Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
Edwin W. Fifield
by Brian A. Warburton
Edwin W. Fifield was born 27 March 1874 in Weston, Oneida County, Idaho, to Matthew Phelps Fifield and Rebecca Ann Hoopes. His father baptized him on 2 June 1882, when Edwin was eight years old. Edwin spent his childhood years on the family farm, and then in the fall of 1893, nineteen year old Edwin left home and attended school at the Brigham Young College in Logan, Utah, now Utah State University. He graduated on 5 June 1896 and was chosen to speak at the commencement exercises. The topic for his speech was “The causes and effects of the Crusades.” In August 1896 he went to Malad City, Idaho to be certified as a teacher in Oneida County, Idaho. He passed the exam with a 93% and was granted a first grade teaching certificate. After passing the exam he still had difficulty finding a job. While he was searching for employment he received a call to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to Hawaii, which he readily accepted. He quickly began preparing for missionary service and was ordained to the office of an Elder in the LDS church on 30 October 1896. While still preparing for his mission Edwin attended a church conference and was advised by prominent church leaders John Henry Smith and Seymour B. Young, to marry before he left on his mission. He followed through with the counsel and married Margaret Ann Cowley 4 November 1896 in Logan, Utah.
The honeymoon period was short for Edwin and his new bride. Edwin recorded that after the wedding he and his wife traveled back to his home in Idaho where many of the local church members hosted a farewell party and gave him money to help with the mission expenses. As his departure approached Edwin recorded that he became very emotional about leaving his family and new wife. “After all had gone to rest but me and my wife we then had a good cry I taking the principal part.”1The next morning Edwin and his wife Margaret left Idaho and began the trip south to Salt Lake City, stopping along the way in Logan, Utah, where Edwin left his new bride with her family, before continuing on to Salt Lake to report for his mission. On 3 December 1896 Edwin began the trip from Salt Lake to Hawaii traveling by train to Vancouver and boarding a ship on 10 December 1896, for Hawaii. He recorded in his journal that he suffered from sea sickness most of the trip and spent a lot of the time in his bunk trying to recover. He arrived in Honolulu on 19 December 1896.
After arriving in Hawaii much of his time was spent learning the language and meeting the church members. Edwin felt discouraged while trying to learn the language, but soon he realized he was making good progress. “I looked up the number of new words I had learned and found it was some over 2 ½ per day since I came.”2 Within a few months Edwin was able to give short talks and to preach. And soon he started translating a few short tracts. The remainder of his mission was filled with preaching, distributing tracts and preparing himself spiritually through fasting and prayer. In September of 1899 Edwin’s wife Margaret joined him in Hawaii. Soon after the arrival of Margaret, Edwin’s missionary journal ended abruptly and her role in the mission is not known.
The Fifield’s returned from their mission in late 1899 or early 1900. Soon after arriving home Edwin received employment as a teacher in the small farming community of Rockland, Idaho. Edwin was able to purchase a house and farm land where they also raised hay and fruit. Edwin taught school in many different schools in the Rockland area for several years and Margaret taught piano lessons. The Fifields had one adopted son named LaVare. The family was always involved in music. Margaret played the organ in church, while Edwin was the chorister. They were also active in the church choir.
In 1914 Edwin became the Power County superintendent of schools and continued in that position until 1920. The family later moved to Logan, Utah in 1925. Edwin Fifield died 19 July 1940.
1 Edwin W. Fifield, “Diaries, 1896–1902” MSS SC 1549, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. 1 December 1896.
2 Ibid., 14 January 1897.
Fifield, Edwin W. “Diaries 1896–1902.” L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Rockland Centennial Book Committee. Rockland Valley 1879–1979: theFirst One Hundred Years. Rockland, Idaho: Rockland Centennial Book