Meribah Morton Behunin and Elmina Tyler Behunin
In memory of Isaac Behunin,
Mormon Pioneer, Early Utah Settler and
Credited with the naming of Zion Canyon
Early Mormon Pioneer
Isaac Behunin was born October 20, 1803 in Richland, New York to Albert and Nancy Lord Bohanan (Bohannon). He was involved in the thrust westward, frontierism and the religious revival of early America. In addition to being a farmer, he helped build the Erie Canal as well as other canals during the "Canal Craze" of the 1800s. He married Meribah Morton in 1823 and joined the Mormon Church in 1833. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Kirtland, Ohio to join the main body of the church. Meribah died in Kirtland, leaving Isaac three small boys to raise; Philo, Isaac M. and William. He married Elmina Tyler in 1834, and over the following 19 years they had nine more children. He knew the Prophet Joseph Smith and at times served as one of his body guards. He helped build the Kirtland and Nauvoo Temples. In 1840 he was ordained an Elder and later a Seventy and High Priest. He served a short mission to Iowa. He and his family suffered the losses, hardships and persecutions of the "driving of the saints" through Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and Iowa from 1833 until 1850 when he migrated to Utah.
First Settler of Ephraim, Utah
Isaac and his family were sent to Provo within a few days after arriving in Salt Lake City in September 1850. His ten children were listed in the 1851 Utah Census as Philo, age 22; Isaac M., 18; William, 16; Andrew, 15; Alma, 13; Nancy, 10; Stephen, 7; Hyrum, 5; Elijah, 3; and Almina, 6 months. In 1852 Isaac moved to Sanpete County and was the first settler in Ephraim. He and his family lived alone on Pine Creek in a dugout during the winter of 1852. They farmed 40 acres of ground during the summer of 1853 and then were forced to Manti because of Indian trouble. Isaac and his sons served in the Sanpete Militia. They helped build "The Little Fort" and later, a larger fort in Ephriam [sic]. "Behunin's Ditch" ran kitty-corner through the little fort. Isaac and his sons also helped to build the small and the large fort in Manti. Isaac's son William was killed by Indians while serving a mission at Elk Mountain near Moab. His sons Isaac Morton, Stephen Mosiah and Elijah Cutler became well known early pioneers in Sanpete, Emery and Wayne Counties. Isaac lived in Sanpete County until 1861 when he was called to the "Cotton Mission" in Southern Utah.
Gave Zion Canyon Its Name
Isaac was one of the early settlers in the Upper Virgin River Area. He settled at Northrup at the forks of the Virgin River in December 1861 with two other settlers. They lived in close proximity to a large clan of friendly Perrusit Indians with whom they learned to converse. He and his family lived in their wagon and a make-shift shelter while it rained for more than a month. The Virgin River became a raging torrent and washed away much of the farmable soil. In January, after the flood, he moved further up Zion Creek Fork, built a home, farmed and was one of the first settlers of Springdale. In the summer of 1863, he and his sons built a cabin, cleared some land and farmed in Zion Canyon near the present site of the lodge. They also maintained their home and farm in Springdale, where they spent the winter months. Isaac is credited with giving Zion Canyon its name, when in the presence of friends and the grandeur of the canyon he said, "A man can worship God among these great cathedrals as well as he can in any man-made church; this is Zion." He was called "a fierce Mormon zealot" by the explorer, Clarence Dutton. In 1872 Isaac sold his farm in the canyon to William Heaps for 200 bushels of corn and moved to Long Valley. He died in May 1881 at age 78 and was buried in Mt. Carmel Cemetery.
Meribah Morton Behunin
Meribah Morton was born March 16, 1804, to Isaac and Nancy Morton in Williston, Vermont. The Mortons retained their Vermont property, but due to harsh winters between 1810-1820, they moved with a general exodus to upper New York. On December 28, 1824, at the age of 19, she married Isaac Behunin who was then 20 years of age.
After Meribah and Isaac married, they moved back to Williston for about two years, where, according to a family story, Meribah gave brth to twins who died in infancy. In 1826 they returned to Richland where three sons were born: Philo M. in 1828, Isaac M. in 1831, and William M. in 1833.
Meribah quick-claimed [sic - quit-claimed] her Vermont property to her mother in 1832. She and Isaac joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in 1833 and moved with the Saints to Kirtland, Ohio. On July 8, 1834, Meribah died in Kirtland due to unknown causes. She was only 30 years of age. Speculation is that her death was due to health problems, coupled with the hardships of frontier life.
Elmina Tyler Behunin
Elmina Tyler married Isaac Behunin October 1, 1834, at the age of 23; he was 31 years of age. The third of eleven children, Elmina was born to Andrew and Elizabeth Cummins Tyler on April 23, 1811, in Soponias, Cuyuga, [sic - Sempronius, Cayuga County] New York. She was the sixth generation of Tylers in America, and her progenitors were among the first immigrants from England.
Elmina was the first of the Tyler family to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). In the winter of 1833, she was baptized in Lake Erie through three feet of ice.
In addition to rearing the three children from Isaac's first marriage, Elmina gave birth to nine children of her own: Andrew, Alma, Polly, Nancy, Meribah, Steven Mosiah, Hyrum, Elijah Cutler, Almina, and Benjamin. Polly and Benjamin died in infancy. She taught her children to read, write, and understand the scriptures. Reports indicate that Isaac would say in the evenings, "Mother, read that scripture to us again." Other accounts state that she sometimes taught school.
Elmina, a hearty pioneer woman with stron religious convictions, endured the hardships of the "driving of the Saints" from Ohio to Utah. During the 46 yearsof her married life, she moved and setup households at least a dozen times in frontier communities under very adverse conditions. She died September 29,1883, at age 72 and was buried in Ferron, Utah.
Dedicated October 2, 1993 by Fenton Moss