Saturday, June 26, 2010

Three articles: Polygamy; Mississippi Saints; Morman Springs, Monroe County, MS

by Terry Thornton

Illness continues to prevent me from researching and writing new articles for both Hill Country (the blog) and Hill Country (the newspaper column in Monroe Journal). During this time I'm pulling out some of my previous articles and republishing them here. The articles selected for today are: Polygamy in the Hill Country from June 2, 2007; Mississippi Saints, originally published June 5, 2007; and Mormon Springs, November 28, 2007. The three articles are also available on Hill Country Monroe County Mississippi Volume 1, a collection of 947 previous articles at Hill Country (click here to obtain ordering information).

# 61, June 2, 2007


by Terry Thornton

In researching my Hollingsworth family in Monroe County, Mississippi, I learned that they arrived from South Carolina via Indiana and Tennessee along with the Crosby family, another very early pioneer group into the Hill Country.

And some of the early Hollingsworths were married into the Crosby family.

William Hollingsworth (died 1822 Monroe County), John J. Crosby (died 1840 Monroe County), and Leonard Crosby (died 1844 Monroe County) and other related families migrated to the Hill Country of Monroe County.

All of the families seem to have originated in South Carolina and then moved to Indiana where they bought large blocks of land. As Indiana gained statehood, it passed laws which prohibited the owning of slaves --- so the group began a Southern migration. Some of them entered land in Tennessee about 1820 but by the early 1820s many of the group were living in Monroe County, Mississippi.

Some of the allied families include Jeters, DePriest, Purcells along with several sets of Crosbys and Hollingsworths.

During their stay in Monroe County, many of the Crosbys, especially those living along Wolfe Road in extreme eastern hill country of the county, joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [LDS] when a missionary named John Brown came preaching in the early 1840s.

John Brown began the process of converting them all and he married Elizabeth Crosby in 1844, daughter of William Crosby. That group of LDS converts formed the core of the Mississippi Saints, one of the earliest and most influential groups of Mormons arriving in Utah during the great gathering in the late 1840s.

William Crosby of Monroe County was referred to as a rich "Mississippi planter" by some. His new son-in-law was a native of Tennessee and once he, Brown, finished up with all the conversions in the Crosby family and neighbors, some estimate that he had converted about 200 individuals in Monroe County to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Early on this influential and wealthy group of LDS members built a church near some springs in eastern Monroe County --- the springs today are called Mormon Springs. In the 1840s when all the members of the LDS were being "gathered" first to the North and then to the West, Mormon Springs, Monroe County, Mississippi, was a gathering point for the planned treks elsewhere.

According to land records, William Crosby entered three parcels of land in Monroe County, all in 1820. Two of those early transactions are for land near but not at the location of Mormon Springs. One parcel was just south of present-day Greenwood Springs and one was in the section just north of Cockerham Lake --- both in the midst of the hills of eastern Monroe County.

The Mississippi Saints were primarily a set of inter-related families from the Mormon Springs settlement of the Hill Country.

After learning that my Hollingsworth family was connected both in migration and also by marriage to the large and influential LDS group of Crosbys, I thought it would be easy to determine which of the older families practiced polygamy.

I can find no evidence of polygamy in any family which lived in the Hill Country of Monroe County.

The only evidence for plural wives near Monroe County was among the Indian families, especially among the ruling family of the Chickasaw Nation, the Colberts. According to J.N. Walton in a series of letter he wrote in the 1880s about Chief Levi Colbert, several of the Colberts had plural wives which he, Walton, had knowledge of at Colbert Hill just west of Monroe County Mississippi USA in Chickasaw Nation circa 1820s through mid-1830s.

There is evidence, however, that after the Crosbys migrated from Monroe County, Mississippi, to Utah that some of the men took plural wives. Most of that information is well documented and available from a variety of sources.

I found it of major interest, however, to read the journals of some of the Mississippi Saints as they migrated north and then west. One account discusses in detail their route by wagon train from Mormon Springs north across the Hill Country to ferry Bull Mountain Creek. After getting to the other side, the oxen- and mule-pulled wagons all mired in the mud and the group floundered for a day or two trying to cross that low bottom land. Eventually they made it to the Ohio River and steam-boated to St. Louis, forming a wagon train there for the journey west.

Some of the Mormon Springs Monroe County group, the Mississippi Saints, wintered in Pueblo, Colorado, and are credited with forming the first schools and churches in the West other than the ones formed by early Spanish explorers.

Some of the Mormon Springs Monroe County group were the first to arrive in the great valley of Utah where the faithful from across the nation and world began to gather. Some of the slaves of Monroe County Mississippi Saints were instrumental in that settlement; at least two slaves from Monroe County Mississippi are named on monuments in downtown Salt Lake City.

Two of the folks who left Mormon Springs for the gathering of the Saints in Utah were Oscar Crosby and Hark Lay. They were slaves, and according to at least one reference, they were brothers. But they were owned by different masters. Oscar was owned by William Crosby. Hark was owned by William Lay. Both Oscar and Hark lived in Mormon Springs, Monroe County, and both were sent to Salt Lake City, Utah.

Dr. W.A. Evans, Jr. in Mother Monroe mentions some of the Mississippi Saint families by name; several of the online sites lists them also.

After arriving the valley at Salt Lake, one of the first of the pioneers to die was three year old Milton Threlkill (Evans spells the surname Thrailkill) who drowned August 11 shortly after the group arrived in Utah. The Threlkills were from Monroe County. Milton was probably born in the Hill Country.

In 1851 twenty of the families that left the Salt Lake Valley to establish a colony in California at Rancho San Bernardino were from the Mississippi Saint group originally from Monroe County.

The journal of John Brown offers an interesting account about travel conditions across North Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and then by riverboat to St Louis (via the Ohio and then up the Mississippi); then by wagon train across Missouri, Nebraska, Wyoming, and to Salt Lake Valley, Utah. Here is a summary of that time line for the third group and probably final group Brown lead out of Monroe County, Mississippi.

March 10, 1849: left Mormon Springs, Monroe County, MS with eleven wagons with six families and a number of colored people. [Later it is established that this party included 30 whites and 24 blacks.]

March 13: crossed Bull Mountain Stream (about 20 miles north of Mormon Springs) on ferry (ferryman was a Mr. Winters). Immediately got stuck in mud in bottom on north side of Bull Mountain Stream. Got unstuck but it took the group four travel days to cross Monroe County and arrive in the edge of Itawamba County.

March 30: arrived at Wilcox Ferry, Kentucky, on the Ohio River, opposite the town of Metropolis, Illinois. About 15 miles from Paducah, KY.

[The distance from Mormon Springs, MS, to Wilcox Ferry, KY, is approximately 300 miles which this group traveled in 20 days. The party averaged 14 to 15 miles per day on the first part of their journey by wagon.]

April 2: A couple of men crossed the Ohio River by ferry and rode to Paducah; chartered a steamboat for $400 to take party to St. Louis, a distance of about 200 miles. By water, the group would go down the Ohio to the Mississippi and then upstream to St. Louis. The steamboat was named "The Transport."

April 4: Loaded the steamboat with 11 wagons, 30 white people, 24 colored people, 1 yoke oxen, and 24 mules.

April 16: Arrived in St. Louis on the Mississippi River. Mrs. John Bankhead, a member of the Mississippi Saints, gave birth to a son on board the little steamboat before getting to St. Louis. Camped south of the town with some of the other Mississippi Saints.

April 21: Left camp with 21 wagons (they bought extra ox and wagons in Illinois); crossed the Missouri River at St. Charles, Missouri.

May 26: arrived at Winter Quarters for the Latter Day Saints.

June 4: Part of Mississippi Saints party left for the trek on to Utah. Main party stayed a few days longer.

June 7: Mrs. Lay [probably Mrs. William H. Lay], a member of the Mississippi Saints, gave birth to a son, in Winter Quarters.

June 10: Remainder of Mississippi Saints departed Winter Quarters for Salt Lake Valley.

August 28: John Brown's [the one keeping the journal] ox-wagon broke down in the Black Hills.

August 29: John Brown's son, John Cosby Brown, was born.

October 16: Arrived in Salt Lake Valley where the children of the earlier arrivals were all swapping whooping cough.

December 21: John Cosby Brown, infant of John Brown, died and was buried between two cottonwoods on land that was assigned to the Brown family.

February 13: Elizabeth Coleman Crosby, John Brown's mother-in-law and grandmother to John Cosby Brown, was buried beside John Cosby at the same place.

[The distance the group traveled by wagon train from St. Louis to Salt Lake City was approximately 1,600 miles. They averaged about 12 miles per traveling day; the group did not travel each day.]

Mormon Springs probably included a sizeable group of Mormons before the western trek but I can find no evidence that polygamy was practiced among the group in Mississippi. It is known, however, that polygamy was a secret practice among several Mormons elsewhere prior to 1852 at which time the public at large became aware of the practice.

The Morrill Anti-bigamy Act was adopted in 1862.

The majority of the Monroe County Mormons left Mississippi in 1846 and 1847.

John Brown, who married into the Crosby family at Mormon Springs had 10 children by Elizabeth C.Crosby whom he married in 1844 in Monroe County; 6 by plural wife # 2 whom he married in 1854 in Utah; and 10 by plural wife # 3 whom he married in 1857 in Utah.

My Hollingsworth relatives stayed put in Monroe County and produced a generation or two of Methodist ministers.


Brown, John. A Biography. Link:

Brown, John. Journal. Link:

Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records of the United States. Online link:

Bynum, Rebecca. "Polygamy and Me," New English Review. December 1, 2006. Available online at[Bynum says, "Polygamy was a short-lived experiment for the majority of Mormon families; it was over and done in two generations. "]

Evans, W. A. Jr. Mother Monroe. Aberdeen, Mississippi: Allmond Printing Company. 1979.

Mississippi Saints. Partial listing of names at

Monroe County Discussion Group [J.Alverson; R.Franks; J.Harlow; M.Riggan; J.Sullivan; R.Thompson; L.Thornton]. Series of emails. 2006-2007. Copies in file of writer.

Rosswog, John. Utah's Anonymous Twin Relic of Barbarism: Oscar Crosby's Life as a Utah Slave. Available online at Copy in file of writer.

Walton, J.N. Letters on Chief Levi Colbert written during the 1800s. Transcription available online at

Copyright © 2007 William T. "Terry" Thornton. Fulton, Mississippi 38843. All Rights Reserved.

# 67, June 5, 2007


by Terry Thornton

Some readers have emailed to inquire of the names of Mississippi Saints, the group which left Mormon Springs, Monroe County, Mississippi, for the great gathering of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Utah.

I cannot find a definitive list of Hill Country folks who migrated to Utah. But I do find available lists of names of some, if not all of these Monroe County folks except the names of children and slaves who were carried.

Names of Mississippi Saints who wintered in Pueblo, Colorado, 1846 (Part of the 1st Group from Monroe County)

According to various records, in 1846, John Brown lead a group of 14 families from Monroe County west. They left in April and when they reached Independence, Missouri, they were joined by the Crow family which consisted of 17 adults and children. Some of these "Crow" families were closely kin to the Monroe County group; it is impossible for me at this point to separate the non-Monroe County names from the group who left Mormon Springs, Monroe County.

This group was advised to over-winter at Fort Pueblo, Colorado, where they arrived in early August, 1846.

Here is a list of the heads-of-household and the family members of the Mississippi Saints who wintered at Pueblo. Symbols: (h) head of household; (w) wife; others in list are children.

1. Dowdle, Absalom Porter (h)
2. Dowdle, Sarah Ann Holladay (w)
3. Dowdle, Sarah Catherine
4. Gibson, George Washington (h)
5. Gibson, Mary Ann Sparks (w)6. Gibson, Mary Denise (married William New in Santa Fe and didn't go further west)
7. Gibson, Lydia A. (married Gilbert Hunt in Pueblo)
8. Gibson, Robert B.
9. Gibson, Frances Abigail
10. Gibson, William C.11. Gibson, Laura Altha
12. Gibson, Moses
13. Gibson, Manomas Lavinia
14. Gibson, Joseph
15. Harmon, James (h)
16. Harmon, Mary Ann Blanks Smithson (w)17. Harmon, James Bartley
18. Harmon, Sarah Elizabeth
19. Harmon, Paralee America
20. Harmon, Josephine Smithson
21. Harmon, John Taylor (born in Pueblo)22. Kartchner, William D. (h)
23. Kartchner, Margaret Jane Casteel (w)
24. Kartchner, Sara Emma (listed as first white child born in Colorado)
25. Mathews, Benjamin (h)
26. Mathews, Temperance Weeks (w)27. Mathews, Mary Elizabeth
28. Mathews, Sarah Jane
29. Mathews, Sally
30. Mathews, William (h)
31. Mathews, Elizabeth Adeline Bankhead (w)
32. Mathews, Thomas Marion33. Mathews, Jane Elizabeth
34. Mathews, John Lynn
35. Mathews, Ezekiel Cunningham
36. Mathews, Marie Celeste
37. Mathews, Elvira38. Mathews, Narcissa
39. Mathews, Nancy Melissa
40. Mathews, Benjamin
41. Mathews, Emma Louise
42. Mathews, Martha Roxanna
43. Mathews, Sina Adeline44. Reer, Mary Ann (h)
45. Reer, Perrill E. James
46. Reer, Sally Ann
47. Reer, Josephine48. Ritter, William C. (h)
49. Ritter, Sarah Ann (w)
50. Ritter, Anderson Taylor
51. Roberds, John (h)
52. Roberds, Martha Tucker Walpole (w)53. Roberds, Lodesky Ann
54. Roberds, Thomas Richard55. Roberds, Mary Belvidere
56. Roberds, Harriet Luanna
57. Roberds, Frances Elinore
58. Roberds, William Brown59. Smithson, Allen Freeman (h)
60. Smithson, Letitia Holladay (w)
61. Smithson, John Bartley
62. Smithson, Sarah Catherine
63. Smithson, James Davis
64. Smithson, Mary Emma
65. Sparks, George W. (h)66. Sparks, Luanna (Lussiann) Roberds (w)
67. Sparks, William Thomas
68. Sparks, Mary Ann69. Terrill, William (h)

Here are the names of the The "Crow" Company of Mississippi Saints: (Part of the 1st group) which includes some from Monroe County.

1. Crow, Robert
2. Crow, Elizabeth
3. Crow, Benjamin B.
4. Crow, Harriet5. Crow, Elizabeth Jane
6. Crow, John McHenry
7. Crow, William H.
8. Crow, William Parker
9. Crow, Isa Vinda Exene
10. Crow, Ira Minda Almarene11. Therlkill, George W.
12. Therlkill, Matilda Jane
13. Therlkill, Milton Howard
14. Therlkill, James William
15. Little, Archibald16. Chesney, James17. Myers, Lewis B.

The Second Group lead west by John Brown was a small work party. According to Evans in Mother Monroe, this small company consisted of four slaves and a few LDS members.

1. Brown, John2. Ivory, Matthew
3. Powell, David
4. Lay, Hark (slave of William Lay)
5. Crosby, Oscar (slave of William Crosby)
6. Unknown slave who died enroute
7. Unknown slave who died enroute

[Hark Lay and Oscar Crosby were said to be brothers.]

Brown lead the work party west where they joined the first group of Mississippi Saints in 1847 at Fort Laramie, Wyoming. He then turned about and headed back to Monroe County, Mississippi, to lead out his own family and that of several other Mormon Springs families.

The "Crosby" Company of Mississippi Saints (Third group from Monroe County and perhaps the last group from Monroe County lead by John Brown in 1848). Heads of Household only (party consisted of 56 whites and 34 colored persons):

1. Powell, John
2. Powell, Moses
3. Smith, Robert M.4. Lockhart, John5. Bankhead, George
6. Bankhead, John H.
7. Holladay, John D.
8. McKnown, Francis
9. Lay, William H.10. Crosby, Elizabeth C.
11. Brown, John12. Crosby, William
13. Truly, Ekles
Source: John Brown's Journal.

Although this is the last organized group which John Brown lead to Utah from Monroe County, there is evidence that other families from Mississippi left a few at a time over the next several years. In the 1850s, Brown lead a huge wagon train of Mormons across the Nation to Utah; many of that group were new arrivals in the United States.

Other sources:

Evans, W.A. Jr. Mother Monroe. Aberdeen, Mississippi: Allmond Printing Company. 1979.

Copyright © 2007 William T. "Terry" Thornton. Fulton, Mississippi 38843. All Rights Reserved.

# 282, November 28, 2007
by Terry Thornton

Late Saturday afternoon, November 24, 2007, the Monroe County Discussion Group toured several places in the eastern part of the hill country. None of the areas we visited were as peaceful and restful as Mormon Springs historical site and marker. This location on Wolfe Road was beautiful in the light rain with the woods dressed in their autumn colors.

Mormon Springs Branch at the place of the Mississippi Mormons historical marker, location of Mormon Springs Church from where the Mississippi Saints departed on their trek to the Great Salt Lake Valley in Utah.

The small park-like area by the stream has been improved with a flag, picnic area, and a large stone memorial to the Mississippi Saints. The memorial stone was erected in the 1990s; this was my first opportunity to view it.

The stone memorial to the Mississippi Saints at Mormon Springs, Monroe County, Mississippi. A transcription of the stone is below

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was organized on April 6, 1830. Missionaries first arrived in Northeastern Mississippi in 1839. Here at Mormon Springs many converts to the church were baptized. Using stones to dam the stream, they made a baptismal font just to the east of the ford that then crossed the stream. The Buttahatchie branch of the church was organized here in 1843 with William Crosby as branch president. A small church was built on the west side of the ford to serve over 200 members.

From this site, on April 8, 1846, the first Saints left for their trek west under the direction of John Brown. They were the first to establish a religious colony in the west since the Spanish priests of 1769. Several members of this group, known as the Mississippi Mormons were also among the advance scout party who first entered the Salt Lake Valley in Utah in July 22, 1847. By the time Brigham Young entered the valley on July 24, 1847, they had already planted potatoes, beans and buckwheat. True to their southern tradition, these faithful Saints had also planted a turnip patch.

Many of these early converts were marvelous frontiersmen, resourceful colonizers and shrewd traders. Because of their abilities, nearly all of them were eventually called to lead Mormon colonies to Colorado, Utah, California, Oregon and other areas of the west. They were valiant in their love of God, their Prophet and their religion.

My earliest Hollingsworth relatives migrated to Monroe County, Mississippi, along with the large and influential Crosby family. They were intermarried. At some point, there was a divergence of religious views --- the Crosbys were almost all converted to the Mormon Church and migrated west whereas most of the Hollingsworths remained devout Methodists and stayed in Monroe County. There is no doubt that some of the Hollingsworth kin were probably among the Mississippi Saints; I haven't sorted through the genealogy carefully enough to identify which of my relatives made the journey west.

Thanks to the Monroe County Discussion Group for arranging and implementing the tour of Monroe County.

Copyright © 2007 William T. "Terry" Thornton. Fulton, Mississippi 38843. All Rights Reserved.

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