Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
Edward Morris Rowe
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
Edward Morris Rowe was born on 9 December 1878 in Spanish Fork, Utah County, Utah, to Owen J. Rowe and Ann Creer. He grew up in a large family with ten brothers and sisters. As his parents were devout Mormons, Edward was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of eight. In his childhood he attended school in Spanish Fork, and then at the Brigham Young Academy in Provo, Utah, from 1897 to 1900, where he served as editor of the White and Blue newspaper from 1898 to 1899 and won a debate competition against University of Utah students in 1899.
Having received a mission call to the British Isles, Edward left his home in Spanish Fork on 15 September 1903 and journeyed to Liverpool, England, arriving on October 2. President Lyman immediately assigned him to the Irish Conference and that same night he boarded a ship bound for Belfast, Ireland. Elder Rowe was a prolific writer during his mission, recording his daily experiences and impressions in minute detail in his diary. This verbosity also translated into his speeches and conversations; on one occasion, having been invited by three nonmembers to a discussion, he “gave them the gospel for four consecutive hours,” later noting that “it was the best argument [he] ever had.”1 In April 1905, new mission president Heber J. Grant, appointed Edward to preside over the Irish Conference. Over the course of his mission he personally baptized seven individuals into the church and assisted in teaching several other converts. On 3 February 1906 Edward received his release from President Grant and two days later “a large crowd of Saints assembled at the docks to see [him] away.”2 He then embarked on a grand tour of Europe and afterwards journeyed home.
Edward married Minnie Melvina Barry in Salt Lake City on 3 June 1908. She would later bare him six children, four sons and two daughters. After the wedding the couple lived in Spanish Fork, where Edward found employment as principal of Spanish Fork High School and later served on the city council. A new professional opportunity in 1912 induced the Rowes to move to Ogden, Utah, where Edward became the superintendent and parole officer of the Utah State Industrial School.
However, Edward desired to continue his education, so he moved his family back to Provo to attend Brigham Young University (BYU) where he graduated with an A.B. in English in 1923. While completing his undergraduate degree Edward began his teaching career at BYU as an instructor in the English department. Following graduation he engaged in graduate work at BYU, Utah State Agricultural College, the University of Chicago and the University of Wales at Cardiff. In 1928 he accepted an assistant professorship at BYU in the English department and seven years later became a full professor.
Edward loved both reading and writing poetry. Over the course of his studies he became a leading expert on the life and writings of William Wordsworth. He also published a collection of original poems under the title Guests for Friends. One of his poems, “Oh, Sons of Zion,” was put to music by Robert Manookin and included in the 1948 edition of the L.D.S. hymnbook. He took an active interest in Welsh history and literature and worked towards founding a National Welsh Library at BYU, a dream that never materialized despite his dedicated efforts. Edward devoted further time and energy to organizing the Sons of Utah Pioneers in Provo. He was also very involved in politics, serving as county chairman of the Republican Party and as a delegate to its national conventions. In the church organization he filled many callings including first counselor in the presidency of the Palmyra Stake, centered in Spanish Fork, and choir director. He had an excellent memory and “if he stayed long enough at any given place he would endeavor to quote an appropriate line or two from one or more of his literary friends.”3
In 1949 Edward retired from BYU, retaining the title of Professor Emeritus in English. He remained active in community and university affairs until he died of a heart attack on 13 November 1951 while returning home from a political convention. One of his final remarks was “My sweetest dream is for a great BYU,”4 demonstrating his great love for and devotion to the university where he spent a majority of his life.
Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries & Autobiographies. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977.
Cornwall, Joseph Spencer. Stories of Our Mormon Hymns. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1975.
Deseret News. Obituary of Ed M. Rowe. 14 November 1951.
Jenson, Andrew. Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 4. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Co., 1901–1936.
Pardoe, T. Earl. The Sons of Brigham. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Alumni Association, 1969.
Rowe, Ed M. Guests for Friends. n.p., n.d. [BX 8688.1 .R79g 1942 in Americana Collection, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University].
________. “Papers, 1903–1947,” MSS 831, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
United States Census, 1930. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 5 January 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/census/usfedcen/main.htm.