About the Collection
Silas LeRoy Richards
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
Silas LeRoy Richards was born on 25 October 1882 in Union, Salt Lake County, Utah, to Silas Newton Richards and Mary Norman Goulder, the oldest of ten children. He was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) on 28 March 1893. Silas spent his maturing years assisting his father on the family farm and attending the local public schools. At the age of sixteen he began working odd jobs, such as sheep herder, railroad hand, and smelter. Also in his youth he developed a love for music and dancing, courted several young ladies, even became engaged once, but they soon ended the engagement, “it having been hurriedly made without deliberation or consideration.”1
In September 1902 Silas began taking a missionary preparation class from the LDS University in Salt Lake City. Of this experience he recorded, “I…was very much interested in my work, for my whole soul was in it, and my great desire was to prepare and go on a mission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”2 On 30 October 1902 he received a call to serve in the Middle States Mission of the Church and twenty days later he departed from home and journeyed to Cincinnati, Ohio, the mission headquarters. He was immediately assigned to the Kentucky Conference and soon experienced a few of the rigors of missionary life, exhaustion from walking long distances and the fear of public speaking. After his first preaching experience he remarked, “I stood up but could hardly express myself, and after two or three minutes I sit down but large drops of perspiration stood out on my face, for it was rather a difficult thing for me so inexperienced to do.”3
He soon overcame these weaknesses, however, and became an effective ambassador of the Church, baptizing fifteen people during his mission. On 7 August 1903 the Middle States Mission, having been separated from the Southern States Mission a year previous, was reincorporated into the Southern States Mission. Shortly thereafter Silas was transferred to Tennessee. On 25 March 1905, after twenty-eight months as a missionary, Silas returned home to his family in Utah. Just before leaving he noted, “In leaving my mission friends and companions I feel rather peculiar for I have learned to love them all, and have enjoyed associating with them.”4
After returning from his mission Silas found employment as a traveling salesman based in Salt Lake City, first for a wool manufacturing firm and then for a telephone company. During one of his business trips he met Hannah Elizabeth Rhead, whom he married on 21 August 1907 after a two-year courtship. Silas then studied at the Latter-day Saint Business College in Salt Lake City for three months and thereafter continued to pursue a career in sales. He worked for Metropolitan Life Insurance from 1921 to 1928, and during the depression he found gainful employment as a commercial boiler compound salesman. He pursued this last career until his retirement in 1956.
In the Church organization Silas served as secretary for the Sunday School Board of the Jordan Stake and then for eight years in the bishopric of the Burton Ward. He became bishop of the newly-created Central Park Ward in 1925 and held this position for six years. During his tenure as bishop he oversaw the construction of a new chapel as a meeting place for the six hundred members of the ward. Silas then served as high councilman of the Grant Stake until his relocation to El Cerrito, Contra Costa County, California, in 1936. Silas LeRoy Richards passed away on 20 April 1961 at home in California at the age of seventy-eight.
1 ReubenSilas Leroy Richards, “Journal, 1902-1907,” p. 5. MSS 734, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
3 Ibid., 3 December 1902.
4 Ibid., 20 March 1905.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 14 April 2004 available from http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm
Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries & Autobiographies. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977.
Deseret News. Obituary of S. Leroy Richards. 21 April 1961.
Jenson, Andrew. Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Publishing Co., 1941.
Richards, Silas LeRoy. “Diary and Family Histories, 1870-1964.” MSS 734, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.