Hole-in-the-Rock Landmarks and People

Hole-in-the-Rock Landmarks and People
Answers at bottom of the left column.

January 5, 2010

Smith, Silas Sanford and Martha Eliza Bennett

Silas Sanford Smith

Born: October 26, 1830, in Stockhom, St. Lawrence County, New York

Died: October 11, 1910, in Layton, Utah
Married: (1) Clarinda Ricks, (July 9, 1851)
(2) Sarah Ann Ricks, (March 17, 1853)
(3) Martha Eliza Bennett, (July 19, 1865)
Father: Silas Smith
Mother: Mary Aikens
Children on the trek: Jesse Joel (C. Ricks), Stephen Augustus (C. Ricks), Albert (S. Ricks), Ella Clarinda (C. Ricks)

His father, Silas Smith, was an uncle to the Prophet Joseph Smith (being a younger brother to Joseph Smith, Sr.). Silas was baptized into the LDS Church in 1835 by his nephew, Hyrum, and remained faithful to it until his death. For the next twelve years, the Silas Smith family moved many times as a result of the persecutions suffered by the early Church. First was a move to Kirtland, Ohio, and two years later, a move to Missouri, from which they were driven by mobs in 1839.  He was at Nauvoo when the Prophet Joseph Smith and Hyrum were martryed at Carthage jail. With his mother and brother Jessee, he crossed the plains in Perregrine Sessions Company, arriving at Salt Lake City on Sept. 25, 1847.  He was 17 at the time.
Marriage, Military, and Missionary Work

In 1848, Silas Sanford built a home on North Temple, but did not stay there long. The next year he built another home near Farmington, in Davis County, where he raised crops during the years of 1850-51. In July 1851, he married Clarinda Ricks, and a few months later was called by the Church to settled in Parowan, to which the young couple embarked willingly that fall. Together, Silas and Clarinda became the parents of five children.

In 1853, Silas Sanford Smith married a second wife, Sarah Ann Ricks, sister to Clarinda, with whom he had four children. At the time of this second marriage, Silas Sanford was serving in the military fighting in the Indian War of 1853. The next year, however, he was called on a mission to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). In order to afford the passage fare to the Islands, Silas worked for three months in San Francisco before departing. As a missionary he likewise worked hard and dedicated himself to learning the native language and preaching the gospel. He even served as a counselor in the mission presidency for a time before he returned home in 1856.

A Military and Civic Leader
Upon his return, Silas Sanford moved his family to Paragonah, in Iron County, and became active again in military service. He gained the rank of major and was in charge of organizing and training local residents to defend their settlements. He learned to speak several Indian languages, and gained a reputation for being a fair-minded diplomat. Silas Sanford participated in the Black Hawk Indian War of 1860-1865, and was considered a wise military leader. In 1866, he led a group of seventy-six to establish a defensive fort – named Fort Sanford – in the area of Panguitch.

In 1859, at age twenty-eight, Silas Sanford Smith was elected to the Utah Territorial Legislature as a representative. He served in this capacity for almost twenty consecutive years, during which time he also held the offices of U.S. Deputy Marshal, selectman, and probate judge. In addition to these civic responsibilities, Silas Sanford served as a bishop in Paragoonah for several years.
     Both of his wives – Clarinda and Sarah Ann – passed away within three months of each other, leaving Silas Sanford a widower with nine children. So in 1864 he married Martha Eliza Bennet – known as Eliza – who proved herself a capable step-mother to nine, and eventual mother of twelve children of her own.

 In 1879 he was called to preside over the San Juan Mission. Under Smith’s leadership, an exploring party set out on April 14, 1879 to select a site suitable for settlement along the San Juan River. The group consisted of twenty-six men, two women, and eight children. They traveled almost 300 miles southward on rough but existing roads until reaching the settlement of Moenkopi, in present-day Arizona, where they rested for a week and prepared to travel in a north-easterly direction toward the San Juan River. This leg of their journey was much more difficult and dangerous due to rugged terrain, which lacked a good road, the deficiency of water in the region, and the presence of hostile and troublesome Indian tribes. Yet in spite of these trials, on June 2, 1879, the exploring party set up camp at Montezuma, and spent the next few months preparing the area for settlement. In August, most of the exploring party departed, under Smith’s leadership, and returned to Paragonah via the Old Spanish Trail, completing what had become near to a thousand-mile journey. However, they did not waste time getting organized for a return trip to the San Juan, as it was hoped the area could be reached again before winter set in.
The responsibility of how best to move the main body of settlers to Montezuma fell upon President Smith. His experience with the exploring party had created doubt as to the best route to take. The southern route through Moenkopi was dangerously dry, difficult, and filled with Indian unrest. Yet the northern trail was considered too long, as it almost doubled the mileage required to get there. In the end, Silas Sanford made the decision to attempt a “short-cut” across the virtually unexplored region southeast of Escalante, based on reports he had received from several men who had traversed part of the territory in question. It was this decision that eventually led the expedition to Hole-in-the-Rock, and the arduous journey that followed it.

Silas Smith was 49 at the time.  He took five of his own sons with him on the southern exploring party: Silas S. Jr., Stephen Agustus, John Aikens, Joseph Stanford (also his wife and 3 children)  "The plan was to locate a new settlement, of an undetermined location somewhere in the southeast corner of Utah Territory, and near the San Juan River.  The intent was to locate where they could interact with both Navajo, Ute and Paiute Indians.  They would establish two permanent families at the site, then return home and join a main company of more than 200 settlers, who would then move to the newly selected site" (Ron McDonald, Blue Mountain Shadows, Vol. 30 p 10)

President Smith arrived at Forty-mile Spring, south of Escalante, on November 24, 1879, and a few days later sent a group of twelve men to discover a way to cross the Colorado River. Winter snows deterred them from considering turning back to Escalante and abandoning the promise of a “short-cut.” The scouts reported back to President Smith of the possibility of descending through the Hole-in-the-Rock to the riverbed, and then ferrying the wagons across the Colorado. David E. Miller, noted historian of the Hole-in-the-Rock expedition, writes that Smith probably did not make the decision to press on through the Hole-in-the-Rock completely on his own. Rather, given his character and the sizable consequences such a decision would have upon the whole company, President Smith likely involved the “leading men of the company” in counseling him and praying with him in order to make the best decision for the group.

Ironically, however, Silas Sanford Smith was absent from the expedition for most of actual trek through Hole-in-the-Rock and the unknown wilderness beyond. Shortly after the task of blasting through the stone cliffs had begun, Smith departed for Salt Lake City to procure funds and supplies. His ties the Territorial Legislature helped him secure nearly 1,000 pounds of blasting powder needed to widen and shape the Hole-in-the-Rock, along with other supplies and funds. Platte D. Lyman, who had been formerly called as his assistant in August of that year, assumed leadership of the expedition in Smith’s absence, which was prolonged due to a case of pneumonia brought on by “fatigue and exposure.” On April 28, 1880, however, Silas Sanford Smith began his journey back to the San Juan. He did not settle in Bluff, but continued on to Montezuma in the hopes of finding good enough land to plant corn. He remained president of the San Juan Mission until he was released in 1882 (manuscript soon to be published on HIRF site). From Bluff he went to Manassa San Luis Valley, Colo by the end of 1881, then to Davis County, Utah in 1900.

   Andrew Jensen, historian, said of him. "Silas S. Smith was known to his Church and country as a pioneer, missionary, explorer, legislator, military and civic officer. He devoted his life to the service of his fellow men. He spent 10 years in military service and rose from Private to Major General." He died Oct. 11, 1910 at is home in Layton, Utah.  His children: Jesse Joel (C. Ricks), Stephen Augustus (C. Ricks), Albert (S. Ricks), Ella Clarinda (C. Ricks)

Kumen Jones wrote this about Smith: Silas S. Smith, as I knew him and as I sized an old man up from the beginning of our acquaintance, being myself an inexperienced back wood young fellow in the rough, after fifty years I find that my first impressions are fully justified. Quiet, unassuming, careful, resourceful, nothing flashy, but when the occasion required, there was a real man behind it all. In case he knew he was right, fear was the last thing he thought of if he thought of it at all. Thus, with rich and full experiences along so many lines, he was prepared to meet almost any problem or emergency that pioneering may bring out.

    He had a good full understanding of the Gospel, and was well up on financial matters, practiced economy and thrift; was true to the Church, and loyal to the authorities of the Church, State and County.
    Silas Smith filled many places of responsibility in the Church and State. He passed through the early Utah Indian troubles, thus acquiring experience that proved an asset to the San Juan pioneers who were surrounded on all sides by Utes, Pahutes, Navajoes, etc. who were not always friendly. Being isolated from all other white settlements, it was soon discovered that outlaws and renegades from all Indian tribes, made this their headquarters. The rough broken nature of so much of the country offered an excellent hiding place, secure from pursuit.
     Our dealings and contacts with the Indians in our early pioneering days followed the wise, friendly, fair policy introduced by Silas S. Smith as the leading spirit, and Thales H. Haskell as interpreter and contact man, both past masters in their places, with both of whom I enjoyed the most friendly association, and for the humble measure of success I attained in assisting the maintaining friendly relations whith these descendants of the prophets Lehi and other Book of Mormon characters, a major part of the credit goes to Smith and Haskell.

A Life Well-Lived
    In 1900, Silas Sanford Smith moved his family to Layton, Utah, where he farmed and raised livestock until his passing, on October 11, 1910. Since then, he has been lauded by many for his exemplary life. He built thirty-five homes during his 80 life span, fathered 21 children, served faithfully in civic and religious offices, and exemplified the qualities of a true leader.
Silas Smith History By Don C. Smith

Silas Sanford Smith (1830-1910)

Great Grandfather of Penn H. Smith
(submitted by Lisa Rarik (his great great, granddaughter)

Silas Sanford Smith, eldest son of Silas and Mary Aikens Smith, was born October 26, 1830 in Stockholm, St. Lawrence County, New York. In 1836 he moved with his parents to Kirtland, Ohio and in 1838 the family went to Missouri.

Here they were confronted by the extermination order of Governor Boggs and turned back. Subsequently Silas S. shared in the persecutions of Illinois. His father died in 1839, leaving his mother and her two young sons to battle alone in the world. She supported them by teaching school. (The writer states here that she/he has a certificate entitling Mary Aikens to teach school in Canton, New York.)

The mother and two sons, Silas S. and Jesse N. came to the Salt Lake valley in September 1847, crossing the plains in the Perrigreen Sessions company of fifty. After wintering in the old fort, Silas S. built a house on West Temple directly across from the Salt Lake Tabernacle. In 1849 he located on Grover Creek, near Farmington, in Davis County and in 1850-51 raised two crops near Centerville. In July 1851 he married Clarinda Ricks and later married her sister Sally Ann.

Silas S. was next called to Iron County. During the Indian War of 1853, he performed efficient military service, first as orderly sergeant and afterward as lieutenant, captain and major.

In May 1854 he was called to fill a mission to the Sandwich Islands. (A blessing given him by his uncle, John Smith, in 1845 promised him that he would preach to the Lamanites in their own tongue). He traveled to the port of embarkation by the usual mode of the time. He sold his team and wagon for money to help pay his passage and worked there for some weeks while waiting for a boat. He labored in the Islands for three years, presiding over the mission part of the time. While there he was appointed on the legislative commission to publish laws enacted in seventeen sessions.

In the spring of 1859 he settled in Paragonah, where he presided as bishop for several years. In 1859 he was elected to the Territorial Legislature, after which he served in that body almost continuously for twenty years. His last term was in 1878 when he served as a member of the council.

In April 1864 his wife, Clarinda, died leaving four children - Silas, Jesse, Stephen and Ella. In June of the same year his wife, Sally Ann, died leaving four children - Mary, John A., Hortense, and Albert R. In 1865 he married Martha Eliza Bennett, who was only fifteen years old. She assumed the duties of home and family in a manner worthy of someone much older. She gave birth to a family of twelve children. (Annie, Martha, Curtis, Austin, Janie, George, Erastius, Asabel, Edith, Frances, Stella, and Verlie - of which two are now living - at time of writing.)

In Iron County, Silas S. served consecutively as Deputy U.S. Marshal, probate judge, postmaster, prosecuting attorney, etc. In 1879, under LDS Church appointment, he led an exploring company of twenty men to southeastern Utah with the job of finding suitable locations for settlements in San Juan County. He selected the present site of Montezuma Creek, Bluff, and other places, and led a company of settlers into San Juan valley by way of Potato Valley.

I did not elaborate on his activities during Indian raids in southeastern Utah because I did not know how much space you cared to devote to this sketch. The Utah Historical Quarterly, Volume 12 gives a rather good account of the establishing of Fort Sanford (named for him) on the Sevier River near Panguitch.

Getting back to the San Juan expedition of 1879, records tell of an exploring party of twenty or so young men, under the leadership of Silas S. Smith, "who proved to be a wise, careful and successful scout." They traveled east to Lee's Ferry, then to Tuba City and then northeast through Navajo country, reaching the San Juan River, twenty eight miles below Four Corners.

Several scouting parties were sent out. Settlers were already on the way and no feasible road into San Juan had been found. The settlers were trapped. On scout reported that if enough experience men, powder and tools were provided, a way could be opened through the rocks to get an outfit through, but no permanent road was in sight.

This report was accepted and Silas S. returned to visit the legislature and prominent church officials, securing appropriations from both for materials to blast a way across the river and over broken country to where Bluff City was afterward located. Eighty two wagons and about that number of men and boys old enough to handle teams were sent to do the work. It took about five weeks [Dec. 16-Jan. 25] work on the "hole in the rock" then getting down with their outfits to the river and the greater part of three months to the Bluff location.

Wagons had to be steadied down slick rocks with long ropes and pushed and pulled up the hills. Hub marks are said to be still visible on the cliff. The story records that the winter was very severe, but all in the company enjoyed good health. Each Sabbath was observed by everyone resting from their labors and holding services. Three babies were born on the trip. Dances were frequently held on the flat rock bed, also singing, games and other amusements.

Truly there was something more than human power and wisdom associated with this arduous undertaking.

It seemed the pioneering days of the Smith family would never end. No sooner was one task finished than the call came for another. The call to move and colonize another section of the country came - this time to Colorado. A call was always obeyed without question, accepted as a demand.

More weary days of travel and road building were ahead. Many weeks of preparation for wagons, teams and provisions to last during the trip which lasted six weeks. Again leaving a good, comfortable home and with his family going into a desolate new country, where, as my sister Martha says "there robbed the coyotes of their natural haunts." On arrival Silas S. found the colonists were located on state land which had been withdrawn from general land use and had been returned by the surveyor as mineral lands. It required some five years on the part of Silas S. and colonizers to get clear titles to them. Silas S. finally purchased at public sale 20,000 acres in 40 acre tracts.

When the San Luis Stake was organized, Silas S. was chosen as president serving from 1883 to 1897. He not only pioneered in establishing settlements, but in road and canal building and inaugurating enterprises to furnish employment for the people in the settlements, among which were two grist mills, a saw mill, tannery and co-op store. His entire life was one of service to the LDS Church and state.

He was under all circumstances cool and courageous, and feared nothing except his Father in Heaven, whom he served all the days of his life. In 1897, he was ordained a patriarch in the Church under the hands of President Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith. This he said was the crowning feature of his career.

Silas S. was highly respected by national, state and local officials of government, who said of him, "We know Mr. Smith to be a man whose word can be absolutely depended upon." He often entertained these officials in his home. The high regard with which he was held, stood the Church in good stead when many of the wives of prominent Church officials found safe refuge in the San Luis Stake during polygamy raids.

Kind, generous and hospitable to all who came to his home. The times he wasn't too actively engaged in public work, he was preparing to serve again.

He had a marvelous sense of humor, could take as well as give a joke, was orderly - everything must be kept in its place and the only thing that ruffled him much was to find a tool missing from its place when he wanted to use it. He was not a noted singer, but would try, much to the enjoyment of his children, bearing down heavily on the high notes. Any little annoyance caused by the youngest was silenced by a quietly admonished, "tut, tut."

My sister, Janie, while on a recent trip to California, visited the old home (her birthplace) in Paragonah. She said the hospitality characteristic equally of father and mother bids one welcome at the door and seems to cling to the very walls of the house. She said she could just stay there and call it home.

A detailed account of the busy eventful life of Silas S. Smith could fill Volumes. In 1910, after the death of his daughter, Annie, and because of poor health of his wife, it became necessary to move to a lower altitude. His property in Colorado was sold and he moved to Layton, Utah. The ten years in Layton was the only period of his life not devoted to public service. He expressed a desire to live to the age of eighty. This wish was fulfilled within a few days. He died October 11, 1910; his birthday was on October 26. He is buried in the Kaysville-Layton Cemetery in Kaysville, Utah. He possessed every attribute that children could desire in a father.
This Diary of Silas Sanford Smith covers a period of time from November 4, 1879 to October 25, 1880 during which time he was leading and assisting to get a colony of L.D.S. people located and settled on the San Juan River in Southeast Utah and one in which to settle emigrants from the Southern states in the San Luis Valley in South Central Colorado.

(Be sure to read David Miller's references to Silas Smith in Hole in the Rock. There are many!)

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