Stephen Markham

Photo may be Stephen’s son but some believe this is Steven Markham

Photo may be Stephen’s son but some believe this is Steven Markham

Question: Was Stephen Markham in Carthage Jail with the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum earlier in the day that they were martyred?

Answer: Stephen Markham was born on February 9, 1800 in Rush (now Avon), Ontario, western New York to David and Dinah Merry Markham. He and his cousin, Guy Markham, were both born in 1800. William Markham, father of Guy, became the heir to the farm and property of Stephen’s father David, who was accidentally shot and killed at a 4th of July celebration in 1802.

Two years after his father’s death, Stephen’s mother, Dinah, remarried and moved from the Markham clan and farm to Unionville, New York. Later she moved to Chester, Ohio. It was here in Ohio where Stephen grew to manhood, married and became well established as a successful farmer. Here he was introduced to the Restored Gospel and was converted in July 1837, somewhere near Kirtland, Ohio.

After Stephen joined the church, he found his life was greatly changed. Once, upon the request of the Prophet Joseph, Stephen sold his property in Ohio and financed and led the journey of sixty Saints from Kirtland, Ohio to Far West, Missouri. His home was often uprooted and he, with other Saints, were forced to move from place to place. Stephen was a friend and body guard of the Prophet Joseph. At one time he sold his only home for $1200, and gave the money to the Prophet. He then moved his family into a tent until a cabin could be built.

Stephen endured many trials and hardships throughout his life, yet he stood firm in his conviction and testimony that Joseph Smith was a living Prophet, and he honored and revered him. On that fateful day of June 27, 1844, Stephen Markham was with the Prophet Joseph in Carthage Jail in the early afternoon.

Carthage Jail Bedroom where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed.

Carthage Jail Bedroom where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed.

“June 27th 1844 - After a restless night in Carthage Jail, Dan Jones went downstairs and inquired of the guard the cause of the gunfire during the night. Frank Worrel, the officer of the guard, told him that unless he left, he would be killed with Joseph and everyone else with him before nightfall. Joseph sent him to tell the Governor. On the way to the Governor's quarters he heard a group of men talking about killing the Prophet when Governor Ford left Carthage for Nauvoo. The governor dismissed Dan Jones' report.

Carthage Jail

Carthage Jail

“Dan Jones then stated that the Prophet and his brother are ‘American citizens, and have surrendered themselves to your Excellency upon your pledging your honor for their safety; they are also Master Masons, and as such I demand of you protection of their lives’ (History of the Church, 6:603). Governor Ford ‘turned pale’ and Dan Jones continued with a request that, ‘if you leave their lives in the hands of those men to be sacrificed . . . the Almighty will preserve my life to a proper time and place, that I may testify that you have been timely warned of their danger’ (History of the Church, 6:603).

“When he returned to the jail, the guard refused to let him enter. He went to the Governor to receive a pass back into the jail, but was refused. Joseph wrote a letter to Emma and said, ‘I am very much resigned to my lot, knowing I am justified, and have done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children and all my friends . . . May God bless you all. Amen’ (History of the Church, 6:605).

Thomas Ford

Thomas Ford

“As the Governor prepared to go to Nauvoo, Cyrus Wheelock approached him and told him that he feared for Joseph's life. The Governor again assured him of their safety. He left the Carthage Greys in Carthage to protect the jail; however, many of the Grays were part of the mob. Cyrus Wheelock went to the jail, and as it had been a little rainy in the morning, was able to wear his overcoat into the jail and was not searched. He had a six-shooter in the pocket which he gave to Joseph. Messages were given to him and he left for Nauvoo...

Steven Markham’s cane used by John Taylor for protection in Carthage Jail.

Steven Markham’s cane used by John Taylor for protection in Carthage Jail.

“The Governor was again warned just before leaving for Nauvoo, by Marshal John P. Greene, that there was a ‘conspiracy on foot to take the lives of Joseph and Hyrum during his absence,’ but again the Governor brushed it aside. (History of the Church, 6:611). Several men visited and left Carthage Jail during the afternoon as they continued to pursue legal avenues. Willard Richards became ill, and Brother Markham was asked to go get some medicine for him. On his return, a company of Carthage Grays grabbed him and put him on his horse and forced him out of town by bayonet.”

After the Prophet Joseph’s death, Stephen took Eliza R. Snow into his own home in Nauvoo, and it was while she lived here that she wrote “O My Father.” She lived with the Markhams for about three years, witnessing some hard times in the family. Stephen and his sons and wife continually had disagreements. It all became too much for Eliza, so she left the family and decided to go west in the Jedediah M. Grant Company in June 1847.

In the spring of 1847, when Brigham Young led his first group of Saints to the Rocky Mountains, Stephen was chosen to go as a scout and leader. He drove his covered wagon into the valley in July of 1847. Stephen made several trips across the plains, helping to bring other Saints to the Salt Lake Valley. In 1850 he was put in charge of a company of 50 wagons that left Council Bluff, Iowa, and crossed the route to Zion. It was in this company that Mary Curtis Houghton, a widow, with two orphan children, first met Stephen Markham. Soon after their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, Stephen and Mary were married in the President’s Office after Stephen and his first wife had separated.

In 1851 Stephen was sent to settle and establish a colony in Utah County near Spanish Fork. He was chosen as the presiding Elder of this colony until the church officially organized it as a branch on 21 November 1851. This colony was given the name of Palmyra, and Stephen was ordained as the Bishop. He soon took up a 620 acre tract of land in Palmyra which lies about three miles west of the present Spanish Fork. He moved his large family into a large “dug out” home that he built there.

Markham Family Monument

Markham Family Monument

For the next few years, many travel-worn Saints were taken in and given a temporary home, in this one room “dugout” dwelling, by the Markhams. A Mr. Evans, his wife and children, of the Handcart Company of 1856, describes their living with them for over a year, until he was able to build a home of his own. In return, Mr. Evans built a three-room house for Stephen and Mary in West Spanish Fork in 1857. This home was also shared graciously with others.

Stephen Markham gravestone.jpg

Stephen died on March 10, 1878 in Spanish Fork, Utah, at the age of 78. His wife, Mary, bore another child after his death and lived for more than 20 years raising this large family of fourteen children.

Source: Excerpts from “Life of Stephen Markham,” written By Verda McKee Kitchen; “The Day Joseph Smith was Murdered” by Barton Golding, Latter Day Light; familysearch.org

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