About the Collection
David Horton Elton
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
David Horton Elton was born on 12 January 1877 in Worcester, Worcestershire, England, to John Elton and Isabel Amelia Horton. Four years later David’s father died, leaving eleven children for Isabel to raise. David was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) at the age of eight, and in 1890 he emigrated with his family to America aboard the ship Wisconsin. They arrived in New York City on 13 August 1890 and immediately journeyed to Utah, where they settled in Salt Lake City.
David left home to serve a full-time mission for the LDS Church on 17 March 1898. He had been appointed to labor in the Southern States Mission and after arriving in Chattanooga, Tennessee, headquarters for the mission, he was assigned to the Florida Conference. Like other LDS missionaries in the South at this time, David faced much opposition to his message. For example, on 29 March 1898 he and his companions received a letter telling them in heated language to leave town or else a certain “committee of 8 will…cow hide every one of you.”1 David ignored such threats and displayed in his diaries a cheerfulness and optimism that no doubt contributed to his success as a missionary. His dry humor is evident one day when, after finding a nickel on the ground, he exclaimed, “We are no longer traveling without money for I have 5 cents.”2
Elton learned quickly to rely heavily on the Lord; on one occasion, after being sick in bed all day he recorded, “Thus far the Lord has abundantly blessed me and I hope and pray that he will still continue to bless me, for without the blessings of God I would be of no use in the [missionary] Field.”3 He also grew sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. After a particularly successful meeting he noted, “The Spirit of God was with us in rich abundance and we were able under the influence of the same to speak in words of plainness, power, and simplicity.”4 David’s devotion to missionary work was soon recognized, and after transferring to Tennessee he was made 1st counselor, then president of the Chattanooga Conference. During his three years in the South, Elton succeeded in baptizing nineteen individuals into the Church. He also developed his talent of composing verse on his mission; he wrote at least four hymns and a poem dedicated to his mother. In April 1901, after thirty-seven months away from home he returned to his family in Salt Lake City.
Immediately upon arriving in Utah, on 3 April 1901, David married Nora Afton Houser in Salt Lake City. They had become acquainted in Tennessee and were blessed with five children over the course of their life together. In August 1901 the Eltons relocated to Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, and David began working as an editor for the Alberta Star, based in nearby Cardston. During the next two decades he also worked as a barrister and solicitor, labored on the Lethbridge City Council, and served ecclesiastically as president of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association for the LDS Church. In 1935 he was elected to the post of mayor for Lethbridge, a position that he held for the next eight years. In addition to these professional, civic, and religious responsibilities, David enjoyed writing poetry; many of his poems were published after his death in the collection, The Writing of David Horton Elton, Q. C. In his eighty-first year, David Horton Elton died on 19 August 1963 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
1 David Horton Elton, “Diary, 1898,” 29 March 1898. MSS 2050, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
2 Elton, “Diary 1898–1899,” 16 December 1898. MSS 2050, LTPSC.
3 Elton, “Diary, 1898,” 4 June 1898.
4 Ibid., 30 May 1898.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 11 June 2004 available from http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm
Elton, David Horton. “Papers, 1898–1905,” MSS 2050, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
________. The Writings of David Horton Elton, Q. C. n.p., 1964?.
New York Passenger Lists, 1851–1891. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 11 June 2004 available from http://content.ancestry.com/iexec/?dbid=7488&htx=List&ti=0&r=0