Saturday, December 24, 2016

William L. Ball, Soldier, Saint, Swindler

William L. Ball was born in Russell County, Virginia on April 22, 1844, the son of John Tunnel Ball and Margaret Honaker. On July 12th, 1861, he enlisted in Company G of the 37th Virginia Infantry. Existing records are sketchy, but he was listed as "On furlough" for March and April 1862 (probably after re-enlisting), and present for May and June 1862. Subsequent 1862 muster rolls list him as absent without leave.

Ball then enlisted in the 22nd Virginia Cavalry on May 1st, 1863 for three years. The muster roll for the time period up to October 1, 1863 show him as present as a 2nd Lieutenant in Company D.  In early 1864, Confederate Special Order 5/25 resulted in his arrest and return to Company G of the 37th Virginia Infantry, his former unit.

No further military record of Ball can be found, with the possible exception of a record for a William L. Ball in the 6th Battalion Reserves stating an enlistment in April of 1864 and a status of absent without leave. However, this could refer to the uncle of William L. Ball, who had the same name.

Interestingly enough, William L. Ball's brother, John Wesley Ball, also served in the 37th Virginia Infantry and enlisted in the 22nd Virginia Cavalry on the same day as his brother, so it seems apparent that they both enlisted (or transferred) to the 22nd at the same time.

William's brother, Elihu Kiser Ball, wrote a memoir later in life that discusses his family's first introduction to the Mormon Church (Latter Day Saints.) He writes:

"When I was a boy of about fifteen years of age, two Mormon elders came in our vicinity preaching the gospel. This was about 1870. I then lived in Russel County, Virginia, with my father and mother. The names of these elders were T. B. Lewis and C.H. Riggs. There were two of my brothers that met up with them, William and Martin. They embraced the gospel and were baptized. After they joined the Church they invited the elders to my father's house."

Either the Mormon elders came to Russell County earlier than 1870, or William immediately left for Salt Lake City. He appears in the 1870 Census living in Salt Lake City, his occupation is listed as schoolmaster. On January 15, 1872 he marries Louisa Kennedy in Salt Lake City.

Then next historical record mentioning William is in his brother's memoir where he recalls traveling to Salt Lake City in 1878 and finding his brother living there:

"On May 5 I left West Virginia and got on a steamboat at Louisa and sailed down the Big Sandy River to Cincinnati and there I took the train to Salt Lake. I arrived in the city May 13, 1878. I stopped overnight at a hotel named the White House. The next morning I made inquiry if they knew where my brother, William L. Ball, lived. I was told that he lived four blocks south and five blocks east of the hotel. After finding his place (I found he lived in a big two-story house), I knocked on the door and his mother-in-law answered it. I asked her if William L. Ball lived there and she said "Yes, but he is not in. Are you his brother that he is expecting?" I told her yes, but not to tell him I was there. I wanted to see if he recognised me. She said she would go and call him. I set my valise behind the door so he wouldn't see it. He came and spoke to me politely and seated himself and we began talking and I could see he didn't know me. We talked on for awhile and I said, "William, I see you don't know me." He said, "Is that you, Elihu? I'll swan, what made you fool me." He told me then to make his house my home."

William continued his involvement in the LDS Church and, after baptising his brother in 1878, he apparently served a mission in the southern states for the Church. Both brothers ended up in Manassa, Colorado by 1881, where Elihu marries Minta Kirtland. Brother William, serving as Presiding Elder, performed the marriage. William had returned from his southern mission with a large group of converts, mostly poor farmers hoping for a better life. By 1881, these recent southern converts were clashing with the established Church members in Conejos County, Colorado. The established Church members, mostly holding leadership positions, were generally of Scandanavian origin and spoke their native languages better than English. In addition, the southerns were greatly disappointed by the prospects for farming in a land that was "nine months winter and three months late in the fall." Manassa was at over 8,000 feet of altitude.

The two camps soon began to clash, and William L. Ball was firmly in the camp of the southerners. In February 1883 he was removed from his position as Presiding Elder of the Conejos County Mormons. Also in that month, reports began to appear of southerners opposing the Church and suffering further hardships - cattle missing, gates open, and fences and crops destroyed.

Meanwhile, in Salt Lake City, celebrated newspaper columnist Kate Field was researching for a series of lectures she planned to give on the LDS Church. She began a communication with William L. Ball and wrote of the Manassa troubles in the Salt Lake Herald. Newspaper reports appeared as far way as Boston, with most articles opposing the Church. The official Church newspaper, the Deseret News, opposed Ball and raised questions about Ball and funds raised for the poor settlers at Manassa.

The schism between the southern converts and the Church came to head in 1884, where the Church reportedly began buying votes in the Presidential election of that year. William L. Ball spoke out harshly against the Church and was excommunicated, along with hundreds of other recent converts. In a March 16th, 1884 letter to the Salt Lake Daily Tribune Ball writes from Wichita, Kansas:

"I am not at all surprised at the attack made upon my character by the Deseret News, which I denounce as an infamous and malicious falsehood, concocted for the purpose of destroying my influence."

Ball goes on to detail his involvement with the Church and defends himself from allegations of embezzling the funds raised by Kate Field for the poor southerners at Manassa. Ball never returned to Utah or Colorado, or the LDS Church. His parents, who had moved to Manassa during Ball's tenure there, moved to Kansas in 1884, settling in Sedgewick County. William L. Ball lived in Kansas briefly, and eventually moves to Woods County, Oklahoma, one county over from his brother John Wesley Ball, who had moved to Woodward County, Oklahoma in the mid-1880's.

William L. Ball died on October 5, 1912 at the home of his daughter in Jet, Alfalfa County, Oklahoma and was buried in the Thrall Cemetery. The funeral was preached in the Christian Church. During the funeral the preacher recalled Ball saying "It is all right after it is all over if a man is just prepared to go."

Saturday, December 3, 2016

William G. Price to John Wesley Martin, 1856

Lawrenc County Missouria this the 10th of February 1856

Dear cozin I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at present & hoping these few lines will find you & all connection & friends in that cuntry well. The peple is generally well here Aunt Hanner Muncy is well and well satestfied I think. Thomas P Robinson is well & well satestfied he is aliving at R P Andesons. I am aliving at John H Colleys & I have bin evry since I cam to this cuntry. I havnot ben over the cuntry mutch sinc I hav ben here I have ben in Green County & Dade County & ove Lawrenc write smart porton of it & Jasper County I hav bin in the edg of Jasper three or four miles there is sum as good land there as I every saw in my life that is the spring River bottoms it can be bought for 10 dollars pur aker that is improved land the up land is not so good it lays verry well it will perduse from 35 to 40ty bushels to the aker the farmers tell me so that has tride it. There is good land any direction you will go ther is good pravave land can be interd for one dollar per aker timber is sevse[?] here timber land can be bought for 5 to 7 dollars peur aker second handed. They is pore land her as they are there but it is not in cultivation for the farmers has to mutch good land to work [...] land I will tell you no more about the Cuntry for I expect Dave Price has give afull history of the cuntry to you

I want you to wright to mee what daivia said a bout this cuntry & about the folks that was living here right where R P A Price is & what they are a doing & what Marthy Chatman says about this cuntry & where the old man Price died in Kentucky & tell Mothers folks that I am well the hvtest that I ever was in my life is one hundred & eighty & Aunt Cilar Colley Splica the back of my vest this morning with the patch about 6 inches whide. It has been very cold this winter here the snow is a bout 15 inches at this time after a rane yesterday of a bout five hours. Tell James Chatman to wright to me for I would have written to him before now if I had of knew where to direct my letter to. I will look for John P Robinson and you next fall according to promis

Thomas P Robinson is a nocking around the girles like the dickens. I went a corting last Saturday was a week I never had been ther before after dark a while I cornerd on her and I asked her for her company & she turnd hur head to one sid and what do you think she said Y she said he he he. I set there about two hours and talked with all of my might all that she should say was he he he he & then I asked wat bed I slep in & she pointed hur finger I hauld of my britches & loped in & I said to my self spank spank.

Yess liked to forget I was in a hunting scrap the uther day they was 4 of us and wey kiled three deer but take notic I did not kill the first hate the next day or two wey all went out on a turky hunt and the brona ketcht three on horses

ExCuse bad wrighting and bad speling for the wether is very cold.

Direct your letter to Boweres Mill PO

Something more at present but remanes your friend and relation

William G Price to J W Martin
Lwrenc County Mo

Stalls Creek Mo
Feb 15th

Russell County Va
Rose dale PO
John W Martin