Ephraim Hanks: A Pioneer Profile

  • 4 February 2015

Ephraim Hanks en route to rescue handcart pioneers.

“When I saw the terrible condition of the immigrants on first entering their camp, my heart almost melted within me. I rose up in my saddle and tried to speak cheering and comforting words to them.” —Ephraim Hanks 

Ephraim Hanks is a well-known Mormon pioneer who settled in the Salt Lake Valley and was sent out by President Brigham Young to rescue the Martin handcart company on the plains of Wyoming in 1856. A journal entry from his experience posted on the Church History website reads:

“When I saw the terrible condition of the immigrants on first entering their camp, my heart almost melted within me. I rose up in my saddle and tried to speak cheering and comforting words to them. I told them also that they should all have the privilege to ride into Salt Lake City, as more teams were coming.

“After dark, on the evening of my arrival in the handcart camp, a woman passed the camp fire where I was sitting crying aloud. Wondering what was the matter, my natural impulse led me to follow her. She went straight to Daniel Tyler’s wagon, where she told the heartrending story of her husband being at the point of death, and in pleading tones she asked Elder Tyler to come and administer to him. This good brother, tired and weary as he was, after pulling hand-carts all day, had just retired for the night, and was a little reluctant in getting up; but on this earnest solicitation he soon arose, and we both followed the woman to the tent, in which we found the apparently lifeless form of her husband. On seeing him, Elder Tyler remarked, ‘I cannot administer to a dead man.’ Brother Tyler requested me to stay and lay out the supposed dead brother, while he returned to his wagon to seek that rest which he needed so much.

“I immediately stepped back to the camp fire where several of the brethren were sitting and addressing myself to Elders Grant, Kimball and one or two others, I said, ‘Will you boys do just as I tell you?’ The answer was in the affirmative. We then went to work and built a fire near the tent which I and Elder Tyler had just visited. Next we warmed some water, and washed the dying man whose name was Blair, from head to foot. I then anointed him with consecrated oil over his whole body, after which we laid hands on him and commanded him in the name of Jesus Christ to breathe and live. The effect was instantaneous. For the man who was dead to all appearances immediately began to breathe, sat up in his bed and commenced to sing a hymn. His wife unable to control her feelings of joy and thankfulness ran through the camp exclaiming: ‘My husband was dead but is now alive praise be the name of God. The man who brought the buffalo meat has healed him.’”

(Andrew Jenson, The Contributor, Feb. 1893, vol. XIL, 202–5, as quoted by Stewart E. Glazier, ed., Journal of the Trail [Salt Lake City, Utah: 1996] 94–98.)