Levi Stewart was born April 28, 1812 in Madison Co., Illinois, the son of William Stewart and Elizabeth Van Hooser. Elizabeth was a member of the Van Hooser family that had pioneered the Troy Township in Madison Co., Illinois. Photographs of Levi Stewart showed him to be a man of large stature, over six feet tall, with blue eyes and dark hair. On Feb 12, 1833 he married Melinda Howard, daughter of John Howard and Jane Van Hooser. The Howard's were the first settlers on the Looking Glass Prairie in Madison Co. After Levi and Melinda's marriage they moved to Vandalia, Fayette Co., Illinois where their first three children were born.
In 1836, Mormon missionaries came into their community. Levi's interest was so stirred that he traveled to Far West, Missouri to meet the Prophet, Joseph Smith and to further investigate this religion. Upon baptism, Levi was determined to gather with the Church members so he sold his home in Vandalia, Illinois and moved to Far West, Missouri arriving in June 1838. This was right during the middle of the Mormon expulsion from Missouri so in less than a year he headed back to Vandalia. Levi filed a redress petition of $3,800 for losses suffered when the Mormons were driven from Missouri. He lost two farms in Davies Co., Missouri, a lot in Adam-ondi-ahman and Far West, cattle, horses and household furniture, none of which he received any remuneration.
The 1840 census of Lee Co., Iowa showed Levi and his brothers living across the Mississippi from Nauvoo, Illinois. By 1843 he had moved to Nauvoo, where upon he was called to serve several missions for the Mormon Church all without purse or script. On June 27, 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother were murdered in Carthage, Illinois. Thus began the eventual forced Mormon exodus from Nauvoo. Levi was sent out to scout routes and hunt deer for the pioneer camps. In April 1846 Levi was assigned to stay at Winter Quarters, Nebraska and run a commissary. Levi was responsible for shuttling the mail between the pioneer camps and Nauvoo. As all the wagons had to go through Indian country, Levi was sent to St. Louis to get permission from the U.S. Govt. to stay on Indian lands.
On May 6, 1848, Levi and Melinda's 8th child was born at Winter Quarters, Nebraska. In Sept 1848 they began their trek West to the valley of the Great Salt Lake, arriving four months later. For the next seventeen years Salt Lake City, Utah would be their home. They lived across the street from Immigration Square and often took in impoverished church members who had just arrived in SLC. He began a general merchandise store, was an officer in the Brigham Young Express Co. and vice president of the Big Cottonwood Co-Op store. On Dec 13, 1852, Levi married Margery Wilkerson. Tragedy befell Levi when his childhood sweetheart, Melinda, died November 24, 1853, three weeks after the birth of twins. On Dec 31, 1854, Levi married Margery's sister, Artemacy Willkerson Casaday, whose husband had abandoned her and her child for the gold fields of California.
In 1853 the Utah Walker War began to subdue marauding Indians. The grasshopper plague in 1855 and the cricket plague in 1860 invaded Salt Lake. In 1858, Johnston's Army arrived to a silent and vacated SLC; thus church members averted the warfare and persecution of the Missouri and Illinois era. In 1865 at the request of Brigham Young, Levi sold his home in Salt Lake City and moved to Big Cottonwood Canyon to start a paper mill. In 1868 Brigham Young advised Levi to take a contract for grading a section of the Union Pacific Railroad down Echo Canyon.
Ever obedient to the requests from his ecclesiastical leaders, Levi accepted the call from Brigham Young, who had asked Levi to take his family and form a settlement in Kanab, Utah. At the age of 58, Levi again sold all his possessions, and moved to this remote and inaccessible area of southern Utah. Upon arrival in June of 1870, Levi was made work director to supervise the planting of fall crops. In September, Levi was made the first Bishop of Kanab, with the injunction to set up a sawmill and get out the lumber for building. In November, Levi's adopted son, William Casady Jr., died. His death was a prelude to the great tragedy that would befall them one month later. On the 14th of December 1870, a fire broke out in the fort and claimed the lives of Levi's wife, Margery and five sons.
A drought and grasshoppers took 2/3rds of the wheat harvest during the summer of 1871. The winter of 1871 brought a measle epidemic and in 1872 an epidemic of Epizootic, a skin infestation, entered every home in Kanab. Ever fearful of Indian attacks, Levi, Margery and Artemacy had befriended the local Indians. Artemacy had been called to be a midwife and Levi had a great knowledge in the use of herbs. Even during these trying times, Levi started a cooperative store in his home and was named chairman of the board of ZCMI Kanab. He began to bring in cattle and livestock and when the United Order was started in June 1874; his livestock value was $3,569. Three years later the communal United Order was dissolved and when Levi's property was returned to him it had been sadly depleted. So Levi began again at the age of 64.
Throughout Levi's life he had been a devout member of the Mormon religion. It had given him strength and faith to follow the directives of his Church leaders even though it would bring him impoverishment and death of his loved ones. Proceeded in death by wives Melinda and Margery, and 14 of his 29 children, Levi died June 14, 1878. The Indians accompanying Levi's body back to Kanab cried, "We have no more father". Thus ended the life of the Kanab colonizer, devoted father and religious exemplary, Levi Stewart. His numerous descendants populate Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, Idaho, Colorado, Maryland, New Mexico, Mississippi, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky and Texas.