Jesse Nelson Perkins Serves a Mission to the Southern States

In 1869-70, Jesse was “called” by President Brigham Young, to leave his family and serve a proselyting mission for the Church to the southern states.  This was only four years after the close of the Civil War and the southern states were still going through many rough times with slow economic reparations.  Even slower in the healing process were the hard feelings many people felt for those who had previously been on the other side of the war.  But for Jesse, this would be going “home” to the land of his birth and his relatives.

Jesse was ordained to the office of a Seventy in the Priesthood.  Together with Bishop John Stoker, he departed Utah to preach in Iowa, Missouri (which was still a dangerous place to be spreading the gospel for “Mormons”), Tennessee, Kentucky and Old Virginia.  While serving, he visited many of his, and his wife’s cousins, uncles and aunts in Tennessee.  This was a delight for him, but there is no evidence that any of them chose to accept his religion.  One wonders if he might have also stopped to visit his sole remaining brother, Reuben Jr. in Missouri.  He made no mention of such a visit though.  At home, he was leaving behind, not only his wives Rhoda and Mariah, but also their children, who at this time ranged in age (for Rhoda’s children) from John, age 27, down to their young daughter, Rhoda, age seven.  (Our ancestor, Reuben Josiah, Had just turned 13 years old—Oct. 14th—at the time his father left on this mission.)

A few lines from his missionary diary are included here to give a glimpse of Jesse’s personality and his history.  This is the start of his journal, which began Oct. 27th, 1869:

Arrived in Chicago, 4:00 P.M. {The Union Pacific Railroad had just been completed across the continent and would have made travel to the east significantly easier, and also would have been the reason Jesse went to Chicago.}  Left for Cleveland at 5:20 P.M. 

Arrived at Cleveland at 7:20 A.M.  Lay by on Sunday Oct. 28th and visited the city.  Put up at the Pacific Hotel, population 1,000.  Lost my fine red handkerchief at hotel. 

Took the car for Wheeling at 8:20 A.M.  Landed at Wheeling at 7:00 P.M. Put up at the Keim House where we met with J.W. Boyd who had an uncle at Salt Lake City.  He was kind to us and gave us much good information and showed us his glass pump, which beat anything we have seen for ease and neatness. 

Tuesday 30th at 3:00 P.M., took passage on “Major Anderson” down Ohio River to Burlington, Kentucky.  Landed Wednesday 31st, at 12:00 P.M. 

Thursday 1st, I took passage on an oil tanker “Hunter” to Louisen {Louisville?} at 8:30 A.M.  Landed at 5:00 P.M.   Took Shanks mare {meaning he walked} and went out two and one-half miles and stayed at Mr. Pigs. 

Friday the 3rd, traveled up Sandy and George Creek all day.  Feet sore and shoulders tired.  {He would have had to carry all of his personal belongings, including Books of Mormon.}  Made 23 miles and stayed at Ben Castels (Casteels). 

Saturday the 4th, traveled up Sandy by Paintsville.  Ate dinner and had some Salt Lake crackers and Utah butter.  Six feet four and one-half inches of Jesse N. Perkins tired and sore, spirits good.  Stayed all night with Mr. May on Sandy. 

Left Sunday morning, the 5th, at 8:00 A.M.  Traveled up Sandy all day, crossing to Dristin.  Roads muddy and body tired, but spirits good.  Stayed with Mr. Stratton.

Monday 6th, traveled fifteen miles—wet feet all day.  Stayed with Mr. Newsom. 

Tuesday 7th, hired two horses from the landlord to ride nine miles.  Payed $1.50 each.  Traveled eleven miles more—feet wet, and stayed at Mr. Stuarts.  Left at 9:00 A.M.  {So far, Jesse wasn’t stopping to preach too much.  He was moving long distances each day heading for southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee.}

Nov. 12th: Went to Uncle Samuel McClelland’s.  Found all well, and was gladly received.  {These McClelland’s were close relatives of his wife, Rhoda—her uncle and cousins.} 

Monday 13, wrote home and to Carolina. 

14th, went to Castells. 

Wed. 15, spent the day with Andrew McClelland. 

Thursday 16th, went to Josiah Mc’s {McClelland’s}.  Stayed all night. 

Friday 17th, remained all day and spoke on the Gospel. 

Sat. 18th, snow and wet. 

Sunday 19th, held meeting at Samuel McClelland’s.  Had attentive congregation. 

Monday 20th, went five miles to Moses McClelland’s.  Found him feeble.  Very glad to see us. 

Tuesday 21st, spent all day there.  In the evening, went to Henderson Smith’s, stayed all night. 

Wednesday 22nd, stayed all day and night.  Sang songs and had a good time. 

Thursday 23rd, went to Mark Smith’s and stayed all night. 

Friday 24th, went to Uncle Moses’ stayed all night. 

Saturday 25th, went with Uncle Moses to his son William’s.  Took dinner and went to Uncle Samuel’s.  Rained all day. 

Sunday 26th, attended Dunkerd meeting, heard some sectarian preaching. 

Monday 27th, Stayed with Uncle. 

Tuesday 28th, went to Benjamin McClelland’s.  Stayed overnight and to a congregation bore testimony…

Wed. 8th: Crossed Cumberland Mountain at Pound Gap. At summit 9:20 minutes A.M.   Traveled down to Carter’s.  Stayed all night and ate apples.  Heard of Moses McClelland living on Copper Creek. 

Crossed High Knob.  One-half inch of snow—feet wet.  Saw more mountains than I ever saw before.  Our spirits good, bodies tired.  Traveled down on Stony Creek and stayed with Mr. Boatright.  He is a gentleman, made no bill, and said we might stay and rest in welcome with him free of cost. 

Friday 10th, landed at Cousin Andrew McClelland’s at 2:15 P.M. where we were kindly received by the family. 

Saturday 11th, went to corn shucking at William M. Davidson’s, son-in-law to A. McClelland.  Stayed all night with A. {Andrew} McClelland. 

Sunday 12th, went to Uncle Samuel McClelland’s.  Day Pleasant.

Having completed a one-year mission that was satisfactory to the authorities of the Church, Jesse returned home safely to his family in 1870. 

Within about a year of his return from his mission, Jesse was present at the home of Reuben Perkins when his aged father passed away peacefully on 22 Oct. 1871.  Now that generation of the family was gone, leaving Jesse to truly be the patriarch of the Perkins clan in Utah. 

Notes:The portion of Jesse Nelson Perkins’ missionary journal that we have is limited to the above.  The actual journal was last known to be in the possession of the children of his grandson, Jesse N. Perkins III.