Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Gaston L. Braley: Leaves from a Life’s Journal (2)

Gaston L. Braley: Leaves from a Life’s Journal (2)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 23, 2011

Previous installment

I suffered constant persecution from friends and relatives from the time it became known that I was investigating the gospel. I was called a “sinner,” and no treatment was too severe. I will mention an instance.

There was a large revival camp meeting held in the neighborhood and people were getting religion. I did not attend, but was busy at home with my daily duties. Later I missed some of my stock, and conducted an extensive search for them, but was unsuccessful in finding them. Finally, some time later a neighbor asked me if I was still looking for them, I said “Yes.” He said, “If you will look behind a certain blacksmith shop you will find what is left of them.” I looked and found the hides where they had been hidden, when they had been killed to supply meat for the barbecue, to feed the people who came to the Revival meeting. I told him that I would much rather have found the animals. He laughed at me and said, “They needed the meat, and you are a sinner anyway.”

When I first heard the gospel I found that it was just what I had been looking for. It satisfied the hunger I had always felt when thinking of religion. I had seen the gift of healing. My little nephew was very ill with malarial fever. The Elders were called in. They administered to him, and he was instantly healed.

I, with my mother and widowed sister, applied for baptism and were baptized by Elder Joshua Hawks of Franklin, Idaho in one of the tributaries of the Tennessee river, in Wayne County, Tennessee, November 1, 1883.

During the period of my conversion, the Spirit of Gathering rested upon me in rich abundance, and I began to plan to dispose of my property, that I might make my home in the West. After my baptism I made ever effort possible to sell my farm, crops and animals – cows, horses and mules. It was impossible, it seemed, and the way looked very dark.

Elder Hawks, who was visiting us at the time, said, “If you will labor, and be faithful up to the last moment, I promise you in the name of Israel’s God, that you shall have the money.” On the day set for our departure we all stood out in the door yard. The steamboat that was to carry us on our way to Zion was coming up the river. We heard the whistle about four miles away. But still I had no money for passage and the animals were not sold.

The man whom I had hired to carry my things to the boat was there, and we had already loaded some of the boxes into the wagon. Just then a Mr. Baker rode up on horse back, and addressing me with a very pleasant “Good morning,” said, “I hear that you have some horses and mules for sale?” I answered that I had. He said, “I would like to see them.” I said, “There they are in the yard.” He asked what I wanted for them. I told him the price. Without returning a word he pulled a roll of bills from his pocket, counted out the money and gave it to me, and rode off with the animals. Elder Hawks put his hands upon my shoulders, and said, “There’s the word of the Lord fulfilled; put the other things into the wagon, and be on your way.” This I did, leaving my home and farm as it stood.

After I had received the money, I walked aback with Elder Hawks to where the rest of the group stood, and had the money in my hand. We were all in tears, and the joy and peace and gladness that came over me that day have remained with me more or less from that time to the present. It was worth everything in the world to me. We caught the boat just in time, and were on our way to Zion.

My mother, my widowed sister, and her three children, all came with me at that time. I learned later that one of these horses which Mr. Baker bought of me brought him more than the lot had cost him, as I told him it would at the time, for the horses were of excellent stock. One sold for a dollar a pound.

Crossing those Kansas plains by train, following almost the same track that was followed by the Saints, was a great thrill to me, so much so that during the night I would peer out into the darkness in order to get another glimpse of that historic trail it all appeared to me, on account of the vision I had previously had in the field while plowing.

I had been on my way to Salt Lake City for nine days without a shave. After my arrival I went into a barber shop. I got a seat near an elderly man whom I did not know, but whom I was to learn was Daniel H. Wells, a counselor to Brigham Young. He soon engaged me in conversation. He could evidently tell from my looks that I was a backwoods man, and a stranger. I told a little of where I came from, and why I was there.

We soon took our turn, were shaved, and were through about the same time. He put on his overcoat, and came to where I was standing and invited me to go home with him for dinner. I gladly accepted. I was seated directly across the table from where he sat in his home.

Then followed a great spiritual experience to me. The inspiration I got from him, which seemed to emanate or flow from his whole being, while he told the story of his acquaintance with the Prophet Joseph, has rarely been equaled in my experience. His story was short but what it meant to me was very valuable. His eyes were fixed upon me and his face bore an unmistakable evidence of inspiration from the Lord.

Brother Wells told me that the Prophet Joseph had been dragged into his court in Nauvoo a great number of times on trumped-up charges, none of which had ever been sustained. His court was sought to help carry mob laws; and when it failed to be used for that purpose, the mobocrats turned upon him. It was then that he became interested in Mormonism.

He related many remarkable experiences, and thus I spent one of the most instructive evenings of my life. I went back to where I was stopping for the night, and undertook to tell my mother and sister the story. This I was unable to do to my entire satisfaction and have never been able to tell it just as it was, because it was so full of meaning to me that I could not describe it to others.

I arrived at the end of my journey, Franklin, Idaho, the twenty-second of November, 1883. I had been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ just twenty-two days and had traveled from Tennessee to Idaho, by a roundabout way. We boarded an immigrant train at Shawnee, Indiana. We traveled between two and three thousand miles.

I received my first mission call on August 17, 1893, and left my home on September 21, 1893, for Salt lake City, where I was set apart for my mission to the Southern States, and ordained a Seventy, by Abraham H. Cannon, of the Council of the Twelve.

In this blessing he said:

“Those who seek to oppose you shall be confounded, and the Lord will overrule his power in your deliverance from the hands of your enemies; even beyond that which you have ever anticipated and the devices for your destruction shall fail, and you shall be preserved from harm and accident, through your faithfulness. You shall return home in safety, to the church of God, in these mountains. You shall be a useful instrument, after your mission, and shall do much good in the future. We bless you with every blessing and gift your heart can desire in righteousness, or that is necessary for you to have …”

On September 23, 1893, I left Salt Lake City, Utah, with a group of other elders, who were going to different parts of the world to preach the gospel. This day was ten years, lacking two months, from the time I first arrived in Franklin, Idaho, from Tennessee.

On my way to my mission field, I visited the World’s Fair in Chicago, and spent several days there. From there I went to Chattanooga, Tennessee, the headquarters of the Southern States mission, remaining there only a few days.

I was sent from there to north Georgia for a short time, and then to South Carolina where I met my first companion, Albert P. Berry, uncle of one martyred later in Tennessee. We traveled together a short time until he was released to return home. We spent the time visiting the Saints, in those parts.

When we returned home, I started to labor with W.E. Cowley. Elder Cowley and I soon went into a new district where Mormon elders had never been before. We found the people very bitter toward us. Many times we could get no place to stay, nor anything to eat.

One morning, after sitting under our umbrella all night, in a heavy rain storm, we made our way into the city of Camden, South Carolina. We were very hungry and weary. We went into a hotel, where we expected to get something to eat. There we met my former companion, Elder Berry. He was waiting the arrival of another elder who would accompany him home. We told him that we expected to get something to eat there. He suggested that we go to some other place; but as it was raining very hard, we decided to order something there.

When the meal was ready, a tall, lean lady came to the door of the waiting room, and said that the meal was ready, and that we could eat, but that we must pay for the meal before we ate. We paid her, although it took every cent of money we had. The woman disappeared. We never saw her again. After eating a portion of food, we both became aware that we had taken poison. We went out onto the back porch. I was able without feeling sick or uneasy, to disgorge what I had eaten. My companion’s face was snow white, and I felt very much concerned about him. The food that I disgorged appeared to be like liver, full of blood.

We went out onto the front porch, where Elder Berry was sitting, and he said, “I felt impressed that you brethren should not eat here!” We walked out three miles to where we had friends. Mr. McClendens, our friend, told us that he would go into the city, and institute a search for the woman. He did this, but she was never located.

Soon after this incident I was sent to labor with Jacob Tanner. We were traveling one day on our way to the postoffice, and met a gentleman in the road who introduced himself as a preacher. He said that his father was also a preacher, and declared that he was hunting for us, and had been looking for several days. He informed us that his father had a church, and a congregation and had appointed a week in which to serve the Lord every day and every night, and wanted us to come and help him in that week’s service.

We gladly accepted the invitation. The old gentleman met us with out-stretched hands, and made us welcome and soon the week’s service began. It was marked with many impressive experiences to us. As the week’s preaching went on, the old preacher’s kindness seemed to fade more and more, when the congregation, or part of them, began to be very friendly to us. They had the Spirit of investigation come upon them very strongly and this was very much against the old preacher’s feelings.

The young preacher, Mr. Wilson, applied for baptism, but later reconsidered the matter. We did, however, baptize his wife, and as many others as we cared to, about 12 in all.

(To be continued)



  1. Amazing stories.

    One question. When Brother Braley mentions Albert Berry, “uncle of one martyred later in Tennessee” he means “earlier,” doesn’t he?

    Comment by Researcher — May 23, 2011 @ 7:53 am

  2. Good catch. The Cane Creek Massacre was in 1884, so whether he’s speaking from the perspective of 1893 (his mission) or 1933 (when this was dictated), it would be “earlier” rather than “later.”

    Incidentally, any reader not familiar with the Cane Creek Massacre in which Elders Gibbs and Berry and two Tennessee brothers died should visit Bruce Crow’s Amateur Mormon Historian. There’s a link on the front page to an overview of the Cane Creek story, with many follow-up posts — nobody anywhere has uncovered more about the event and the participants and the aftermath than Bruce has.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 23, 2011 @ 8:02 am

  3. I had no idea that any of William S. Berry’s uncles joined the church. Fascinating. That little detail gives me a little inspiration for a post.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — May 23, 2011 @ 8:33 am

  4. Healing was common in the early missions, but my (unsystematic) study suggests that healings were more common in the southern states missions in the late 19th and early 20th century. Could also be that I’ve just read more southern states sources, as well…

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 23, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

  5. I got so excited about Albert P. Berry, I forgot to thank you for the plug. So…Thank you.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — May 24, 2011 @ 8:54 am

  6. Excitement is better, Bruce. 😉

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 24, 2011 @ 9:26 am

  7. Great story. Bro. Braley was on a spiritually planned trail. He encountered just the right people at just the right times. His history leaves out one small item that seems worth adding. This is from the DUP history of Whitney, Idaho, just north of Franklin, where Gaston had settled: “The Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association was organized in 1888 with Herbert Rallison as president, Gaston Brawley [Braley] and Jasper head as counselors.”

    Comment by CurtA — May 24, 2011 @ 10:07 am

  8. I was impressed that he ended up in Franklin, Idaho just twenty-two days after he was baptised.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — May 25, 2011 @ 12:54 pm

  9. My son used a portion of this story to explain “what progenitors can teach us” as a youth speaker Sunday. My son, through my wife, is a descendant of Daniel H. Wells. The insight was how, as an impartial justice of the peace, D.H. Wells saw the charges against Joseph Smith and rejected them. When he would not mis-use the law the mobs turned on him as well.

    Because D.H. Wells later was an Apostle & Counselor to Brigham Young, both LDS and non-LDS writers tend to assume he was biased early on. This meeting with Gaston Braley really shows to me that D.H. Wells was a non-LDS jurist trying to be fair in his court and had reject the charges against Joseph Smith to remain honest with himself. Gaston’s description made me fell like I was in that courtroom.

    By the way, my ancestor, Elisha Randolph Laurence, and his family moved from Northern Alabama to “Worm Creek” (now Whitney) Idaho in 1872. Whitney is just north of Franklin. What was it about Southern converts & the Idaho end of Cache Valley? Elisha was converted by missionaries from Preston.

    Comment by Jeffrey Laurence — June 17, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

  10. Jeffrey, I’m delighted to hear that your son used this story as a resource. I just finished replying to a similar comment on another post — it is a great pleasure to learn when Keepa goes beyond the moment of reading a post and into broader use. Thank you.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 17, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

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