On Monday, June 12, 1905, my grandfather (Dr. George LeRoy Rees) accompanied by his brother left Cache Valley for Salt Lake City:
” , , , there were no missionary schools or preparatory work and on June 13th in the Annex of the Salt Lake Temple was set apart by Apostle Francis M. Lyman for my mission. June 14th I left by train for New York City and from there to Boston where was to be my embarkation. This was an exciting trip. Big cities, skyscrapers and so many wonderful sights for I had never been outside the State of Utah before. From New York we were to sail on a beautiful vessel to Fall River, Rhode Island, and from there by train to Boston. At Boston we had the opportunity to observe many of the historic relics of Revolutionary Days, such as ship Constitution, Old South Church, Bunker Hill.”
” . . . Thursday June 22nd at 2:18 p.m. we set sail for Liverpool. The voyage was wonderful and the ship very beautiful. . . . We arrived in Liverpool at noon on June 30th, 1905.”
During Grandfather’s early months in England, Apostle Heber J. Grant was President of the European Mission. And during his mission, Grandfather interacted with such church leaders as Nephi Anderson (editor of the Millenial Star), Charles Penrose (author of the tract “Ray of Living Light”) and President Joseph F. Smith. He labored in the Liverpool Conference and worked in the cities of Liverpool, Lanchaster, and Burrow-in-Furness.
Grandfather Rees and a missionary friend visited Scotland for a week in mid-July 1906. They toured Edinbough, Dundee (tried unsuccessfully to visit his friend’s uncle), and Glasgow. The pair visited art museums, botanical gardens, historical monuments and churches, and natural wonders . . . and they attended cultural events. In late March 1907, the pair visited Wales (the Rees ancestral homeland) for a week. Grandfather toured London before returning home. He also took time to enjoy the historical, cultural, and botanical attractions in and around the cities in which he labored.
Grandfather’s mission must have had an important impact on his later life. As an adolescent he felt he was lacking in self confidence. Certainly a “successful” mission must have been an important step in overcoming his insecurities.
Grandfather’s interest in history, if not born during his mission, must have been amplified by it. Many of the lengthier entries in his journal concern the history surrounding the places he visited. Grandfather spent a week visiting Wales. He saw the house and town where his father was born. He also attempted some geneological work.
The impact of seeing the botanical gardens, historical sites, museums, and residential areas (including both the palaces and slums) had on the future doctor and mayor of Smithfield, Utah, is conjectural. It seems probable, however, that Grandfather’s mission experiences must have broadened his perspectives. It must have planted ideas concerning aesthetic and community needs. The fact that Grandfather took the time to absorb some of Great Britain’s culture must have provided important background which latter made him an outstanding public servant.