If we could turn back the hands on the clock of time, back to the early years of 1800, and go visiting among the hills in Overton County, Tennessee, we would find there some of the descendants of Samuel and Lydia Stewart, who had moved from Stokes, or Forsyth County, North Carolina, to make new homes. It was here, about 1807, our progenitor, William Stewart, met and married Elizabeth Van Hooser (Hoosen), daughter of Abraham Van Hooser (Hoosen) and Mary Williams (Wilhelm). They were the parents of five sons, Squire, Riley, Levi, William Jackson, and Urban Van. These children were all born in Overton County, Tennessee, except Levi. It is with him, our direct ancestor, that this story has to do.
Our grandfather, Levi Stewart, third son of William Stewart and Elizabeth Van Hooser, was born 28 April 1812 at West Edwardsville, Madison County, Illinois, where Elizabeth had gone to be with her mother for this event. After the birth of her baby, Elizabeth took her little family back to Tennessee. There they lived until Levi was about ten years old, when the family returned to Illinois. Levi grew to manhood here.
Little is known of his young years, but photographs show him to be a man of large stature, over six feet tall, with dark hair and blue eyes. His fine character and pleasing personality won many friends wherever he went. He obtained a good education for those times. He was successful in business and prospered. Church History references state that among claims filed against the State of Missouri for property destroyed when mobs drove the Saints from their homes, was a claim by Levi Stewart for $3, 950. This was a sizeable amount for those days.
On the 12th of February 1833, Levi married Melinda Howard, daughter of John Howard and Jane Van Hooser (Hoosen) of Effingham, Madison County, Illinois. He took his bride to Vandalia, Fayette County, Illinois, to make a home. Here their first three children were born: Elizabeth Jane, 18 May 1834; Melinda Elvira, 1836 (who died in infancy); and Joseph Abram, 1 April 1837. About this time, two Mormon Elders came to Vandalia. Levi and Melinda heard them explain the principles of the Gospel. So impressed were they that they began investigating. Subsequently, both became members of the Mormon Church. In April 1837, Levi was baptized by Jefferson Hunt in Caldwell County, Missouri, where he had gone to learn more of this new doctrine. Being completely converted, they later received their endowments and were married in the Nauvoo Temple, 13 January 1846.
The Saints were now persecuted and driven from their homes because of sentiment against the Church. Levi was a devout believer, an active member, always willing to defend his leaders, and his Church against those who would destroy them. On one occasion he was present at an election held 6 August 1838 when the people of Far West had called a meeting to appoint a. new postmaster, and also to discuss the possibility of establishing a weekly newspaper. Two weeks previous, Judge Morin had informed Levi and John D. Lee that a mob had determined to prevent the Saints from voting. Hoping that things would become better, proper heed was not given to this warning, and the brethren had to fight desperately to maintain their rights as American citizens. The mob was finally driven off, and the Saints were commended by the Prophet for their victory against the enemy.
As sentiment grew more bitter, and the people were driven from pillar to post, Levi had taken his family to Iowa. Here a fourth child, John Riley, was born 21 November 1840, near where the City of Des Moines now stands. Afterward, they went back to Nauvoo, where two more children were born: Emma, 14 February 1843 who lived less than a year, and Louisa, 16 June 1845.
At a conference held in Nauvoo, 10 April 1843, Levi and James Pace, father of John Pace of St. George, Utah, were called to labor as missionaries in Missouri. Records show he also served as a missionary in Illinois where John D. Lee was his companion. The following letter copied from Journal History shows his earnest endeavors and success as a missionary.
Under date of 13 April 1843, Elder Levi Stewart wrote from Nauvoo to the "Times and Seasons" -Editor, John Taylor:
"I have traveled near six months since July last, most of which time I labored in the southern part of Missouri. There had been but few discourses delivered by any of the elders in these parts, therefore, prejudice was great. After hearing the Gospel for themselves, the honest in heart began to discover the many falsehoods that have over-run the country, and began to investigate the doctrines of Christ. The result was, many believed, and I had more calls for preaching than I could attend to, and through the assistance of God, I was enabled to baptize 24 souls. I left many more believing, whom I hope will obey the Gospel. There is a great door open for preaching. My prayer to God is for the rolling forth of His Kingdom, Until the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdoms of our God."
Your brother in the Everlasting Covenant, Levi Stewart.
As opposition against the Church grew more, mobs were organized to seize Joseph Smith. Many times he was in the hands of his captors. An incident is mentioned of a rescue party sent out from Nauvoo to search for the Prophet. These men were instructed to go aboard a steamboat called the "Maid of Iowa," and be on the watch for an armed company who had chartered a steamer at St. Louis, and might have Joseph aboard. If they encountered such a boat, they were to rescue their leader at all hazards, and bring him back to Nauvoo. This party was accompanied by Apostle John Taylor. Levi and his brother, Urban Van, were also named with those aboard. The men worked all night cutting and loading wood for fuel. About 8:30 in the morning, the Patriarch, Hyrum Smith, came aboard the steamer to instruct the men. He also blessed them in the Name of the Lord, and the little "Maid of Iowa" started up the Mississippi River. On the 3 of July 1843 they returned after a very adventurous voyage, having learned the Prophet was safe. Grandfather Levi's name is mentioned frequently in Church history during this period in connection with the life of Joseph Smith, as well as with his brother, Hyrum, who gave Levi a patriarchal blessing. A copy is on file in the Church Office.
On August 12th this same year, the Prophet Joseph Smith read the Revelation of Plural Marriage before the High Council and the President of the Stake at Nauvoo. The Saints were counseled to practice this principle. Accordingly, Levi took a second wife, Charity Holdiway. They were married in the Temple at Nauvoo in 1846. Soon afterward however, they separated, she not being truly in harmony with this principle.
As the persecuted Saints moved westward, families were scattered over the prairies. Temporary settlements were made for the benefit of companies who would follow later. These settlements were known as "Camps of Israel." We find Grandfather Levi actively helping to provide food for these exiled members by supplying wild game. His name is mentioned frequently through this period of Church History, being closely associated with President Brigham Young. He had left Nauvoo with the main exodus of the Saints early in 1846 in Brigham Young's large company. There seems to be no record giving the name of the Captain of Fifty. At this time he was in charge of important mail between these Camps and Nauvoo.
The following items of interest were copied from Journal History:
"Camp of Israel, Richardson's Point, Iowa, 55 miles west of Nauvoo, March 12, 1846, About seven o'clock: Levi Stewart arrived from Nauvoo bringing 34 letters for individuals. Included in these letters was one to Orson Hyde from President Young. March 16: Levi delivered more mail, one letter for Orson Hyde. May 12, 1846: President Young sent Levi with letters to Trustees at Nauvoo. The letters asked them to send 24 ox-teams and wagons fitted for the western expedition, with flour, provisions, and necessary equipment. Also they were told to let Levi have one team and wagon to bring his family to the second Camp established at Garden Grove on their way to Zion.
While in Nauvoo, Grandfather Levi tried to sell his property, but had to flee from the mob, after disposing of only a part of his holdings. In June 1846 he was sent to Nauvoo again, with money and instructions to John D. Lee to procure cattle for the camp at Garden Grove, Iowa. This settlement was 145 miles west from Nauvoo on the Grand River. The company reached here April 24, 1846. While the pioneers lived in these settlements, or "Camps of Israel", they organized themselves into groups, each having specific responsibilities. One group took charge of the livestock, another was responsible for fuel, another to keep the camps working harmoniously together, etc. Levi was named foreman of one of the companies over the Second Camp.
As they moved westward, the Saints had to travel through lands belonging to the Indians, the Pottawattami, the Sioux, and the Omaha Tribes. Church History states that in February 1847, Brother Levi Stewart was authorized by a letter from the High Council, to call on Major Harvey, Superintendent of Indian Affairs at St. Louis, for a Government permit for the Saints to remain on Indian lands.
In July 1846 the main body of Saints had reached Council Bluffs, then onward to Winter Quarters, now Omaha, Nebraska. By March 1847, Winter Quarters contained 41 blocks, 820 lots and 700 houses, log and turf, with 22 wards. Schools were established and missionaries sent abroad. Most of the families were destitute. Here during the privations and suffering of these Mormon people, a seventh child was born to Melinda and Levi, 6 May 1848. He was christened Levi Howard. With their family of five children, grandfather Levi and his wife, Melinda, with many other pioneer families, continued their long perilous trek across the Plains to join those courageous Saints who had reached Salt Lake Valley the summer before in 1847.
In the autumn of 1848 they arrived at their destination, the Promised Valley of the Great Salt Lake. As the Saints arrived in the valley, city lots were allotted to each family. Grandfather Levi's lot was between Main and State Street, between Fourth and Fifth South, near where the Moxum Hotel now stands. Later, the Eighth Ward was organized in that vicinity. Here Grandfather Levi built a home for his family. It is said the old house was torn down about 1946 or 1947.
Grandfather Stewart was a man of faith and courage. He applied himself diligently to his Church and business. As a reward, he was blessed and prospered. He soon established a general merchandise store on the corner where the Newhouse Hotel now stands. Listed with men doing a good cash business in Salt Lake City in 1854, is the name of Levi Stewart. His name also appears on speaking assignments. In the Old Bowery he delivered a sermon, 3 August 1857, choosing as his subject, "Live in the Path of Duty." On another occasion, he was a speaker in the Tabernacle. He is said to have had a good command of language, and was a fluent, convincing speaker,
Levi owned and farmed a large acreage on Big Cottonwood Creek, where he also built a home. The family lived here part of the time. Here he operated a paper mill for a few years. In the spring of 1851, when Jonathan C. Wright was sustained as Bishop of the Cottonwood Ward, grandfather Levi was chosen as first counselor and Charles Bird as second counselor. On July 15 this same year a baby girl was born at Cottonwood. She was called Emaline. In 1852 when Abram 0. Smoot succeeded Jonathan C. Wright as Bishop, he chose Jonathan C. Wright as his first, and Levi Stewart as his second counselors. They served until 1854.
It was in the year of 1852 December 23rd that Margery Wilkerson, daughter of Thomas Wilkerson and Eliza Fallowell, were married to grandfather Levi. The following children were born to them: William Thomas, 18 October 1853; Eliza Luella, 21 May 1855; Charles Courtland, 8 February 1857; Margery Ann, 24 September 1858; Heber Carlos, 25 April 1861; Edward Lorenzo, 1863; Lucinda Arminta, 6 January 1865; Hyrum Smith, 13 April 1867, a still-born baby. In the autumn of 1853, October 30, Grandmother Melinda's last children were born, twin daughters, Merinda and Marada. Happiness was followed by dark clouds of sorrow. The mother gave her life for these babies within a short mont. She passed away 24 November 1853. Within a year little Merinda was laid beside her mother. The other twin, Marada, died when about thirteen years of age.
On 23 December 1854, Grandfather Levi married Artimacy Wilkerson, a sister of Margery. They had a family of ten children. They are as follows: Sarah Lucretia, 22 December 1855; Urban Van, 30 December 1857; Alonzo Lafayette, 8 January 1860; Mary Artimacy, 6 September 1861; Seymour, 13 April 1863; Brigham Freeman, 2 April 1865; David Brinton, 12 February 1867; Ellen Lenora, 19 December 1869; Benjamin Levi, 27 June 1871; Ethel, 16 April 1878.
Being an enterprising, responsible man, Grandfather Levi held many important positions in his community. At one time he was vice-president of the Big Cottonwood Co-op Store. He was also an officer in the Brigham Young Express Company, known as the B. Y. X. Company. Later on, in 1868, when the Union Pacific Railroad extended its line from Omaha to meet the Southern Pacific coming from San Francisco, he took a contract for part of the work in Weber Canyon, near Devil's Slide, employing thirty five men. Again, on 8 March 1864, Grandfather Levi was called to serve in the Bishopric, this time as second counselor to Bishop Sheets of the Eighth Ward, Salt Lake City. Tobert Daft acted as first counselor. The following year, 1865 we find him back at Cottonwood, where he subsequently became first counselor to Bishop David Brinton. He served in this capacity until called to Kanab, in southern Utah in 1870.
Evidence of Brigham Young's confidence in Grandfather Levi, and their association, is noted in early Utah history, as well as at Nauvoo, and during the westward migration of the Mormons. During the last years he resided in Salt Lake City. He was granted the privilege of using President Young's office two nights each week for his ecclesiastical duties. Records show that they made several trips together to the new settlements being colonized in Sevier County and farther south. These trips provided valuable information and experience for the calling, which came to him later.
In July 1870, President Brigham Young called Grandfather Levi to go to Kanab, Kane County, Utah, to help strengthen the settlement there. He was instructed to select his own company for this mission. Following is a complete list of the families who arrived at Kanab with him (copied from the History of Kanab Ward): Levi Stewart and family, consisting of 17 members; Moses Franklin Farnsworth and family, consisting of 7 members; David Brinton;Burt, blacksmith; John Rider and family, consisting of 4 members; Lyman Porter and family; all from Cottonwood. Allen Frost and family, consisting of 6 members; Edward A. Noble and family, consisting of a family of 4; William Thompson and Edward Cooke, all from Bountiful, Utah. Other families followed later.
No call from the Authorities of his Church seemed too great a sacrifice for Levi Stewart. So once again he must leave his home, his fertile fields, and his well established business for new frontiers. For this pilgrimage they were instructed to take their livestock, tools, and farm machinery, besides stores of provisions necessary to meet their needs for two years. Because of lack of roads, the trip had to be made by way of Utah's Dixie, passing through Parowan, Cedar City and Toquerville. Upon arrival at Toquerville, Grandfather Levi, by way of pre-arrangement with Brigham Young, left his daughter, Luella. The following excerpt is copied from a letter she wrote to Leonard Heaton, the Superintendent of Pipe Springs National Park:
"In March 1870, my father, Levi Stewart, was called as a missionary to colonize Kanab, Utah. President Brigham Young asked Levi to have one of his daughters learn telegraphy as they intended to extend the line of the Deseret Telegraph Company to Kanab and Pipe Springs. In May 1870, father, on his way to Kanab, left me at Toquerville, Utah, to study telegraphy.
They traveled six weeks to reach Kanab, where they found an old fort west of where Kanab now stands. It had been built as a protection against the Indians. This was occupied by Jacob Hamblin and four other families who had arrived and farmed a little the year before in 1869. This fort was used as a temporary home for Grandfather Levi's family, as well as a general storehouse for supplies. From the time of their arrival at Kanab, Grandfather Levi was in charge of the settlement, and presided as their first Bishop. In September 1870 President Young and his counselor, Daniel H. Wells, visited this colony and organized a ward, choosing Grandfather Levi Stewart as first Bishop of Kanab. His counselors were Lyman Porter and Edward Noble. They were ordained and set apart by President Brigham Young and his counselor, Daniel H. Wells.
In the early morning of December 14, 1870, a fire broke out in the old fort which was beyond control in a matter of minutes because of kerosene and other supplies, which had been stored for future needs. The following letter written four days later by Bishop Levi Stewart, himself, and published in the Deseret Evening News under date of 22 December 1870, tells this terrible tragedy in his own words:
The Catastrophe at Kanab
We have received from Bishop Levi Stewart the following account of the terrible calamity that has overtaken his family:
Kanab, Dec. 18, 1870 via Toker (Toquerville): Ed. Deseret News: "One of the most heart rending scenes took place on the morning of the 14th about 4:30 a.m., resulting in the death of my wife, Margery, and her sons, Charles C., Heber Carlos, Edward; also my sons, Levi H. and Urban Van Stewart who perished in the flames. Although there was a guard on at the time, he failed to know anything about it, until the cry of fire by myself, at which time two rooms were in a light of flame. Seven boys were sleeping in the back room, two of whom escaped through the flames, there being no other opening to the room. My wife, Margery, rushed in through the flames to waken her children, and perished before there was any chance of rescue, although there was an opening made in the back part of the house within 5 minutes from the time we awoke; but all had perished by the explosion of the coal oil which was stored in the room with them. E. H. Stout and Alonzo Stewart were the two who made their escape before getting badly hurt. They are out of danger at present, the latter only slightly burnt. The origin of the fire is a mystery to all. 11 The News continues:
This is the most appalling calamity, we believe, that has ever occurred in the Territory since its settlement. We feel convinced that the sympathy and condolence of the entire community will be with Bishop Levi in the fearful dispensation of Providence which has overtaken him.
Only a man of courage and strong character could maintain such self-control in order to write this clear, detailed account of his heart-breaking sorrow. These were dark days, indeed. Sorrow and sympathy were felt throughout the Territory, wherever Bishop Stewart was known. It is said that a few days after the fire, his counselors went to Bishop Stewart and advised him to give up the mission. They felt they could not go on, and that Grandfather Levi should not be expected to stay following this tragedy. He replied that as their Bishop he would give them an honorable release, but as for him, he would stay by his post. Such courage and devotion to his Church!
Notwithstanding, these brave souls must carry on. Homes had to be provided, and the country must be developed. When the Temple at St. George was under construction, Levi and his sons set up a sawmill at Big Springs, on the Kaibab, then known as the Buckskin Mountain, and sawed and hauled lumber to help with the building.
The friendship of the Indians was won by Bishop Stewart. He loved them, preached the Gospel to them, and showed them how to be a better people. An amusing incident is told in connection with one of the Indians he had converted and baptized. It was a very cold winter day, and after coming out of the water, the old Indian seemed so chilled that Bishop Stewart took off a heavy wool shirt he was wearing over his other shirt, and helped the old Indian put it on. According to the story, next morning early, Bishop Stewart was visited by a large number of the natives who had come to be "baptized Mormons," so they could have warm shirts too!
After five years of faithful service as Bishop of Kanab, his health began to fail. The weight of his grief, and the struggle to make homes in this desert had taken heavy toll of his strength. So, in 1875, Bishop Stewart and his counselors were released, succeeded by L. John Nuttall, who also acted as President of Kanab Stake.
While enroute to Salt Lake City, 14 June 1878, death came suddenly and quietly to grand father Levi Stewart, not far from home at Black Rock, in Johnson Canyon. The following account is taken from the diary of Lawrence C. Mariger, a son-in-law who was with him when he passed away:
About June 1, 1878 Brother Levi Stewart and myself concluded to put what money we had together and start a Mercantile Institution in partnership. On June 12th we started for Salt Lake City, each having a team. Brother James A Little accompanying us as a passenger, and Edward A. Noble with his team. We stayed at Johnson on the night of the 12th at my sisterís. Next day we loaded some wool at Dairy Canyon (a mile above) and drove to what is known as the Black Rocks in Scutumpah Canyon, where we camped for the night.
We had an enjoyable time at the camp fire. During supper in the evening, and breakfast in the morning we listened to Brother Stewart give his opinion on Eternity. He seemed to be inspired of the Lord and advanced deeply on that subject.
In the morning we found that Brother Noble's team had gone back toward Johnson. He returned for them, getting back to the camp about 9:30 A. M. We hitched the teams up while Brother Noble was taking his breakfast, and left the camp-ground about 10 o'clock. Brother Stewart drove the middle team, Brother Noble drove behind, and myself in the lead. Brother Little walked in consequence of the heavy sand.
We had gone about one-half mile when Brother Stewart spoke from his wagon and said that he had very severe pain in his stomach. He remarked that it was making him sweat right good. I told him perhaps a drink of water would help him, to which he replied that perhaps it would. I then stopped my team and took the keg of water back to him. He drank some and said he felt better. Brother Little got into the wagon and took the lines. He told Brother Stewart that he had better lie down on the bed in the back part of the wagon, which he did.
We had gone about five or six rods when Brother Little called to us to stop and come there, which we did as soon as possible, but Brother Stewart had expired before we got to the wagon. This was a very strange death. He suffered comparatively little pain.
We immediately turned the wagons around and Brother Little and I returned to Kanab with the body. We arrived about 3 p.m.. It was a severe shock to the family. It was indeed a time of grief, losing a kind and wise husband and father.
On the next day, June 15th (1878), the funeral services took place at 2 p.m. Brother James A. Little, W.D. Johnson, Jr. and President L. John Nuttall were the speakers on that occasion.
In the diary of David Udall, another son-in-law, we find this account verified. On 21 June 1878 Edward A. Noble, who was with Levi, at the time of his death, stopped at the home of Aunt Ella and Uncle David in Nephi, and gave them the above particulars.
Levi Stewart was laid to rest with his wife and children in the cemetery at Kanab. A monument erected to his memory marks the spot. Levi Stewart was the father of 28 children. He leaves a large posterity. He was a kind, devoted husband, a loving father, and a humble elder in Israel, who did his duty to God and his fellowmen, as he saw it. Certainly the name of Levi Stewart should go down in history among those noble, valiant Builders of the West. May the memory of his faith and diligent works ever remain in the hearts of his descendants!
At the close of this sketch, it seems appropriate to pay tribute to the wives of Levi Stewart, our Grandmothers. Every man needs a good wife for complete living, someone to help carry the burdens of the household and to inspire their husbands and children to success. Grandfather Levi was fortunate in having three such women, each rich in purpose and faith, and those qualities which go to make womanhood -- Melinda, Margery and Artimacy. The character and deeds of our pioneer Grandmothers should be an inspiration to us, to practice in our daily living. Words cannot tell the great heritage they have left us. May the memory of these noble women be an eternal benediction to their children and their children's children, through to the last generation,
Note-On April 11, 1950, a tablet honoring Levi A Stewart, first Bishop of Kanab, is to be placed on a monument which is erected on the spot where Fort Kanab stood, where his wife Margery and his five sons lost their lives when the fort was destroyed by fire.