Pioneer Trips of Ezra T. Benson (1811–1869)

Note: These transcripts have not been proofread. For more information, contact Ben Parkinson, webmaster, at "feedback at" (replace "at" with "@").


Ezra left Nauvoo with the first Saints expelled from the city in February, 1846. He was appointed to the presidency in Mt. Pisgah but after a few weeks was called to be an Apostle, after which he joined Brigham Young and the Twelve in Council Bluffs. He left in late summer for a mission to the east, returning in late November, by which time Winter Quarters had been built. Besides the sources listed below, Journal History, a collection of daily clippings and entries in the Historical Department Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, includes numerous references to Ezra in Iowa and Winter Quarters. Numerous published diaries of Winter Quarters citizens mention Ezra as well.


Ezra was appointed in Doctrine and Covenants 136 to raise a company. In the early part of 1847 he traveled west to the Ponca settlement to organize the Saints there. He was appointed a captain of ten and traveled with Brigham Young’s company to the Great Salt Lake Valley that spring. After a few days in the valley he was appointed to carry messages to the companies still on the plains, after which he joined Brigham Young’s eastbound company and had other adventures as he returned with them to Winter Quarters, Iowa.

Again, Journal History includes numerous references to Ezra on the pioneer trail, both going west and east, as do numerous published Mormon Trail diaries. Some of the principle ones are listed below—many of these include indexes.


When Brigham Young returned to the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1848, he left Orson Hyde in charge of the Iowa Saints, with George A. Smith and Ezra as his counselors. Ezra and George A. Smith spent the year preparing the Saints to come west, and each led companies in 1849. Ezra nearly died of bilious cholic on the way but recovered after a priesthood blessing. His and George A. Smith’s company were trapped by a three-day storm near South Pass but pulled through. Besides the letters listed here, many letters to and from Brigham Young in the Letters section of this web page deal with preparations for the crossing. I have transcripts of most the letters listed there and here—contact Ben Parkinson, webmaster, at "feedback at" (replace "at" with "@"),


Ezra was sent east in the fall of 1851 to gather all the Saints in Iowa who would come and bring them to the Valley in the summer of 1852. He traveled east with a group of missionaries and made the trip in forty days. The plan was to have  the poor Saints travel with handcarts and wheelbarrows, but by the time the companies were composed, all the poor had found a place, so none traveled by handcart that year. Ezra did not come west with any one company in 1852, but waited until the last company was on the trail and then came on horseback, visiting the companies and no doubt trading out animals as he came.  Many letters to and from Brigham Young in the Letters section of this web page deal with Ezra’s activities preparing the Saints for the 1852 crossing. I have transcripts of most the letters listed there and here—contact Ben Parkinson, webmaster, at "feedback at" (replace "at" with "@").


Brigham Young sent Ezra east in early summer 1854 to relieve Orson Pratt, who was bringing a Church train west. This train consisted mostly of cattle and other Church property and some returning missionaries. Ezra traveled east with another party of missionaries. Ezra met the Church train in Nebraska just hours after most the cattle stampeded, so had to ride ahead and borrow cattle from other Mormon trains to keep his company moving. He was on the ground at Fort Laramie just days after the massacre there.  

1856 (and 1858)

Ezra crossed the plains one more time, traveling east in 1856with a group of missionaries on his way to his own mission in England. They encountered a storm at South Pass probably as bad as the one that buried his company in 1849. He served there as counselor to Orson Pratt, traveling and speaking constantly throughout the British Isles with a tour of Scandinavia. He returned in late 1857 because of the Utah War but decided to return via Panama and California, because of the lateness of the season and to avoid Johnston's Army on the plains. 

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