Monday, May 28, 2012

Local Reminiscences from New Holland

The 4 December 1897 issue of the New Holland Clarion included an interesting front-page piece titled "Local Reminiscences: Bygone Events in New Holland and Vicinity". Part of the article is of interest here in particular because it relates in retrospect some of the LDS missionary efforts in the region up until that point and ties it in to a recounting (of, at times, limited accuracy) of Latter-day Saint history. (Note: when the first paragraph makes reference to "the Albright and the U. B. churches", it refers to Jacob Albright's Evangelical Association and to the United Brethren movement started by Philip Otterbein and Martin Boehm, both begun locally to reach the German-speaking peoples that the Methodists at the time refused to - hence reference to the "native vernacular". The bulk of both eventually merged into what is now the United Methodist Church, though my denomination is a smaller remnant of the Albright movement.)
Temperance made invasions through the agency of the Albright and the U. B. churches. They were energetic proselytors, profound believers in Christ crucified ande arisen as mediator; built small churches, talked in the native vernacular. Whole communities that had held aloof from the established churches and were rough in sentiment and voice, believers in farm distilleries, were through the agency of the missionaries of this church converted; abandoning their distilleries, character and sentiment improved at once, industrial habits assumed vigorous life, enterprise in field and shop became quickly manifest, prosperity and peace soon reigned supreme in this new-born, God-fearing people, whose farm products increased astonishingly, thrift and wealth abounding. Hammondville was one of the beneficiaries, their new church the pride of the community. This wave of reform was in the forties.

The Mormon missionary cause also prospered along the foot of the mountain. A Mr. Bechtel or Bechthal, residing in the vicinity of Binkley's mill, became a convert, held meetings in the old school house in New Holland, without results, then the converts sold their effects and followed the Mormon colony to Nauvoo, Illinois. That nucleus has grown to the magnitude of national recognition as a political factor. These religionists after many stormy vicissitudes moved into the wilderness of the Rocky mountain valleys and opened up a vast unknown region of territory, that has now world-wide renown. James Buchanan, President of the United States, in 1856 or 1857 sent an army on foot and horse, with a great wagon train of food and munitions of war supplies, across the trackless wilderness to subdue the irascible Mormon who laid tribute and impost duties on all that passed through the gateway to the Pacific coast. The astute Mormon let Uncle Sam's military cavalcade wend its way slowly over mountains and rivers and through valleys, until they entered the portals of Mormonism's domain. The narrow mountain defile is reached and entered safely, when the Mormon general and his troops close up front and rear, burn Gen. Johnston's wagon train, and the Union troops surrender conditionally without a fight. Uncle Sam is beat ingloriously. April, 1862, this same Gen. Johnston is killed on the battlefield of Shiloh, leading his rebel troops against the Union forces. Ford's History of Illinois relates the aggressive importance of the Mormons at Nauvoo as a political factor in national and State elections. Slavery and anti-slavery were the live issues of the day, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas the exponents, both adopted citizens of Illinois; the election of State Supreme court justices the contention. In the district embracing Nauvoo Mormons, both parties condescended to the Mormon level in their eager rivalry for the vote held in Joe Smith's vest pocket. Election to-morrow, and the Whig candidate is assured at nightfall that their vote will be cast for the Whigs. The political Whig head rests easy on the pillow with assured success. Next morning Joe Smith announced that he had during the night received a revelation from heaven that the Mormon vote must be cast for Stephen A. Douglas. Imagine the chagrin of Lincoln's political friends. Let the observant student of predestined events look at the horoscope of revealed destiny in the evolution of political character in these two representative men. And behold the hand of the Lord chiding, fostering and leading that poor, illiterate, obscure son of the Kentucky forest into the path of national destiny, crowning him the defender of human liberties, leading his people to successfully resist the combined assaults of the slave holder and crowned heads of Europe to overthrow and subvert Christ's earthly-appointed citadel of peaceful government, while on the other hand the rubbish of Kansas-Nebraska popular-sovereignty crime encumbers the political fate of the Little Giant.

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