Mormonism’s Last Colonizer

By: J. Stapley - October 23, 2008

This week, Utah State University Press released a biography of William H. Smart. Smart was a missionary in Turkey, later the Eastern States Mission President from 1899-1900 and a Stake President in Utah. He was integral in the post-reservation settlement of the Uintah Basin. To be frank, I have only skimmed through the biography; more interested was I in the CD-ROM that came with the book – over 2,500 8.5×11 typescript pages of his diaries and letters.

Mormonism's Last ColonizerWilliam B. Smart,Mormonism’s Last Colonizer: The Life and Times of William H. Smart, Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 2008. x, 347 pp. Photos, appendices, bibliography, index, CD-ROM. Cloth: $44.95; ISBN 0874217229

Utah State has been doing a bang up job lately. They are producing high quality volumes in high quality formats. The author and editor, William B. Smart, has worked to produce a wonderful resource.

The fifty journals (over 10,000 holograph pages going up to 1937) and Smart’s personal correspondence are housed in the Marriot Library Special Collections of the University of Utah. By suggestion of Ron Esplin, Smart enlisted the help of a score of family members to transcribe the records. He compiled them and included them as a searchable typescript on a CD-ROM with the book. Perhaps some day an annotated critical version of the diaries will be published, though it may be impractical; but this typescript will facilitate access on a scale that is otherwise impossible. Would that all diaries had similar champions!

It is my hope that more researchers include materials in digital formats with their published works. Ed Kimball’s biography of Spencer Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride, is another wonderful example. I have used the digital media included with the book more that the hardback, which I read. I have already mined Smart’s digital archive for several hours and have found dozens of diary entries germane to my research interests. Huzzah.

Mormonism’s Last Colonizer is definitely worth its price (note that it is significantly discounted at Amazon) and efforts like this should receive pecuniary support so as to encourage similar works in the future.


  1. Thanks for the report. I, too, hope to see more and more searchable digital media.

    Comment by Edje — 10/23/2008 @ 5:07 pm

  2. I know Smart only as the first mission president in New York in the modern era (1899-1900, I think it was) — the bio for the background and the diary for research potential are going to be a great help for several projects. Thanks for the writeup!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — 10/23/2008 @ 5:20 pm

  3. Thanks for the write up, J. Good stuff. Can’t wait for my copy to get here.

    Comment by Randy B. — 10/23/2008 @ 10:27 pm

  4. Thanks for the review, J. I saw this book at the USU booth at WHA today, and only had a minute to skim through it, but it looks great.

    Comment by Christopher — 10/24/2008 @ 12:33 am

  5. Thanks for the heads up. It sounds well worth the price.

    Comment by BruceC — 10/24/2008 @ 8:49 am

  6. J.,

    Do you have a link or could you post the genealogy of William B. Smart? I may have some direct links to him through my father’s side, but wondered if you might help me part the murky waters.


    Comment by Tod Robbins — 4/7/2009 @ 12:12 am

  7. I don’t, Tod. I would check out

    Comment by J. Stapley — 4/7/2009 @ 12:20 pm

  8. Ok so I need this book you were talking about Female Ritual Healing

    Comment by penny mandeville — 5/11/2009 @ 9:22 pm

  9. Thank you for the note about the new biography. The name William H. Smart appeared early in my Knecht family’s association with the Church, for my Grandfather reports in his history of going from Wayne County, PA to Brooklyn after meeting the missionaries, and of going to a meeting in an upstairs room where some 20 or so souls were seated. Grandpa found a chair and sat in back and listened, spell bound, for three hours while Pres. Smart spoke. It must have made an impression for grandpa, a few years later became Branch President and served for 25 years. I look forward to getting a copy of the history. Again, thank you.

    Comment by William L. Knecht — 7/29/2009 @ 5:59 pm

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