The Tennessee Massacre: Defense and memorial of the martyrs

Victims Buried

Those who had fled to the woods in the excitement, returned as soon as the mob left; the eyes of the dead were closed, and the bodies of the two elders and their brave defenders were laid side by side. Plain coffins were made of poplar lumber and the Saints and friends laid away in the best possible manner, under the circumstances, the bodies of the four martyrs.  The Condors going to their graves where they will sleep until the resurrection of the Just; the bodies of the Elders to remain until friends should come to take them to their families.

The writer was not very intimately acquainted with Elder W. S. Berry, having only met him on two or three occasions, and he was a man of rather reserved demeanor; but brief as was our association with him, we learned o love him for his willingness to sacrifice his own comfort to the welfare of others; we learned to respect him for the excellence of his judgment, the wisdom of his counsels, and the goodness of his heart.

His success in the ministry as not so much owing to his ability as a public speaker, as to his conversation at the fireside; but above all else, the power of exemplary deportment attracted the attention of men tot he message he bore.

Willing to Die

Our association with Elder Gibbs was more extended. We have met with him in several conferences while in the south and for nearly two years have been in constant correspondence with him, besdies having traveled with him several weeks during which time we were surrounded with dangers and threatened by mobs; the dark, angry clouds of persecution threatening at times to burst in violence upon our heads; and in the midst of it all, he was ever calm; in the darkest hour, myself and others have heard him say, that, if needs be, he was willing to lay down his life for the truth’s sake, and for the testimony of Jesus.

He was full of faith in God, generally cheerful, while his constant kindness revealed the goodness of his heart; with all this he possessed a bold, fearless spirit and whenever he came in contact with hypocrisy, succeeded in tearing from its face the smiling mask behind which it sought to hide. He possessed those qualities of mind and heart which naturally endeared him to all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. Every labor required of him was intelligently executed. He was untiring in his labors of the ministry.

Yet his zeal was tempered by an excellent judgment. His mind was well stored with information, and he was naturally gifted – being fluent in speech, easy in conversation, and an excellent correspondent – but to crown it all, he was ever prayerful and humble in spirit.

The writer knows nothing of that affection which exists between brothers, but he can conceive of no relationship that would bind men more closely together in the bonds of affection than that friendship which existed between Elder Gibbs and himself.

Innocent of Crime

Such is the character of the two elders whose blood is now dripping from the hands of assassins in Tennessee. They were innocent of any crime, unless forsooth, it can be a crime of teaching an unpopular religious faith. They were “Mormons” – members of a Church which is everywhere spoken against, because of the infamous falsehoods industriously circulated by canting, hypocritical hireling priests, who tremble at the word of truth; and scheming political tricksters – this was “the head and front of their offending.”

Nothing else can truthfully be charged against them. Nothing can be truthfully said to excuse “the deep damnation of their taking off.” As yet, however, it is not fashionable to murder men without some excuse, and when the news of the massacre flashed over the wire, editors, correspondents and preachers set their wits at work to invent some pallistion of the bloody deed.

Charges Made

One correspondent accused them of preaching to the poor and ignorant, “and among this class,” he said, “they have several converts which is very obnoxious to an enlightened and virtuous people.” Some said they were guilty (?) of preaching polygamy, and others charged, in a general way, that the elders practiced the arts of seduction, but the writer knew them well, and would answer with his own life for their innocence. They were chaste, and it will yet be known that they were among the pure in hearts, of whom it is said, “Blessed are they for they shall see God.”

It is vain that men seek to extenuate the crime of murder, because the victims are “Mormons.” In the eyes of all good men and in the eyes of Almighty God such a deed is

“A blot that will remain a blot in spite
Of all that grave apologists may write;
And though a bishop try to cleanse the stain,
He rubs and scours the crimson spot in vain.”

Defenders Praised

Turning from the Elders who have sealed their testimony with their blood, let us look at their fellow martyrs – their noble defenders – James R. Hudson and Martin Condor. Their relations with the traveling elders of he district were friendly. They were sons of the Sister Condor, who was wounded in the brutal assault on the lives of the Elders.

J. R. Hudson was her son by a former husband, and Martin Condor by her present husband, James Condor. Unfortunately we can say nothing of the date or place of their birth. Martin Condor was a mere boy, only nineteen years of age, J. R. Hudson must have been twenty-four or twenty-five. They were children of nature, accustomed to the hardships of backwoods life, the gun, and the chase.

Their education was limited, having been reared in a neighborhood remote to the centers of education, and the circulation of books and periodicals.

They knew little of the great world, but little of its polish and refinement – terms too often used to cover its hypocrisy and deceit – to all this they were strangers, but by their actions on the tenth of August in defending the Elders, they proved to the world that beneath a rough exterior, they possessed qualities of heart and mind which proclaimed them nature’s noblemen.

Ready to Assist

They were ever ready to render the Elders any assistance within their power, and always treated them with the greatest kindness and respect, ever manifesting a disposition to protect them. Brother J. M. Lancaster, who lived near the Condor farm, in a letter to his sister living in Manassa, Colorado, bearing August 31st, says: “Saturday night (August 9) Sister Rachel saw the mob in a vision and Sunday morning told Riley (J. Riley Hudson) to load his gun for the mob was coming.”

This “Sister Rachel” referred to in the letter is Sister Condor who was wounded. Riley at the suggestion of his mother, loaded his gun Sunday morning, and thus prepared to defend the Elders. All accounts agree that when the mob rushed upon the peaceful assembly, the two Condor boys were out in the orchard. When Brother James Condor called for them to get their guns, they saw their father already in the hands of the desperate mob and the people running in every direction.

Had Chance to Flee

Had they been disposed, they could have saved their own lives by flight or noninterference; but they appeared only to be anxious for the safety of the Elders. Without stopping to consider the fearful odds against them, or to take into account their own danger, they attacked the mob, fighting like lions in defense of the brethren with the result already recorded.

Without reserve, these noble boys sought to thrust their own lives between the Elders and their enemies. Their innocent blood affixes a broad seal to the religion which they had accepted – called “Mormonism.”

“We know we have passed from death unto life,” says the Apostle John, “because we love the brethren,” and “Mormonism,” which is the gospel of Jesus Christ, inspired a love for the brethren in the bosoms of those young men, which was stronger than the bands of death.

 Remembered in Honor

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – Jesus. Henceforth and forever their names will be remembered in honor, and as their spirits shall be received among the honored martyrs in the spirit-world, those who have been under the altar these many years crying, “How long O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell upon the earth,” will rejoice, for they will that that their fellow servants also, and their brethren that should be killed as they were, are coming in, and by that they will know that the “little season” they were to rest until these things should be fulfilled has nearly expired, and that the hour is at hand when justice will demand that the innocent of the prophets and Saints which has been shed, shall be avenged on those who crimsoned their hands in it, and those who gloried in the dead.

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