Eph Hanks Pioneer Scout


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Chapter 8

Before focusing on the last two and one half decades of Eph's life that he lived as a rancher in a remote area of southern Utah, we should in all fairness attempt an examination of our subject through non-Mormon eyes. Those who knew him only by reputation wrote and spoke of him as a desperado and a vile villain. He was supposedly one of Brigham Young's "Destroying Angels," and a man to be feared. Eastern periodicals labeled him a killer. Local anti-Mormon writers, including some apostate Mormons, accused him of various crimes, including "holy murder."208

Eph was disparagingly linked with the supposed Danite organization209 in early Utah, and at least two sources included him in the "Be'boys"210 group. Hosea Stout, in his journal on March 8, 1853, records the following:
Col. (Thomas L.) Kane, accompanied by Egan, Rockwell, Hanks, and several others of the "Be'boys" left for the United States troups (sic) camp to go by the upper Weber Route.211
In 1853 the "Be'boys" we also referred to by James Fergeson,212 so they were evidently either a specific group as Stout and Fergeson imply, or the term was simply a general name applied to the rougher element. According to Historian Edward Tullidge, there were those in the Nauvoo Legion who "were detailed to perform special duties. Among these were O. P. Rockwell, Ephraim Hanks, and many others."213 Apostate Mormon William Hickman also refers to the same general group whom he calls "Brigham's Boys."214 The anti-Mormon writer J. H. Beadle lists the top three candidates meriting infamous recognition among the Mormons as being `Port Rockwell, `Ephe' Hanks, and `Bill Hickman.215 Eph is also listed along with Rockwell, Hickman and others by Mary Ettie V. Smith as being "the Mormon rowdies."216 It is of interest to note Eph Hanks and Orrin Porter Rockwell are the ones consistently mentioned in this group. Although Eph and Bill Hickman were classed as two of the "triumvirate," with Porter Rockwell as the third member, there is evidence they did not get along. Evidently they were only linked together by notoriety for they were not pals.217 Whatever Eph's involvement in the charges made against him there is little doubt as to his reputation even among his peers. A mountaineer named Powell, for example, attempted to stir up Indian Chief Little Soldier to committing depredations. Powell had killed a Mormon at Salmon River and bragged about it to the chief. But when Powell and his compatriots were told, "Ephraim Hanks was out and was going to catch them they eloped in the night."218 Evidently Eph was trusted with special assignments by the church leaders, as was Porter Rockwell on occasion. These missions do appear to be other than militia assignments.

Only one specific charge of misconduct against Eph has come to light, and that involved a boy, Andrew Bernard, also called "Dummy." An article appearing in an 1859 edition of the Harper's Weekly details the story.

Dummy, as the boys was called, was the son of a poor Mormon widow. He was simple almost to idiocy. His poverty and misfortunes had enlisted the sympathies of the whole gentile community who delighted in giving him alms.219
Andrew apparently turned up missing, for on December 10, 1858, the following article appeared in Kirk Anderson's Valley Tan:220
What has become of that deaf and dumb boy that used to be around the streets? He has been missing now for two or three weeks. We have heard it rumored that he had "gone under."221
The following day an anonymous letter was written to the Valley Tan, chiding them for such `impertinent inquiries.' The letter, written either by a crank or someone knowledgeable about Bernard's disappearance, was explicit:
I will inform you that he has been permanently and decently planted, about one and a half miles north of your office; in a place called a Cemetery--where if you desire you can find him.222
The reason for his death was also given in the letter:
It was necessary for his salvation, that his existence on earth be abbreviated, and consequently his sudden transition from this to a better world.223
After further strongly implying that Bernard's demise was religiously justified, the letter suggests the newspaper no longer "make itself objectionable by heralding such things."224

Two months later the full story was published by Harper's Weekly and given wide circulation through the East. According to their account, a "committee consisted of Christiansen and Eph Hanks"225 were responsible for the boy's death. The article explained further how Bernard had been stealing from local merchants and burying his treasure near Mountain Dell. Christiansen, who was a policeman, evidently after accusing Bernard of the thefts shot him three times.

The bleeding body was then thrown on a load of wood and conveyed to an obscure canyon where the work of death was completed by cutting his throat from ear to ear, Eph Hanks assisting by hold his head.226
There is some evidence that the story is not wholly fictitious, for there was a policeman named Christiansen, who, on January 1, 1859, was tried before a United States attorney Wilson for a "Danite" murder, but was released.227 There is no other piece of evidence available to implicate him.

Possibly the most revealing, and also the most objective description of Eph was rendered by the noted English scholar and adventurer, Richard F. Burton, who met him at Mountain Dell while enroute to Salt Lake City in August, 1860. Already aware of Eph's reputation, Burton evidently thought the encounter important enough to leave us the following word picture of him in his book City of the Saints.

Presently, the stationmaster, springing from his light `sulky,' entered, and was formally introduced to us by Mr. McCarthy as Mr. Eph Hanks. I had often heard of this individual as one of the old triumvirate of Mormon desperadoes, the other two being Orrin Porter Rockwell and Bill Hickman--as the leader of the dreaded Danite band, and, in short, as a model ruffian. The ear often teaches the eye to form its pictures: I had eliminated a kind of mental sketch of those assassin faces which one sees on the Apennines and Pyrenees, and was struck by what met the eye of sense. The `vile villain,' as he has been called by anti-Mormon writers, who verily do not try to menager their epithets, was a middle sized, light haired, good looking man, with regular features, a pleasant and humorous countenance, and the manly manner of his early sailor life, touched with the rough cordiality of the mountainer (sic) `Frank as a bear hunter' is a proverb in these lands. He had, like most men (Anglo-Americans of the desperate courage and fiery, excitable temper), a clear, pale blue eye, verging upon gray, and looking as if it wanted nothing better than to light up, together with a cool and quiet glance that seemed to shun neither friend nor foe...228

Error! Reference source not found.Chapter 9


When Eph, upon the advice of President John Taylor, moved to southern Utah in 1877 with his wife Thisbe and children, he settled in a picturesque box canyon on Pleasant Creek in what is now eastern Wayne County.229 Here he planted more than two hundred fruit trees, built corrals and sheds for the animals, and planted crops. He was a farmer at last. He called his new home Floral Ranch.

According to family tradition, these were happy years for Eph although not easy ones. Money was scarce and when in February 1887, his oldest son, Walter, was called on a mission to the Northern States; Eph was unable to provide his railway fare to Chicago. Although sixty one years old at the time, Eph prepared to ride with Walter to the Illinois capital on horseback and return.230 It was not until friends presented Walter with forty dollars at the last minute that the boy was able to go by train.

While living at Floral Ranch, Eph's reputation for healing soon spread and his services were then in demand throughout the community of southern Utah settlements. Walter's wife, Mary Ellen Hanks, accompanied Eph on many of his errands to the sick. She records visiting Isabel Dalton, who lived in Mesa, a small community near Caineville, Utah. Although Mrs. Dalton had been under a doctor's care for some time, she continued to grow weaker until he was unable to do any more for her and consequently sent her home to die with her family. Upon hearing of her condition, Eph requested permission to administer to her. Following the ordinance, according to Mary Ellen, she was healed. She bore two more children following her recovery.

Under the date of February 8, 1930, George W. Carrell wrote a letter to Sidney Alvarus Hanks in which he relates a similar experience involving Eph:
He performed many instant healings. I will relate one that has always been a great testimony to me. It was in June 1894. My wife was very sick and had been for several days. It seemed that her days upon this earth were numbered. She asked to have Brother Hanks, your father, administer to her but he was supposed to be in Hanksville, fifteen miles away. We were preparing to send for him when, about eleven o'clock the door opened and he walked in, immediately going over to the bed of my sick wife and saying, `You are sick, aren't you? Just as I thought. Where is your oil?'

She told him where it was, and he walked over and picked up the oil himself. Then he laid his hands upon her head and administered to her. He said, `Sister Carrell, now you are made well by the power of God. I am very weak and hungry. Please get up and get me something to eat.'

She arose from her bed and did as he bid her. This was a miraculous healing for it was done instantly. We all know it was through inspiration that he was guided to the house and through the spirit of the Lord that she had been healed.

On another occasion he came after me to go with him as he was called to administer to a little crippled boy. The cords in the boy's leg were drawn backward, making him a total cripple. I anointed him. Your father, sealing the anointing, promised the boy he should get up and walk, also run and jump like a roe. The boy was healed almost immediately and he did run and jump and play. There are many other cases I have seen healed under his hands. I could talk to you all day on this subject and the many other wonderful things your father did.231

Prayer continued to be a practical reality in Eph's later life, and he passed his pragmatic understanding of this principle on to his sons. While living at Floral Ranch, Sidney relates how his brother Walter disappointed his father by missing a deer after firing three shots at it. "Father's gray blue eyes snapped as he turned to Walter and said, `I'm surprised at your throwing away all that ammunition...' Then he calmly went on, `Did you think to pray before you went after that deer?' Walter spoke the truth when he said he had not."232

Continuing the account, Sidney explains:

A few years later, Father and I went up on the mountain hunting deer. We sighted a small herd quite a distance away. I stayed with the horses while Father slipped from his saddle and noiselessly worked his way toward the game. He was quite a distance from me when I noticed that he dropped to his knees for a moment. I too bowed by head. Then he arose and, taking aim, brought down the largest buck that I have ever seen in my life. It was necessary for us to throw our burro and tie him securely down while we loaded the deer on top of him. When it was tied on, both of us had to help the burro up with the heavy load.233
While driving a wagon through King's Meadow Canyon in these later years, Eph met another outfit drawn by a young boy traveling down the canyon toward Salina. When the two drivers stopped to chat the boy recognized Eph as the one who had saved his father's life during the Martin Handcart rescue twenty years before. "Father says he owed his life to the Lord and to you," the boy explained. "You thawed out his frozen limbs with ice water, remember?"234 After a brief visit to the lad's home a few miles away, Eph again started for Floral Ranch, but now he had a new team and a new wagon loaded with supplies. He had not been forgotten.

Eph served his church faithfully throughout his life. After having been ordained a Seventy while living in Salt Lake City, he served as president of his ward quorum. President John Taylor later ordained him a High Priest, and on August 28, 1893, Apostle Brigham Young, Jr., ordained him a Patriarch, at age 67. During his first two years as Patriarch to the Wayne Stake he gave 120 blessings and "had taught the gospel to his fellowmen continually."235

Eph assumed the role of stake patriarch with little difficulty. In studying summaries of his talks recorded by ward and stake clerks over a three-year period, his new calling apparently suited him well. As a speaker he was unique. Because of a propensity to liberally flavor his talks with the experiences and adventures he had lived, his speaking style, according to Dave Rust, was not unlike that of J. Golden Kimball.236 His favorite themes were fasting and prayer, following the counsel of church authorities, and missionary work. In the minute book recording the Loa Stake Conference held February 1894, is recorded:

Patriarch E. K. Hanks thought it wise to watch as well as pray. Related one experience encountered during the Johnson (sic) Army War illustrating the necessity of being watchful... spoke upon the necessity of being self-sustainance (sic)... Every Elder should be a Prophet and Patriarch to his family. Asked for the prayers of the Saints and encouraged them to keep commandments of God. Related a dream the Lord gave him years ago demonstrating the way the Lord makes provisions for his Saints in time of need...237

Speaking in a stake conference August 28, 1893, Eph said, "There is no greater honor than to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Encourage the youth to prepare themselves for foreign missions."238 In November 1863, Eph promised the membership "if they would keep the counsel of the apostles they would never lack for bread."239 Again, at a Loa Stake conference a year before his death in 1895, Eph reveals some basic beliefs that served him well during his lifetime. Following is the clerk's resume of the talk.
This is the Kingdom of God established upon the earth and we must be obedient to those who are placed in authority over us or be held accountable. We have the priesthood and we all may be prophets, seers, and revelators by being obedient. This is what will save us... We must learn and understand the gospel here or it is impossible to return to father. We are edged in and if we let down the bars then we have the devil into our affairs... Illustrated this principle by his experience in early days.240
Even though Eph was always ready to follow counsel at least on one occasion, in earlier days, he succeeded in a bit of chicanery which influenced the brethren to withhold a call for which he was being considered.

In the 1870's he was seriously being considered for the office of bishop in a small town south of Salt Lake City. Whatever his reason for not wanting the job, Eph felt he should take some initiative in the matter. Learning that the brethren were meeting on a Saturday night to decide the question, Eph resorted to role-playing as he had so often done in other emergencies. Tying tin cans to his horse's tail, he rode up and down the street in front of the chapel, hollering unintelligible things, while the church officials met inside.241 The following day he must have smiled to himself when the stake president selected another man for the position. It is the writer's contention that had Eph been called to be a bishop he probably would have accepted the call otherwise his advice to follow the brethren would have sounded empty indeed.

Eph's willingness to accept counsel from the brethren has already been demonstrated in earlier chapters of this paper. The following account further emphasizes this point. While his son suggested living at Floral Ranch it to Eph, Walter, who was also his bishop at the time, that he move to Caineville. Looking his son in the eye, Eph said, "Is this my son Walter who is asking this or is it the bishop of the Caineville Ward?"242 When told it was the bishop speaking, Eph moved from his fine ranch home to Caineville for the winter as advised.

If there were a turning point in Eph's life when he reflected seriously about his life, it must have been in the spring of 1893, just before his call to be patriarch of the Wayne Stake. It had been a meatless winter for the hardy pioneer, so when he traveled to a gristmill near Bicknell,243 Utah, that spring, and the miller offered him a freshly butchered hog, he cooked and ate the meat throughout the night. By morning Eph had eaten so much he was too sick to start for home, and so rapidly did his condition worsen that within days his life hung in the balance.

While recovering at home from this near fatal experience, his family recalls his rather somber and contemplative mood. Whatever his thinking at the time, he had resolved to make a tribute to the Lord. Perhaps it was a token of thanksgiving that his life had been recently spared. Or, perhaps, he knew of his patriarchal calling at the time and wishes to rededicate his life to that service. Whatever the reason, Eph selected his two finest animals, `Old Darb,' his prize bull, and his largest steer, to offer as a sacrifice. It was not until weeks later that they were found by the children in the hills where they had been shot through the head and the meat left to spoil. Although the children and neighbors grieved the loss Eph never offered an explanation for their death. It was not until after his death that his wife, Thisbe, to whom he had confided concerning the tribute, revealed how the animals had died.244

Error! Reference source not found.Chapter 10


At first glance the life of Eph Hanks may appear to be a contradiction. How it is possible that a tough mountaineer like Eph, with a reputation of being a vile villain and one of the three most feared Mormon desperadoes, could also be a compassionate healer of the sick as well as a dedicated churchman. Is it really ironical? This writer thinks not. To understand Eph we must see him as part of his environment. We must first appreciate the tenor of the times before we can judge the deeds of the man. In looking at the sources that influenced the molding of Eph's unsavory reputation, one is not surprised at the outcome of the accusations made against him by apostate and non-Mormons alike, none of which was ever proven. As a matter of fact, only one specific charge was ever made and that was in the case of Andrew Bernard, and that by an eastern periodical thousands of miles away. If there was evidence against Eph, why is there no mention of it in any of the local anti-Mormon publications? This writer has found none.

It would appear that Eph's reputation as a rugged frontiersman and a personal courier to Brigham Young was largely distorted in favor of sensational journalism and anti-Mormon sentiments of the day. There is also probably little question that the air of mystery surrounding the doctrine of blood atonement in the church helped give flight to the imaginations of many who professed to the existence of Brigham's `Destroying Angels.'

On the other hand, we have noted numerous carefully documented sources portraying Eph in quite a different light.245 Even during the latter part of the 1850's and 1860's, when his villainous reputation was at its zenith, Eph's disposition for good appeared to be unwavering. Note the following account reported by Alonzo A. Hinckley:

In the early days of San Bernardino, California, the boys were celebrating and "whooping it up" in the general store. Francis M. Lyman was in especially gay spirits and had become quite boisterous, urging the boys to further celebration. Drinking and carousing were at their height when Francis took down a bolt to yellow cloth off a shelf, unfolded yard after yard, and wrapped and wound it around him in preparation for marching with the crowd.

Ephraim K. Hanks had been watching the confused scene and now he made his way to the young man, took his arm and said quietly, "Francis, think of your mother."

The boy grew serious and the celebration moderated. Brother Hanks reminded him of his heritage and suggested that he abstain from behavior of a reckless kind of future.

Francis obeyed this advice and always gave Ephraim K. Hanks the credit for his success. As Apostle Hinckley concluded his story, he said that this was probably the turning point in the life of Francis.246

In appreciation for this timely advice, Francis Lyman, upon learning of Eph's death, generously provided the headstone for Eph's grave. Eph Hanks was not a contradiction. If anything he was a simple man at heart whose rugged abilities and gift of faith contributed measurably to the history of the mountain west and the Mormon colonization effort. His influence for good touched the lives of hundreds.

During the years following his brush with death, Eph continued to be a concern to his family. Although he was well enough to work the farm and attend to his church activities, he continued to slowly lose his strength. The body that he had repeatedly pushed to the breaking point during more than fifty thousand miles of travel247 seemed at last to be responding to the years of abuse. Realizing that Eph was failing rapidly, Thisbe arranged a surprise birthday party and family reunion in his honor on March 20, 1896. Twenty-eight family members assembled at Floral Ranch for the celebration. N. C. Hanks writes concerning the occasion:

Refreshments were served after which Brother Hanks exhorted all to be honest, virtuous, and live upright lives, always praying so that they might always walk in the light of the gospel. He selected some of his experiences, and bore a powerful testimony to the truth of the gospel.248
A week following his birthday Eph was thrown from a horse he was breaking in and was put to bed with a severe pain in his head. Following a brief period of intense suffering he rallied somewhat for several days until the pain spread to his legs which then became numb. On June 9, blood poisoning spread throughout his body and at three o'clock that afternoon he died in the arms of his son, Walter. He was seventy years old.

Friends gathered from throughout the area to pay him homage. Even though the obituary notice that appeared in the Deseret News was a fitting soliloquy to his life, the gesture that probably would have pleased Eph most was the guard of 1,000 Indians who stood rimming the ledges above the ranch in silent tribute who stood rimming the ledges above the ranch in silent tribute to their friend and benefactor. Neither had they forgotten. It was indeed a fitting last tribute to a redoubtable pioneer whose memory it is hoped might shine a little brighter now that his story has come to light.



Beadle, J. H. Life in Utah. Chicago: National Publishing Company, 1870.

Black, William Morley. Letter. In possession of Sidney A. Hanks, Glendale, California.
Brooks, Juanita. (ed.) On the American Frontier, The Diaries of Hosea Stout. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1965.
Hanks, Arthur E. Personal interview. August 15, 1958.
Hanks, Ephraim K. Papers. Arthur Hanks Collection. Provo, Utah.
__________. Sidney Hanks Collection. Glendale, California.
__________. Teton Jackman Hanks. Provo, Utah.
Hickman, Bill. Brigham's Destroying Angel. Salt Lake City: Shepard Publishing Company, 1904.
Horne, Flora Bean. Autobiography of George Washington Bean and his Family Records. Salt Lake City: Utah Printing Company, 1945.
"Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," 1850-1896. LDS Church Historian's Office, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Lee, Grant M. Letter to Ephraim K. Hanks, November 17, 1944. In possession of Ephraim K. Hanks, Saratoga, California.
Little, Feramorz. Journal. Bancroft Library, Berkeley, California.
Official Correspondence in the Utah Territorial Militia Records Section. Utah State Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Official Report of the . . . Wayne County Stake Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1893-1895. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Rogerson, Josiah, Sr. Diary. LDS Church Historian's Office, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rust, Dave. Personal Interview. May 4, 1956.
Smith, Mary Ettie. Fifteen Years Among the Mormons. New York: H. Dayton, 1860.
Taylor, Allen. Letter to Walter E. Hanks, December 29, 1890. Original in possession of Sidney A. Hanks, Glendale, California.
Watt, G. D., and others (reporters). Journal of Discourses. Vol. IV. London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1854-1886.
Young, Brigham. Manuscript History. LDS Church Historian's Office, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Young, John R. Papers. MSS in possession of Sidney A. Hanks, Glendale, California.

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