Martin and Elizabeth Degen Bushman

Today is the wedding anniversary of my 3rd great-grandparents, Martin and Elizabeth.  Here is a history of their lives for you to enjoy:

Biography of Martin Bushman and Elizabeth Degen (Based upon Bushman Family History, compiled 1956 by Newbern I. Butt for the Bushman Family History Committee, pp. 12-15). Additions by second great grandson Elden L. Stewart . (Written by Elden L. Stewart; retyped and submitted by Ella Mae [Turley] Judd.

Martin, the Pioneer Bushman immigrant to Utah, was raised on a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He was an excellent hand at all farm work, so that in slack times, while on the way to Utah and while there, he was always in demand by his neighbor farmers. During his active life he was about six feet tall and weighed approximately 175 pounds. His eyes were blue and his hair light brown.

Martin was married to Elizabeth Degen, daughter of John Casper Degen and Anna Maria Graf, 20 March 1827. She was well prepared for pioneer life. Her mother died when she was four years of age, and her father re-married and had six additional children. When she was 14 years old she came to America with her father. The journey was in an old sailing vessel which was delayed by a calm. The extra cost caused by this delay put them in debt to the Captain, which debt was met by hiring Elizabeth out as a domestic servant for five years. It was here that she learned to spin and weave, and made the clothing necessary in a pioneer community. Martin raised the wool and his wife turned it into clothing. During rush season she aided directly with the farm work. The first seven children of Martin and Elizabeth were born in Bart, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The next two, John and Hetty, were born in the Bishop Hunter home in Nauvoo, Illinois, and Albert, the baby, was born at Highland Grove,
Potawattamie, Iowa.

In the spring of 1840 two elders, Elisha H. Davis and H. Dean, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, came to preach the Gospel in Lancaster County. Both Martin and his wife, Elizabeth, were of a strongly religious nature and investigated the new doctrine whole heartedly, were convinced of its truth, and were baptized. In spite of criticism and ostracism by relatives and friends in Lancaster County, they grew in faith and were filled with the spirit of gathering in Nauvoo, Illinois with the rest of the members of this faith. It is probable that they would have made the thousand mile trip to Nauvoo in 1840, but circumstances prevented this. Their aged parents were without a home of their own, and Martin spent the fall and winter in building one for them. Also they were expecting the birth of their son, Martin Benjamin, and with more time they had hoped to sell their property to a better advantage. The property was finally sold at a great sacrifice, and provided little more than a team and wagon and the necessary provisions for the thousand mile trip with a family of six. When they arrived in Nauvoo, they found the city crowded with new converts and it was hard to find a place to live. However, they soon found their old friend, Bishop Edward Hunter, who was also of Pennsylvania Dutch descent. The Bishop immediately fixed up and rented to the Bushmans the upstairs apartment of his house. He also rented to Martin his farm which was just east of Nauvoo.

Martin’s harvests were excellent in spite of the fact that he and his son Jacob spent every tenth day to work on the Temple which was being built in Nauvoo at this time. Soon after their arrival, they met the Prophet Joseph and his brother, Patriarch Hyrum Smith who gave them a hearty welcome to the community. On 12 March 1843, the Patriarch ordained Martin to the office of High Priest and also gave he and his wife Elizabeth a Patriarchal Blessing. The promises and blessings contained therein have extended to us their posterity. The Bushman family although they prospered and were blessed, experienced along with the rest of the saints, the hatred and mobbing of the enemies of the church, which grew until 27 June 1844 when the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum were killed at Carthage jail. This was a terrible shock to the saints but with the Twelve Apostles at their head they completed the Temple the next year and many of them received their endowments.

On Christmas day in 1845, Martin and Elizabeth also went to the Temple and were sealed for time and all eternity. Mob violence continued so that in February 1846 the main body of the saints left Nauvoo for the west. However Martin Bushman, along with a few others, were asked to remain at Nauvoo to plant crops and harvest them to provide food for the many new members coming from the east and elsewhere to gather with the saints. Bounteous crops were raised, but just when they were ready to harvest, the mobbers moved in and drove the rest of the faithful saints away from Nauvoo.

Before they left the city, Martin took all of his children into the temple and showed them the baptismal font resting on the backs of twelve bronze oxen. This occasion was never forgotten by the children. Forced to leave with just a few hours’ notice, Martin was poorly prepared to make the five hundred mile trip from Nauvoo to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The trip was made during the wet season of fall and winter, over roads which were often all but impassible. The suffering was intense, and two of their little girls died and were buried in graves without coffins. After they finally reached the saints at Council Bluffs, Martin was assigned to the nearby settlement of Highland Grove located a few miles east of the Bluffs. He immediately proceeded to build a log cabin for his family. This accomplished, he headed for Missouri where he earned enough provisions to see the family through the winter. As soon as the crops were planted in the spring of 1847, Martin again went to Missouri to earn food for his family, and left his son Jacob and the smaller boys in charge of the crops. Martin was an excellent farmer, but the expulsion from Nauvoo and the hard journey across Iowa had left him with almost nothing to continue the journey to Utah. He worked out again in 1849 to earn clothing for the family and returned in the winter. All of the land available was put in crops in the spring of 1850 so that they would be assured of food for the planned trip to join the Saints in Utah in 1851. Jacob and Sarah went to Missouri in order to earn whatever they could to help, and Sarah taught school in the winter.

They felt that they were greatly blessed when they were able to start across the plains with a good supply of food, a wagon, two yoke of oxen and two yoke of cows. The trip across the plains was uneventful and their food just barely lasted until they reached Utah. The Bushmans stayed in Salt Lake City for one week, and then went to Lehi where their old missionary friend, Elisha Davis lived. There were only 30 families living in Lehi at that time. At this place they were welcomed to the use of a vacant log hut which belonged to Abraham Hatch. Martin and Jacob helped with the first harvest in Lehi, and later cut grass for their cattle from the common pasture of the lower field. The following spring he bargained with Hatch for a farm, and built himself a new log home where he lived a short time before he built his adobe home in which they lived until his death. In 1854 he helped built the mud wall around the town.

Elizabeth was a typical Swiss girl, with dark brown eyes and hair, and a stout build. She was five foot four inches tall and 140 pounds in weight. She was exceptionally healthy until near her death at age 76. Considerable of the last 25 years of her life were devoted to work as a practical nurse and midwife. She was exceptionally spiritual in nature, and enjoyed many spiritual gifts, even the gift of tongues which she had spoken ever since she joined the L. D. S. Church.

On May 6, two weeks before her death, she spoke the following prayer in tongues. It was interpreted by her old friend, Mary Ann Davis. “My Father and my God that dwelleth in the Heavens. The father of my spirit and the spirits of all men, look upon me in mercy because I am thy daughter and I feel that I am about to pass the valley and shadow of death, but I fear no evil for thou wilt be my prop and my stay. My mind is as calm as a summer’s morning and I have a peace that passeth understanding. Permit me, Oh God, to depart in peace, for my body not to be racked with pain and anguish. Lay underneath me thy arms of love to be my stay and my support. “Oh my Father, a joy unspeakable fills my breast because I shall soon behold Thy face. Fools have said in their hearts, there is no God, but I know that Thou art the Living God, I have trusted in thee, and have never been confounded. Oh Lord, I have been many years from thy presence, I have endured many trials, pain and anguish of body, but I thank thee for my body thou has given me, for my mission and my work to do upon earth. “I have done my work and through Thy grace I have kept my body pure and undefiled for which I thank Thee, Oh God. Oh my Father, comfort the hearts of my family and friends which are dear to me. I shall only be separated from you for a little season. In the morning of the resurrection I shall arise without this frail body having an immortal one. “Oh my Father, a joy unspeakable fills my soul and rapture fills my heart for the veil will soon be rent and I shall behold my companion and children that have gone before me. I shall meet them with joy and not with grief and more I shall behold Thy face and enjoy Thy smiles and Thy presence and bask in Thy favor forever more. “Oh my children and friends, be true to God and His work and He will take you through the gates of death and there will be a light in the valley for you. My Savior will let me lean on His arm so I will not be afraid nor fear any evil. My heart rejoices in God, my Savior. Although my body has pain and anguish, have faith and pray for me that I may depart in peace and when you lay me in the grave, mourn not for me but rejoice that I am delivered from this body of anguish and if you shed tears, let them not be of bitterness. Be faithful to the truth and all shall be well with you. We shall only be separated for a little season. God bless you all. Oh Lord, grant that my name may not pass into oblivion, but that it may be from generation to generation, because I have tried to keep Thy commandments. Amen.”

Elizabeth never rallied or gained her strength from this last illness, but could converse and enjoy the company of her children and friends.

On the 21 day of May 1878, she passed away, surrounded by her family of four sons and one daughter. See web site on Elizabeth Degen Bushman at

The full name and particulars of the book: The Bushman Family: Originally of Pennsylvania and the Rocky Mountain States by Newbern Butt, main author. Its Family History Library call number is 929.273 B964bn. It is located in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building Family History Book Section. It is also on microfilm, FHL 896926, item 5. (In the main library located in the FHL US/CAN Film section.)

Lehi City Cemetery:Pioneer Day 2007122Bushman, Martin d..jpgPioneer Day 2007123

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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3 Responses to Martin and Elizabeth Degen Bushman

  1. Debbie says:

    I loved reading about Martin and Elizabeth! Very inspiring to me. Thank you Ann!

  2. Pingback: Elizabeth Degen Bushman d. 21 May 1878 in Lehi, Utah | Ann's Words

  3. Pingback: Elizabeth Degen Bushman d. 21 May 1878 in Lehi, Utah | Ann's Stories

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