About the Collection
Ephraim Hesmer Nye
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
Ephraim Hesmer Nye was born on 6 August 1845 in Ashford, Kent, England, to John Nye and Charlotte Osborne. When Ephraim was six his father moved the family to Australia in search of a better life. There they were converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and were baptized. However, Ephraim’s parents soon separated, leaving Ephraim and six of his seven brothers and sisters in the care of his mother. After acquiring the necessary funds, they emigrated to America in a company of saints aboard the ship Milwaukee, arriving in San Francisco on 21 March 1859.
For over a year Ephraim and his brothers worked as ranch hands in Stockton, California, saving money for the trek to Utah. Although his father and brother rejoined the family in California, his parents remained estranged. In August 1860 they departed from Sacramento and arrived in East Weber, Utah in October where John and Charlotte divorced and all the children were given into Charlotte’s custody. The next year they settled in Ogden, Utah, where in 1863 Ephraim found employment in a tannery. The following year he was called on a mission to drive a team across the plains to assist a group of 400 Scandinavian saints in their westward trek to the Salt Lake Valley in the William B. Preston Company. They arrived in Salt Lake City on 15 September 1864, with Ephraim reporting: “I was barefooted & had been more than half the way home, having walked 1100 miles. I drove my team & had 12 passengers to my wagon.” 1
Following this trek several important events occurred in Ephraim’s life. He resumed his work at the tannery, joined the Ogden City Brass Band, and in February 1865 he was ordained an elder and received his ordinances in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. Also in 1865 Ephraim purchased land in Ogden and built himself a two-room house. Subsequently, on 9 February 1867 Ephraim married Harriet Mariah Horspool, an immigrant from England. They raised two children, Rosaltha Amelia Nye (b. 16 January 1879), and Hattie Elizabeth Nye (b. 31 March 1889). In 1870 Ephraim began to work for the Central Pacific Railroad Company as a baggage handler at the Ogden depot. With the help of one of his brothers, Ephraim started a dairy farm in 1881 that soon enjoyed moderate success and helped him pay off his debts.
On 1 April 1881 Ephraim was called on a mission to Great Britain. However, the call was postponed for a year so that he could improve his financial situation. Accordingly, he departed for the British Isles on 11 April 1882 and arrived in Liverpool on April 29. He was immediately assigned to the London Conference, but received permission to first visit relatives and obtain his genealogies. After one of his first gospel conversations, during which he was put on the defensive, Ephraim “secretly resolved…[to] fight an aggressive warfare.” 2 This demonstrates his firm testimony and his fiery resolve to save or damn the inhabitants of England. His efforts among his relatives were richly rewarded, as he had the opportunity to teach and baptize first a cousin, who was a pastor in the Society of Friends, and then 23 other family members. He also performed several miraculous healings, including a boy of eight who was deaf. In June 1883 he was called to preside over the London Conference and served in this capacity until the end of his mission. During the two years of his labor in England Elder Nye “had the unspeakable joy and satisfaction of leading into the waters and of administering the sacred ordinance of baptism to 97 believers.” 3
Upon returning home on 29 June 1884 Ephraim was called to preside over the 77th quorum of seventies and filled many speaking appointments in the Tabernacle and in various wards. He also began searching for work, eventually obtaining a position as a team driver hauling soil and rock. This was a trying time in Ephraim’s life, performing hard, manual labor for a minimal wage. The success that he enjoyed before his mission was never regained; fortunately, this period only lasted for two years before his next opportunity to serve the Church on a full-time basis.
On 31 October 1896 Ephraim was called to preside over the California mission, which had been reestablished four years previously. After arriving in San Francisco he was soon joined by his wife and younger daughter, Hattie. Ephraim actively engaged in preaching the gospel in addition to his work as mission president, frequently speaking for hours at public gatherings. As he reported on 2 February 1900, “I love the service of the Lord. Gladly would I serve him in preaching the Gospel to the Gentile the residue of my days. My whole soul is in the work.” 4 He was also instrumental in establishing a permanent mission headquarters in San Francisco, expanding the territorial scope of the mission, and in making it financially stable. In May 1901 President Nye was released and returned home with his family to Ogden.
After only a few months, Ephraim was again called as mission president, this time to the Eastern States Mission. He departed from Ogden on 9 January 1902, but after only a few months, on 3 July 1902, he was transferred to serve as president of the Southern States Mission. However, on 15 May 1903, while attending to an elder who had been severely beaten, Ephraim Hesmer Nye suffered a heart attack and died in Columbia, South Carolina. His funeral was held in the Ogden Tabernacle.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 25 November 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm.
Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries & Autobiographies. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977.
Carter, Kate B., ed. Our Pioneer Heritage. Vol. 1. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958.
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.
Nye, Ephraim H. “Papers, 1881-1902.” MSS 358, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Utah Census, 1850-90. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 25 November 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/search/db.asp?dbid=3576.