Monday, March 15, 2010

The 19th Century Presidents of the Southern States Mission

Henry Boyle (October 1875–January 1878)
Henry Green Boyle was born March 7, 1824 in Bluestone, Tazewell, Virginia. He died September 8, 1902 in Pima, Graham, Arizona. The date that he began his service comes from the first installment of the History of the Southern States Mission in the Southern Star. Here is a short biography of Henry Boyle. Several years' worth of Boyle's diaries including 1877 are available on the Mormon Missionary Diaries site. Search for "Boyle" in this link for an interesting story, although Boyle is actor Clint Eastwood's great-great uncle, not an ancestor like the site claims. Autobiography (c. 1831–1846) at BOAP. Served in the Mormon Battalion, Company C.

John Morgan (January 1878–January 1888)
John Morgan was born August 8, 1842 in Greensburg, Decatur, Indiana. He died August 14, 1894 in Preston, Franklin, Idaho. He was raised in Indiana and Illinois and served as a soldier in the Civil War. He traveled to Salt Lake City where he joined the church and was later called as a missionary and then Mission President in the Southern States Mission. He was one of the seven presidents of the Quorums of the Seventy. He was an educator, first and foremost. Here is a summary of the many posts about and links to sources on John Morgan. Here is a short biography.

B. H. Roberts (Assistant President, March 1883–late 1884 or early 1885)
Brigham Henry Roberts was born March 13, 1857 in Warrington, Lancashire, England. He died 27 September 1933 in Salt Lake City. After a colorful childhood, he emigrated to Utah and was later called as a missionary. He began his service in the Southern States Mission in December 1880. B.H. Roberts was going to succeed John Morgan as Mission President in November 1882, but due to Roberts' youth, John Morgan remained as president of the mission and Roberts served as Assistant President from March 1883 until sometime in early 1885. He was called as one of the seven presidents of the Quorums of the Seventy. Many issues of the Southern Star devote space to reports and editorials on the hearings about whether B.H. Roberts could take office as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Here is a short biography.

William Spry (January 1888–July/August 1891)
William Spry was born January 11, 1864 in Windsor, Berkshire, England. He died on April 19, 1929 in Washington D.C., while he was serving as Federal Commissioner of Public Lands. Spry was the third governor of Utah (1909-1917). Here is a biography in the Utah History Encyclopedia. Spry was only 23 or 24 when he became mission president. Here are some mentions of him in the Southern States History and John Morgan's diary.

J. Golden Kimball (July 1891–May 1894)
Jonathan Golden Kimball was born June 9, 1853 in Salt Lake City. He died September 2, 1938 in a single-car accident in the Nevada desert. He had served in the mission several years before his call as President. J.G. Kimball was a son of Apostle Heber C. Kimball and his tenth wife Christeene Golden Kimball. J. G. was famous among the Saints for his humor and pithy sayings. In 1927 he reminisced about his service in the Southern States: "I was in the South three years, presiding over the mission, under the greatest hardships and the greatest difficulties I have ever endured in all my life...yet I have had the greatest joy and the greatest peace and happiness."

Elias S. Kimball (May 1894–June/November 1898)
Elias Smith Kimball was born on March 30, 1857. He died on June 13, 1934. He was the other son of Heber and Christeene Golden Kimball. He hosted a visit to the Mission by Apostles Matthias F. Cowley and Francis M. Lyman in 1897. They visited every Conference of the mission. J. Golden and Elias were business partners their entire lives, starting at a young age. There is a biography of Elias on the Brigham Young Academy High School site, but it will not link and requires a new search in the alumni directory.

Ben E. Rich (June 1898–May 1902; July 1903–July 1908)
Benjamin Erastus Rich was born on November 7, 1855 in Salt Lake City. He died on September 13, 1913 in New York City. He was involved in the printing business and, as Mission President, began the publication of the Latter Day Saints Southern Star. The Ben E. Rich Papers at the University of Utah contains a scrapbook with many materials about his tenure as a mission president. Here is a biography.

Ephraim H. Nye (May 1902–May 1903)
Ephraim Hesmer Nye was born in England, joined the Church in Australia, and emigrated to Utah. He served as mission president in California, then in the Eastern States Mission, then was transferred to serve as president of the Southern States Mission when Ben Rich was called to start the new Middle States Mission. He suffered a heart attack while helping a missionary who had been severely beaten and died on May 15, 1903. President Rich was called back to the Southern States and the Middle States Mission was dissolved. Nye's papers are at BYU. Here is a short but comprehensive biography.

Nathan John Harris (Acting President; June 1903–July 1903)
Early Mormon Missionaries noted that Harris served as mission president from 1903–1903. It was during the brief period after Ephraim Nye's death and before Ben Rich returned from the Middle States Mission. Nathan John Harris was born in Harrisville, Weber, Utah Territory, in 1864, and was a great-nephew of Martin Harris. He was a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and was working as a lawyer when he was called the Southern States Mission. After he finished his mission and returned to Utah, Governor William Spry, a previous president of the Southern States Mission, appointed him as a district judge. He died in 1936.

Later Mission Presidents: Ben E. Rich was succeeded as president of the Southern States Mission by Charles A. Callis in August 1908. Callis served for 25 years. LeGrand Richards was called as mission president in October 1933 and arrived in the mission in January 1934. He served until June 1937.

Note: John Brown (1867/8–1869) is occasionally listed as Mission President, but I have never seen proof, and his autobiography does not include any such claim; the mission histories consistently call Henry Green Boyle the first president of the mission.


Berrett, LaMar C. “History of the Southern States Mission: 1831–1861.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1960. BYU ScholarsArchive: Theses on Mormonism (Paper 4525).

Brigham Young Academy High School. Alumni Directory. "Elias S. Kimball."

Brown, John, and John Zimmerman Brown. Autobiography of Pioneer John Brown 1820-1896. Press of Stevens and Wallis, Inc.: Salt Lake City, 1941.

"Southern States Mission: Founded 1876," Early Mormon Missionaries, database online, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

Eliason, Eric A. "The Life and Lore of J. Golden Kimball—Mormon Folk Hero." Meridian Magazine.

Hardy, Jeffrey S. "Ephraim Hesmer Nye," Mormon Missionary Diaries, BYU HBLL Digital Collections.

Lee, John D. Journal, 1842 March–1843 August, Church History Library, MS 2092.

Lewis, William O. Grampa Bill's G.A. Pages.

Madsen, Truman G. Defender of the Faith: The B.H. Roberts Story. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1980.

New Family Search

"Ephraim Hesmer Nye," [copy of photograph], FamilySearch Family Tree, courtesy of "BurtonWilliamHarry1."

"Nathan John Harris," [copy of photograph], FamilySearch Family Tree, courtesy of Deborah J Bayles-Hampton.

Parshall, Ardis. Comment to "Belching Out a Tirade," Keepapitchinin: The Mormon History Blog, April 15, 2014.

Rich, Benjamin. Latter Day Saints Southern Star. Chattanooga, Tenn: Southern States Mission, 1898-1900. (Volumes 1 and 2.)

Seferovich, Heather M. "History of the LDS Southern States Mission," 1875-1898, BYU Masters Thesis, 1996.

Southern States Mission manuscript history and historical reports, 1832–1964, LR 8557 2, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Webpage about Clint Eastwood's religious background on


  1. Great stuff, Amy. I already find myself coming here to refresh my memory, like when I can't recal the years J. G. Kimbal presided over the mission. Thanks.

  2. Great!

    I saw contradictory dates for some of the years of service (for example the picture of John Morgan in this post shows dates which include Boyle's term as president), and had to use my best judgment sometimes, so if you (or anyone else) has more accurate dates, please let me know.

  3. I'm watching a lecture by Heather Seferovich from November 2013 ( and she lists the following:

    Boyle (1875-1878)
    Morgan (1878-1888) with B.H. Roberts, J.G. Kimball and Wm Spry serving as acting presidents
    Spry (1888-1891)
    JG Kimball (1891-1894)
    ES Kimball (1894-1898)
    Rich (1898-1908)

  4. I have updated the list again based on information found in the Early Mormon Missionaries database and supplemented by dates found in the Southern States manuscript history.