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Robert H. Skelton collection

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSS 1597

Scope and Contents note

This collection contains Robert Skelton's original journal as well as a photocopy of his journal of his mission to India, with a few entries made after his return to Utah. The collection also includes the letter of his mission call, a certificate of ordination to the priesthood and a copy of the blessing given to him before departing for India. Also in the collection is his life history written by Skelton's granddaughter, and several handwritten speeches or talks prepared by Skelton.


  • 1852-1941


Conditions Governing Access note

Original journals restricted; photocopy and typescript available for patron use.

Conditions Governing Use note

The Harold B. Lee Library holds the literary rights to this collection. Select original materials are restricted. Please use photocopies and transcript copies. Duplication, distribution or publishing of any complete documents in this collection must be approved by the Special Collections and Manuscripts Board of Curators.

Permission to publish material from the Robert H. Skelton collection must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

Mormon pioneer, missionary, and public servant who originally emigrated to the United States from England.

Robert Hodgson Skelton, the fifth of six children, was born November 28, 1824, in Burgh, near the city of Carlisle in Cumberland County, England. Robert, a descendant of prominent courtiers of King Henry VIII, encountered unfortunate circumstances at the age of 6 when his mother and father died. Consequently he was sent to live at the farm of John Nilson. Nilson taught Robert the ways of farming, but also sorely mistreated him. After more than seven years, Robert could no longer tolerate the abuse he received from Nilson and left his farm to find work with other farmers in the country.

In October of 1848 Robert left England on the ship Lord Maidstone and sailed to New Orleans. From there he traveled by steamboat to St. Louis, arriving in November of 1848. It was in St. Louis that Robert first encountered representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. After studying missionary literature of the Church, he was convinced of its truthfulness. In March 1849, Robert was baptized by Elder James Davidson.

In May 1849, Robert left St. Louis and headed for Council Bluffs. Accompanied by a group of Welsh Latter-day Saints, he traveled on a steamboat commanded by Captain Dan Jones. Cholera struck the passengers and took its toll with many casualties before they reached Council Bluffs.

In 1849 Robert joined a group of pioneers traveling west to Utah. He was assigned to the wagon company of Ezra Taft Benson as driver of his team. The company entered Utah, October 11, 1849. Shortly after his arrival, Robert was sent with Ezra T. Benson and John Rowberry to settle the Tooele Valley, southwest of Salt Lake City.

While in Tooele, Robert worked at Ezra T. Benson's sawmill. After much hard work, he was able to obtain his own farm. Just after Robert had raised his first crop, Benson was called on a mission. He asked Robert to take over business at the sawmill and farm while he was away. Robert served Benson in this capacity for about one year.

On February 3, 1851, Robert was ordained a Seventy by John Young. At a special conference in August of 1852, Elder Skelton was called to serve a mission in India.

Robert and his companions left Salt Lake City October 19, 1852 to begin the grueling trek to San Francisco. After one month of travel, they arrived at their California destination. The missionaries were given money by a wealthy local member of the Church. With this generous donation, the group was able to obtain passage on a ship to India. Robert and others finally left San Francisco on January 29, 1853.

Elder Skelton arrived in Calcutta on April 26, 1853, after 13 weeks at sea. He was sent with Richard Ballantyne to teach the gospel to the people in Madras. Two years later, he returned to Calcutta where he was called to preside over the East India Mission. Although the work in India was difficult, Elder Skelton served faithfully and diligently until he was honorably released from his calling as a full-time missionary. Robert left Calcutta in May and arrived back in Utah November 20, 1856.

On February 16, 1857, a few months after his return to Utah, Robert was married to Angeline Gollaher. They became the parents of twelve children. Robert became a successful farmer and stockman, and was also very active in the community. He was the Mayor of Tooele and a member of the Utah Legislature from 1856-1857. He also served as a member of the Tooele Ward Bishopric. Until his death February 2, 1895, Robert remained an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


8 folders (0.5 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



Collection of papers by or about Robert Hodgson Skelton. Included in the collection is Skelton's journal from his mission to India, plus a photocopy and transcription of the same. Also includes a petition for assistance to the people of Santa Cruz, California, by Skelton and other Mormon missionaries traveling to their missions without purse or scrip.

Other Finding Aids note

A more detailed finding aid is available in print in the repository.

Other Finding Aids

File-level inventory available online.

Custodial History note

The Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University purchased the collection in 1989 from a rare book dealer who obtained it from the Skelton family.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Purchased; 1989.

Appraisal note

19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts.

Existence and Location of Copies

Photocopy of original journal available in folders 4-5. Transcription available in folder 6.

Separated Materials note

A photograph assumed to be Robert Skelton has been transferred to photo-archives. A photocopy of the photograph remains in the collection. A battalion roster belonging to John Skelton from 1863 to 1866 was transferred to Special Collections.


For more information on the India Mission see:David J. Whittaker, Early Mormon Pamphleteering, (Ph.D. diss., BYU 1982), pp. 236-320.For information on Robert Skelton's missionary companion, Richard Ballantyne, see:Conway Sonne, Knight of the Kingdom: the Story of Richard Ballantyne, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1949)David J. Whittaker, Richard Ballantyne and the Defense of Mormonism in India in 1850's, in Supporting Saints: Life Stories of Nineteenth-Century Mormons, ed. Donald Q. Cannon and David J. Whittaker (Provo: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1985), pp. 175-212.See also:R. Lanier Britsch, A History of the Missionary Activities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in India, 1849-1856, (MA Thesis, BYU, 1964).

Processing Information note

Processed; David J. Whittaker; 1991.

Register of the Robert H. Skelton collection
David J. Whittaker
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.
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States