible for the Elders to come in here
    and organize a branch. He desired the Elders to use their own judgement about coming. Accordingly
    on July 31, 1885, Elders W. E. Bingham and W. G. Cragun walked about 30 miles part of the
    distance through the woods and after night, they staid all night at Mr. Bailey Barkers'. Next day,
    Brothers James Patterson and James Watts pilotted them through the woods for about 15 miles, so
    they arrived in the nation without it being known in the country round about. They spent part of a
    day and two nights in the woods while they remained in the Nation. " From my book Missionary journals.

  3. The caption for the picture of Pilot Mountain says South Carolina. It's in North Carolina.

  4. Thanks, Jared. I fixed that.

  5. I am searching for information on early Saints who joined the church in Winston County Mississippi. I found information that an Elder Bramwell baptized relatives on 10 Oct 1887. The Haggard family had a daughter named Sally, who married Elijah Grifith Bullard. They introduced my grandmother Carabel Graves Pledge to MISSIONARIES in the early 1950s in California. I want my children and grandchildren to know their church history began with sacrifice from these early Saints. I would enjoy finding
    Information on this time in History.

  6. Good luck with that! There must be many amazing stories waiting to be told. You may want to start with my guide to researching Mormon ancestors. It may have a number of useful ideas, including the collections of the Church History Library and the use of Wikis:


  7. "Two Catawba members of the church were called to serve a mission to the Cherokee Indians."

    They were Pinkney Henry Head and his brother Alonzo Canty, Elder Head writes about his experience in his journal (and where Elders Cragun and Fraughton were attacked) I have found parts of it here: