Obituary Tribute to Patriarch Ephraim K. Hanks
Ephraim K. Hanks
Caineville, Wayne County, July 31, 1896.—Although it has been announced in the columns of your worthy paper, the death of the well-known and esteemed Utah veteran Ephraim K. Hanks, a few lines more, I trust, will be acceptable to his numerous friends and relatives.
Another Battalion boy has gone home to enjoy the reward of the righteous, and what a joyous hand shaking there was when “Brother Eph” (as he was commonly called) was ushered into the presence of Joseph, Brigham, Heber, and those he so dearly loved and respected; for he loved the Saints and the Gospel with a pure heart, always lifting a warning voice in the defense of truth, and importing that sweet influence that characterizes a man of God.
Like the Prophet Joseph and others he had remarkable faith and power in sickness and disease without ever touching the afflicted; a silent prayer to Father, and he could accomplish almost anything he desired for the benefit of others. The sick all over the country had so much faith in him that if he could only administer to them, they were healed; even the Indians would bring their sick for a hundred miles for Brother Hanks to administer to them and they were invariably made whole.
On one occasion about thirty came to be healed. It was fast day in February, 1893. He had them all fast and came to meeting. Quite a number of them spoke, desiring him to be their father, as they didn’t have any now that Brother Thurber was dead. He told them that he would, and then and his sons administered to them and they were healed.
Brother Ephraim K. Hanks was born the 21st of March, 1828, at Madison, Lake County, Ohio. He left home at the age of sixteen and became a sailor on a man-of-war, where he was compelled to stay for three years. After being released he returned home, only visiting a short time, and then started off again.
After going a short distance on his journey a foot he came to where the road forked, and where he was stopped from further pressing his journey by some unseen hand, at the same time bursting into tears, a thing he had not done for years. He tried three times to go on but was prevented, so he returned home again, where he found his brother, Alvaris Hanks, from Nauvoo, who had joined the Mormons.
That evening there was a debate between his brother Alvaris and some ministers, the latter talking so abusively that Brother Ephraim ordered them out of his mother’s house, much to the dismay of that good old lady.
Next morning, sitting on the granary doorsteps, he had a long talk with his Mormon brother about the Gospel, and being favorable impressed, concluded to go wit him to Nauvoo. One of the first things he witnessed on arriving there was the men working on the temple, with only parched corn to eat. He was taken very sick and the Elders were called in and he was healed, which was in fulfillment of a dream he had had previously. He believed in the Gospel from the first and was baptized by Horace S. Eldredge; the unseen hand directing him all the time.
Brother Hanks endured the hardships of the exodus from Nauvoo and was one of the volunteers of the Battalion in 1846, being twenty years old. He shared all the hardships of the Battalion’s tedious journey. After returning from California he married Harriet Decker, by whom he had four sons and three daughters.
Hale and hearty, fearing nothing but the displeasure of his God, he entered into the contract with F. Little and C. F. Decker to carry the G. S. mail from Salt Lake City to Laramie, at that time a very trying and dangerous undertaking. He also carried mail to California a foot on snow shoes when the snow as six feet deep and more. In the perilous times of Indian troubles, passed right by Lake Tahoe.
At the time the handcart companies were in such trouble, he was employed in fishing on Utah Lake. And angel came to him one night and told him to go to the aid of a handcart company. Next morning he was ready to start. The great work he accomplished on that mission, those of the company alone know and appreciate.
There seemed to be nothing impossible for him to do, on occasions of healing. God game him power to raise the dead, heal the sick, cute frozen limbs, etc. On his way to aid the handcart companies he killed some buffalo and after distributing the meat among the suffering Saints, went to work healing the afflicted and cheering the downcast. So wonderful were his healings that they gave him the title of Dr. Hanks.
He was also one that was sent to meet Johnson’s army, when President Young’s orders were not to shed a drop of blood.
He married Jane Capener, by whom he had four sons and three daughters, and Thisbe Read, by whom he had five sons and seven daughters.
He has been failing a little all winter and was very desirous of having all of his children together. They wrote to some of them to come and spend holidays with him; but circumstances prevented their doing so.
His wife, Thisbe Read Hanks, and children here arranged to surprise him on his 70th anniversary. On March 20th all gathered at the dear old home except one daughter and two sons-in-law. A nice program was arranged for the evening’s enjoyment; songs, recitations, music, toasts, etc., were rendered in a creditable manner. 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 related some of his experiences, and bore a powerful testimony to the truth of the Gospel. “O, my Father” was sung by his children; all knelt in family prayer and retired for the night. March 21st dawned clear and bright, making the welcome of the family more impressive; even nature bestowing her smiles for the day’s pleasure and grandfather’s enjoyment. Music from the organ, harmonicas and triangle (Brother Hanks making and playing the last named instrument himself) and social chats whiled away the time till dinner was announced. What a beautiful sight to see that table so beautifully provided with the luxuries of earth, with the noble father and mother sitting at the head of the table, surrounded by such a fine family of boys and girls, twenty eight being seated at two tables. The afternoon was spent in playing out door games, etc. After the birthday celebration came the preparation to do work in the Manti and Salt Lake Temples, and to visit all his friends and relatives again; but on the 26th, the week after his birthday, he was taken with severe pain in his head (which the doctors say was congestion of the brain.) He suffered terribly, but finally got a little better, and remarked to his faithful wife, “I know now why I wanted all my children together.” Although he was better and worse by spells, first so he could sit up and then bed fast, he never rallied.
Although his suffering was so intense, he saw patient and cheerful, never complaining, willingly taking every simple thing that his loved ones thought would help him. After the pain got easier in his head, his legs from his knees down were cold as death. At times he would suffer the most excruciating pain in them, which nothing but administrations would relieve, it being the only thing that ever did him any good. His noble wife and family did everything that loving hands and prayerful hearts could, never leaving his bedside but for a few minutes at a time, and caring for him as tenderly as for an infant. He appreciated their love and kindness fully. Blood poisoning set in, and although he apparently felt better, talked with more ease and seemed more cheerful, his noble spirit took its flight at 3 p.m. Tuesday, June the 9th, just as peacefully as a child, going to sleep in the arms of his oldest son, Bishop Walter E. Hanks. The family was called in time to see the sweet, angelic look that spread over the beloved features of the departed, the influence that filled the room was so heavenly as to be beyond description. After the first spasm of grief was over the faithful wife and mother dropped on her knees at the foot of the deathbed, and silent implored for strength and comfort that God alone could give; arising from her knees she said, “Come children, this will never do, you know it was father’s desire for us not to weep and mourn. Come, we must get to work.” He had previously desired that his wife and daughter Amy should make his burial clothes, and God gave them strength to gratify his every wish.
Word was sent to Caineville, about eighteen miles distant, to make his coffin and dig his grave, and all the people who could followed his remains in the graveyard. Such a plain, simple funeral—no costly display of flowers, but a sincere, heartfelt dedicatory prayer, comforting remarks to the noble family who strived so hard to gratify his every wish, and all that was left of our beloved patriarch and old time veteran was lowered to its last resting place, his three sons, two sons-in-law and Brother Geo Carrell acting as pall bearers-just such a funeral as he had often described when in robust health. Such a sweet heavenly influence was there that one did not feel to morn. Those present testified that it was beyond anything they had ever witnessed. It made one think as Apostle Paul, “Oh! Death where is they sting; oh, grave, where is thy victory?”
Brother Hanks was the father of 26 children, 5 of whom have preceded him home. He leaves his wife, children, 15 grandchildren down here (don’t know the number up north) and a host of friends to mourn his loss. He was ordained a Seventy by Erastus Derby, a High Priest by President Taylor, and Patriarch by Apostle Brigham Young, the latter ordination being on August 28th, 1893. He was a faithful man, never missing Sunday school, meetings, fast meetings, etc., although there were only two families where he lives; his own and Brother John Gile’s. No one ever visited his pleasant home but they spoke of his good influence they felt; but it could not be otherwise, for the family were united as the heart of one. He has left a family behind him that is an honor to his name. He died at a good ripe age of full faith of a glorious resurrection He was 70 years, 2 months, 18 days old. – M. E. Hanks*
Deseret News, 1896-08-22
- M. E. Hanks – Mary Ellen Stewart Hanks, daughter of Ephraim Knowlton Hanks, wife of Walter Ernest Hanks.