George Q. Cannon, Editor
Wednesday, Sept. 8, 1869.
DEATH OF ELDER EZRA T. BENSON, ONE OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES.
At about 8 o’clock last evening, while the telegram from Elder John Sharp now
in Boston, relative to the settlement of the U. P. R. R. indebtedness was being
talked over in President Young’s office, and all rejoicing over the news,
another telegram was handed to President Young from Elder Franklin D. Richards,
dated Ogden, which abruptly changed the current of the thoughts and cast deep
sadness and gloom over the entire circle. The dispatch read as follows:
Brother Ezra T. Benson arrived here to-day and about 7 p.m., while doctoring his sick horse, he dropped dead. If you will please keep the office open a short time I will inform you of resuscitation if possible.”
It was hoped the resuscitation would be found possible, for no one was prepared to hear of the death of a man, so healthy and active and so likely to live to a very old age as Elder Benson. But not many minutes had elapsed before another dispatch from Elder Richards conveyed the startling intelligence that Elder Benson was DEAD, and that the mournful tidings had been telegraphed to Bishop Maughan, of Logan, to break the sad news to the family of Elder Benson, and also to obtain directions respecting the disposal of the corpse.
An event more unexpected than this could not have occurred. Had out community been told that one of the Twelve Apostles had died, without the name of the deceased being mentioned , and they had been asked to say who it was, they would probably have mentioned Ezra T. Benson among the last. He was so hale and vigorous and full of energy, that his prospects for life seemed excellent. Bro. Benson was associated with Bro’s Lorin Farr and Chauncey W. West in a large contract for the grading of the Central Pacific Railroad. The obligations which rested upon him connected with this work, in consequence of not being able to obtain a settlement with the C. P. R. R., have caused him considerable anxiety. His visit to Ogden was doubtless connected with this business. We telegraphed this morning to Bishop C. W. West, of Ogden, to obtain from him all the particulars of this sad occurrence, and received from him the following dispatch:
Brother Benson, accompanied by Brother Crocket left Logan on Thursday late in
the afternoon, and came to Wellsville and stopped for the night. On Friday
morning he left Wellsville and came on to Brigham City, and dined at Bro.
Lorenzo Snow’s. In the afternoon he came to Ogden; but before getting there
one of his horses was taken with colic. He arrived at President Farr’s at
about six o’clock in the evening and was assisted to unhitch his team, which
was put in Bro. Farr’s barn. The sick horse appeared to be very much
distressed, he bled it himself, and after doing all he could for it, he lifted a
little boy on it to walk it around for exercise. He then left the barn with
Brother Crockett and Father Ephraim Turner to go to brother Farr’s house, and
while on his way he fell on his right side, his head to the north. As he fell he
struck Bro. Turner on the leg. After falling he turned on his back and breathed
about four time, when pulsation ceased. This was at 7 o’clock p. m. Judge
Aaron F. Farr was immediately on the ground, and , with others, applied many
restoratives; but they all proved unavailing. His body was then conveyed to and
put in a coffin, in which it was forwarded to his family at Logan, leaving here
at a quarter past one a.m. , a suitable guard accompanying.
Bro. Crockett said that on the way to Ogden he seemed to enjoy life as well as he ever did, and talked encouragingly of his future prospects. At the time of Bro. Benson’s arrival at President Farr’s, Presidents Richard and Farr and myself were attending a pic-nic party of the Female Relief Societies of Weber County, at a grove about one mile from President Farr’s.
I am yours truly,
Chauncey W. West.
Ezra Taft Benson was born on the 22nd of February, 1811, in
Mendon, Worcester County, Massachusetts. He was the first son of John and Chloe
Benson. His was a farmer and a very industrious man—a quality which his son
inherited—and Ezra T. lived with him helping him on the farm until he was
sixteen years old. He then went to live with his sister and her husband, who
were keeping a hotel in the centre of the town of Uxbridge. He remained with
them three years. His Grandfather Benson was also a farmer, and while engaged at
work in the field he fell and suddenly died. It is remarkable that the
grandfather and the grandson should both die so suddenly and under such similar
At the death of his grandfather by the request of his grandmother he went and
took charge of the farm.
When twenty years old he married Pamelia, the daughter of Jonathan H. and Lucina
Andrus, of Northbridge, Worcester Co., Massachusetts. In 1832 he moved from the
farm and bought out his brother-in-law, the hotel-keeper, and kept the house
about two years. In this business he made considerable money, which he invested
in hiring a cotton mill and commencing, in company with is wife’s brother, the
manufacture of cotton in the tow of Holland Mass. Through a combination of
causes over which he had no control, he lost money in the business and retired
from it, and took a hotel in the same town. He was also appointed postmaster.
Though he made money in the business he could not be content; he had a desire to
visit the West. In the Spring of 1837 he and his family started. While in
Philadelphia he made the acquaintance of a gentleman who spoke discouragingly
about the West, and persuaded him to go to the town of Salem and he would assist
him to go into business. He remained in this place one year, and though his
neighbors offered to render him any assistance he might need to establish
himself in business he still yearned for the West, and he started in the
direction. He touched at St. Louis, obtained a small of goods, and then went up
the Illinois river, not knowing where he should land. But while on the river he
made the acquaintance of a man, who proved to be his father’s cousin. He was
living at Griggsville, Illinois, and at that town he concluded to stop. But he
did not remain long there. He moved to Lexington, in the same State, and
afterwards to the mouth of the Little Blue, where he and a man by the name of
Isaac Hill laid out a town and called it Pick. Here he built himself a dwelling
house and a warehouse. But the place was sickly, and he was still restless. In
conversation with the writer of this brief sketch in relation to these days he
said he felt that the Lord was preparing him for the future which awaited him,
and he afterwards could understand why he could not feel contented in the
various places which he visited, and where, so far as worldly prospects were
concerned, he had every opportunity of doing well.
He heard of Quincy, Illinois, and he was led to go there in search of a home.
This was early in 1839. At Quincy he met with the Latter-day Saints, who had
just been driven out of Missouri by mob violence. He heard they were a very
peculiar people, yet, in listening to the preaching of their Elders, and in
conversation with themselves he found them very agreeable. He boarded during the
winter with a family of Latter-day Saints, and formed a high opinion of them. In
the Spring of 1840 he secured two acres of land in the town, fenced it and built
a house upon it. During this time he still associated with the Latter-day
Saints, and his sympathies were much moved towards them, and he held
conversations with them about their principles. A debate was held in Quincy
between the Latter-day Saints and Dr. Nelson, who was opposed to them, at which
the Prophet Joseph was present. From this debate he became convinced that the
Latter-day Saints were believers in and observers of the truths of the Bible.
Though pleased that the Saints had come off victorious, he had no idea at that
time that he would ever become one himself, yet their principles were the chief
topic of conversation with himself and family and neighbors, and he and his wife
attended their meetings. His wife was the first to avow her belief in the
doctrines, and when the word went out that they were believers in what was
called “Mormonism” a strong effort was made to get him to join a sectarian
church. Elder Orson Hyde and
John E. Page visited Quincy about this time, having started on the mission to
Jerusalem to which they had been appointed. Their preaching seemed to have the
effect to remove whatever doubts there were remaining, and himself and wife were
baptized by the President of the Quincy branch.
In the fall he went to the Conference at Nauvoo, and was ordained an Elder.
After his return Quincy was visited by president Hyrum Smith, who ordained him a
high Priest, and appointed him to be second counsellor to the President of the
Stake, which he had organized there. About the first of April, 1841, he moved to
Nauvoo. He bought a log house upon it. On the first of June, 1842, he started on
a mission to the Eastern States, where he remained until the Fall of 1843. He
returned and remained until the first of May, 1844, when he again started east
in company with Elder John Pack. When the news of the death of Joseph, the
Prophet, reached them, they returned. That Fall he was called to be a member of
the High council, and in December of the year was again sent East on a mission.
He presided over the Boston Conference until the beginning of May, when he was
counselled to gather up all the Saints who could go and move them out of Nauvoo.
This was in 1845. The remainder of that Summer and Fall he worked on the Temple;
and at night frequently stood guard to keep off the mob. He moved out of Nauvoo
with his family in the first company. He was appointed a counsellor to Father
William Huntington at Mount Pisgah. While at this place he received a letter
from President Young informing him of his appointment to the Quorum of the
Twelve in the stead of John E. Page, He moved up to the main camp at Council
Bluffs where he was ordained to the Apostleship. He shortly afterwards was sent
East on a mission from which he returned Nov. 27, 1846. The next spring he
accompanied President Young as one of the Pioneers to this Valley, and after
their arrival here he was sent back to meet the companies which were coming on,
to inform them that a place of settlement had been found. After he met the
companies he returned to the Valley, and then started back to Winter Quarters
with the Pioneers. Another mission East had to be performed and he left the camp
about the last day of 1847, and was absent several months. Upon his return he
was appointed to preside in Pottawattamie county, Iowa, being associated with
Presidents Orson Hyde and Geo. Al. Smith. In 1849, in company with President
Smith, he move to the Valley. He was dangerously sick on the road and was not
expected to live; but the camp fasted and prayed and he recovered. In 1851 he
left the Valley on a mission to Pottawatamie county to gather up the Saints, and
returned in August 1852. In 1856 he was appointed a mission to Europe, and with
Elder Orson Pratt, presided over the British Mission until the Fall of 1857 when
he returned home. In 1860 he was appointed to preside in Cache Valley at which
point he was continued to reside over since. Besides performing three missions
Elder Benson has filled many important positions at home. He was a member of the
Legislature of the Provisional State of Deseret, previous to the organization of
the Territory; was a member of the Territorial House of Representatives for
several sessions, and for the past ten years has been elected to the Territorial
Council every term.
This brief epitome of his labors gives an idea of the energy, activity and
industry of the man whose loss we this day deplore. He never hesitated when work
was to be performed, and never suffered an opportunity of traveling with
President Young in visiting the settlements to escape him. He has had no
lingering sickness, and though the suddenness of his departure will doubtless be
a severe shock to his family and friends, it is such a departure as we do not
think he would have shrunk from contemplating. It would have suited his nature
better to have known that he would die in the harness, than to linger through a
period of inaction and decrepitude.
Elders Brigham Young, jr. and Joseph F. Smith have gone to Logan to be present
at the funeral obsequies, which are appointed for 1 p.m. to-morrow. They will
probably be accompanied by Elder Lorenzo Snow from Brigham City.
We deeply sympathize with the bereaved family of the lamented deceased. This
loss is their. Of his happiness there is no doubt. A man so faithful and true
will receive a glorious reward. He has fought the good fight; he has finished
his course; he has kept the fait, and there is laid up for him a crown of
righteous Judge shall give him in the day of reward. Elder Benson’s family
have the sympathies and prayers of a great people in their behalf, and the Lord,
whom the beloved departed served, will most assuredly comfort, console and help
them in the midst of their deep affliction.
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