About the Collection
Ellis Seymour Heninger
by Brian A. Warburton
Ellis Seymour Heninger was born 21 November 1879 in Mount Pleasant, Utah, to John Taylor Heninger and Mary Susannah Ivie. The Heninger family moved to Ogden, Utah, around 1895 where Ellis attended Weber Academy, receiving a teachers’ diploma. Ellis was called to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to the Southern States in 1899 and was assigned to labor in Virginia where much of his time was spent traveling from town to town preaching the gospel.
The missionaries would usually try to secure a public building in a town where they could preach and then they would send out notice to the people about the meeting. Ellis recorded that the attendance at these meetings was often fairly good, “Gave out appointment for holding meeting at about 6:30 there were about 12 or 15 people present as we started our meeting. This made our eighth meeting in that many nights. We had a very interesting time and people seemed to be very pleased with our talk.”1 Ellis and the other missionaries traveled without purse or scrip and most of the time they were able to find hospitable people to feed them and provide them a place to sleep, but there were times they went without meals or slept outside.
One rainy night they asked a man if they could stay the night at his house, he cordially invited them in but when he found out they were Mormons he said “I know all about the Mormons, get out of here as quick as you can.”2 Persecution like this was not uncommon, but many people were also very polite and treated them well. Ellis often wrote in his journal of people that invited them in to eat and spend the night, often telling them they were welcome to come back anytime
Ellis kept a fairly detailed journal during his mission, often including the contents of interesting conversations he had with people, helping the reader gain a better understanding of the attitudes toward Mormonism in the Southern United States in the early twentieth century. One of these conversations was a humorous illustration of the excuses they were given by people not wanting to feed or provide shelter for them. “Called at one man’s place, he and his little boy were out in the yard. We asked to spend the night with him and then come out the excuses he first said that his wife was sick the little boy contradicted it and then went further to state that his son’s wife was sick but the little boy contradicted it. He yelled out to the boy ‘she’s got the rheumatism dammit, if you don’t shut up when I’m talking I’ll knock you over the fence.’ So of course we had to seek some other place. Met two or three more about like him.”3
On 18 October 1901 Ellis was released from his mission and he began the trip home by boarding a steamship in Norfolk, Virginia, bound for New York City, where he spent several days sight seeing before resuming his journey by rail to Magrath, Alberta, Canada, where his family had moved while he was on his mission. Ellis settled with his family in Magrath and became a farmer and was also the chairman of the Magrath School Board for many years.4 On 27 March 1907 Ellis married Elsie Jacobs in Salt Lake City and after returning to Magrath they raised a large family of seven children. Ellis became a prominent farmer and was a pioneer of livestock feeding in the region.5
Ellis continued to diligently serve the LDS church as a member of the High council and later as a counselor in the Magrath 2nd Ward Bishopric. In 1931 he was called to serve as Bishop of the Magrath 2nd Ward, a position he held until 1936. He moved his family to the nearby town of Raymond, Alberta, Canada, in 1936, where he continued farming. He was an avid reader, who loved to recite poetry and he instilled his love of learning into his children, several of whom became school teachers.
His wife, Elsie had suffered from heart problems for many years and she passed away on 30 April 1944.6 On 15 July 1945 Ellis married Henrietta Nalder, the widowed mother of Ellis’ son-in-law William Nalder. Ellis died, at the age of 83, on 17 April 1963 after suffering from an illness that lasted more than a year.7
1 Ellis Seymour Heninger, “Diaries, 1899-1901,” MSS 967, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. 14 November 1899.
2 Ibid., 23 November 1899.
3 Ibid., 5 March 1900.
4 Norma Palmer Blankenagel, Heninger Heritage (United States: The author, 1986) , 202.
5 Ibid., 202.
6 Lawrence Turner, ed. Raymond Remembered: Settlers, Sugar and stampedes. (Raymond, Alberta: History Book Committee, Town of Raymond, 1993) , 260.
7 Blankenagel. 202.
Blankenagel, Norma Palmer. Heninger Heritage. United States: by the author, 1986
Heninger, Ellis Seymour. “Diaries, 1899-1901,” MSS 967, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Hicken, J. Orvin, Kay B. Redd, and John L. Evans, eds. Raymond 1901-1967. Lethbridge, Alberta: Lethbridge Herald Company, 1967.
Magrath and District History Association. Irrigation Builders. Magrath, Alberta: Magrath and District History Association, 1974.
Turner, Lawrence, ed. Raymond Remembered: Settlers, Sugar and Stampedes. Raymond, Alberta: History Book Committee, Town of Raymond, 1993.