This weekend I went to Rexburg, Idaho for my brother's graduation. Before I left, he called me and told me about an interesting historic site that was on the way from Utah to Idaho. He told me that just off of the east side of the I-15 once you cross into Idaho are located two graves. He said that he was told that the graves belonged to the bodyguards of Brigham Young and that they hated Utah so much that they asked to have their bodies buried outside of the territory. It seemed like a great entry on this blog.
My brother didn't have any other information and even told me that it was just an urban legend. I attempted to do some research before I left and only could find information regarding two of Brigham Young's bodyguards, Porter Rockwell and John D. Lee. Porter Rockwell was a well known bodyguard of Joseph Smith and was buried in Salt Lake and John D. Lee was buried in Panguitch after being executed for the mountain meadows massacre. I figured to solve the mystery I would have to visit the site myself.
I stopped as soon as I had come to the Idaho border, just in front of the "Welcome to Idaho" sign. I didn't see any initial signs of a grave, but I did see some fake flowers caught in the barbed wire just to the east of the sign. I climbed a little slope and found the grave my brother was talking about. Here are a couple of pictures of the location:
The gravestone says "Hugh Moon; born Aug 5, 1815; Eccleston, Lancs, England; Joned the L.D.S. church in 1837. Came to America with the first company of 41 saints. Arrived in Utah in 1848. Came to Henderson Creek, Oneida County, Idaho, 1869; Died Sept 23, 1870 at Henderson, Idaho; His wives: Maria Emeline Mott, Elizabeth Kemmish, Jennatt Nicol."
Ancestry.com gives a great account of Hugh Moon. It says that "he sailed to America in 1840 after joining the Mormon Church. he moved to the LDS stronghold of Nauvoo, Ill., where he served as a bodyguard for Prophet Joseph Smith.
"He crossed the plains to the Salt Lake Valley in 1848, where he married. Brigham Young asked him to move to Dixie in southern Utah to build up the church there, but he moved again after fire years, this time to Henderson Creek in the Idaho Territory.
"He died in 1870 at the age of 54. His wishes were to be buried in Zion which he concluded to be Utah. Upon his death, his family took him far enough south that they thought they were in Utah, to a small cemetery east or Portage. As it turned out, the burial site was just inside the Idaho territory."
There are actually two graves at the cemetery (I didn't see the second at all the first time, but driving south of the 15 I realized that it was there. I didn't see it at all the first time and I don't know how I missed it. It is also surrounded by chain-link as well and is a little smaller and set back further from the road). This is the grave of Jane Copeland Howell. Ancestry.com states that she "was born in 1789 and grew up on the frontier in Illinois.
"Her son James married Rosannah Mook in 1857 and they and Jane traveled west with a Mormon pioneer company. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1863 and the Howells settled in Kaysville for five years. They moved to East Portage in the Malad Valley in 1868, where Jane died the next year at age 80. She adamantly implored her family to bury her in Utah and not Idaho, although she was not a Mormon. With no border markings, however, she was actually buried in the small cemetery east of Portage."
So it turns out that neither was a body guard of Brigham Young (although Moon was a bodyguard of Joseph Smith). And they weren't trying to get out of Utah, but were actually trying to be buried inside of Utah rather than Idaho. The people that buried them just messed up and buried them a little inside of Idaho. This humorous accident has remained over almost 150 and has turned into an interesting urban legend.