Tuesday, April 2, 2013

History of the Southern States Mission, Part 35: President Spry's Baptism By Fire

The Stonewall Jackson House in Rockbridge County, Virginia, where Elder Edmund Taylor was serving when he died. From Wikipedia.

I previously posted many installments of the History of the Southern States Mission, as found in the Southern Star. (Index.) I will resume posting the histories, probably weekly, through the end of the series, and add them to the index.

The month of July, 1888, was very quiet as for mob violence. Many of the Elders were sick in the field some having to be released in order to preserve their lives. Encouraging reports, however, of the progress of the work was received from different conferences.

In August much more sickness was reported. From Virginia word was received that Elders Edmund Y. Taylor [Edmund Zebulon Taylor, March 14, 1859 – August 13, 1888] and Ririe were sick, but not serious; but about the 9th or 10th Elder Roundy, of that Conference, wired the brethren at the office that the cases of those two Elders had assumed a critical aspect. They desired assistance in caring for them, as already the sick brethren were unable to move around.

Preparations were immediately for Elder Stooky [either Stookey or Stucki], of the office, to go their aid, when on the 13th word that Elder Taylor had died that morning. Elder Stooky secured a metallic casket and left immediately for  Rockbridge county, Virginia. He arrived there on the 14th and met Elder Roundy and together they traveled all night and reached the place where the body of Elder Taylor lay. They found that all preparations had been made to bury the remains there, a coffin having been procured and remains placed therein. This was changed; the body was placed in the casket and prepared for shipment. Elder Stooky left for Chattanooga with it, while Elder Roundy remained in charge of Elder Ririe.

Upon the arrival of the body in Chattanooga it was placed in charge of Elders John C. Harper and Jones and started to the relatives. Some delay caused in starting the remains for their final resting place, but after starting they were safely conveyed through to Ogden. There a sad concourse of people received the remains and reverently buried them in the cemetery.

Elder Taylor was a young man of about 28 years. He was married had three children. The date of his arrival in the mission field was February, 1887, and although but a short time the field he was known as being energetic in his labors, laboring faithfully for the conversion of those who so needed the Gospel. The counsels of those over him were implicitly obeyed; the discharge of his duty was looked upon him as being imperative.

Toward the close of the month Elder Ririe commenced to improve and after a time was removed to other quarters, where he could receive better aid.

President Spry, on the 25th and 26th, held conference with the Maryland Conference at Mr Champ's place, on edge of Pendleton county, West Virginia. The meetings held were well attended; all the Elders were present and received instructions needful to their labors.

On the night of the 2d of September Elders Elias S. Wright, president of West Tennessee Conference; James H. Douglas, Thos. [Thomas] M. Holt and Asabel L. Fuller [Asahel L. Fuller], traveling Elders in mentioned, were stopping with James T. Brooks, in Crockett county, Tennessee. Toward the middle of night twenty-five armed men rudely woke them and dragged them into the woods. The brethren were in their night clothes and in this shape were made to take fifty stripes each from the brutal force of these ruffians. Birch withes, roughly trimmed were used and as they the backs of the Elders the little knots would sink into the flesh, while the branch would raise great whelts [sic] wherever they lashed the body. As the whipping continued the blood would flow from the ugly wounds being made, and this saturated the clothing thoroughly. They were forced to promise to leave the country by 10 o'clock in the morning. The beating then ceased and they were allowed to go and make preparations leave. Half-beaten to death, the blood oozing from the wounds on their backs and their garments sticking to the lacerated flesh, they left the country at the agreed time.

Brother Brooks also received brutal treatment from the mob. His head was struck a severe blow which caused the blood to flow freely. When the matter was heard by the Young Ladies' Improvement Association in Utah, a letter of condolence was written the brethren and friend, in which such ungod-like acts were severely denounced.

Update, April 15, 2013: Don't miss two posts over at Amateur Mormon Historian with more information about the last story here:

Latter Day Saints Southern Star, Vol. 1, No. 39, Chattanooga, Tenn. Saturday, August 26, 1899, 306.


  1. Very interesting. Amazing what missionaries have been called to endure.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Sydney! The history of the Southern States Mission is particularly complex. It's the subject of a recent book by Patrick Mason, The Mormon Menace.

  3. For years, I toyed with the idea of trying to get a term paper I wrote at BYU about the Southern States Mission published, but haven't done anything with it. Then I heard Patrick was writing his Ph.D. dissertation on the subject. I really need to read his book.

    A couple days ago, I discovered a Deseret News article written by my great grandfather Asahel L. Fuller. It was a report of a meeting of the West Tenn. Conference, October 1887. (He was the clerk.)I wish he had written an account of the whipping mentioned above so that I could get his persective on the event. But at least James Douglas had something to say to the Deseret News about it. :)

    Richard A. Shipp replaced Fuller as clerk of the West Tenn. Conference when he (Fuller) was released from his mission following the whipping.

  4. Thank you for the additional information, Dale. And like just said over at Amateur Mormon Historian, we can use all the histories of the Southern States Mission that anyone (including you!) is willing to write.

  5. Ok, then how do I get it to you. I have lots of Catawba Missionaries and information, with no where to put it.

  6. The story of the beating was treated in the (historical) fiction, Mr. Durant of Salt Lake City, "That Mormon," by Ben E. Rich, later president of the Southern States Mission: