Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
George Thomas Webster
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
George Thomas Webster was born on 20 June 1870 in West Jordan, Salt Lake, Utah, to George Matthew Webster and Mary Elizabeth Spratling. He was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in West Jordan just after his eighth birthday. As a youth George received practically no formal education and worked in his father’s broom making factory along with his eight siblings. In 1891 he earned the distinction of being the first in Utah to cultivate sugar beets from seeds obtained from Germany. On 10 May 1893 he married Ada Amelia Dansie in Manti, Utah; they were blessed with four children, a boy and three girls.
In February 1896 George received an invitation to serve as a missionary for the LDS Church in the Southern States Mission and he departed from home to fulfill this assignment on 8 October 1896. The parting with his wife and young daughter was difficult for him as he recorded: “It was a pleasant evening when the train rolled slowly out of Salt Lake City, but it wasn’t so to me to leave my wife and little child and dear friends as I kissed them lovingly good bye. Then the tears came twinkling down as the train rolled farther away.”1 George was assigned to labor in Alabama and during his first opportunity to preach to a congregation of new members he displayed his love of joking: “I told them…they would half [sic] to be watching out for their new horns, for the world said Mormons had horns.”2
Much of George’s mission was spent traveling from town to town, finding food and lodging as best he could. He encountered much opposition to his teachings, but managed to keep in good spirits and always thanked the Lord for protection from the mobs and for the good people that opened their homes to him. In general he found “the southern people of this state [Alabama]” to be “very charitable and hospitable and kind.”3 He did, however, contract malaria in the South and suffered from it for the rest of his life. After two and a half years George received his release and returned home on 14 July 1898.
In 1900 he moved his family to Cardston, Alberta, Canada, but in 1903 they relocated to Rockport, Bingham County, Idaho. He became a prominent farmer in Bingham County and was involved in several irrigation and reclamation projects. He also served as school trustee for the Rockford School in Bingham County, and in the Church organization he labored for many years as ward teacher. For a brief time the Websters lived in Butte County, California, where George worked various jobs, but they eventually tired of that life and moved back to Idaho. He was remembered by one of his grandchildren for the stories he used to tell, and as having “a great imagination and sense of humor.”4 In 1940 he retired from farming and settled in Blackfoot, devoting much time to genealogical research, fishing, and driving his Model ‘A’ Ford. Ten years later, after a complicated prostrate operation, George Thomas Webster passed away on 18 March 1950.
1 George Thomas Webster, “Diary, 1896,” 8 October 1896. MSS 1668, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
2 Ibid., 24 October 1896.
3 Webster, “Diary, 1898,” 21 May 1898. MSS 1668, LTPSC.
4 Deon Winifred Webster Cotterell, “Things I Remember about my Grandpa.” MSS 1668, LTPSC.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 23 February 2004 available from http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm
Deseret News. Obituary of George T. Webster. 20 March 1950.
Webster, George Thomas. “Diaries and Account Books, 1896-1948.” MSS 1668, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.