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Schmid and Topham family collection of Richard Benson, Alvin Benson, and William Richard Smith missionary journals

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 8535

Scope and Contents

Materials include the original missionary journals of Richard Benson, Alvin Benson, and William Richard Smith, collected by Afton Rowley Topham and Nancy Schmid Topham. Richard Benson's journals contain information and stories from his first mission to England and second mission to Europe; the first journal goes from 1840 to 1842 and his second journal goes from April 1866 to October 1867. Alvin Benson's journal documents his mission to California from 1897 to 1898. William Richard Smith's journals document his mission to Europe from 1906 to 1909. All of the journals include stories about their missions, addresses of friends and contacts, feelings about their missionary work, and notes from sermons and talks given by Church leaders. Dated 1840-1909.

The collection also includes facsimiles of the diaries printed on photo paper and digitized images on discs. Also includes a transcription of Richard Benson's 1844 journal (original not extant) and his 1866-1867 mission journal; a family history of Richard and Phoebe Benson by Rodney A. Rowley, 2012; and, a transcription and history Alvin Benson's first mission journal, 1897-1898.


  • 1840-1909


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from the Schmid and Topham family collection of Richard Benson, Alvin Benson, and William Richard Smith missionary journals must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Coordinating Committee.

Biographical History

The Tophams are a family in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and they are primarily from Utah.

The Marshall Topham (1947- ) and Nancy Schmid Topham (1949- ) family began with their marriage on May 29, 1971, in St. George, Utah. After marrying, Marshall graduated with a master's degree in Entomology from the University of Hawaii and later earned a teaching certificate from Southern Utah University so that he could teach science in secondary schools.

Nancy was a stay-at-home mom and homemaker who worked hard to raise their six children. Nancy is also the granddaughter of William Richard Smith who was the president of the Woodruff (Utah) Stake from 1928 to 1934.

Afton Rowley Topham (1923-2014) was Marshall's mother and the daughter of William Clair Rowley and Roberta Benson Rowley who married on May 3, 1922. She was born on January 21, 1923 in Parowan, Utah. Afton married Waldo Smith Topham on December 26, 1945. Afton descended from the Benson line. Afton died on August 23, 2014, in Cedar City, Utah.

Biographical History

Richard Benson (1816-1895) was a Mormon pioneer from England and early missionary.

Richard Benson was born on March 29, 1816, in Wrightington, England to Thomas Benson and Margaret Marsden. He was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1837 by Elder Heber C. Kimball. Richard served his first mission in Newcastle, England from approximately 1841 to 1842, where he baptized forty-seven people including his future wife Phoebe Forrester. After his mission he traveled to Nauvoo, Illinois to be with the main body of the church. In 1844 he returned to England and married Phoebe on June 20, 1844, in Cheshire, England, and in 1845 they returned to Nauvoo. They traveled with the saints to Salt Lake City in approximately 1850, and they settled in Parowan, Utah, where they had the last of their nine children. Then in 1866 Richard was called to serve his second mission in England, which he did from 1866 to 1868. After his mission he became a buisnessman in Parowan, Utah. Richard died on August 2, 1895, in Parowan, Utah.

Biographical History

William Richard Smith (1884-1950) was a cattle rancher farmer, veterinarian, and county agricultural agent; he also served as a president of the Woodruff (Utah) Stake from 1928 to 1934.

William Richard Smith was born on March 21, 1884 in Logan, Utah, to parents Isaac Smith and Harriet Camilla Ensign. He was born into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and educated at the Woodruff School in Logan. Smith had a fairly carefree childhood in the countryside and when he became of age he attended the Utah Agricultural College (now Utah State University) from 1902 to 1906. After his mission to Germany, which he served from October 1906 to July 1909, he finished his last year of schooling, graduating in 1910. After returning from his mission William Richard Smith proposed to Zina Vivian Crouch, whom he had been writing while on his mission. They were married on July 28, 1910, in Logan, Utah. They had two daughters; Vivian Priscilla Smith (1912-1992) and Helen Jean Smith (1924-1996).

After their marriage, William and Zina moved to Columbus, Ohio so that Will could study veterinary medicine at Ohio State University, which he did for two years. During this time he supported his family by borrowing money from his brother and working odd jobs around the community. After graduating in 1912, the family moved to Preston, Idaho, where Will practiced veterinarian medicine. However he had always wanted a cattle ranch, so in 1914 he went into a joint venture raising horses, white faced cattle and sheep in Cleveland, Idaho. In 1922, Will returned to Utah State Agricultural College in Logan to earn a B.S. in Agricultural Economics. After graduating in 1923 he accepted a position as County Agricultural Agent for Uinta County, Wyoming and moved to Evanston, Wyoming. In 1932, he was appointed manager of the farm operated by the Wyoming State Mental Hospital in Evanston, Wyoming. In 1928, Will was called as the second president of the Woodruff (Utah) Stake, a calling he held until 1934. In December of that year the family left Wyoming and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada where Will practiced veterinary medicine. He was the first veterinarian in Las Vegas and his area included Moapa and Virgin Valleys. William Richard Smith died in the Rose de Lima hospital on June 10, 1950, in Henderson, Nevada.

Biographical History

Alvin Benson (1859-1942) was a Mormon missionary in California, farmer, and mayor of Parowan, Utah.

Alvin Benson was born on November 17, 1859, in Parowan, Utah, to Richard Benson and Phoebe Forrester. He married Elizabeth Ellen Orton on November 16, 1881, in the St. George Temple and they had eight children together. He served a Mormon misson in California from 1897-1899, and when he returned he became mayor of Parowan, Utah in 1899. He later turned to farming after his days in office were over. Alvin Benson died on March 10, 1942, in Cedar City, Utah.


4 boxes (2 linear ft.)

3 folders (0.15 linear ft.)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

The Benson journals were collected by Afton Rowley Topham. The William Richard Smith journals were found in the belongings of Zina Vivian Crouch Smith, his wife, by Nancy Schmid Topham, granddaugher. Donated in 2014.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; Afton Rowley Topham and Nancy Schmid Topham; December 2014.


Utah and the Western American and LDS cultural, social, intellectual, and religious history (19th Century Mormon and Western Manuscripts collection development policy 1V a.i. 1 and 4, November 2013.)

Existence and Location of Copies

Transcriptions of a Richard Benson 1844 journal (original not extant) and his 1866-1867 mission journal (original in the collection) are available in Box 1, folder 9-10. A photocopy of a history of Richard and Phoebe Benson are in Box 1, folder 11. A photocopy of a transcription of the Alvin Benson 1897-1898 mission journal, along with a history of his missionary service, is available in Box 1, folder 12. Additional transcriptions of all original journals also available in folders 5-7.

Related Materials

This collection is related to materials located at the call number MSS 8555.

Processing Information

Processed; Zoë Brimhall, student manuscript processor, and Ryan K. Lee, curator; December 2014. Updated: Ryan K. Lee; October 2016.

Register of Schmid and Topham family collection of Richard Benson, Alvin Benson, and William Richard Smith missionary journals
Zoë Brimhall
2014 December 15
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States