Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
Osmer Dennis Flake
by Brian A. Warburton
Osmer “Oz” Dennis Flake was born 6 March 1868 in Beaver, Utah, to William Jordan Flake and Lucy Hannah White. When Oz was nine years old his family attended the dedication of the Saint George, Utah temple and while there his father was asked to move his family to Arizona to build an LDS community. On 31 October 1877 the family began a three month journey to their new home and in the summer of 1878 Oz’s father bought a ranch and began organizing a community. Erastus Snow, a prominent Mormon leader came to survey the area and the name given to the community was created by combining the last names of Snow and Flake, thus becoming Snowflake, Arizona.1 Oz helped his father raise cattle, but in 1884 his father was sent to prison for unlawful cohabitation (polygamy) and Oz, then 16 years of age, took full responsibility for the ranch at that time. He left home in August 1889 and went to Provo, Utah, to attend Brigham Young Academy, but had to return home the following spring when he ran out of money. On 11 March 1891 Oz married Elsie Abigail Owens and in October of that same year they traveled to Manti, Utah where they were sealed in the Manti temple. After his marriage he worked as a store clerk and on 4 April 1895 he was appointed clerk of the District Court for Navajo County, Arizona.
Oz was called to serve an LDS mission to the Southern States leaving his home, pregnant wife and three small children on 6 December 1897. Upon leaving he said, “To leave my dear wife and children is the greatest sacrifice that I was ever called on to make.”2 After traveling to Salt Lake City to be set apart as a missionary and to receive instructions Oz traveled by train to the Southern States headquarters in Chattanooga, Tennessee. When he arrived in Chattanooga he was very tired and wanted to rest, but instead he was sent the same night to his area of labor in Mississippi. Once in Mississippi Oz and his companions spent much of their time traveling from house to house preaching the gospel and holding meetings.
Anti-Mormon sentiment was high in Mississippi at that time and Oz often met with persecution and even threats. In one town the Mayor told them not to go door to door because “There was men in this town who would kill us…and they (the city officials) would extend us no protection.”3 But the missionaries also met many who were friendly and treated them well and their meetings were usually well attended. Tensions were high between those who were friendly and those who hated the Mormons. While in Yazoo County, Mississippi the missionaries found many who were interested in listening to them, but one day while they were preparing for an outdoor sermon Oz received word that he was to go meet a committee representing a mob that had been raised to run the missionaries out of the County. The mob threatened to kill Oz and the other missionaries if they did not leave by 2:00 that afternoon. The missionaries agreed and when they left Oz remarked “The people just cried. It was like a funeral all hated to see us go. They offered to defend us with their lives.”4 In 1899 Oz was called to serve as a Conference President, helping to direct missionary efforts in Mississippi. He was informed of his release as a missionary in early 1900 and on 26 February 1900 he began the trip home arriving there on 4 March 1900.
After returning home Oz went to work as a clerk in a store owned by his brothers and was also called to be the Superintendent of the Sunday School. After he returned home his wife, Elsie became seriously ill and by 1908 the doctors didn’t know what to do. The doctors suggested taking her to California, hoping that the better climate would improve her health. In February 1908 they traveled to Los Angeles, California and rented a room for Elsie and her parents. Oz had to return to Arizona to attend to business, but by March 1908 Elsie had sent word that she wanted Oz to come to her and to bring the children. Oz took the children to Los Angeles to find that her condition had gotten much worse and on 25 March 1908 Elsie died. Upon her death Oz recorded that he had been “Priviledged to keep the dearest, best and most dutiful wife it has pleased the Lord to send to earth…we tearfully bow to the will of the Lord.”5
After the death of his wife Oz earned his living by raising and selling horses and cattle and later was employed as a forest ranger. On 4 October 1911 Oz married Ethel Ray in the Salt Lake Temple. He served a short three month mission to the Central States in 1913 and on 7 November 1916 he was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives. He continued his involvement in politics throughout the years and in 1925 he served another six month mission to the southern states. When the Great Depression hit in the 1930’s Oz worked many odd jobs and spent a lot of time performing ordinances at the LDS temple in Mesa, Arizona. In 1942 at the age of 74 Oz was once again called to serve a mission to the Southern States. While on this mission Oz spent much of his time visiting with less active members of the church and also researching his family history. He returned from his mission 12 July 1943. For the rest of his life Oz continued to work on his family history and spent many hours performing ordinances in the temple. He stayed active and healthy most of his life, finally passing away 29 January 1958 in Phoenix, Arizona at the age of eighty-nine.
1 Snowflake Stake Centennial: 1887-1987. 8.
2 Osmer D. Flake, “Diaries, Autobiography, and Biography, 1887-1954,” MSS 1564, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. 6 December 1897.
3 Ibid., 28 January 1898.
4 Ibid., 30 July 1898.
5 Ibid., 29 March 1908.
Clayton, Roberta Flake. Pioneer Men of Arizona. Arizona?: privately printed, 1974.
Jensen, Andrew. Vol. 3 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. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jensen, 1926.
Ericksen, Beth, ed. Snowflake Stake , 1887-1987: 100 Years of Faith and Service. Snowflake, Arizona: Snowflake Stake, 1987?
Flake, Oz. “Diaries, Autobiography, and Biography, 1887-1954,” MSS 1564, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.