Eliza Ann Perry Benson and Her Children
by Minnie Egan Anderson
excerpted from John Henry Evans and Minnie Egan Anderson, Ezra Taft Benson: Pioneer—Statesman—Saint (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Press, 1947), pp. 345–49

    [In] 1846 in Winter Quarters, . . . the pioneer Ezra T. Benson was making plans to accompany Brigham Young to the west. He met nineteen-year-old Eliza Ann Perry, a convert to the Church from England. Eliza Ann’s father, John Perry, was a minister of the United Brethren’s church in Ashportan, Hereford, England. He and his whole congregation were converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Wilford Woodruff. After his conversion, with his wife, Grace Ann Williams Perry, and family, he set said for America and Nauvoo. When they arrived in Nauvoo John Perry worked on the temple. It was necessary for most of the work to be done at night by candlelight on account of the intense persecution of the Mormons in Illinois. He also assisted in hanging the great bell in the temple which had been sent as a taken of love from the Saints in England. When the expulsion from Nauvoo took place, a few of the brethren of the harassed group stole back across the Mississippi River under the protecting cover of night—and at great risk of life—to rescue the precious bell which had been donated by the hard earned pennies of their English brethren on the Isle across the sea.

    Ezra T. Benson married Eliza Ann March of 1847, one month before he left with Brigham Young to find a sanctuary for the Saints in the Rocky Mountain region of the west. She became his third wife.

    Ezra T. Benson and George A. Smith returned to Utah in 1849, having been away from Salt Lake Valley for two years supervising the exodus of the Saints to the Great Basin. They were in charge of the last two companies which left Winter Quarters on July 14, 1849. Eliza Ann and her baby daughter Alice Eliza accompanied Elder Benson on this return trip to Zion.

    Winter set in unusually early that year, making the journey a most trying and difficult one. The two companies traveled very closely together. Brother George A. Smith’s company was comprised mostly of Danish Saints and the greater part of Ezra T. Benson’s company was of Norwegian Saints.

    The frequent severe electrical storms made traveling slow and unpleasant. The thousand

    head of cattle they were herding across the plains were restless, stampeding often. In a report written by Ezra T. Benson and George A. Smith on August 5, 1849 to President Orson Hyde of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as to the condition of the immigrating companies a vivid description of a stampede is given:

    “No one that has not witnessed a stampede on these plains has any idea of the terror that accompanies them. Contemplate a camp of fifty or a hundred wagons all corralled with 1000 head of cattle, oxen, steers and cows, with some 300 or 500 souls consisting of men, women, and children all wrapped in midnight slumber with every prospect of peace in their frail canvas covered wagons. The guards pacing their several rounds cry out the hour of the night. . . .when all of a sudden a roar equal to distant thunder penetrates the air. The ground shaking beneath their feet like an earthquake, together with the bellowing, roaring, foaming, maddened and frightened cattle with cracking yokes, the rattling of chains, and often the breaking of wagons add to the terror and confusion. Away they go, rushing over guards or anything else that is not invulnerable to them. ‘Every man turn out’ is the cry of the guard. Horses are mounted and through storm, high grass, sloughs, mud, mire and the baffling darkness of a prairie night they struggle to round up the cattle. Women and children are left with a few guards and rifles to protect them from the Indians who roam over these plains in countless numbers in quest of plunder, and perhaps it was they who instigated the stampede.

    “After one or two hours the cattle begin to weary and if luck and fortune attend, the horsemen will head them and drive them back to camp except those that sometimes swim the rivers. The terrors of the stampede are not soon forgotten.”

    It took brave hearts to bring the cattle under control. Wagon must be repaired and the injured made comfortable as possible. Because of these harrowing experiences they adopted the plan of chaining and tying up the cattle to prevent further trouble.

    In the latter part of September the company stopped on the Sweetwater in Wyoming to restore damaged parts and wait for clearing weather. Here Eliza Ann gave birth to her second child–a son, John Perry Benson, on September 24, 1849.

    Eliza Ann’s father and mother had arrived in Utah October 2, 1847 with the Charles Coulson Rich company. They wintered in the old fort and in the spring of 1848 took up land and settled in Bountiful. Eliza Ann’s little son went to live with his grandparents in Bountiful in 1850 since death had taken all the Perry children but Eliza Ann and her sister, Elizabeth. A few years later, Eliza Ann’s father, John Perry, was called on a mission to England and on his return in 1855 when he reached Mormon Grove he was stricken with an illness which took his life.

    John Perry Benson lived with his grandmother Perry until he was about twelve when his grandmother died. Eliza Ann’s sister, Elizabeth who continued to live on at the old home after her marriage to Orrin Hatch, took John to rear as her own with her large and growing family.

    Eliza Ann and Ezra T. were the parents of two sons and five daughters. Their eldest son John Perry Benson became a prominent Church and business leader in South Bountiful.

    He was a successful farmer and dairyman. He was one of the owners of the Farmer’s Dairy, one of the first retail dairies to serve Salt Lake City. He was particularly active in the development of the wool and canning industries of that community. John Perry Benson was one of the founders of the Deseret Livestock Company. He promoted and gave financial aid to irrigation projects. The earliest was the construction of a system of ditches which diverted the waters from Mill Creek and North Canyon east of Bountiful, bringing hundreds of acres under cultivation. He also assisted in promoting and gave financial aid for the construction of a reservoir for culinary purposes. This project gave the needed force to allow water to be piped into the homes, eliminating the old pump at the sink and the carrying of all water for household purposes. He was a director of the Woods Cross Canning Co. and stockholder in the Bountiful Bank and Farmer State Bank at Woods Cross. He married Evaline Lydia Hales on October 16, 1871. She was a daughter of Stephen Hales who carved the clasped hands and cut the corner stone of the Salt Lake Temple. They were the parents of six children. On November 14, 1890 he left his wife and six children, the youngest being only 6 weeks old to perform a mission in Ireland. He was a counselor to Bishop Richard Erastus Egan for many years in the South Bountiful Ward

    His mother, Eliza Ann lived to be 86 years of age. In her later life she was an ardent working in the Logan Temple. She died May 3, 1913 in Logan Utah.

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