Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Gaston L. Braley: Leaves from a Life’s Journal (4)

Gaston L. Braley: Leaves from a Life’s Journal (4)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 08, 2011

Previous installment

One, Mr. Gonzales, was especially active and bitter. He made many false statements, in his paper, concerning us, and had repeatedly refused to give or sell us space to answer. Reference will be made to Mr. Gonzales later.

A little while after the trial we went to the Post Office in Columbia to get our mail, and received a telegram from a Miss Sharp who lived about one hundred miles north, where I had formerly labored. Her father, Mr. Lewis Sharp, had become very much interested in our message. He was a well to do planter and merchant.

He had been taken very sick and was rushed to Columbia for treatment. He and his wife had taken rooms at the Columbia Hotel, which, by the way, was owned by the wife of Mr. Gonzales above referred to. Mr. Sharp had been operated on that morning. His daughter asked us in her telegram to call and see him. This we did. We were shown into his room by his good wife, though much against the doctor’s orders. The doctor left the room as soon as we entered. Mr. Sharp asked us to pray for him. We did as requested, and pled with the Lord to heal him, and raise him up and give him another chance to importune His holy name.

The Lord did very miraculously heal him. Soon after our prayer, one of the doctors came into the room and found Mr. Sharp half sitting up, with his head resting on his hand, chatting and laughing. The doctor said he had expected to find him much improved, and Mr. Sharp remarked, “Well, I certainly am very much improved.” His good wife was filled with joy at what had occurred. They were not members of the Church at this time.

It was getting near lunch time and Mrs. Sharp invited us to remain for lunch with her. We gladly did as requested. A splendid lunch was prepared in Mrs. Gonzales’s private apartment. she said: “Mrs. Gonzales, meet Elder Beaty.” Mrs. Gonzales said, “Where are you from, Mr. Beaty?” he said, “I am from Salt Lake City, Utah.” Mrs. Gonzales threw up her hands as if very much surprised and said, “I’ll bet you are the same two Mormon Elders that were in jail a short time ago.”

Elder Beaty said, “No, not exactly. Elder Braley enjoyed that treat, but I was not present.” Then turning to me she took me by the hand very warmly and said, “I’ll see to it that some things that have happened to you will never happen again. I’ll see to it that you can defend yourself through the columns of the “State” (the paper of which her husband Mr. Gonzales was the editor).

Mrs. Gonzales was a southern aristocrat of the highest type. She told us that she owned the hotel in her own right and that we could make our home there when in the city without cost to us. We had just seated ourselves at the table when Mr. Gonzales walked in. We all stood up when he appeared as was the custom then of the better class of people of the southern states. Mrs. Gonzales then proceeded to introduce us, first introducing Elder Beaty. When she came to me, I said, “I have met Mr. Gonzales quite often the last few months.” He said nothing. After Mr. Gonzales had taken a few bites of food he excused himself and left the room.

A very important state gathering had been called by the governor for some purpose at this time. A man by the name of Jim Tillman, a brother of the governor, Ben Tillman, had been appointed as a representative to that important gathering. Mr. Gonzales was very much opposed to such an appointment and went out of his way to express himself to that effect, through the columns of his paper. He had some very far-fetched statements about Mr. Tillman personally which could not be taken lightly by a man of his type.

Tillman armed himself and went out in search of the editor, met him on his way to his office, and there, without uttering a word, he drilled six ugly looking holes through the person of Mr. Gonzales and left him dead on the sidewalk. He turned and walked a short distance down the street, met a policeman, handed the smoking revolver to him and said, “There is a job for you up there on the sidewalk.”

The next morning a special term of the superior court was called, a jury was impaneled and Mr. Tillman tried. The trial was very short and simple. The jury without leaving their seats found a verdict of “Not guilty.” A crowd of men rushed up to where Mr. Tillman sat, picked up the chair with Mr. Tillman in it, and carried him up and down the street with cheers such as are not common.

Thus ended the vicious career of the editor of the “State,” a man who could write more mean things than any man I ever know of. He painted the elders as bad as he had painted Mr. Tillman. However, agreeable to the promise made by Mrs. Gonzales to me, at the dinner table, as above mentioned, I had the privilege of offering a defense through the columns of the “State” both before and after the death of Mr. Gonzales.

A great many people became interested in us and looked me up, both by mail and otherwise, as a result of this privilege. We later baptized quite a number of people in the city of Columbia as a result of all this agitation. Mr. Sharp, above referred to and his family later joined the Church and assisted materially in building a chapel in his neighborhood. This chapel, by the way, was later burned down by a Baptist minister and his congregation. Through the efforts of various elders, about 20 families had been colonized within the radius of this chapel.

I was called upon by Elias S. Kimball, president of the Southern States mission, to make a trip of about one hundred and fifty miles into North Carolina. He wished me to investigate some stories that had come to him, about certain converts who had previously joined some elders instead of the Church; and who lately had been engaged in raising a mob, to drive other elders out of the country, when they came into that neighborhood.

While on our way we found some families of Saints with whom we were very glad to stop and rest, as the weather was very hot.

We were awakened in the middle of the night by a Brother Poole who lived some three miles away and had heard of our arrival. His wife was very ill with mumps, and wished us to come and administer to her. Brother Poole was a very faithful man who had been in the Church practically all of his life. His wife was not a member of the Church, and in fact had never seen a “Mormon” elder. We went with him to his home and found his wife in a very critical condition. Her face and neck were swollen to twice natural size. We administered to her and soon afterward went to our bed to rest. We were called in the morning and when we went to breakfast we were not at all surprised to find Mrs. Poole perfectly normal. She had prepared breakfast for us. We rested over Sunday and baptized Mrs. Poole and two others who had applied for baptism. I had the privilege that day of preaching from the same pulpit as such distinguished elders as John Morgan and B.H. Roberts had occupied.

We continued our journey and investigated the reports that had come to Presidents Elias Kimball. We found the reports well supported and called a meeting of the Saints in the vicinity as well as those we had investigated. The people who had been charged with wrong, above referred to, refused to come to the meeting, thus ignoring our request. We proceeded to “cut them off the Church,” as ordered by President Kimball.

We continued our journey back to South Carolina. On our way we stopped at the home of Brother Patterson. He and his family were faithful members of the Church. I had written to an Elder Parker with whom I had labored before going to North Carolina and told him that I expected to reach the Patterson home at about that date. When I reached there I was very sick, had a high fever, and a bad headache. I asked Sister Patterson for a place to lie down. I found while lying there on the bed that I had what appeared to be a case of mumps. I was very much concerned over my discovery for two reasons. Sister Patterson had a family of small children, and second, I had work to do.

I lay there praying earnestly for relief, that I might prosecute my labors; and fell asleep. When I awoke I looked out of the window and could see the road for some distance as it ran through the forest. In front of the house I saw two men approaching, whom I recognized as a couple of “Mormon” elders. I was somewhat surprised at seeing these elders, and got up to meet them. I found myself completely recovered, sound and well.

My companion at this time was Elder Oliver Shumway of Franklin, Idaho.

The elders above referred to were a couple with whom I had previously labored a few days. They had recently come into the mission and were poorly prepared to deliver much of an address to a congregation of investigators. They had come especially seeking me, as my companion was also an inexperienced elder, to fill an appointment to preach that night in the city of Blackburg, where they had been tracting.

We made a fifteen mile walk that afternoon and spoke to a nice congregation of earnest seekers after truth. The next day being Sunday we held three very interesting meetings. Before closing the meeting that evening I left other appointments for those elders to fill which they did very much to their credit and joy. They raised up a branch of the Church there.

The following day I made another start back to my field of labor in South Carolina. On our way we were forced to stop at a little hotel. There I met some very affable gentlemen from North Carolina. They were traveling salesmen. After some conversation both of these gentlemen retired.

A lady still remained in the lobby, sitting at a desk, writing. She turned around and said, “Mr. Braley, I have been very much interested in your talk with those men.” I had talked about my relatives, with some of whom they were acquainted. “I could,” she said, “tell you something that might be interesting to you.” She started telling me about an old man named Braley with whom she had formed some acquaintance. He lived 150 miles away. From what she said, I was satisfied that he was a near relative of mine.

After this I very soon secured permission from my conference president to go on a preaching tour through the country, to hunt for a gentleman, and started on my way. When I reached his place a feeling came over me which I have rarely felt. The mansion in which he lived was some distance from the road. I could see the old gentleman sitting on the porch, reading. I approached him, with my voice trembling, because I was filled with joy, now that I believed that I stood in the presence of a man that had known my father. I told him that I was a son of John Steele Braley.

He was very careful in what he said to me, for some cause not known to me at that time. He looked me over and hesitated. He finally said, “John Steele Braley was my cousin. We were raised together. We went fishing, and swimming together, in fact we graduated from college in the same class.” He then added, “Mr. Braley, you seem to wear a ministerial garb.” I said, “Yes.” He asked, “What church do you represent?” I told him, and then I knew why he had been so careful in looking me over, and in what he said to me.

He was very much affected. His countenance fell and he did not seem to be himself any more after that. I said, “Mr. Braley, I am very tired and hungry for we travel without purse or scrip. I would like to get something to eat, and to remain over night with you.”

He declared, “No, you cannot stay.” I asked, “Would you mind telling me why not, Mr. Braley?” He replied, “I am a Presbyterian, and it is against my religion to entertain a Mormon in my home.”

I told him that should he come to my home, I would entertain him as though he were a lord, because he was my father’s cousin, and not because he was a Presbyterian. I told him that my mother had tried to make of me a Presbyterian minister and had failed; and for such a failure, I was more grateful to almighty God than ever before. I left the old gentleman with tears in my eyes, over the great disappointment which had come to me.

My companion and I walked slowly down the road. Just a short distance there was a crowd of men who had just finished their day’s work on the road, paying their poll tax. A large, fine looking gentleman stood by the side of the road giving the men receipts for their day’s work.

I approached him and introduced myself, asking him if he could take care of us for the night. He said he could. He had just seen us leave Mr. Braley’s place, and asked us why we did not stop there. I said, “A chance was all that hindered us from stopping.” He asked, “Were you refused entertainment there?” I replied that we were refused. He said, “Did you learn the reason?” I said, “I did. That man is my father’s cousin and a Presbyterian, and he would not let me stay because I am a Mormon.” He replied, “That man is my father, and he is a damned hypocrite. If you are a blood relative of mine you can stay with me all winter.” He said that he could see that I was a relative by my looks. In fact he and I were almost images one of the other. We walked a short distance to his home, where we were received by his splendid wife and six children.

We spent two nights and a day at that home and did, we thought, some splendid missionary work. I traveled in other fields after that and never saw him again. I do not know whether he joined the church or not. He lived in North Carolina and I was laboring in South Carolina.

(To be continued)



  1. Gaston has such a wonderful way of telling a story, doesn’t he?

    Comment by Bruce Crow — June 8, 2011 @ 6:59 am

  2. What a fascinating chapter in a fascinating life. His companion, Elder Shumway, is surely an ancestor of the Shumways I knew in the 1940’s when the Franklin high school was closed and the students were sent to Preston High.

    But possibly more interesting is that President Elias R. Kimball was the younger brother of J. Golden Kimball of the Seventy. Elias Kimball later was released six months early to become the first LDS military Chaplain and served during the Spanish-American War in 1897-98. He served in the regiment commanded by willard Young, Brigham’s son and West point graduate.

    Comment by CurtA — June 8, 2011 @ 7:14 am

  3. Aha! Ben Tillman, the governor, was none other than “Pitchfork Ben Tillman”–back in the good old days when politicians had interesting nicknames.

    Comment by Mark B. — June 8, 2011 @ 7:40 am

  4. This is great history!

    But I think it’s funny that a “fine looking gentleman” turns out to be the “image” of the author.

    Comment by Carol — June 8, 2011 @ 10:47 am

  5. Another wonderful installment from Mr Braley.

    What’s really amazing is that CurtA knows so much about all these people. Back when I was compiling a list and short bio of each of the 19th century presidents of the Southern States Mission, it was the hardest to find anything on Elias Kimball. The one biography I found on the Brigham Young Academy High School website was as much about his brother Jonathan Golden as about Elias. But it seems like they spent much of their business lives working together, and they closely resembled each other. (See here.)

    Comment by Researcher — June 8, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

  6. Just a fluke, Researcher. Of course, I am choosy about the posts I respond to. In this case, I did a review for the MHA Journal of a book called “Nineteenth Century Saints at War” and it has the info I contributed here. Sometimes I get lucky and things pop up that relate to books in my library such as about Southeastern Idaho; then I have some fun.

    Comment by CurtA — June 8, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

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