Stephen Markham

Brief Life History of Stephen

Written By Verda McKee Kitchen Stephen Markham was born on February 9, 1800 in Rush (now Avon), Ontario, western New York to David and Dinah Merry Markham. His first home and birthplace was a one room log cabin. It was later known as “Elm Place”. His log cabin home was built next to other cabins belonging to his kinsmen in that area. He and his cousin, Guy Markham, were both born in 1800 and must have played in early life together in their yards. William Markham, father of Guy Markham, and Stephen’s Uncle, became the heir to the farm and property of Stephen’s father David, who was accidentally shot and killed in a 4th of July celebration there at “Elm Place” in 1802. Stephen had an older brother, Nathaniel, whose son came west and joined the church. He settled in Arizona. Stephen also a sister Dinah who died as an infant. Two years after his father’s death, Stephen’s mother, Dinah Merry Markham, remarried and moved from the Markham clan and farm in Avon, New York, 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. His father’s property at “Elm Place”, New York, was later probated and bought by William Markham from his nephews, Stephen and Nathaniel, as they became of legal age, thus relinquishing them from legal ties to any part of the Markham Estate that their father David had owned. After Stephen joined the church, he found his life was greatly changed. Church History tells us that 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. This proved to be the first of many such events which occurred in the years to follow. His home was often uprooted and he with other Saints was moved from place to place. Stephen was a close friend and body guard of the Prophet Joseph and assisted him in many ways. At one time he sold his only home for $1200, and gave the money to the Prophet, for his financial need. He then moved his family into a tent until a cabin could be built. He 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 his memory of him. He would have laid down his life for the Prophet Joseph and defended him many times through those trying times in Kirtland, Jackson County, Far West, Missouri, and on that fateful day of June 27, 1844. Stephen Markham as the Prophet’s body guard, had his legs pierced with bayonets until his boots filled with blood, while trying to return to Carthage Jail after going on an errand for the Prophet. His attempts to reach and protect the Prophet were in vain, for the wicked and angry mob had already killed Hyrum and Joseph in cold blood before he could get help for them. After the Prophet Joseph’s death, he took Eliza R. Snow, the wife of the Prophet, into his own humble home in Nauvoo, and it was while she lived here. That she wrote “O My Father”. We read of this account in “The Ensign”, September 1973: “Along with her poetic nature, Eliza had a profound, exalted, spiritual temperament. Her sublime reverence for God and man’s relationship to him was immortally expressed in her “Invocation, of the Eternal Father and Mother,” which begins with the words “O my Father.” She wrote this poem in a little attic room in the home of Stephen Markham in Nauvoo in the spring of 1845, about a year after the martyrdom of the Prophet [Joseph]. She had been given temporary shelter in the Markham home, and her little room had bare walls and floor, except for a small ragu rug beside her bed. On a small bedside table lay the Holy Bible, her beloved Book of Mormon, and a tiny gold pencil the Prophet had given her and with which she wrote this immortal poem.” Stephen Markham’s home was wherever the body of the church was established. He was a strong leader in the early church period and held in high regard. When the Saints were driven from Nauvoo, Stephen and his family were among those who left with the Saints. He was chosen as Captain of a company of Saints, and assisted in various ways in moving the Saints Westward. Eliza R. Snow crossed the plains of Iowa in one of Stephen Markham’s covered wagons. Sickness and hardships troubled these sick and weary travelers, making it a arduous and trying journey. 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 on 22 July 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 familiar route on to Zion. It was in this company that Mary Curtis Houghton, a widow, with 2 orphan children, first met and learned of the value and worth of this great man. In her destitute situation, she put her trust in him as a leader and acknowledged him for his wisdom and leadership, which grew to eternal love. Soon after their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley in 1850, Stephen and Mary Curtis were married in the President’s Office. She was his third wife. Their temporary homes may have been a covered wagon while crossing the plains or a cabin in the valley of Salt Lake, but 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. Stephen was then made President and W.M. Pace was Bishop. In 1852-3 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 3 miles west of the present Spanish Fork. He moved his large family into a large “dug out” home that he built there. From Our Pioneer Heritage by Cate B. Carter, this home is described as follows: “The first dugout in Palmyra was constructed by Stephen Markham and was typical of this type of dwelling. A boarder in this home reviewed what her living conditions were like---His (Markham’s) home was a dugout. It was a very large room built half underground… There was a large fireplace in one end with bars, hooks, frying pans, and bake ovens, where they did the cooking for the large family, and boiled, fried, baked, and heated their water for washing. There was a long table in one corner, and pole bedsteads fastened to the wall in the three other corners. They were laced back and forth with rawhide cut in strips, and made a nice springy bed. There were three trundle beds, made like shallow boxes, with wooden wheels, which rolled under the mother’s bed in the daytime to utilize space. There was a dirt roof, and the dirt floor was kept hard and smooth by sprinkling and sweeping. The bed ticks were filled with straw raised in Palmyra.” For the next few years, many travel-worn Saints were taken in and given temporary home in this over-crowed, 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 3 room house for Stephen and Mary in West Spanish Fork in 1856 or 57. This home was also shared graciously with others just as their dugout home in Palmyra had been. Stephen was the father of a large posterity and a friend to all. He loved his family, and had many friends and loved ones. He died on March 10, 1878 at Spanish Fork, Utah. At the age of 78, he left his earthly home and went on to his heavenly home which the Lord had prepared for him. His wife, Mary, bore another child after his death and lived for more than 20 years raising this large family of 14 children. Her last earthly home was built about 1 mile West of Spanish Fork and here she spent her remaining days.

Photos and Memories (97)

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Family Time Line

Stephen Markham
Mary Curtis
Marriage: 5 October 1850
Orville Sanford Markham
Julia Ann Markham
Mary Lucy Markham
William Don Carlos Markham
Sarah Elizabeth Markham
Atta Ruth Markham
Hosmer Merry Markham
Emily Aurelia Markham
Margaret Eliza Markham
Joseph Curtis Markham
Charlotta Julina Markham
Ira Metchem Markham
Clarissa Maretta Markham
Caroline Louisa Markham

Sources (93)

  • Stephen Markham, "United States Census, 1850"
  • Family Data Collection - Births
  • U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900

World Events (8)


France sells Louisiana territories to U.S.A.


"ASHTABULA COUNTY - This county was formed 7 June 1807, and was taken from Trumbull and Geauga [Counties], and the date of its organization was 22 January 1811. It derived its name from Ashtabula River, which signifies in Indian dialect, ""Fish River."""

1821 · Financial Relief for Public Land

A United States law to provide financial relief for the purchasers of Public Lands. It permitted the earlier buyers, that couldn't pay completely for the land, to return the land back to the government. This granted them a credit towards the debt they had on land. Congress, also, extended credit to buyer for eight more years. Still while being in economic panic and the shortage of currency made by citizens, the government hoped that with the time extension, the economy would improve.

Name Meaning

English: habitational name from Markham Clinton or East Markham (Nottinghamshire). The placename derives from Old English mearc ‘mark, boundary’ + hām ‘village, homestead’ or hamm ‘water meadow’.

Irish: English surname used as an equivalent of Gaelic Ó Marcacháin ‘descendant of Marcachán’, a diminutive of Marcach ‘horseman, rider’ (see Markey ). This was originally a Galway surname but is now found mainly in Clare, sometimes translated into English as Ryder .

Dictionary of American Family Names © Patrick Hanks 2003, 2006.

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