Strengthened by the Storm: The Early Mormons of Harkers Island, NC, by Joel G. Hancock.
Acknowledgement, Earlier Edition–
I wish to thank all of those who graciously have offered their help in bringing this effort to fruition. Most of the members of the local Latter-day Saint congregation have encouraged me from the beginning. They have continually made me aware of the many stories and traditions that have been passed down through their families. Ultimately, this is their story, and I hope they will find my rendition of it to be appropriate.
Several of my friends have read and reread the copy to help expose my obvious errors. Charles Pitts of Beaufort has added the insight of someone well schooled in local history, and at the same time he has helped to make the text more succinct. Karen Willis Amspacher has been most helpful by lending a perspective that has caused me to appreciate how non-Mormons might have felt about the events I describe, and even of how they might respond to that description itself. As she did so, she also opened my eyes to many things that I had overlooked because of my more parochial perspective. Eloise Blair has offered similar help with the added dimension that she is neither Mormon nor native to the Island. Her comments and suggestions were both constructive and enlightening.
The families of missionaries who served missions at Harkers Island were uniformly gracious and spared no effort in helping to locate old journals, many of which had been stored away for more than half a century. The chain of circumstances that has led me to several of these families is truly remarkable, but is a story best saved for another time and setting.
The staff at the Member Services Division of the Historical Department of the Church always was most cooperative. Sister Duffie Hurtado, in particular, was tireless in her efforts to find and retrieve information on Harkers Island and the early members. Unquestionably, this work would not have attained its present form without Duffie’s contributions.
I must also extend my sincere thanks to the many older people of the Island, Mormon and non-Mormon, who have patiently shared with me their recollection of the stories and events of their youth. I would be remiss if I failed to mention Chauncey and Dorothy Guthrie and Carl Macon and Clara Willis. The accuracy of their collective memory was no more impressive than was the intensity of the love they manifested for their ancestors, their Church, and for each other.
Several other local members, not nearly so old as the others, graciously volunteered to contribute information on their earlier Latter-day Saint ancestors. Each of them provided detailed accounts of their “spiritual” genealogy that included touching stories about the faith and sacrifices of their parents and grandparents. Though each of them is cited in the text, I wish to thank Lena Respess, Almeta Gaskill, and Ruby Ingram Guthrie for their efforts in my behalf.
Hannah Nelson Beasley was a frequent source of genealogical information about the early members. Many was the night that I called her to ask the relationship of some particular member to another, or to find out who today might be a descendant. Not only did she know, but she was happy and willing to interrupt what she was doing to give the needed information.
I also express my appreciation for the earlier historical research of Wallace R. Draughon of Durham, North Carolina. His study of the history of the Mormon Church in North Carolina was both an inspiration and a source of essential information. His work included a listing of the early missionaries and their home towns that was invaluable in beginning to search for their records.
Yet no other prior effort can approach the influence of the several unpublished works of Lillian Lewis Davis. Even the title of this account was inspired by an observation she included in one of her studies. I shudder to think how much more difficult and less accurate this endeavor might have been without the guiding light of her accounts. “Big Sister,” as we call her, was as diligent as she was thorough. She properly should be considered as the vital link that has preserved the basic stories of the Church, and of the Island, until now. A quick glance at the footnotes and bibliography will suggest the importance of her contributions.
I also thank my father, Charlie William Hancock. He was born in 1909 and personally knew most, if not all, of those who are chronicled in the ensuing pages. He was an excellent primary reference as I sought to verify my hunches and impressions. He also was an expert source on facts relating to Diamond City and Shackleford Banks, where his father had lived and where he himself spent much of his youth. He and my mother, Margarette Lewis Hancock, must have grown tired as over the past two years I have literally bombarded them with question after question. But they have maintained their patience and much of what I have written is only my rendition of what they have told me.
Most of all, I thank my wife, Susan Leggett Hancock, and my children; Emily Marlowe, Joella Dee, Alyson Faye, Leah Margarette, Joel Grant, Jr., and Charlie Michael. In truth, Susan’s name should be on the title page along with mine. She has helped me to mold and fashion every sentence, clause, and paragraph. She has been a sounding board for every idea and a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. As ever, nothing I have done would have been the same without her. The children too have done their part. They have allowed me time and given me useful diversion. But most of all, they are the principal motivation that has made this work possible. Every detail I have included is ultimately because I want them and their children also to share what I have learned.
Finally, I thank you who will take the time to join in my endeavor by reading the things I have brought together. I apologize that it is so long! It was not my intention that should be so. But as I uncovered more and more information in ever increasing detail, I was faced with a critical choice. Should I choose brevity and wider acceptance, but sacrifice many details that probably will be consigned to oblivion; or should I include as much as practical of the available information and risk losing potential casual readers? I have chosen the latter. As I have anguished at realizing that so much already has been lost, I dared not be responsible for contributing to a further erosion of material that is both interesting and significant.
I know that I have made some mistakes, and not just those typographical in nature. Whatever they may be, I hope that they will judged to have been of the head and not the heart. This has been a labor of love, but a labor none the less. There were times when I questioned whether I had chosen the right time, and even if I was the right person, for this endeavor. In retrospect, I am reconciled that both questions can be answered in the affirmative.
Joel G. Hancock, Harkers Island, N. C.
24 October 1987