In writing the biography of Samuel Claridge, S. George Ellsworth fulfilled a lifelong dream. As a teenaged boy living in Kansas City, he spent winter evenings taking dictation from his mother as she, with difficulty, read from yellowed, worn pages the autobiography that Samuel Claridge, Ellsworth’s grandfather, had left behind. It was this activity that aroused Ellsworth’s historical instincts and played a major role in his studying history at some of the nation’s best universities. Throughout a career that included writing his history of Utah that is used in the state’s public schools, editing the Journal of Western History, and writing articles for the Utah Historical Quarterly, Ellsworth still kept the spark of his dream aglow. After retiring from his long professorship at Utah State University, he began composing this literary labor of love, which was published in 1987.
A thorough perusal of the sources Ellsworth used in writing this book discloses the exhaustive nature of the research, the same kind of thoroughness that has characterized his scholarship now for almost five decades. In addition to Claridge’s unpublished autobiographical sketches, he must have read every diary of every person whose path crossed or paralleled that of Samuel Claridge in any way. The source documents range from published books (some of which are very old), to journal articles, monographs, and letters, as well as diaries, journals, and the scriptures. Just reading through the thirty-five single-spaced pages titled “Sources and Notes” is like taking a course in pioneer history. Ellsworth has even measured the size of the paper on which his sources wrote and describes what the manuscripts look like. He has also gleaned encyclopedic knowledge of the English towns, cathedrals, rivers, and streets that were part of his grandfather’s early life. He gives intimate insights into Claridge’s missionary labors during this period. Indeed, Ellsworth’s research and storytelling abilities enable the reader almost to walk in Claridge’s shoes.