i read the journals of elder albert jones, who served in london in the 1880s. he was cool because he included artifacts in his journal, including the passenger manifest of the ship he sailed to britain on, flowers from his grandfather's garden, and the program from the funeral of the lord mayor of london. and he was actively writing articles for the millennial star and the papers in london to address the "mormon question." several of the elders come from england originally, so their journals also contain genealogies and stories of their ancestors.
each missionary writes about their experiences talking with people. sometimes the conversations go well, sometimes they don't go so well. they talk about their investigators and their converts and eating with them. sundays are full of meetings, just like for missionaries today.
homesickness is a pretty big thing, too. for most of the elders i'm reading about, they had to leave their wives (sometimes, literally, multiple wives) and children in order to serve, and their missions were often about two years long, still. some of the men wax poetic about their wives and their virtues; elder jones regrets not being able to give his children their christmas presents.
as i've said, i've been writing a missionary for two years, and it has struck me how similar his letters are to these journals from almost 150 years ago. it's amazing that this work is still going forward largely through faithful young men (though that missionary demographic is continually changing :))
this is visiting teaching week (haha), so here's a quote from president uchtdorf on missionary work.
The Lord … entrusts a testimony of the truth to those who will share it with others. Even more, the Lord expects the members of His Church to ‘open [their mouths] at all times, declaring [His] gospel with the sound of rejoicing’. … Sometimes a single phrase of testimony can set events in motion that affect someone’s life for eternity.