My name is Jeff McCullough. I’m an evangelical pastor in Utah, exploring the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For the better part of the last two years, I’ve been making videos on YouTube, traveling to various Latter-day Saint locations, researching Latter-day Saint doctrine.
Interviewing dozens of church members, eager to tell their story. This is the story of Allison. She’s not a Latter-day Saint. She’s actually a Protestant Christian who grew up in the middle of the Bible Belt in Tennessee. For over 20 years, she’s been researching and exploring Latter-day Saint history and culture. Allison recently made a discovery that has prompted us to go on a journey together to explore a significant Latter-day Saint connection in her story.
I’m from Memphis, which there ain’t a lot of Mormons there. There’s Baptist.
There are Baptist. And my best friend growing up, her parents converted when she was young and people would make fun of her in class like, Oh, you guys practice public with me. I would just see her face turned red. And it’s just like at 18, I thought there’s got to be a way to have some dialog at that age.
After you studied this for a long time, just recently, you’ve.
To Utah. That’s where you live now. In your own just studies and inquiries, you made a fascinating and exciting discovery.
Totally. Tell me about it. I’m just this Protestant Christian. There’s no ties. Never had anyone LDS in the family. Then I got on a family search.
Then to see this.
Woman’s name pop up, and it was Catherine McBride. She’s buried in Nauvoo. It was just like, Oh, sweet. It’s just like all this stuff made sense.
In an effort to trace the steps of Catherine McBride, Allison’s Latter-day Saint ancestor, we made our way to a location in Northwest Missouri that is sacred to Latter-day Saints and undoubtedly played a critical role in Catherine’s story.
What is significant about this land that we’re.
Standing on? This is Adam on Diamat. This is where their belief is that Jesus Christ will return along with all of the other prophets. Joseph Smith will be here, Brigham Young, all when Jesus Christ is here.
The Latter-day Saint significance of this area can’t be overstated. In addition to being the region where they believe Jesus will return to the earth and rain, many also tie this area to the Book of Genesis. Joseph Smith revealed in 1838 that he believed that Adam and Iyamun was the place where Adam and Eve lived after being exiled from the garden.
Oh, that’s cool. Yeah, it’s great. It’s like a grove.
You know, this.
That’s it. There it is.
That’s it. What I have been told is that this is where when they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden on this rock, Adam offered up himself as a sacrifice.
So help me understand where Catherine and Thomas come into play then. When you’ve got all of this teaching and you have revelation coming out about the significance of Missouri. How does that connect with Catherine and Thomas?
Yeah. They were baptized in Ohio, and then they moved from Ohio. They slowly made their way down with a group of other people. This was the ultimate destination that for that time period, their job was to come here and wait for the return of Christ.
I covered some of this in the video I had made when I was in Independence. There’s also this temple lot where they believe a temple is going to be built. That’s in Independence, Missouri. We’re actually far from Independence, Missouri. This whole area that Joseph Smith is having visions about is much larger than just a few towns. It’s multiple counties in Northwest Missouri.
Catherine McBride and her husband, Thomas, were part of a growing community of Latter-day saints in Northwest Missouri. In fact, the number of saints grew so large, tensions began to arise between church members and local Missourians. Around that time, Catherine and Thomas were living in a sleepy community about 30 miles south of Adamand-i-Aman called Hans Mill, where violence erupted in the fall of 1838.
Okay, so here we are in Hans mill. The Prophet Joseph Smith is sending people out here. They’re settling. They’re building communities. What were some of the things that made Missourians not one of the Latter-day saints around?
My understanding is that it reached such a pivotal moment when so many people had the power to vote. That was the final, We’re not taking this anymore. Uh-uh, no.
They were concerned that the number of latter days things out here were going to transform not only the political landscape, but that was then going to impact just everything about the community out here.
Tensions turned into eviction orders, and eviction orders eventually turned into state-sanctioned extermination orders from the governor of Missouri himself.
What happened on that day in 1838 that is now known as the Hansville Massacre?
It was a really peaceful day, hazy, autumn. Catherine went to visit neighbors with her daughters. So 200-something people coming in really fast, shooting like crazy. It happened so fast, there was no time for them to defend themselves. And then Thomas McBride, which was Catherine’s husband, he surrendered his weapon and asked for his life to be spared, but he was shot down with his own gun. So after the mob attacked, about 40 to 50 women and children gathered and ran about three miles into the woods where they were huddled together on the ground, and they hid there until about two o’clock the next morning until they felt like it was safe for them to come out.
I know of a well that’s around here. Tell me about that.
They did not have time to bury the dead. They were too worried about who was coming to get them. And the fastest way to dispose of all those bodies was to dump them in the well. I mean, can you imagine?
You were really anticipating coming here. What has been making you feel so drawn to come here?
That Catherine lost her husband. I guess I just wanted to come and honor her and the others. It’s personal now.
-yeah. You know, I didn’t know how I was going to feel out here. I thought that I would come and I would honestly probably cry, but I don’t feel that way.
It angers me because now that I literally have DNA that was.
Connected here, now, dare.
I say, I’m mad. And it more makes me want to share this story and talk about it. One of the things.
That’s really striking to hear at.
Hans Mill are the sounds. I can hear.
Creek. I can.
Hear frogs, birds. We’re far away from any highway noise.
It’s very quiet. But to.
Know that at some point just under 200 years ago, in addition to those sounds were the sounds of people.
Their lives and families laughing, children.
Working in a blacksmith shop. To then.
Of that was.
Interrupted at one point. The sound of.
Gunfire, screaming, fear.
I’ve gone to a lot of Latter-day St. Historic sites. But here at Hans Mill, this might.
First time that I feel like I’m actually entering into.
The story. That’s important.
Because it’s showing me why it is so critical to move beyond doctrine sometimes and just to.
Story, to understand this.
People group, to listen, to hear.
That’s when I feel like I’m truly.
Starting to see differently.
After the massacre at Hans Mill, Joseph Smith was captured and thrown into a jail in Liberty, Missouri, where he spent the winter of 1838 through 1839. The culmination of these setbacks ended the Latter-day St. Hopes of an immediate future in Missouri. They began to make their way back east to a growing community on the banks of the Mississippi River they named Nauvoo, Illinois. This is where we headed next in our effort to trace Catherine’s steps. I love.
Nauvoo because when I first came here, I won’t go.
Into specifics out of privacy.
And sacredness of the experience, to be honest with you. But I came and I had a deeply.
Spiritual, pivotal moment.
Within 20 minutes of coming into town that confirmed to me that what I had been doing by listening, understanding the history. Nauvu, man, this is where it goes down.
I mean, there’s other.
Locations, but understanding the church’s foundation, their history, their doctrine. You keep doing that, Allison. You keep listening and learning.
Fighting criticism with curiosity. I mean, really. Yeah.
Keep asking the questions. Keep striving for understanding. Keep connecting with people.
Nauvoo is a 19th century time capsule that has been very well preserved through the years. Today, very few people outside of the church have even heard of it. But in the mid 1800s, it was a thriving port city on the Mississippi River where the borders of Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa meet.
From what I understand, this was the main avenue that went through Nauvoo, where the boat traffic would dock down there and everything came up this street. This was a city at the time that rivaled the size of Chicago in Illinois.
That cove between that and then the homestead, the original homestead where Joseph and Emma set up their first home and had all these saints. That was the hub of where they would come to eat, be nurse. So many people had malaria. If these streets.
Could talk. Right? Yeah.
This is my favorite spot in Nauvoo. And I’ve joked before, but I’m really notjoking. Just spread my ashes literally right there.
What does it mean for you to rest here? What’s that draw?
I mean, originally, It’s been in the church for so many years, I’m like, Well, the draw is that I felt connection to continue to obey God by listening to people, listening to these people and understanding their history. I love them. No matter if I subscribe to the restored gospel or not, this is where my heart is. And then to find out that my cousin, Catherine, is buried.
Everything makes so much sense. It’s just like a massive God mic drop.
Yeah, right. Which is what all of us are looking for, to find our place in not only this earthly story, but in his cosmic story over our lives and where all of that converges. It seems like that’s what this place is for you.
Yeah. I get pretty emotional here. Allison was.
Able to meet with someone in the Land and Records office and got a lead on where Catherine may have spent a lot of her time while she was in Nauvoo.
We were just at the visitor center talking to a senior missionary who was really helpful, providing some information, asked and answering questions. They have all these records. So what did you find out?
She pulled up the location of where James was a tenant.
James was Catherine’s son?
Yeah, Thomas’s and Catherine’s son.
Yeah, we’ve established that this is the land that they lived on. Yes. At some point in their time here in Nauvoo.
Yeah, it’s pretty crazy.
The ironic thing about all this is that when I think of your story, this land is in the shadow of a Methodist Church. Now, I know that you aren’t necessarily Methodist. I know you’ve attended a Methodist Church before, but there’s this, again, this convergence and there’s something poetic.
About it. It is poetic.
What comes to your mind when you think about the fact that we were just at Hansmill? You were in this area where she lived, where she ate, where she slept. Now here we are, all these miles down the road, another place where she lived, where she ate, where she slept, where she was experiencing life. How does that strike you and your stories are tracing her steps?
I just wish that I knew more about her since we’ve gotten this far.
You want more?
It’s ending soon. I just want to know what exactly did she look like? What was her personality?
What was she experiencing when she was finally here toward the latter part of her life after experiencing so much in Ohio, in Missouri, as a widow here in Nauvoo.
Right. And living with her at that time like adult children. Right.
Having no idea that almost 200 years later, one of her descendants would be tracking her down.
In the corner in the of the Methodist Church.
At the corner of the Methodist Church.
We weren’t able to find much information about Catherine’s final years in Nauvoo, but we learned she died of tuberculosis around 1841 and was buried just a couple of miles away. After traveling hundreds of miles, retracing Catherine’s steps, our journey was coming to a close. In an old pioneer cemetery full of marked and unmarked graves, one of them being the final resting place of Catherine McBride.
This is a cemetery on the outskirts of Nauvoo. Right.
This is where the pioneers, especially the early pioneers, were buried.
In your research as you found this connection with Catherine, you found out that she’s actually buried in this cemetery. And you had been here before, and you found out she’s in that cemetery that I’ve been to. Yeah. And is there a grave? No. Marker? No?
It’s just unmarked. In so many-So many people are not marked. And I get that. Just like the rush to bury the dead.
So she’s here, but we don’t know exactly where. No. This truly is hallowed ground for you.
Yeah, because I found my connection. I’m so thankful that God has given me a deep connection to people that I loved for so long, and I never understood why.
Yesterday at Hans Mill, we were walking.
On the soil, on.
The land where Thomas.
And today where Katherine rests. You got that close to him this week.
Okay, so as we’ve reached the end of the journey, we’ve traced the story as far as we could trace it. Here’s the question that a lot of people might be wondering. Okay. Why do two Protestant Christians care? How do you answer that?
That’s like the golden question. -it is. Are we really that different? A lot of people in our community are going to say, Well, yeah. But we are not different. The beliefs are, but the souls are not.
He has the same desire for every soul. At the same time.
We’re very different.
Now, that’s the reason why we should draw close to each other. Because so often we use differences as a reason to separate. No, because we’re different. Let’s draw closer to each other. There’s something super sacred about that. And what that does and why I totally appreciate what you’re doing with this exploration is because you’re taking this back to your relationships with Latter-day saints and with people who are in the church. You can connect with them and relate to them in ways that you wouldn’t have been able to had you not gone on this journey. Thanks for letting me tag along on this journey.
Thank you. Yeah.
So often we dismiss one another in the shadows of the steeples we don’t identify with. Yet, in his encounter with a woman at the well, Jesus shows us that sometimes it’s okay to move beyond doctrine in order to truly connect with one another as people. That’s what this is about, people. This is about our stories. It’s about listening to one another, understanding one another, knowing one another. This is about life, love, and loss, faith, heritage, and culture. It’s about connecting the dots on converging paths in this grand narrative of life. This whole endeavor on Hello Saints might be best summed up by the popular Christian nursery rhyme that says, Here’s the church. Here’s the steeple. Open up the doors. See all the people.