James Madison Flake diaries
Over the past year, patrons of Perry Special Collections have requested a large number of items from our 19th Century Mormon and Western manuscripts collection to be digitized. Most of these are small collections of original journals and letters of early members of the Mormon Church and pioneers of Utah and the American West. Many of these have subsequently been posted online and are accessible to the public. Today begins a series of postings highlighting some of these items that are now available digitally.
James Madison Flake (1859-1946) was born and raised in Beaver, Utah, until the age of 17. He moved to Escalante to farm and lived with Edwin Twitchell for one year. In the spring of 1877 his father, William Jordan Flake, was called to help settle northern Arizona, and James went with them. In his autobiographical sketch (found in volume 2 of his diaries), James states (spelling is as written): “The report from those who had tried to settle that country was verry discourageing, so it was only the respect we had for the servents of God that induced us to break up and leave our heard earned home” (volume 2, pg. 29). In the meantime, James was married to Nancy Jane Hall in Escalante on 15 May, and then sealed in the St. George Temple on 31 August. The family made the trek to Arizona in November and arrived in Sunset in January 1878, where Lot Smith presided over the communities. They attempted to settle in Taylor, but in July 1878 they decided to leave and settle and purchase land from Joseph Stinson in a valley that would later be named Snowflake, after Erastus Snow and James’ father, William Jordan Flake. Over the next ten years James and his family helped establish the community of Snowflake, Arizona, working as a rancher and raising a family of six children.
In September 1888 James was called to serve a mission in England, and he left his wife and six children behind to preach the gospel for two years. Upon his return in 1889, James and Nancy would have three more children. Just one month after the birth of their ninth child in March 1895, Nancy died from an illness. In October 1896, James married a second wife, Martha Amelia Smith, daughter of Jessie Nathaniel and Augusta Smith, in Salt Lake City, Utah. James and Martha would have thirteen children together, giving James a total of 22 children between his two wives.
While in Snowflake, James was active politically and was an advocate for the women’s suffrage movement in Arizona. He also served in several callings in the LDS Church, including superintendent of Sunday School and counselor in the Snowflake Stake presidency. James Madison Flake passed away on 4 February 1946 in Snowflake, Arizona.
View the digitized copies of James Madison Flake diaries (MSS 961) now available on our website! Volume 1 is primarily a journal kept by Flake while serving a mission to England in from 1888-1889, beginning in May 1889 and ending with a few entries after his mission up to February 1891. Volume 2 includes an autobiographical sketch and list of important events in Flake’s life until 1929. These diaries are a great glimpse into the life of a 19th century LDS missionary and Arizona pioneer.