The Tennesse Massacre: Newspaper Article with Account of President Miles Jones’ interviews with surviving Saints, family and members of the mob

Erection by the church of a little monument at Cane Creek, Tennessee, last June recalled in the minds of many saints in that section and others knowing of the event, a happening which many years ago shocked the entire Church membership. It was the brutal killing of two missionaries and two faithful friends of James Condor, August 10, 1884.

The elders killed were John H. Gibbs of Paradise, and William S. Berry of Kanarra. The two others were Martin Condor and John Riley Hudson, half-brothers, who were not members of the church, but who attempted to protect the elders.

Early this spring an order was placed for the erection of a monument over the graves of Condor and Hudson, the bodies of the two elders having been removed to salt Lake through the bravery of the late President Brigham H. Roberts. The monument was completed on June 5, and Elder Charles A. Callis of the Council of the Twelve, who was at that time touring the East Central States mission, and who for many years presided over that section when it was part of the Southern States mission, was present to dedicate it at the invitation of President Miles L. Jones. President James M. Kirkham, successor to President Jones, was also present.

Dedicate Monument

Elder Callis took charge of the ceremonies and after prayer by President Kirkham and a brief explanation of the monument by President Jones, he delivered an interesting address to those present and offered the dedicatory prayer.

President Jones recently forwarded to The Deseret News an account of his visit into that section in August of 1933, where he met some of the principals in that sorrowful event of fifty years ago. He was accompanied into the Cane Creek section by President W. H. Mackay, and Elders W. M. Davis and E. L. Travis.

His account is as follows:

“The four of us left Nashville about 7 a.m. going by way of Scotts branch, through Hohenwald to Cane Creek to the home of Brother Andrew J. Talley. They hda a dinner prepared, which we greatly enjoyed. After dinner we waled up the road to the old Condor farm, and as Brother Talley was well acquainted with that locality, having at one time owned the farm, he took us over the road which led along the creek bottom and crossed over and up the hill.

Visualize Event

“We reached the place where the Condor boys and Elder Gibbs and Berry were buried after the tragedy. I had visited the place a year ago and found it covered with a thick growth of briars, brush and weeds, but since then Brother Talley had leveled the ground and cleaned the weeds and brush from the graves. The Condor boys were buried side by side in one grave then marked by a small slate slab, decayed to near the level of the ground.

“After looking over htis plot of ground we then we to the site of the old Condor home, which had burned down a few years ago, but some of the stones still mark the location of the foundation. While standing there we tried to visualize what took place a half century previous. From here we followed the old road down and across the creek to the point where Elder Jones (Willim H. Jones, who was one of the four missionaries and escaped the shooting) was left in charge of one of the company a man by the name of Mathis.

“Brother Talley had been in converation with a man by the name of Rube Mathis, and he said that Mr. Mathis would like very much to meet me.  So I spent the night with Brother Talley and the following morning his son went to the home of Mr. Mathis and brought him down to Brother Talley’s home.

Hears Story

“Mr. Mathis is a tall, slender man whose figure is erect. He has a long, white beard and although he is eighty-two years old he able to get around briskly. His is a typical rural Tennesseean. Much credit is due him for his kindness in allowing Elder Jones to escape. We went to the spot where Elder Jones was held and from where he was permitted to escape and sat down for a long time. Mr. Mathis related many instances leading up to the occurrence and told of some of the false accusations that were made against the elders and also what took place after.

“The mob was composed of twelve men, all but two having passed away. He gave a detailed account of what transpired, but as he was down at the turn of the road, he was not an eye witness to what took place at the time. After the shooting and commotion at the Condor home, two men came running down the road and asked wehre Elder Jones was and when informed that he had made his escape one of them raised his gun to shoot Mr. Mathis, but the other man, a brother to Mr. Mathis, said: “If you shoot Rube, I’ll kill you!”

“The threat was not carried out. While the shootinga nd commotion was going on at the Condor home, the man, whose name I was unable to learn, who in connection with Mr. Mathis was left in charge of Elder Jones, said to him, “If we allow you to excape, will you promise never to tell anyone?”

“Elder Jones replied that he would not tell anyone around there. Mr. Mathis showed us the direction in which Elder Jones escaped. We visited a Mr. Morrow of Loves brach, a short distance from Cane Creek, whose wife’s parents were members of the Church and where Elder Jones went the following day after having spent the night in the woods.

“During the conversation, Mr. Mathis gave us a somewhat detailed history of some of those composing the mob. In answer to my question as to just how those men got along after his occurrence, financially and otherwise, he said, “O, they just lived.” I could get no more detailed information from him, but from interviewing some of the old residents there I found that practically everyone of them had a great deal to contend with during their lives. The suffering of some of them before death came was of such a nature that I would not care to say much about it.

Had Regrets

“Those which whom I conversed said all the mob seemed to regret very much what had happened upon that eventful day, and without exception, they laid the blame on Dave Hinson, the leader, who was killed in the massacre. Mr. Mathis explained he was a man who feared neither God, man nor devil, and would kill on the least provocation.

“There is another old gentleman still living who told Brother TAlley that he desired very much to meet me, but he was away from home, and I did not get to see him at that time. This man was sitting on a wagon tongue, just outside and in front of the Condor home when the shooting took place. According to his story, and that of several others, Dave Hisnons, went toward the house. Elder Gibbs was standing with a book in his hands and had announced the opening song as Hinson entered the front door. He saw William Martin Condor taking his gun from the place where it hung on the wall. He shot him and then Elder Gibbs was killed. Elder Berry grabbed Hinson’s gun and then someone shot him.

“John Riley Hudson, half brother of Martin Condor, had gone upstairs to get his gun and as he came down, someone grabbed him, and he, seeing that his brother had been killed, managed to get his gun in a position to fire at Hinson.

“The shot took affect just above Hinson’s waist and he turned and fell just outside the doorway. About this time, one of the mob shot Hudson. A big burley negro and another member of the mob, dragged Hisons down the road tot he point near where Mr. Mathis and another had been left with Elder Jones.

The Beginning

“When the mob, all of whom were disguised, arrived at the front gate, they seized Mr. Condor, and he called to his two boys and they rushed into the house and prepared to defend the Elders and others. Their sister Rachel Ann was in the room and witnessed the shooting of her brother and the two elders and also the wounding of her mother. Another sister Visey Jane (Haley) was in the kitchen and consequently was not an eye witness to all that took place. During the commotion Elder Henry Thompson, the fourth Elder of the party, made his escape through the south door and hid under a large bush near the house.

“After the mob had left he went down to the creek and stayed until darn and them made his way to a corn field of one of the Saints, a Mr. Garrett, and remained there until morning. The old Garrett home is still standing but since the highway was built through there it is somewhat difficult for even the old settlers to recognize and pick out the old road and places of interest.

“Elders Gibbs and Berry and their two murdered friends were buried in the private cemetery located on an elevation about two hundred yards from where the house stood. About five days later Elder B. H. Roberts, who then was in charge of the mission, came from Chattanooga and was provided suitable caskets and had the bodies of the two missionaries exhumed and placed in them for the journey to their homes in Utah. Elder Robert disguised himself during this even and thus was successful in accomplishing the task in the face of threats from the mob.

Get Doctor

“After the commotion had subsided Brother Talley and several others who were just a short distance from the house, rendered what aid they could to Mrs. Condor and to Hudson who died soon after. Someone was asked to go for a doctor. He only lived a few miles from the Condor home and when they arrived at his house he had just unsaddled his horse which showed signs of having been recently ridden and the doctor had not yet removed all of his disguise, and it was plain that he was one of the mob.

“He responded, however, and pretended to give proper assistance to Mrs. Condor. He set her limb, but it afterwards developed that the limb was not properly set, and the bones were lapped an inch of so. She was a cripple for life, but did however, become able to walk around and lived nearly 32 years after the shooting.”

While there Presidnet Jones visited the home of the sisters of the Condor boys. They had in their possession the shot gun which killed Hinson and also they possessed a violin belonging to Martin Condor.

Elder Jones continues:

“Sometime after the occurance, the Condor family moved to Hohenwald, and after the death of Brother Condor, on March 28, 1911 and Mrs. Condor, in February 1916, the household goods were left to their daughter RAchel Ann and consequently the gun belongs to her. The father and mother of Condor who were the step-father and mother of Hudson were buried at Trace Creek, a short distance from Hohenwald.”

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