Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
James Walter Paxman
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
James Walter Paxman was born on 12 October 1861 in Salt Lake City, Utah to William Paxman and Ann Rushen Keyes. His parents had arrived in the Salt Lake Valley after crossing the plains in the Joseph Horne Company just a month previously, on 13 September 1861, with their first three children, William, Edgar, and Emma. The following year the family moved to American Fork, Utah and here James spent his early life and attended school. Here his father was instrumental in creating the first free public school in Utah in 1867. In 1875 he become a shoemaker’s apprentice and worked as such for five years. Desiring to further his education, James entered the Brigham Young Academy in Provo, Utah in 1880 and studied there for eighteen months. In 1883 he moved with his family to Nephi, Utah, where his father had been called to serve as president of the Juab Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On 4 December 1883 James was called on a mission to the British Isles. In his response to this call he reported being “much pleased indeed in being considered worthy of a mission in the work of God.” 1 Accordingly, he left Nephi on 5 April 1884 and upon arriving in Liverpool he was assigned to the London conference where he served his entire mission. Elder Paxton was eager to share the gospel with all who would listen; on one occasion he visited a cousin and proceeded to “stay 5 hours with her talking.” 2 He labored diligently and his hard work bore the fruit of twenty-three souls baptized into the church, including two of his relatives. Near the end of his mission he commented on the comforting help of the Holy Ghost: “I see wherein the Lord has blessed me with many sweet influences—pure and exalting—in my missionary labors as a stranger in a strange land.” 3 On 17 April 1886 he returned to America aboard the ship S. S. Nevada, in company with 179 emigrating saints, arriving home on 5 May 1886.
James was ordained a high priest and called to serve as a counselor to his father in the Juab Stake in January 1887. The following year, on 1 March 1888 he married Julia Sudbury in the Logan temple. She bore him ten children, nine of whom survived infancy. James also became a successful businessman after his mission. First he spent two years as a clerk and bookkeeper, and was then elected County Clerk; in 1890 he founded a mercantile company which the following year merged with two other successful establishments. He subsequently purchased two mining companies and involved himself in various agricultural interests.
After the death of his father in 1897, James was sustained as president of the Juab Stake, a calling that he held for seventeen years. Upon his release in 1914, James was called as stake patriarch, a calling he held for the remainder of his life. In 1899 he primarily became engaged in dry farming and in 1914 was appointed State Wide Demonstrator in Dry-Farming by the Utah Agricultural College, a testament to his great knowledge and expertise.
In September 1926 James and Julia Paxman volunteered to serve a six-month mission to Great Britain. They departed from Salt Lake City in October that same year and arrived in Liverpool on 6 November 1926. Here President James E. Talmage received them in the mission home and expressed his desire for James to serve as president of the British Mission. However, due to the short period of their mission this offer was declined. While in Britain the Paxmans focused their energy on meeting with relatives and obtaining genealogies. On 23 March 1927 they left England and returned home. James Walter Paxman died on 10 January 1943 in Nephi, Utah.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 1 December 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.
Greenhalgh, Sadie H., ed. Chronology of Nephi Branch, 1851–1868; Nephi Stake of Zion, 1868–1877; Juab Stake of Zion, 1877–1974; Nephi Utah Stake, Jan. 20, 1974. n.p., c1982.
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. 1. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Co., 1901–1936.
Paxman, James W. “Diaries, 1884–1927.” MSS 1036, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
United States Census, 1880, 1920. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 1 December 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/census/usfedcen/main.htm.
Worthington, Keith N., Sadie H. Greenhalgh, and Fred J. Chapman. They Left a Record: A Comprehensive History of Nephi, Utah 1851–1978. Provo, Utah: Community Press, 1979.