About the Collection
Dennison Emer Harris
by Brian A. Warburton
Dennison Emer Harris was born 13 May 1854 in Springville, Utah, to Dennison Lott Harris and Sarah Wilson. Dennison spent his childhood helping his father on the family farm in Springville and later in the Southern Utah town of Monroe. In the fall of 1878 he attended school at Brigham Young Academy (B.Y.A) in Provo, Utah, where he met and befriended Eunice Stewart, his future wife. The following year he taught school at Richfield, Utah, and continued teaching there until the fall of 1880.1 He was called to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to the West Central States Mission leaving on 24 October 1880.2 Dennison was first assigned to labor in Ohio, visiting Oberlin College and many of the surrounding towns. The missionaries traveled as the New Testament Apostles, without purse or scrip, asking for food and shelter as they traveled and preached the gospel. They often spent time with members of the church or with church investigators.
The missionaries held meetings as often as they could, either in the homes of investigators, or in public buildings such as school houses, or churches. In the fall of 1881 Dennison was assigned to labor by himself in the St. Louis, Missouri area. He had distant relatives there whom he visited, preaching to them and their neighbors. “Mr. Davis took me to supper, held a large attentive meeting in the Stewart’s home in the evening.”3 Dennison found his relatives friendly but uninterested in his message; as he left them, he felt great desire that they would one day accept his teachings, “Am thankful they all received me kindly, and pray that God will bless them that the scales of darkness may fall from their eyes, for they seem to be blind, as the masses of the world are, yet I am in hopes that the good seed sown may in time spring up in some of their hearts, and produce fruit.”4 Though most people treated him with respect, Dennison faced ridicule and persecution by those that hated Mormons. “Some 15 men had come to break up my meeting, they began by building a terrible hot fire near where I would have to stand. As soon as the meeting began they threw corn on the floor and at me, I appealed to them for order, as did also some of the citizens… but we were annoyed the whole time.5
After three months of preaching alone, Dennison was reassigned a companion and together they traveled to Michigan preaching as they went. They continued their missionary labors as usual for the next several months and on 10 June 1882 a conference of the missionaries was held and it was decided that most of the fields of labor in Michigan had been “pretty nearly run out,” so several missionaries were relocated and Dennison and some others were released to go home.6 He began traveling home on 15 June 1882 and concluded writing in his journal that same day. He returned to Monroe, Utah, and after a short, renewed courtship he married Eunice Polly Stewart on 24 August 1882 in Salt Lake City Utah.
Dennison returned to B.Y.A. in the fall of 1882, but after only two months he was called on a mission to be the principal of schools in Tooele, Utah, where he arrived on 7 November 1882.7 After serving in Tooele for two years Dennison was released from his duty and he returned to B.Y.A. He accepted the position of principal of the Payson City schools, upon finishing his schooling.
Dennison and his wife Eunice felt impressed that he should take a plural wife and though the federal government was actively prosecuting polygamist Mormons at that time, he married Annie Jane Wride on 28 July 1886 in Logan, Utah.
Dennison was called to preside over the North Eastern States Mission in 1887, leaving in September of that year and serving in that position until June 1889, when he was released because of illness.8 The family felt it was unwise for them to remain in Utah because of the active prosecution of polygamists so they moved to the Mormon colonies in Mexico arriving in Colonia Diaz, on 18 August 1889. Dennison was soon employed teaching school and later became a member of the bishopric in Colonia Juarez. After living fifteen years in Mexico he moved to Canada where he could easily buy land. He moved his family to Cardston, Alberta, Canada, where he engaged in farming and also became the bishop of the Cardston Ward. He lived in Cardston for eight years before his death on 24 July 1912. Dennison had nine children with Eunice and ten with Annie.
1 Eunice Stewart Harris, “Autobiographical Sketch of Eunice Stewart Harris” (Utah: by the author, 1932) , 14-15.
2 Dennison Emer Harris, “Journal of Dennison Emer Harris” (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, no date) , 24 October 1880. only the second volume of the original journal starting 13 September 1881 is available here, but a typescript of the first volume is available.
3 Dennison Emer Harris, “Diary, 1881–1882,” MSS 308, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. 18 September 1881.
4 Ibid., 24 September 1881.
5 Ibid., 26 October 1881.
6 Ibid., 10 June 1882.
7 Eunice Harris, 17.
8 Eunice Harris, 24.
Harris, Dennison Emer. “Diary, 1881–1882,” MSS 308, L. Tom Perry special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
________. The Diary of Dennison Emer Harris. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, no date.
Harris, Eunice Stewart. Autobiographical Sketch of Eunice Stewart Harris (Wife of Dennison Emer Harris) Utah: by the author, 1932.
Turley, Clarence F. History of the Mormon Colonies in Mexico. Mexico?: L.B. Lee, M.T. Lee, 1996.
Warrum, Noble. Utah Since Statehood: Historical and Biographical. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1919.