Day 2 of MHA 2011

I absolutely love the Mormon History Association conferences.  It is wonderful to talk to all the people that I have been writing about the past few years!  I’ve eaten lunch with Newell Bringhurst, breakfast with Richard Bushman, and received advice from Rick Turley, Gary Bergera, Armand Mauss and Barbara Walden.  Only John Hamer seems to be missing this year.

Yesterday, Paul Reeve, Associate Professor of History from the University of Utah told us that St. George was once more cosmopolitan in the early years.  It had more (raw numbers of) blacks, Chinese, Polynesians and Europeans in the early days of settlement until the past few decades.  It was a really interesting presentation.

I have been very interested to learn about new research websites.  In the afternoon, Rick Turley, Randy Olsen and Jeffrey Walker introduced the brand new Church History Library Beta Website.  Apparently it is brand new this week.  Turley said that they are in the process of digitizing millions of documents and photographs.  Some are already available and they hope that many will be available soon.  They encouraged us to make requests for digitization.  I checked out the website yesterday.  It is a beta website, and did go down for a few minutes yesterday, but I look forward to checking it out some more.  I just realized that all the items I saved on my e-shelf were erased because I did not log in.

They also showed us the Joseph Smith Papers website.  This website contains all the information found in the bound volumes, as well as new information not in the books.  Jeffrey Walker gave an entertaining introduction, and said we should all watch the 2:08 video on the home page since he is prominently featured there.  The room was packed with researchers.

This morning, I attended the inaugural Mormon Women’s History Initiative breakfast.  They have a Facebook page, as well as a website to assist those interested in studying women’s history.  It was here that I was able to talk to Richard Bushman.  When I told him I was a statistician, I was surprised that he started asking me questions!  He asked me if I followed Wordprint studies, and I was pleased to say that I have.  I told him to stop by my blog, so I’ll make it easy to find the items.  Here are a few posts on the topic.

Yesterday afternoon I attended a session called “Reading and Writing Southern Utah History.”  Brandon Metcalf of the Church History Department gave a history of the southern Utah historian James Bleak (pronounced Blake).  Curt Bench gave a delightful presentation on Juanita Brooks (he’s a big fan and a bibliophile), and George D Smith gave a history of apostle George A. Smith, for whom St George is named.  George A Smith was a cousin to Joseph Smith, and the grandfather of future prophet George Albert Smith.

This  morning, I was able to attend a great session on the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  Ugo Perego was supposed to give a presentation called “‘Poisoned Springs?’  Scientific Testing of the More Recent Anthrax Theory.”  Perego wasn’t able to give the presentation because he was in Italy accepting an award, so the president of Soreneson Molecular Genealogy, Scott Woodward gave his presentation.  It was awesome.

As you may or may not know, the Fancher party was accused of poisoning a spring and causing cattle to die.  This was supposedly the cause of the Indians getting angry at the Fancher party and seeking their deaths.  However, historians have said they don’t believe there was any poison.  Perego looked at poisons and environmnetal explanations of the poisoned springs theory.  Strychnine and Arsenic were the two most common poisons available in 1857, but he doesn’t think it fits the descriptions.  Anthrax and Brucellosis seem more likely, with anthrax seeming to fit the descriptions best.

A young boy from Fillmore, Utah named Proctor Robison was known to have skinned a cow and died shortly thereafter in a manner similar to the descriptions of the Fancher party “poisonings”.  The Sorenson group asked for permission to exhume the body and see if there was evidence of anthrax in the boy’s death.  While they were able to positively identify the boy using DNA testing, the ground was very moist.  Anthrax has been known to leave dormant spores around for centuries in the right conditions.  If the boy did die of anthrax, the moist ground has erased any evidence of anthrax in his death.  I think it is a really interesting theory, and I was fascinated by the presentation.

Barbara Jones Brown discussed the Marvelous Flood of 1862 which devastated much of the area surrounding Mountain Meadows, and Richard Turley discussed John Wesley Powell’s interactions (for whom Lake Powell is named) in southern Utah.  Powell came in contact with John D Lee and others of MMM infamy.  It was a great session, and a packed house.

I’ll post more tomorrow.  Questions or comments?

4 comments on “Day 2 of MHA 2011

  1. Is MHA an annual event or does it happen more than once a year?

  2. Yes, MHA is an annual event. Next year it is in Calgary. I don’t know if I will be able to go to that, but I am hoping to. Bishop Rick, do you ever go to these types of conferences? I think you would get a real kick out of them–especially Sunstone.

    The John Whitmer Historical Association conference meets in Nauvoo at the end of September. JWHA is a sister organization to MHA and is the RLDS version of MHA. I’m going to see if I can go to that. FAIR and Sunstone always compete with each other the same week in August–I wish I could go to them both. It would be nice to go with a friend to one of these–maybe we should schedule something? What do you think? Newell Bringhurst told me he’s presenting at FAIR on Friday, and Sunstone on Saturday–makes me want to go to both!!!

  3. When in August, and where are FAIR and Sunstone?
    I spent a week at Nauvoo last summer. My FIL was/is on a Temple mission there. I enjoyed Nauvoo. I got a guided tour of the temple, including a view from the top. The guide said you could see 3 states from up there. Iowa is right across the river, but Missouri is about 12 miles away, so maybe.
    Great custard shop in town. If you are ever there, get the salted caramel.

  4. Sunstone is Aug 3-6 at Weber State. See http://zh-cn.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150180764951591&comments

    FAIR is Aug 4-5 at the South Towne Mall in Sandy. See http://www.fairlds.org/conf11a.html

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