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Picturing history: Ephraim Hanks' grave

One of the truly heroic characters from the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Ephraim “Eph” Knowlton Hanks.

Hanks was born in Madison, Lake County, Ohio, in 1826. This is near to what was once Thompson, Ohio, where Doctrine and Covenants 51 was received in 1831. As a boy, he learned farming and blacksmith skills. He worked as a boatman on the Erie Canal and served in the navy for several years, traveling to various exotic sites in the world.

Hanks was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1845, a year after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He marched with the Mormon Battalion from Iowa to California and eventually settled in the Salt Lake Valley. He carried mail across the western plains, making the journey dozens of times.

Ephraim is a man ever associated with loyalty to second LDS Church president Brigham Young and the rescue of the handcart pioneers of the Edward Martin Company in 1856. There are numerous soul-stirring stories of his courage and faith in providing relief to the handcart Saints who suffered immeasurably during their late journey across Wyoming in 1856.

Hanks is numbered with other prospectors who filed claims in the Parley’s Park, later Park City area. He settled in the Mountain Dell area just east of Salt Lake City for a time but was later called to settle in Wayne County. Brigham Young Jr. ordained him a patriarch in 1893. Hanks passed away in 1896 and was buried in unincorporated Caineville, Wayne County, Utah.

Kenneth R. Mays is a board member of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and has also been an instructor in the LDS Church’s Department of Seminaries and Institutes for more than 35 years.