Mary Jane Smith Merrill

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Mary Jane Merrill (Smith)

Birthdate: (37)
Birthplace: Jacksonville, IL, USA
Death: July 2, 1871 (37)
Liberty, ID, USA
Immediate Family:

Daughter of John Smith and Hannah Ann Dibble
Wife of Philemon Christopher Merrill
Mother of John Smith Merrill; Jedediah Grant Merrill; Hannah Ann Merrill Collett; Cyrena Imogean Merrill; David Elmer Merrill and 3 others
Sister of Peter Smith
Half sister of David Dubois Dibble and Loren Walker Dibble

Managed by: Della Dale Smith-Pistelli
Last Updated:

About Mary Jane Smith Merrill

Story of Mary Jane Smith Merrill, Author Unknown


Mary Jane was born in Illinois in 1833. Not much is known of her childhood. An early Rhodes Scholar, she passed her love for books to her children. She lived for a time in the Mansion House with her mother, who later married Philo Dibble. She came to Utah probably between 1847 and 1850 with a wagon train, because at age 17 she married Philemon Christopher Merrill as a plural wife 5 April 1851. Her first child was born in Salt Lake City.

    The Merrill's moved to Farmington, Davis County, where two more children joined the family.  They next moved to Morgan, where Philemon helped build the railroad.  There, Mary Jane's last five children were born. In 1869, the Merrill's were on the move to settle Idaho.  On this journey, according to the journal of Cyrena, Philemon's first wife, Mary Jane's life ended. Cyrena wrote of the move to Liberty, Bear Lake, Idaho in July 1869.  "This was a hard trip for all of us, though it was only a hundred miles. Mary Jane's baby Herbert was only six weeks old, and Mary Jane was not strong."  Cyrena continues, "I took little Lot in my wagon.  He was just recovering from Typhoid Fever and was peevish and fretful, and I could do no more with him than anyone else."  He would have been four years old, having been born in 1865. " We felt worn out when we reached our destination.  We lived here only two years when, on June 2, 1871, Mary Jane died, leaving seven children, who now looked to me for a mother's care, the oldest being eighteen and the youngest only two years old."  She finishes simply, "I prayerfully undertook this charge."

Only one photograph of Mary Jane survived. In it, she has a sober expression. Hers was a brief, hard, exciting life. She passed away at age 37, apparently buried "at the mouth of Immigration Canyon, on the way to Liberty, in an unmarked grave." Other records indicate she passed away near Liberty, Bear Lake, Idaho.


Mary Jane Smith Merrill was born July 27, 1833 in Jacksonville, Illinois. She died June 2, 1871 in Liberty, Bear Lake county, Idaho. She was the daughter of John Smith and Hannah Ann DeBoise and married Philemon Christopher Merrill, 5 Apr 1851, in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah.

Their children were John Smith Merrill, Jedediah Grant Merrill, Hannah Ann Merrill, Cyrena Imogean Merrill, David Elmer Merrill, Joseph Lot Merrill, Henry Morgan Merrill, and Peter Herbert Merrill.

She is buried in the Liberty Cemetery in Liberty, Bear Lake county, Idaho, USA

Her husband was Lieut. Philemon Christopher Merrill, born Mar. 12, 1820, in Byron, Genesee County New York, USA. He died Sep. 16, 1904, in Safford, Graham County, Arizona, USA. He was the son of Samuel Merrill & Phoebe Odell and married Cyrena Dustin, 20 Sep 1840, Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois. They had the following children: Sabrina Lodena Merrill, Philemon Christopher Merrill Jr., Lucy Cyrena Merrill, Melissa Jane Merrill, Morgan Henry Merrill, Albina Atamira Merrill, Thomas Stephen Merrill, Seth Adelbert Merrill

Philemon Christopher Merrill married Mary Jane Smith, 5 Apr 1851, and they had the following children: John Smith Merrill, Jedediah Grant Merrill, Hannah Ann Merrill, Cyrena Imogean Merrill, David Elmer Merrill, Joseph Lot Merrill, Henry Morgan Merrill, Peter Herbert Merrill

Philemon later married Rhoda Sylvia Collett, 9 Oct 1873, and they had one child, Adrian Collett.

Philemon enlisted July 16, 1846, in the Mormon Battalion, at Council Bluffs as Private Company B, and was promoted to 3rd Lieutenant of the Company at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in August; was later promoted 2nd Lieutenant and appointed Battalion Adjutant, to suceed Lieut. G.P. Dykes, on the Rio Grande near Socorro, N.M, October 30, 1846; he marched with the Battalion across southern Arizona and was honorably discharged as 1st Lieutenant at Los Angeles, July 16, 1847.

Philemon Christopher Merrill went through the early hardships, persecutions and trials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the age of 11 he accompanied his parents to Nauvoo, Illinois, arriving in 1837. He was baptized into the Mormon Church in March 1839 and filled a mission to Wisconsin in 1840-41.

On Sept. 20, 1840, he married Cyrena Dustin and went into housekeeping in Nauvoo. Philemon worked on the Temple which the Saints were trying hard to complete. He was closely associated with the Prophet Joseph Smith and tradition says he was one of the Prophet's bodyguards. Philemon helped evacuate Nauvoo when persecutors drove the Saints out, and he was one of the guards to cross the Mississippi River with Church records.

Philemon enlisted as a volunteer in the Mormon Battalion Company B and endured the long march to the Pacific Coast. He left his wife and three children in Iowa to await his return. Once in California, Philemon stayed at headquarters in San Diego until the army discharged him in 1847.

Philemon Merrill's sisters also were in the Mormon Battalion, they are Albina Marie Merrill Williams, wife of Thomas Stephen Williams, and Phoebe Lodema Merrill, she served as a nurse. From the diary of Albina Merrill Williams: "Spring came at last and then the word was conveyed to the isolated little colony that a start had been made by the pioneers at Council Bluffs to find a new home in the far west. No time was lost in bidding farewell to the old fort on the Arkansas. Captain Brown's Company fell in the wake of the pioneers and all but overtook them before the Valley of the Great Salt Lake was reached. As a matter of fact, some of the Battalion people came in with the pioneers, but the wagon containing Mrs. Williams and her sister did not arrive on the banks of City Creek until five days after President Young had pitched a tent there." --Heart Throbs of the West, Vol. 2, 1940, page 72.

He then made his way back to Iowa to rejoin his family; however, Philemon never saw his youngest child again because she had died shortly after his enlistment. In the spring of 1849 the Merrill's made ready and crossed the plains to Salt Lake Valley, arriving Oct. 16, 1849.

With the permission of Cyrena, Philemon entered plural marriage April 5, 1851, with Mary Jane Smith. Then in June 1853 Philemon left to fill a mission for the Church to England until 1856. After his return, the Church called him to help settle parts of southern Idaho. The two families moved to Liberty, Idaho, near Bear Lake in 1869 and then to Soda Springs, Idaho. While at Liberty, Philemon married a third woman, Rhoda Sylvia Collett, on Oct. 9, 1873.

In 1877 the Church called Philemon to help settle parts of central and southeastern Arizona. By then his second wife had died, so he took his two remaining families in August 1877 and headed for the San Pedro Valley.

They had a great deal of faith, for the departure was with provisions only enough to last two days. The company made camp about one half mile south of the present town of St. David, Arizona, building a small stone fort of six or eight rooms. Philemon had first seen the area with the Mormon Battalion in 1847. It was here in 1878, while nearly all the settlers were suffering with chills and fever, that Erastus Snow set apart Philemon to preside over the Saints in the area. In 1881 Philemon asked that he be relieved of his responsibilities as Presiding Elder and left St. David in 1890, settling in Safford, Ariz.

He later held the office of Patriarch, being ordained by John Henry Smith. Philemon was a good public speaker and loved to talk about the Prophet Joseph Smith. About 1900 he moved to San Jose, Ariz., and died at his home there Sept. 15, 1904, at the age of 84.


Cyrena Dustin Merrill (1817 - 1906)

Mary Jane Smith Merrill (1833 - 1871)

Rhoda Sylvia Collect Merrill (1837 - 1927)

Philemon is buried in the Safford City Cemetery, Safford, Graham County, Arizona, USA


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Mary Jane Smith Merrill's Timeline

July 27, 1833
Jacksonville, IL, USA
March 4, 1853
Age 19
Salt Lake City, UT, USA
December 14, 1857
Age 24
Farmington, UT, USA
January 24, 1860
Age 26
Farmington, UT, USA
November 5, 1861
Age 28
Morgan, UT, USA
May 4, 1863
Age 29
Morgan, UT, USA
June 5, 1865
Age 31
Morgan, UT, USA
March 4, 1867
Age 33
Morgan, Morgan, Utah, USA
June 6, 1869
Age 35
Morgan, UT, USA
July 2, 1871
Age 37
Liberty, ID, USA