Markham was born on February 9,1800, in Rush, Livingston County, New York. His father was accidentally shot and killed during a celebration in July 1802; consequently his mother remarried two times.
Markham married Hannah Hogleboon and became a prosperous farmer. He was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ohio in July 1837. Upon the request of the Prophet Joseph Smith, he sold his property and led a group of Saints from Kirtland to Far West, Missouri.
He filled many duties in the community and the Church, some of which include serving on the removal committee that helped the Saints leave the State of Missouri and escorted Emma and her children; obtain power of attorney to sell land owned by the Saints when they were forced to leave the state; deliver $100 to Joseph and other Church leaders held in Gallatin.
In Commerce (later renamed Nauvoo), Markham was commissioned by Joseph Smith as an agent tasked to raise revenue for the new settlement.
- From our knowledge of the good sacrifice made by the bearer, Brother Stephen Markham, in behalf of the welfare of us, and the church generally and from the great trust which we have often times reposed in him, and as often found him trustworthy, not seeking aggrandizement, but rather that of the community, we feel warranted in commissioning him to go forth among the faithful as our agent to gather up and receive such means in money or otherwise as shall enable us to meet our engagements which are now about to devolve upon us in consequence of our purchases here for the church; and we humbly trust that our brethren generally will enable him to come to our assistance before our credit shall suffer on this account.
Markham was a captain in the Nauvoo Legion and later became colonel of the first regiment. He was promoted to Private Brigadier General of the first cohort on December 21, 1843.
Markham was one of the special bodyguards of Joseph Smith. When word came that a warrant was being issued for Joseph’s arrest, Hyrum Smith sent Markham and a companion to travel 212 miles to warn the Prophet. They covered the miles in sixty-six hours due to the urgency they felt to warn the Prophet.
On one occasion, Markham sold his home to help Joseph pay court costs and then moved his family into a tent until he could build another house.
Stephen Markham was one of the men arrested and charged with “riot” for destroying the Nauvoo Expositor printing press. Bail was posted for each of the men, but Joseph and Hyrum were further charged.
Markham carried his hickory walking stick with him, which he called “rascal beater.” It was used to help protect Joseph Smith against attackers at Carthage Jail. Stephen Markham and his walking stick on one side and Dan Jones with a hickory club on the other, the two guards keeping the “drunken rabble” away from the Prophet. 
John Taylor recalls, “I had in my hands a large, strong hickory stick, brought there by Brother Markham, and left by him, which I had seized as soon as I saw the mob approach; and while Brother Joseph was firing the pistol, I stood close behind him. As soon as he had discharged it he stepped back, and I immediately took his place next [to] the door, while he occupied the one I had done while he was shooting. . . . While I was engaged in parrying the guns, Brother Joseph said, “That’s right, Brother Taylor; parry them off as well as you can.” These were the last words I ever heard him speak on earth.
Markham stayed with Joseph to protect him, and he had a pass from Governor Ford that allowed him to enter and leave the jail at will. Markham left on June 27 to obtain medicine for Willard Richards, and when he returned to the jail, the Carthage Greys forced him from the city at bayonet point, stabbing his legs until his shoes were filled with blood.
Life in Nauvoo did not stabilize after the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Markham continued to help protect the Saints from aggressive attacks. Most members of the Church left Nauvoo by February 1846.
Markham was appointed a captain in Brigham Young’s company migrating to the Salt Lake Valley. For the next several years these men made numerous trips back and forth as they helped thousands of Saints trek to Utah.
He settled in Davis County, Utah and in 1851 served a colonizing mission to southern Utah County. He helped settle the towns of Spanish Fork and Palmyra, Utah. He also served a colonizing mission to Fort Supply near Green River, Wyoming. He returned to Spanish For in September 1857 where he died on March 10, 1878.
Markham had three sons with Hannah. Their only daughter died when she was thirteen. He later married Mary Houghton (1850) and they had thirteen children.