Southwestern States Mission: The Trip from Utah to Texas

By June 2, 2013

Later today I will start driving from southeastern Texas to Utah for the 2013 MHA Conference in Layton. Many JI writers and readers are in the same metaphoric boat this week, so I have chosen to write about the reverse trip: how missionaries travelled from Salt Lake City (SLC) to their assigned areas in Texas. [1]

The six Elders in this study traveled, by train, to their mission assignments in the last three months of 1899. Brooks and Duffin arrived on Oct 14; Jones on Nov 04; and Clark, Folkman, and Forsha on Dec 09. All three of those arrival dates are Saturdays. [2] The travel groups included eighteen, six, and eight Elders, respectively.

All three groups left SLC on a Thursday and arrived at mission headquarters in St John, Kansas, Saturday, late afternoon. Departure times spanned the day but arrival times at St John were within ninety minutes of each other. [3] The general route and timing included:

  • Thursday: depart SLC; travel 9+ hours to Grand Junction, CO; change cars; travel overnight
  • Friday: arrive in Denver, Colorado Springs, and/or Pueblo; layover, possibly go sight-seeing [4]; travel overnight
  • Saturday: arrive at Kinsley, KS, Sat morning; layover 5+ h; travel last 40 miles; arrive in St John late afternoon.

Sunday the missionaries attended and participated in meetings with the fifty or so church members in St John. [5] The missionaries gave talks and bore testimonies in these meetings and reported them as spiritually powerful. [6]

Monday morning they received conference assignments and made final preparations before leaving Monday night or Tuesday night. [7] Preparations included posing for group photographs, writing letters home, purchasing and packing books and tracts, visiting, and ?returning again to the office where we got our books and also had our money taken away from us?; at the end ?we all formed a Prayer Circle and our Conference Pres Offered a Beautiful Prayer in our behalf and sent us on our way rejoicing.? [8]

The missionaries still traveled in groups, with Elders ?peeling off? as they reached their respective destinations. The trip to Texas took another day or two. On overnight layovers the missionaries stayed in hotels.

Companion and specific work assignments were made by the respective conference presidents but not until the new missionaries found them. Then they had to find the companions. There seems to have been some inefficiency. Brooks spent two weeks—including a three-day tourist trip to Galveston—waiting for communications and travelling until finally meeting up with his companion and beginning formal work. [9]

The ?Southwestern States Mission? series (homepage) examines mission life in (mostly) Texas around 1900.

[1] I will discuss only the six male missionaries in this study. Sister Carling?s diary includes a description of her trip out but does not seem to fit with the males? trips; perhaps I will discuss it at a later date. The portion of Sister Cluff?s diary presently available to me does not include the beginning of her mission.

[2] It?s a small sample, but it seems that ?arrival transfers? happened in the first half of the month. Sister Carling?s arrival date was Jun 29, but, acknowledging the small sample size, she seems to have been a special case.

[3] All three arrivals were within two hours of each other, 4:30 to 6:30 PM. Departures were at 9:20 AM, 2:15 PM, and 8 PM. If these three trips are typical, the travel time from SLC to mission headquarters was about two days (46, 51, and 56 hours, respectively).

[4] Duffin and Carling are the only ones who record specific tourist visits. ?At 9:30 arrived at Colorado Springs, a beautiful little city of about 20, 000 inhabitants, situated on the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains. To the south-west are the Gardens of the Gods, to the east a few miles, Manitou and the famous Pikes peak. In the city we visited the Union Printers Home, the Kevly Cross, (Catholic) Hospital, School for Deaf, Dumb and Blind. Pueblo, a city of about 45, 000 inhabitants is about fifty-five miles from Col. Springs. Here are located large smelters and steel works.? (Duffin, 1899 Oct 13 Fri).

[5] There were three meetings: Sunday School in the morning, Priesthood in the afternoon, and a general meeting in the evening. ?St Johns is a nice town of about 900 inhabitants, situated in the south central part of Kansas, Stafford Co. The L. D. S. have a beautiful little church building here, and the membership of the Church numbers about fifty souls.? (Duffin, 1899 Oct 14 Sat).

[6] ?At 10 o?clock I went to Sunday School and had a very nice time with the people and at 12 o?clock they took up Fast Meeting and I felt a great deal of the spirit of the Lord resting upon us. I arose and bore my testimony with the rest of the Saints.? (Jones, 1899 Nov 05 Sun); ?At three P. M. met in priesthood meeting at which all of the elders spoke. The spirit of the Lord was poured out in rich abundance.? (Duffin, 1899 Oct 15 Sun); ?Also attended meeting at night called to speak again. the Spirit of the Lord filled the house.?  (Clark, 1899 Dec 10 Sun).

[7] A conference was a geographic administrative unit like ?South Texas? or ?North Texas.?

[8] ?I took breakfast with Bro. Baker and after we were through, we bid them goodby, returning again to the office where we got our books and also had our money taken away from us. ? After dinner all of us went into the gallery and had our pictures taken in a group.? (Jones, 1899 Nov 06 Mon); ?Monday morning was Spent in writing home. The Afternoon was Spent in purchasing Books Tracts Etc and Packing my Grip Preparatory to leaving on the 10 o?clock train for southern Texas. [¶] In the afternoon We Elders All went and had our Pictures taken Went from there to the Hotel to Supper and from there to Headquarters where we all had a lovely time chatting till 915 When we all formed a Prayer Circle and our Conference Pres Offered a Beautiful Prayer in our behalf and sent us on our way rejoicing.? (Forsha, 1899 Dec 11 Mon).

[9] ?We then came to New Waverly, Tex. The next morning we walked 5 miles to Bro. Findley?s and there met two of the Elders. While waiting at Bro. Findley?s for the Pres. of this conference we took a trip to Galveston, Tex. We remained there three days and returned to Bro. Findley?s Oct 25. We received a letter [from] Elder Hansen, the pres. of this conf., asking us to travel about 42 miles by ourselves and there he said we would meet our companions. He said he would notify them and have them leave a letter at Livingston stat[ing] where we would find them. [When] we got to Livingston they had not received their letter so there was none left there for us. So we had to follow them. We found them about 30 miles from Livingston.? (Brooks, 1899 Oct 15 Sun); ?Started on my missionary work. My companion?s name was James G. Reed. ?? (Brooks, 1899 Oct 30 Mon). Duffin passed eight days between receiving his assignment and the day they ?started out on our first day’s canvass in our missionary labors.? (Duffin, 1899 Oct 24 Tue).

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. It kind of surprises me that they all left on the same day of the week. That sounds like there was a regular schedule for setting apart missionaries and sending them on their way, which I wouldn’t have guessed started as early as the 1890s. (No reason why it *shouldn’t* have started early; it’s just earlier than I would have guessed.) Topic for another day could be a report of any indications of training they had — of course this is too early for anything remotely like an MTC,but if they had anything more than a quick meeting with a GA to be set apart, which could account for their all leaving on a regularly scheduled day, it would be interesting to hear about.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 2, 2013 @ 4:17 pm

  2. The regularity surprises me, too, Ardis.

    I’d really like to know about training, too. Brooks and Carling both describe unofficial classes, but others, like Clark, leave Provo on Tuesday (IIRC), get set apart on Wednesday, and leave on Thursday.

    When the curiosity overwhelms me about the departure schedule and I get a larger data sample, I’ll have to include training in the net.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — June 3, 2013 @ 9:24 am


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