Eliza Ann Perry was born 20 Mar 1828 at Castle Frome, Herefordshire, England. In the quaint town of Castle Frome, she lived in a comfortable home with pleasant surroundings with her parents, John Perry and Grace Ann Williams. She remembered her grandmother and grandfather Williams in Ashperton and her Perry grandparents in Castle Frome.
Eliza Ann’s father, John Perry (1799), was a Church of the Brethren minister. He was one of the ministers that Wilford Woodruff was instrumental in converting to the Gospel. This took place on Elder Woodruff’s first mission to England. Eliza Ann Perry was eight years of age at this time and was baptized together with other members of the John Perry family.
Within a very few years, things were to change for Eliza Ann. When she was 12 years old, her parents and family set sail for America, leaving on 7 Sep 1840 from Liverpool Harbor, with John Benbow and others on board the ship “North America.” The ship carried 200 former members of the United Brethren Church. Food became extremely scarce and many were sick and some died before the journey at sea ended.
At the time they left England, the new converts were so anxious to come to America, they chartered a vessel that had been condemned as not seaworthy. The vessel’s condition did not change their minds.
During their journey they were involved in two whirlpools lasting six hours on each occasion. During t each of these periods, they knelt in solemn prayer and the vessel was literally thrown out of the whirlpool, much to the astonishment of the sea captain. The captain soon learned that they were Latter-day Saints, and also the power of prayer. He stated that he had never in 40 years upon the sea experienced anything that equaled such an extraordinary event. He stated that he would never forget the event or the Mormons.
The Perry family went directly to Nauvoo, Illinois, and arrived there on the 24th of November 1841.
Eliza Ann saw the cornerstone of the Nauvoo Temple laid and saw the Prophet Joseph Smith taken off to Carthage Jail. Then with her family she went through all of the trying times before and after the death of the Prophet, and sorrowed with the Saints at his death. She also saw the mantle of Joseph fall upon the shoulders of Brigham Young, and she accepted him as her leader.
Eliza Ann and her parents shared the persecutions at the hands of the mobs and were in the exodus from Nauvoo to Winter Quarters.
After leaving Nauvoo, families with young children often needed assistance from the older girls, and Eliza Ann was let to help in what ways she could with the Ezra T. Benson families.
Eliza Ann married Ezra T. Benson in Winter Quarters, Indian Territory, on 4 March 1847, just a month before Ezra T. Benson left with Brigham Young for the first trek West. Winter Quarters is now Florence, Nebraska.
Eliza Ann’s mother was very angry about her marriage, a girl of 19 to a 36 year old man. Her mother punished her.
Eliza Ann was quite alone when her parents, John and Grace Perry, and her sister, Elizabeth Melissa, left on Thurs 17 June 1847 in the Charles C. Rich Company for their westward trek to the Rocky Mountains, while she had to remain at Winter Quarters. Adeline Andrus Benson and her little son had gone to the Valley in the same company as Eliza Ann’s parents.
We have no record of her life here in Winter Quarters, but she may have stayed with Pamelia Benson and Pamelia’s children.
Ezra T. Benson returned to Winter Quarters with Brigham Young and company, reaching there 31 Oct 1847, passing Adeline on her way with the Charles C. Rich Company. Ezra T. Benson remained in the East helping the Saints and supervising the exodus of the remainder of the people to the West.
Eliza Ann Benson left Winter Quarters 14 July 1849 with her daughter, Alice Eliza Benson, and in this company were Pamelia Andrus Benson and Pamelia’s children. This company was mostly Norwegian Saints, and George A. Smith’s company of Danish Saints was with them.
Winter came early in 1849 and traveling was difficult because electrical storms were severe and travel was slow and unpleasant. The companies were bringing with them about one thousand head of cattle, which proved a very hard task.
Extract from the Journal History of the Church, 12 Aug 1849: Camp of Israel, Indian Territory, Sandy Bluffs, 280 miles from Winter Quarters; written by Elder George A. Smith:
With 130 wagons they made slow progress as it was wet and muddy weather and the roads were miry by the incessant rains. They had experienced wind, showers, rain, thunder and lightning and hail. This threatened to stampede the cattle; some were corralled and others tied by the men.
All 500 of the people were asleep, when all of a sudden, a roar was heard equal to distant thunder which caused the ground to shake. The bellowing and roaring of furious, maddened and frightened cattle, with the cracking of yokes breaking, of chains and sometimes crashing of wagons was heard. Away the cattle went rushing furiously over guards or anything in their way.
The guards called, “Stampede!” Every man turned out with rifle in hand to stop the stampede, but the cattle roared on. Women and children were frightened by being awakened so suddenly. Eventually, some of the cattle were rounded up, but later more cattle would be lost as they swam across streams.
On the banks of the Sweetwater River in Wyoming, where the camp stopped to make repairs, Eliza Ann gave birth to her second child, a boy, John Perry Benson, on 24 Sep 1849.
When Eliza Ann arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley, she was anxious to see her parents to show them their two grandchildren. However, her visits were infrequent as her parents were in the Session Settlement (Bountiful) and she was in the city.
In 1851, the Bensons were to settle what is now Tooele. Eliza Ann faced pioneering in this new territory with her two small children and a third one expected soon, so to help her out, her mother, Grace Ann Perry, took John Perry Benson, Eliza’s little boy, to care for him as her own. He grew up in South Bountiful until his grandmother’s death when he was about twelve years of age, and then Eliza’s sister, Elizabeth Melissa, wife of Orrin Hatch (who continued to live in the old home) took John Perry Benson to rear as her own along with her large and growing family.
Eliza remembered that when her sister Libbie (Melissa Elizabeth) came to visit her, she was wearing a silk gown and a watch chain and she came in a surrey.
On the return from Tooele County to Salt Lake City, Ezra T. Benson built a fine home on the corner of Main Street and South Temple, called “The Big House.” Nothing is known of other homes in Salt Lake City, so it is supposed that all of the Benson family would live in this house. But they never did move in.
During the years in Salt Lake City, Eliza Ann gave birth to: Malina Adelaide, Orrin Perry, and Carrie Stella Benson.
The next move was to Logan, Utah, and here pioneering started all over again for the Benson Family.
Eliza Ann’s house stood on the corner of second West and First South Streets. Here she reared her family and added two more children, Abbie Della and Grace Ann Benson.
One deed was found in Logan: On 25 Nov 1872, William B. Preston, Mayor of Logan City, Cache County, Utah, Grantor, to Eliza A. Benson, Grantee, description: Pasture Lot 7 Block 5 Plat D Logan Island City Survey, containing 6 and 98/160 acres, more or less, in Section 4, Township 11, North of Range One East, and other property.
Ezra T. Benson died suddenly while in Ogden, Utah, on 3 Sep 1869 at the age of 58 years. His body was brought home to Logan and buried in Logan cemetery. Now Eliza was really alone with her family to care for and raise. She was forty years old at that time and her baby was two years of age.
After the death of her husband, she devoted her time to raising of her children, doing what other pioneer women had to do in a new place such as Logan was at that time. She was active in Relief Society and for many years was a visiting teacher. Soon after the Logan Temple was dedicated in 1884, she was called to take charge of the weekly cleaning of the temple. In those days, each ward would call a male and a female to spend Saturday cleaning the temple, and she supervised the work. On 25 Mar 1891 she was set apart as an ordinance worker, which position she held as long as her health permitted, which in all was about 25 years.
In Eliza Ann’s last illness, Vella Benson and her mother, Harriet Louise Williams Benson, would go into her home every little while to see if there was anything they could do for her. Eliza Ann was wasted away, and she looked like a little girl.
Eliza Ann Perry Benson died 13 May 1913 at the age of 86 years, and she is buried in Logan, Utah. She was the mother of seven children.
After Eliza Ann Perry arrived in Nauvoo, she met the Prophet Joseph Smith and became well acquainted with him. Eliza Ann was a member of the Nauvoo Choir. She also contributed to the purchase of glass for the windows of the Nauvoo Temple. She was present at the meeting called by Sidney Rigdon to choose a guardian for the Church. In her diary she said, and I quote, “Suddenly, Joseph came on the stand to all appearance. But the mantle of Joseph fell upon Brigham Young, his voice, the color of his hair, his general appearance. People raised from their seats en mass and exclaimed, ‘Joseph has come! He is here!’ Then they knew that Brigham was the man to lead these people.”
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