The following are taken from the autobiographical sketch written by Lillie Alice Gates Wall (1875-1948) in 1946/47, then living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Lillie lived in Union Parish, Louisiana, from about 1875 to 1905, at Turkey Bluff and Rugg’s Bluff, two small communities on opposite sides of the D’Arbonne Bayou.
Her personal history is length and fascinating, and it was difficult choosing excerpts. These selections are mostly those where she remembers meeting the first Mormon Elders at Rugg’s Bluff and her conversion to the LDS Church in 1901. Lillie and her husband, William Henry Wall, emigrated to Utah in 1905.
Lillie hand-wrote her personal history; the following text was edited and printed in Wall-Gates Family Treasures, an extensive family-history volume published in 2000 by three of Lillie’s grandchildren (Ulah Viola Jones, Marian Andreason Smith, and Rulon Nephi Smithson).
Our side [of the D’Arbonne] was called Turkey Bluff. That was the boat landing, but we were back aways from the river, which was mostly cotton fields. All farmers had corn, cane, potatoes, and garden also. Uncle Henry Gates lived on Turkey Bluff in sight of the river and boats. […] I went on the water quite often in a dugout, which is a small narrow boat hewed out of a cypress log. When made by one who knows how to finish it up smooth and straight, it runs very nicely, but rocky. However, I continued having just about the same good time on my side of the river, and rode out to the P.O. often. This P.O. was kept by my great uncle and wife, [Jacob B.] Littleton Caver and Mary. […]
Mr. [Henry E.] Mosely owned and operated a general store and P.O. at his place about one mile from the boat landing on the river at Mosely’s Bluff, which was about four miles up the river from Rugg’s Bluff where the Walls lived. He had a grown son who, when he returned from school for summer vacation, came down to Henry [Napoleon] Wall’s place one Sunday when I was there—accidentally on purpose, of course. He was a very homely young man, but from a very nice family. Mr. Mosely used to say, “A dollar looked as big as a wagon wheel to him.” He was kind of odd—some kind of ‘furrener,’ but a good business man. […]
I believe it was about the year 1898 when the Mormon Elders first came [to Rugg’s Bluff]. I might relate here that when news of the Elders being in the community was reported, I and my husband [William H. Wall] were not interested—only in one way, and that was hoping they did not come to our place. That is what Willie said, and I agreed with him. But fate meant it to be different, for one evening a few days later, two Mormon Elders walked down in front of our house. Willie and myself were sitting on the front porch, and he says in a low tone, “I bet that is the Mormon preachers now.” But somehow he liked to be nice to people and proceeded to bounce up and exclaimed, “Good evening, gentlemen. Come right in!” I took the ‘back track’ into the kitchen until I decided they were going to stay. Willie came in and ordered supper for them, so I went out and met them. I was just a little afraid though. Tobe Felkins and Fraser were the names. They stayed overnight and Willie bought a Book of Mormon from them.
They departed for that time, but two others came along soon, and we drove up to the school house about 4 miles to hear them preach. By this time Willie was ‘drawing’ the Book of Mormon on all the folks that came to our place—he told us a history of the American Indians—and he kept still about Joseph Smith. But getting back to the meeting at the Henry School House, we both sat up and took notice. On the way home I said “Well, I have heard tonight just what I have been listening for all my life,” and Willie says “I can’t understand about the gospel being taken from the earth when we have had the Bible all the time.” So of course, there were discussions and investigations from then on, and the Elders were frequent visitors, which we were pleased to welcome.
Willie was baptized May 21, 1901. I was baptized July 28, 1901. […]
I want to tell you about our relations near us in Louisiana—mostly Willie’s folks. They were not very attentive to us before we were baptized. They did not seem to think anything about our salvation or ever mention religion to us, but after we united with the ‘Mormon’ church, they became very interested in our salvation. Those relations and friends were mostly members of the Baptist church, so they shouted in meetings and cried about us no little bit. One never having attended the revival meetings that the Baptists hold in the summer, cannot imagine the excitement among them sometimes. […] However some of our best and most hospitable friends belong to different churches and really do a lot of good—sympathetic and helpful in case of sickness, always willing to help without charge. […]
I lived in the state of Louisiana about 15 years and some of the best people I ever knew live there. Although they differ with me in religion, they are good as gold at heart. We had always lived in the country at Rugg’s Bluff (P.O. Moseley’s Bluff), La. School was three or four miles away, and so we became dissatisfied. We sold out our possessions at Rugg’s Bluff and emigrated to Utah in 1905, arriving at Price [Utah] in April. Willie bought a home there and we remained there for two years. At this time, we had four children and the oldest son Freddie passed away in July of that year at age twelve. The following year we visited Salt Lake City, and were admitted into the temple for which I am grateful.