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Cyrena Dustin Merrill autobiography

Philemon and Cyrena Dustin Merrill – pioneers of Utah and Arizona

L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a new digitized collection: Cyrena Dustin Merrill autobiography (MSS SC 2180). This handwritten autobiography documents the author’s life including her experience joining the Mormon Church in 1837 and spent time in the Far West, Missouri; Nauvoo, Illinois; Winter Quarters, Nebraska; and then her migration to Salt Lake City, Utah. She describes the impact of a measles outbreak among Ute Indians in Salt Lake City in 1851. In 1876 Merrill moved to Arizona with her family. Also included is a genealogy of the Merrill family.

Cyrena Dustin Merrill was born January 6, 1817, in Le Roy, Genesee County, New York, to Elizabeth Redfield and Seth Dustin. She moved with her parents and siblings to Portage County, Ohio, when she was about one year old and remained there until she left home at 21. Cyrena was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Elder James Emmett in March 1837, although her family opposed her joining the Church and persecuted her until she left home. In the summer of 1837, Cyrena visited Kirtland and viewed the Temple. She returned home and spent the winter with her parents and siblings, but determined to move with the Saints to Missouri when the time came. Cyrena would travel alone with the Saints from Missouri to Illinois. In Nauvoo she met and married Philemon Christopher Merrill on September 20, 1840. Eleven months later their first child was born in Nauvoo. She was an early member of the Female Relief Society, joining at the second meeting of the organization on March 24, 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois.

The small family fled Nauvoo February 6, 1846, and headed toward the Rocky Mountains with an early company of Saints; however, Philemon volunteered for the Mormon Battalion and Cyrena waited for him in Iowa until he came back for her. Their family joined the Silas Richards Company in Council Bluffs and arrived in Salt Lake City in the fall of 1849. Cyrena and Philemon helped settle parts of northern Utah and southern Idaho, and then the Church called them to help settle Arizona. They led a company into St. David, Arizona Territory, where Cyrena remained the rest of her life.

Cyrena Dustin Merrill died in Layton (now Safford), Arizona Territory on February 3, 1906 at age 88. She had eight children.

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