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 bensonfamily.org" (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 T. Benson, “Brief History of Ezra T. Benson,” in Manuscript History of the Church, Historical Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol. 16 (16 Jul. 1846), 55–82; see other references for this work under “Biographies and Autobiographical Writings” for other sources.
- Brigham Young to Ezra T. Benson, Missouri River, 29 Jun 1846, 1 page, CR 1234 1, LDSCA CR 1234 1, reel 24 box 16 fd 7
- Ezra Taft Benson to William Huntington and C. C. Rich, Mt. Pisga, 221 Jul 1846, MS 3317
- Ezra T. Benson to Brigham Young, Mt. Pisgah, 6 Aug. 1846, in Journal History, 17 Aug. 1846, pp. 3–4. Note: This letter was severely abridged by Andrew Jenson for inclusion in Journal History. The version in the Brigham Young papers has many more details. Contact webmaster (above).
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.
- “Ezra Taft Benson—Captain of Second Ten,” in Kate B. Carter, ed., Our Pioneer Heritage, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958, 2:493–94.
- William Clayton’s Journal (Salt Lake City: The Clayton Family Association, 1921)
- The Record of Norton Jacob, ed. C. Edward Jacob and Ruth S. Jacob, (The Norton Jacob Family Association, 1953)
- The Pioneer Camp of the Saints: The 1846 and 1847 Mormon Trail Journals of Thomas Bullock, ed. Will Bagley (Spokane, Washington: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1997)
- “A Short Sketch of the Life of Levi Jackman,” mimeographed typescript, LDS Historical Department Library
- Pioneering the West, 1846 to 1878: Major Howard Egan's Diary (Richmond, Utah: Howard R. Egan Estate, 1917)
- Wilford Woodruff’s Journal: 1833–1898 Typescript, vol. 3, 1846-1850, ed. Scott G. Kenney (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983)
- Erastus Snow, “From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers: The Original Diary of Erastus Snow,” ed. Moroni Snow, in 18 parts, Improvement Era 14:3 (Jan. 1911), 282–87; 14:5 (Mar. 1911), 410–13; 14:6 (Apr. 1911), 490–93; 14:7 (May 1911), 631–35; 14:9 (July, 1911), 816–21; 14:10 (Aug. 1911), 925–27; 14:11 (Sept. 1911), 1020–23; 14:12 (Oct. 1911), ??; 15:1 (Nov. 1911), 53–57; 15:2 (Dec. 1911), 165–68; 15:3 (Jan. 1912), 246–50; 15:4 (Feb. 1912), 359–62; 15:5 (Mar. 1912), 452–??; 15:6 (Apr. 1912), 551–54; 15:7 (May 1912), 642–45; 15:9 (July 1912), 770–73; 15:12 (Oct. 1912), 1107–10; 16:8 (May 1913), 751–67
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 bensonfamily.org" (replace "at" with "@"),
- Geo. A. Smith and Ezra T. Benson to the Saints in Iowa, 3 Mar. 1849; in Frontier Guardian, Kanesville, Iowa, 21 Mar 1849
- William I. Appleby, George A. Smith Company Journal, in Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 27 Oct. 1849; also in “Biography and Journal of William I. Appleby,” LDS Archives MS 1401 FD. 1
- “The Story of Canute Peterson,” Instructor, Mar. 1946, 81:3:172–77, 181; a pioneer in Ezra T. Benson’s company in 1849.
- “A Journal of Events Encountered by Richard Warburton While Crossing the Plains in ’49,” in Kate B. Carter, comp., Heart Throbs of the West, vol. 10 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1949), 437–39; another pioneer in the Benson Company in 1849.
- Francis Wilson Gunnell, “Life History of Francis Wilson Gunnell,” 5-page typescript, p. 3, LDSCA MS 11361
- Excerpts from Biography of Myron Tanner, (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1907); on difficulties with oxen and a prayer circle to heal Elder Benson
- Excerpts from “Biography of Martha Cox,” p. 10; in Library of Congress Collection of Mormon Diaries, LDSCA MS 8620 reel 2 or FHL 0485333, item 9 (experiences of her parents, James and Eleanor Cragun)
- Three letters from the Pioneer Trail, 1849; in Millennial Star, 15 Nov. 1849, 11:22:345–46
- G. A. Smith and E. T. Benson to O. Hyde, 5 Aug. 1849, Camp of Israel, near Fort Childs, 208 miles from Winter Quarters
- G. A. Smith to O. Pratt, 12 Aug. 1849, Camp of Israel, Indian Territory, Sandy Bluffs, 280 miles from Winter Quarters
- George A. Smith and Ezra T. Benson, 21 Aug. 1849, Camp of Israel, Spring Creek, 345 miles from Winter Quarters
- Geo A Smith and Ezra T. Benson to Brigham Young, 359 miles from Winter Quarters, 23 Aug 1849, 9 pages, CR 1234 1, Reel 55 bx 42 fd 3
- Copy of GAS & ETB Dispatch from the Pioneer Trail, Aug. 1849, sent to Amasa Lyman, in Selected Collections DVD
- Ezra T. Benson to Brigham Young, Ash Hollow, 23 Aug 1849, 1 page, LDSCA CR 1234 1, Reel 51 bx 38 fd 1
- Geo A. Smith and E.T. Benson to Brigham Young, Ash Hollow, 25 Aug 1849, 1 paragraph, CR 1234 1, Reel 55 bx 42 fd 3
- Geo A. Smith and Ezra T. Benson to B. Young, 24 Sep 1849, Independence Rock, 2 pages, CR 1234 1, Reel 55 bx 42 fd 3
- Geo A Smith and E T Benson to B. Young, Big Sandy Creek, 10 Oct 1849, 3 pages, CR 1234 1, Reel 55 bx 42 fd 3
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 bensonfamily.org" (replace "at" with "@").
- Journal History, 23–24 Sept. 1851
- Samuel W. Richards to Brigham Young, Fort Kearney, 27 Oct. 1851; LDS CA CR 1234 1 reel 31 bx 22 fd 10
- Willard Snow, in Journal History, 3 Nov. 1851
Frontier Guardian, vol. 3 no. 21 (14 Nov. 1851); vol. 4, no. 1 (6 Feb. 1852)
Myrtle Hyde, Orson Hyde: The Olive Branch of Israel, 279–81
- Ezra T. Benson to Brigham Young and Council, Kanesville, 15 Nov. 1851, in Deseret News, 6 Mar. 1852, p.1; or Journal History, 15 Nov. 1851, pp. 1–2 (not in Brigham Young Papers)
- E. T. Benson to Brigham Young, Ferry Ville, Missouri, 1 Jul. 1852; CR 1234 1, Reel 51 bx 38 fd 1; or Deseret News, 7 Aug. 1852; or Journal History, 1 Jul. 1852, p. 1
- Address to Departing Missionaries, remarks [by Ezra T. Benson] at a Special Conference held in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, August 28, 1852,” in Deseret News, 18 Sept. 1852; or Journal History, or Journal of Discourses, 6:261–66; including comments on the emigration for that year; see also Brigham Young’s remarks of the same day.
- “Building up the Kingdom of God—How to Treat Immigrant Saints, etc., Remarks by President Brigham Young at a Special Conference held in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, August 28, 1852,” Deseret News, 18 Sept. 1852; or Journal History, or Journal of Discourses, 6:266–70; includes several references to Elder Benson’s speech of the same day. Note that Journal of Discourses gives the date as 28 Aug. 1859, but this is incorrect (see other sources).
- “A Discourse, Delivered by President Ezra T. Benson, in the Saints’ Meeting Room, Whitechapel, London, Monday, February 2, 1857; in Millennial Star, 25 Apr. 1857, 19:17:265–71; recalls an experience in the 1852 pioneer company.
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.
- Erastus Snow to Franklin D. Richards, St. Louis, 12 Sept. 1854, in Deseret News, 16:685; or Journal History, 12 Sept. 1854, pp. 1–2
- “Life of Thomas Ambrose Poulter, from His Diary,” Ogden, Utah, 4 Feb. 1884, in Utah Pioneer Biographies (Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1964), vol. 44, p. 141; Poulter says Ezra and Erastus Snow spent the night with the westbound William Fields Company, of which he was a member. Ezra warned them against “sharpers” and then proceeded to trade one of the brethren, in all likelihood Samuel R. Parkinson, a lame mule for a good one. He told Samuel he would be blessed, and Samuel reports in his own journal that he did just fine with his team.
- Orson Pratt, Ezra T. Benson, Horace S. Eldredge, Ira Eldredge, and Frederick Kesler to Brigham Young, 250 miles east of Fort Laramie, 8 Aug. 1854; LDSCA CR 1234 1 reel 54 box 41 fd 3; Deseret News, 31 Aug. 1854, p. 2; or Journal History, 8 Aug. 1854, pp. 2–5
- Erastus Snow to Franklin D. Richards, 12 Sept. 1854
- E. T. Benson to Brigham Young, Pacific Creek, 20 Sep 1854; Deseret News, 28 Sep. 1854
- Brigham Young to Bro [Ezra T.] Benson, G.S.L. City, 2 Oct 1854, Brigham Young letterbooks, LDSCA CR 1234 1 reel 3; or Selected Collections vol. 1 disc 21 box 2 vol. 1 p. 702
- Discourse, by Ezra T. Benson, (and related remarks by other Brethren), Tabernacle, Oct 6th, 1854, Deseret News, 2 Nov. 1854; or Journal History, 6 Oct. 1854; many details of his experiences on the plains that year, delivered before he had had time to shave.
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.
Back to Ezra T. Benson Histories Page
- Journal History, 8 Jun, 1856, pp. 7–17
- Deseret News, 6:106; or Journal History, 15 May 1856, p.1
- Ezra T. Benson to Elizabeth Gollaher Benson, 15 Jun. 1856, written from St. Louis on his way to England; transcript by Ben Parkinson. PDF version, 415K, courtesy of S. Hunter Cannon. (Screen resolution PDF by Ben Parkinson—write in if you need this in higher resolution.) Note on the word “tigeous”—the 1857 journal includes a similar spelling.
- E. T. Benson to Brigham Young, San Pedro, California, 5 Dec 1857, 3 pages, LDSCA CR 1234 1, Reel 51, bx 38 fd 2
- E T Benson to Amassa Lyman, Great Salt Lake City, 17 Mar 1858, LDSCA MS 829, b 4 fd 2 (on DVD)
- “Mission to England—Reminiscences, etc., discourse delivered in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, Sunday Morning, January 24, 1858,” in Journal of Discourses, 6:177–84; details of his return trip via Panama