FOUNDER OF KANAB, UTAH
Pioneer of 1848 By Margery Browne Cottam, his granddaughter
Washington, D.C. Chapter of the Daughter of the Utah Pioneers
(Note: Unfortunately, most of Levi Stewart’s records and diary were burned in the fire in Kanab, then again, later records were burned in another fire at the home of his youngest daughter. Therefore, this sketch will have to be based on other sources such as church records, records of other branches of the family, but mostly from remembered traditions of the family. My main source was from my mother, Lucinda, Levi’s daughter, whose memory of the events within her own experience is remarkably clear. Also the things she has been told of preceeding events have proved to be accurate when checked with Church History and other records. )
Levi Stewart was born on April 28, 1812, in Edwardsville, Madison County, Illinois, the son of William and Elizabeth VanHooser Stewart. His ancestors had come to America in earliest colonial times, originally from Scotland where they formed part of that clan of sturdy Highlanders who boast the Stuart line of kings of Scotland and England. The first Stuart of Scotland married Margery, the daughter of Robert Bruce, and founded the royal line. Many of the Stewart’s were Scotch Covenanters and as such were banished to Ireland from where they soon made their way to America, settling in Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia. At the time of the Puritan Revolution, those of the Stuarts who had chosen to unite their fortunes with those of the Royal Family in England were forced to leave England and find haven in the New World. From those who settled in North Carolina came the direct ancestors of Levi Stewart, who, humbled by the turn fate had given them, became thrifty and hard working members of the working class. From Overton County, Tennessee, Levi’s father, William, moved northward. In Indiana he married the charming Hoosier maiden, Elizabeth Van Hooser (pronounced Hoover). Then they moved to Illinois on the bands of the Mississippi where their four boys were born.
The only childhood incident in Levi’s life that has come down to us seems to be but a forerunner of his life of struggle with frontier conditions. When he was about nine, he and his brother Jackson, just younger, were picking up pebbles along the river bank and putting them in their held-up "aprons", the ridiculous sack-like dress worn by little boys of that section at that time. As they rounded a curve, they came face to face with a cinnamon bear that, to them at least, seemed enormous. It reared upon its hind legs and began to growl and start towards them. They threw stone after stone as hard and fast as they could, but seemed to make no impression whatsoever, until Levi in desperation aimed carefully and hit the bear squarely on the nose, hurting it enough that it turned and made off into the timber.
Levi’s mother was at this time a widow with four boys: Riley, Levi, William Jackson, and Urban Van. ( Elizabeth and William were divorced). One son, Squire, had died in infancy.
In 1830 when he was only eighteen, Levi married his second cousin Melinda Howard. Their first child, Elizabeth Jane, was born a year later (18 Mar 1834). Life was almost primitive, only the bare necessities reaching the settlers up the Mississippi by way of small boats. They exchanged hides, tallow, furs, and products of their own handicraft for axes, hatchets, cards for carding cotton and wool, spinning wheels, guns, and powder. It was considered a disgrace for a young woman not to know how to take raw flax, cotton, or wool through the whole process of manufacture from carding, spinning, dyeing, weaving, and sewing into well-made garments. Melinda was the typical thrifty housewife, even at an early age.
In 1836, two Mormon elders, Murphy and Peter Dustan, stayed a few days with Hanford Stewart, a cousin of Levi. They preached in the neighborhood. A year later an elder named King preached at many of the homes near there, and excitement over the Gospel became quite general.
Levi Stewart, who was then living at Luck Creek, Illinois, became interested and in about 1837 went to Far West, Missouri, to investigate this wonderful new religion at its headquarters. He was convinced of its truth and joined the Church there. When he returned he brought with him the Book of Mormon and copies of the Elders’ Journal to show and explain to his neighbors. From the diary of one of these neighbors we have the following excerpt: "My neighbor Stewart, who had just returned from Missouri, brought the most cheering and thrilling accounts of the power and manifestation of the Holy Spirit working with the people and that the spiritual gifts of the true believers in Christ were enjoyed by all who lived faithfully and sought them: that there was no deception about it; that everyone had a testimony for himself and was not dependent upon another; that they had the gift of tongues and the interpretation of them, the power of healing the sick by the laying on of hands, prophesying, and casting out devils. All of which he declared with words of soberness to be true."
"Levi Stewart had been my playmate and companion in former years. His work had great influence on me and strengthened my conviction that the Book of Mormon was true." John D. Lee.
We do not have any further record of these first contacts but we do know that he was deeply filled with a testimony of the Gospel that was to be his guide throughout life.
The next we year, the little family had decided to join the Saints in Missouri and to cast their fortune with them no matter what sacrifice it meant. They sold their home and possessions in Luck Creek and on June 4, 1838, arrived in Far West.
After looking around about a week they settled on Shady Grove Creek in Davis County, at a place called Marrowbone, afterward Ambrosia. Levi’s brothers, Riley, Jackson, and Urban also lived nearby and their mother lived with one of them.(Urban Van) The country around for some fifteen or twenty miles each way was settled by the Saints. The location of the new Stewart home was a good one with plenty of pure cold water; a small lake nearby was filled with many kinds of fish so that there was abundance for any needs. There were groves of oak and hickory on the rolling land about. Before many months a fairly comfortable home was established.
In July 1838, Levi visited the settlement of Adam-Ondi-Ahman and remained at the home of Judge Morin, a good Democrat. The Judge told them that at the coming election the Whigs were planning to prevent the Mormons from voting at Gallatin, the county seat. He advised the Mormons to go to the polls prepared to resist violence in order to vote as free Americans.
When election day arrived, and the Mormon men were awaiting their turn to vote, a bully named Weldon started calling one of our men all manner of vile names because he was a Mormon. When he said that Joseph Smith was a liar, Riley Stewart could stand it no longer and gave Weldon a stunning blow. The fight then became general as the Mormons tried to save Riley from the mob that sprang up as if by magic. He was stabbed in the shoulder and severely battered, but managed to escape to the home of his wife’s brother. As long as he stayed in Missouri the mobs sought his life.
During the persecution that followed the Saints in Missouri, this little family underwent many tribulations. Because of their faith they were often forced to flee before an angry and bloodthirsty mob. It was while they were making their way in the dark one night that the baby, Joseph, was jolted from his mother’s arms and the wheel of the heavy wagon went over his head. The frantic parents fully expected to pick him up dead; indeed he lay as if life were crushed out, with the little head horribly flattened. But the young father administered to him, the mother joining her faith with his in asking for divine aid. The child was healed and never suffered any ill effects whatsoever, but grew up to be a fine, intelligent man.
When the Prophet and the leading authorities of the Church gave themselves up to the State Militia in an attempt to save the people from massacre, the rest of the male members were held as prisoners at Far West to be tried for "treason". Levi Stewart was among those who were forced to march double file and surrender themselves and their arms. Each one was made to sign the treaty giving to the State all his real estate and property to "pay the expenses of the War" against the Saints. Each family was to be allowed barely enough to move out of the State. It took weeks to examine separately such a large body of people and the men were held prisoners all this time.
One night as they were standing by a log fire trying to keep warm, a ruffian came up to Riley Stewart and said, "I saw you knock Dick Weldon down election day at Gallatin." With this he sprang for an ax that had been driven tight into a log. Riley ran, but when the man succeeded in getting it loose, he threw it with all his might. Fortunately the ax struck Riley only a glancing blow on the head, not killing him but wounding him severely. The night after he was wounded, Riley broke through the guard and escaped to his wife’s people in Carroll County, 50 miles to the south. Soon he was warned that an armed mob had formed when they heard of his arrival and intended to take him out, tar and feather him and whip him. He attempted to escape but they caught him, and holding two pistols at his head forced him to take off his coat, kneel down, and receive fifty lashes. These were given with such force that they cut through his linen shirt and into the flesh. Then he returned to Far West. The men were locked in a schoolhouse without rations much of the time. Their grain fields and gardens were thrown open to soldiers and horses. Their stock was shot down for sport before their very eyes.
General Wilson was in charge of 500 troops sent to force upon the Saints the signing of the treaty of Adam-Ondi-Ahman, as was being done to those in Far West. Although he had not yet come up for his own examination, Levi was selected as one of three Saints to accompany these troops as guides. It was bitter cold as they made the march to Shady Grove at Littlefield’s farm. It was still a few miles to Adam-Ondi-Ahman, but the officers who seem to have taken a liking to their guides gave them a pass saying they had passed their examinations. They had been approved as innocent, and allowed them to go their first chance to visit their own homes in the vicinity. Apparently this gave them their first chance to visit their families since the beginning of the siege. The women and children had suffered much at the hands of the raiders during the time the men had been held prisoners, and worse than anything else, they had had the torturing fear that their dear ones would be shot. The reunion was most happy.
Sometime during this trying winter, while the Prophet and the leaders were still in prison, we have a record of Levi Stewart going with a companion to Father Smith (Joseph’s father) for advice. He told them that the Saints would gather again in Illinois. When asked at what point, he said, "I do not know yet, but the further north we go the fewer poisonous serpents we will find." He advised them to attend private meetings since, according to the terms of the treaty no public meetings could be held, and to be set apart to the ministry. He gave Levi a patriarchal blessing. Shortly afterwards he was ordained to the lesser Priesthood. (It may have been under the hands of Joseph Young and Levi Hancock.)
The Stewart family left for Fayette County, Illinois, about the middle of February, 1839, about 81/2 months from the time they first came to Missouri. A relative, Riley Helm, with his family, traveled with them as far as Quincy on this trip. They were treated kindly by most of the people; many of them requested them to stop and settle down there. They wanted to move on with the Saints. They crossed the Mississippi River at Quincy and found many of the Saints camped on the shores of the river.
After making arrangements for the comfort of his family during his absence, Levi Stewart left for his first mission about the first of April, 1839, in company with John D. Lee. They started on foot, with their valises on their backs, and walked about thirty miles the first day. As night was approaching and they sought lodging, they called at a house where there had been a logrolling that day and many people were around the house. Their request for food and bed was carried to the man of the house while they stood waiting at the gate. Presently the man came out and said that no Mormon preacher could stay at his house and that if they wished to save their scalps they had better be making tracks. A little further on, they tried again and finally found rest at the house of an infidel who boasted that he never would turn a hungry man from his door. He told them that he would as leave entertain horse thieves as Mormon preachers, but to come on. They were served a good supper and soon Levi was enjoying himself talking to the family.
They left the next morning and traveled to the next town where a woman met them as they stopped for a drink at the town pump. She invited them to eat at her house and preach to the people she would call in. It was there that they preached their first sermons. They traveled on foot all the way to Cincinnati. Once they went three days without food. Their progress was slow for their boots hurt them and they were weak from hunger. Then a kind restaurant keeper fed them and filled their knapsacks with buns, cheese, sausages, and the like. They blessed the man for his generous act and thanked the Lord for this goodness to them.
At Cincinnati they crossed the Ohio and traveled through Kentucky into Tennessee where they stayed for some length of time with the Stewart relatives in Overton and Jackson counties. They preached and explained the Gospel to the people nearby. John D. Lee, feeling disgruntled, went off preaching by himself into the mountains while Levi continued with his labors in Jackson and Overton counties. Levi returned to his family about October of 1839. In the middle of April 1840, they joined the Saints who were gathering at Nauvoo. The Prophet was out of prison and again at the head. Work was started on the temple. Levi gave one out of every ten days to work on the temple.
In Nauvoo he built a comfortable home and they had several eventful years, which bore fruit in the formation of the mature character of Levi Stewart. The force that impressed him most was the association with the Prophet Joseph and his attendance at the school of the Prophets. He developed a love for learning and culture that meant so much in later pioneer days in Utah when he was to be instrumental in molding the lives of others. Levi was of massive frame, measuring well over six feet in height. He often used to have a friendly wrestling bout with the Prophet Joseph. They were well matched and got much enjoyment and relaxation out of it. He was a member of the Nauvoo Legion and was always proud of his uniform and sword that attested to his membership.
Levi was sent on another mission to preach the Gospel in nearby states along with his brother Urban. They were called home, however, because of the death of their mother. Again they went forth only to be called back-this time because of the assassination of the Prophet Joseph in 1844. In Nauvoo they found everyone in the deepest gloom at the loss of their idolized leader. From then on their life in Nauvoo was anything but peaceful. They were left defenseless against their enemies and never knew when their lives were safe from the hands of the infuriated mobs that constantly harassed them.
At the time of the transfiguration of Brigham Young, Levi was present (August 8, 1844), and testified that when Brigham Young stood up to speak, it was in every respect as if the Prophet Joseph were there; his voice, his appearance, everything was the same. From that day until his death, Levi Stewart knew that Brigham Young was the Lord’s mouthpiece, and he upheld him with a devotion and faithfulness that could not be surpassed. He revered him for his great wisdom and foresight, and never for a moment questioned his judgement, even though it might mean a personal savrifice on his part. When the Nauvoo temple was opened for endowments, Levi and Malinda were sealed and received their second anointings.
Finally the Nauvoo charter was revoked and the Saints were driven out. The Stewarts’ were among those whose comfortable homes were taken away from them, and whose crops were burned. The ruffian who took the house merely came in and told them they had just so much time to clear out. He threw his suspenders at Grandfather and declared that now he had paid for the place.
Before this the Saints had worked unceasingly at the manufacture of wagons, harnesses, and other articles needed for the journey west. Trees had been cut, the lumber was boiled in salt and water or else dried in kilns to cure it quickly and toughen it. Leather had been tanned, and iron was handwrought by blacksmiths into wagon wheels, rims, axles, horse shoes, and the like. By February 4, 1846, the first contingent left Nauvoo and crossed the river. Grandfather was prepared for the emergency when it arose. He had been thrifty and was fairly well fixed. Now he was able to take with him some of his cattle and extra horses. After crossing the river on the thin ice, the Saints camped at Richardson Point (1846). Here Levi Stewart and two others were appointed hunters to get game for the encampment. They found turkey, deer, and even elk. When they reached Council Bluffs, the wisdom of Brigham Young directed that Levi stay at Winter Quarters behind the first group of 1847 and run a sort of a commissary. In the same way he had others stay and plant crops that they would never use but which would mean the difference between life and starvation for those coming later.
Grandfather was a very uncomplaining person, so he seldom talked of the hardships he passed through at this period. We wish he had left a detailed story of those stirring events in his life.
Brigham Young left Utah August 26, 1847 to return again to Winter quarters, and arrived October 31. Grandfather attended the General Conference held December, 1847 on the Iowa banks of the Mississippi River. This is when the Church Presidency was organized and Brigham Young was sustained as President by the vote of the Saints. Up to this time there had been just a "Presiding Council". During the month of May 1848, preparations were made for the main body of the Saints to leave for the West. The first company left on the 9th but grandfather and his family did not leave until May 26th in the company of Brigham Young. There were 2,000 people with 600 wagons on this 1848 spring trek. A month later, an additional 500 people followed. As with the 1847 group, the people were divided into companies of 100 each. Food was apportioned carefully in order to make the meager supplies last the long journey.
The Stewarts’ arrived in Salt Lake Valley in September 1848, after four months of weary travel. Levi was allotted the entire block in Salt Lake City between State and Main Street, and 4th and 5th South streets. This is directly across the street from the present City and County Building, which was at the time Emigration Square, where all the emigrants stayed when they first drove into the city.
Whenever a band of pioneers would arrive, Levi with any others who could help, would go across to the square where the new arrivals were camped and see if he could render assistance to any of them; of course it was seldom that there wasn’t someone who needed it. Most of them were truly in a pitiable plight after the long journey. Sometimes and entire family would be taken into the Stewart home for days, weeks, or even months. In 1856 word came of the sufferings of the handcart companies on the plains. They had started too late in the season and the few survivors who arrived in the Valley had a story of heartbreaking sufferings. Levi brought home one of these families and gave them a home in his basement for the winter. One daughter had her legs frozen off, the other members of the families were stricken in only slightly lesser degrees. The father would go out and bring in salt from the Salt Lake and this little legless 12-year old girl would stand on two pitiful stumps and grind the salt which was then sold. There was one traveler taken in this way who lived in the Stewart household for seven years and worked for the board. His name was Godfreyson. Today his son lives to tell of the kindness of Levi Stewart to a freindless, penniless, and hungry lad. Two Gibson sisters, later wives of James Andrus, stayed a year. Levi always made people welcome and shared whatever he had with those in need. Sometimes these people returned his kindness by doing weaving, spinning, sewing, or carpentry for the family, but never did he make a charge for what he did.
Levi built a rather large and substantial adobe house with a basement, a main floor and an upstairs. He was a counselor to Bhishop Sheets in the Eight Ward. At this time there were four children, two boys and two girls. Four more were born in Salt lake. In 1853, eleven weeks after the birth of the last two, who were twins, Melinda Howard Stewart, died of phlebitis.
Before Melinda’s death, however, Levi had taken as a second wife, my grandmother, Margery Wilkerson. This is how it happened. In 1852, a friend, Brother Wienmer, drove up with a company of emigrants. When Levi came across to see him he said, "Brother Levi, I have brought you a wife." Levi said, "Well, that’s nice," thinking little of it. But a few minutes later a young girl not yet twenty stepped from behind one of the wagons and was introduced to him as Miss Margery Wilkerson. He found that she had crossed the plains with her parents, her sister, Mrs. Artimacy Cassidy, and several brothers. They had come from Indiana originally. Her father, even before he joined the Church, had hastened to Missouri to aid the Saints, when he heard of the unjust persecutions being inflicted upon them. A quick friendship between Levi and Margery developed into a lifelong devotion. They were married four months later, December 1852. Their first child, William Thomas, was born a year later. Of this union there were also Eliza Luella (Udall), Charles who was burned, Margery Ann (Riggs), Heber who was burned, Edward Lorenzo who was burned, and Lucinda Araminta, my mother.
When William Thomas was about one year old, Levi took as a third wife, Margery’s younger sister, Artemacy, who was a widow with one child. (Artemacy divorced her husband who had abandoned her. He had gone to California in search of gold). The two sisters were always devoted to each other and to their husband, so that there was always the closest harmony and unity in the family. Artimacy had eight children in all.
Levi Stewart was one of the first merchants in Salt Lake City, his first store being across the street south from the tabernacle. He sent his older boys, John and Joseph, and hired men to St. Louis, Missouri, to bring goods by team. They brought gurniture, dishes, and at one time a bedroom set costing $800. Made of walnut and with marble topped dressers, bureaus, etc. for the home. Later he and Bishop Hunter planned to pool their capital and build a new and larger store where Z.C.M.I. now stands. They had the foundation built when President Brigham Young advised them against building, saying the Church had plans for a cooperative store. They willing conceeded and put their proceeds into the Z.C.M.I.
President Young said that he would like Levi to start a paper mill on the Big Cottonwood at Mill Creek. In 1865 he sold his home in Salt lake, just after margery’s last child, Lucinda, was born and moved to a large farm house in Mill Creek. Here he was first counselor to Bishop David Brinton of the Mill Creek Ward. Before this, however, there was one mission in 1858 which sheds an interesting light on the conditions at that time. It was when Johnston’s Army was harassing the Saints so they wondered if their lives and property would be safe. There had been the big move southward. Now President Young sent a party of about 100 men to seek out hiding places for the Saints in case they found it necessary. Levi seems to have been the one to keep the records and accounts of the trip. There are careful entries as to number of wagons, mules, horse, oxen and provisions, the carefully planned work of each man and of the different companies, the nature of the country they found, and their dealing with the Indians. The following is a copy of a letter from President Young giving them instructions:
President’s Office, April 28, 1858
Your note asking for insturctions just came to hand. You need not look North or Northwest with a view to making settlements, but extend your explorations Southwest and South. We do not contemplate sending families across the desert this spring, hence you need not hurry to send us work, but send it at every opportunity by those who may be coming back. The brethren had better made such improvements as they can to make themselves comfortable at the places they locate. We do not expect you to find large extensive tracts of arable land, desirable for settlements or cultivation, as the world would esteem them, but rather places where nothing can be raised of conseuence and exceedingly difficult of access, good places for hiding up where there is absolutely no chance to obtain subsistence by the ordinary exertions of men. Let Brother Edson Barney remain President of the mission. If it does not storm I expect to be in Provo on Friday and may see you, but if I do not , go in peace and may the Lord bless and preserve you with all the brethren engaged in seeking out hiding places for the Saints. I remain you brother in the Gospel, Brighan Young.
Levi put every available cent into the paper mill. He spent the last hundred dollars to buy a new mill wheel when it was found that the only one to be had in Utah would not do. The big wheel had to be brought all the way from St. Louis, Missoui. As soon as he had the mill going, President Young, knowing that Levi needed the money advised him to take a contract for grading a section of the Union Pacific railroad down Echo Canyon. Much of this grading was being done by members of the church under the direction of President Young. Levi Stewart had 100 men working for him on this job. It was completed in 1868. His wife Margery went with him and took charge of the cooking for this large crew of men. The first week she did this all alone with what help the men could give her, such as grinding and browning coffee, slicing beef, and peeling potatoes. This move proved to be a wise venture. There followed a year of illness for Margery and she lost a child with placenta previa birth.
Early in the winter of 1869-1870, President Young asked Levi to accompany him and his party of about thirty on an inspection tour of the southern part of the state, to seek out suitable settling places. His wife Margery went along, taking her oldest boy Thomas. They visited Cedar, Beaver, St. George, the Dixie and Muddy settlements, then went across lower Zions Canyon; then via Pip Springs to what is now Kanab. Conferences were held at each settlement.
When they returned to Salt Lake, a plan was already worked out by Brigham Young for a new frontier in this wilderness. Now he asked Levi to head a band of Saints to colonize Kanab. So the comfortable home in Mill Creek was sold to a Brother Bagley. The paper mill was in good running condition and now in the hands of the Church; Levi’s mission of starting it having been successfully completed, and he having been released from it. Now he was called to a new field of endeavor.
One of his eldest sons complained at their being asked to give up so much that was peaceful and pleasant to go again into the wilderness to endure hardship, danger and discouragement. But he and his two loyal wives never for a minute doubted the wisdom of President Young in asking them to make this sacrifice. It was what many others all over the Church were doing and they did it willingly, glad that they had been considered worthy to be given such a trust. It never seems to have occurred to them that they were doing anything out of the ordinary. To them the word of Brigham Young was as binding as the word of the Lord for they knew that he was divinely guided in these things. They always tried to instill this reverence for authority into the hearts of their children.
It was decided that the first group to go to Kanab should include only a few of the men, grandmother (Margery) and three of her children, Thomas (now seventeen), Ella (fifteen), and my mother, Lucinda (five). Her other children were to remain with Aunt Macy to come later. The men in the company included Brothers Allen Frost, Frank Farnsworth, Ed. Noble, John Rider, Edward Stevenson, Levi Hancock, Lyman Porter, Dilworth Brinton, and Jacob Hamblin who joined them in Dixie with this wife Louisa.
Thomas drove a large army wagon with some furniture and supplies. The parents with little Lucida rode in a small one seated buggy. When they reached Toquerville, it was arranged for their daughter Ella to remain with the Haights there in order to learn telegraphy in the new telegraph office that was being installed there. As soon as she learned it she was placed in charge of the little office at Pipe Springs-the first telegraph office. She was the first operator in the Territory of Arizona.
The colonist reached Kanab the eighth of June 1870 after having stopped a few weeks at Pipe Springs to put in gardens. They knew that there would be no chance to plant crops in Kanab that year or until canals were dug for irrigaiton.
There was the beginning of a fort in Kanab which had been abandoned by the Dixie pioneers who had built it because of the hostility of the Navajo Indians. At least it afforded a shelter; the most livable of the rooms were put to immediate use and the whole fort was completed within a short time.
The new home must have looked desolate after the comfortable life in Salt Lake. It was situated at the mouth of the precipitous Kanab Canyon, with blazing red sandstone cliff surrounding it on the north and the east, while to the south could be seen the distant blue of the Buckskin mountains of the Kaibab. Everywhere red sand touched a pinkish hue. The sagebrush and greasewood were so high that little Lucida found that it completely hid the buggy and horses when she was a little distance away. The only water was the small shallow stream that ran over the red sand, often in warm weather drying up entirely miles above the settlement. In spring flood time great torrents of rolling red water came down from the mountains above Kanab. Always too much or too little water. In summer when the creek dried up in dim day before I reached town, the people would have to dip up the water in large barrels early in the mornings in order to have enough for use during the day. Sometimes the men would take four or five barrels on sleigh runners over the sand up the canyon to where there was enough water in the creek to dip up.
In September when Brigham Young visited the settlement and found out about the water problem, he told Levi: "I promise you that someday this creek bed will wash out so that there will be an abundance of water." Twenty years later the prophecy was fulfilled. Immense floods came that deepened the channel from a mere surface ditch to a chasm 100 feet deep, with a constant flow of water.
In the meantime the people had made a dam several miles up the creek to catch the flood water, and had dug ditches to carry it to their fields. They had home reservoirs for drinking water. Many times the dam would be taken out by the floods and the crops would die for want of moisture during the many months that it took to build it back again.
In September 1870 the rest of the family arrived with the families of the other men, as well as new families. At the conference President young held at this time the ward was organized with Levi Stewart as Bishop, James Little and Ed Noble as counselors. This position Levi held until shortly before his death when his health failed.
The Navajo Indians were hostile but the local Piutes were friendly to these whites who treated them with kindness. Margery and "Aunt Macy" taught the Indian mothers how to bathe and care for their babies. They gave them clothing, for even the adults were naked. When I was a little girl in Kanab, I remember old Sally Squaw telling me how Grandmother had dressed up her papose inher own baby’s clothes and had doctored its ills.
In December of that same first year 1870, came the tragedy that was to leave its scar on the lives of this family and almost disrupt the entire settlement. The Navajo and Northern Indians had been making raids on the settlements. The young men took turns guarding the cattle at night from a small dugout in the side of a hill. The other men took turns guarding the fort. Once Jacob Hamblin persuaded the Navajos to come to Kanab and hold a peace conference. But there was always tension.
On the night of December 14, the guard who was to relieve Brother Pugh as guard at one o’clock did no awaken but seemed to be overpowered with sleep. He was roused once, then twice, and even started to dress. Brother Pugh went home and to bed, thinking all was well, but in some way the guard fell back over on the bed asleep, leaving the fort unguarded. At four o’clock, fire was discovered in the Stewart section of the fort. Little Lucinda remembers how her father rushed to see what he could do and how her mother quickly threw a spread around herself and rushed over to the burning portion. Their own room was safe as it was separated from the burning part by many feet. There was a space left for another room which had not yet been built and which was protected only by a row of wagons drawn together. These wagons were used as sleeping quarters for some of the older children. The kitchen roof was already ablaze so there was no hope of saving that part of the house. But in the bedroom next to it, the one on the corner, slept the boys, Margery’s three, Artemacy’s two, a hired man, and Levi, the youngest son of the first wife, Melinda. This room had no windows, as did none of the outside rooms of the fort in order to make them impregnable to the Indians. The only exit was through the flaming kitchen. Levi and other men, knowing that this bedroom held stores of kerosene and powder, seized axes and started battering out the logs of the wall. They got two logs out and crawled though into the suffocating smoke filled bedroom. They found the beds empty and no one in the room. It was impossible to get into the blazing inferno of the kitchen. They knew that the smoking powder and kerosene might explode any minute, so they crawled back out. Levi ordered the others out and carried two kegs of powder already smoking and dumped them into the creek. Then the kerosene exploded and went up in flames.
Little did Levi realize what was happening on the other side of the kitchen. When Margery rushed out of their bedroom, she immediately took in the situation and knew that the only hope for the boys was through the kitchen. Her mother love was greater than her fears or her reasoning power, and unseen by any except her daughter Ella, who happened to be there from Pipe Springs, she rushed into the flames. Ella tried to follow her mother but was held back by the men. Once in the kitchen, Margery met Artemacy’s boy Lon and the hired man, Harvey Stout, who, blinded by the smoke, were groping around trying to find an exit. She pushed them through the door and turned to find the others. No one knows what really happened then. The explosion prevented anyone else from entering. They found the six charred bodies; the mother and three boys were found huddled in the immense fireplace as if she had been trying to lift them up the chimney. One was under the big stove, less burned than the others. They dug out the bodies and sadly buried them in one grave. Alonzo told afterward of how Levi , Jr. had tried, when they found themselves trapped, to lift the sod roof off the bedroom, but it had been too firmly packed with grass and willows.
The funeral was heart-rending. Some of the neighbors tried to sing but their sobs prevented it. One after another, several brethren tried to speak but no words would come. It was the heartbroken father and husband who alone could control his emotions enough to offer his tribute to the beloved wife who had given her life to save her sons.
It is hard to imagine the heartbreak and gloom that enveloped the little settlement. Levi was crushed by the terrible tragedy, but still his valiant spirit held steadfast. When the other men said they wanted to give up the settlement, that they could not bear to live there longer, Levi begged them to stay and complete the mission President Young had sent them to perform. At last when they still wavered, he said, "Well, if you must go, God be with you, but as for me, I will stay if I have to stay alone." The other men remained.
Levi never dared give way to his grief before others because he felt that as their leader he must keep up the morale of the disheartened people. Jacob Hamblin told of finding him one day away up the canyon pouring out his grief and praying for strength. His health gradually broke until five years later he begged to be released from the Bishopric.
As soon as President Young heard the news of the fire, he set out in his buggy for Kanab to offer what comfort and spiritual strength he could. He had greatly admired Margery and was always free in expressing his confidence in Levi and his admiration and friendship for him. He said, "Brother Levi, Sister Margery went to heaven in a flame of glory." And indeed her memory has always been enshrined as a heroine in the hearts of her children and descendants.
Artemacy who at the time of the fire was ill expecting a baby in June, fainted when she tried to get out of bed. She was now the mother of the remaining family, her four and Margery’s four. (She later had two other children.) Always she was a most devoted mother, doing as much for one as for the other. Lucinda testified later that if her own mother had come back she wouldn’t have known which she loved most. The older children sensed the loss more, but Lucinda was so terrified by what had happened that she never for months would walk past the burned corner of the fort, but had to be carried with her face hidden on someone’s shoulder.
John R. Young was sent to be President of the United Order in Kanab. Levi Stewart put in all his goods, his cattle, his store, and his field, and whatsoever he had. His family had always lived in comfort and plenty. From now on they had no more than the poorest of their neighbors, just so much of everything was portioned out as it was needed. But he never complained for he considered this a commandment from the Lord. Later, when the Order was given up, his sadly depleted property was restored to him.
Artemacy was in very bad condition from the shock of all that happened. When the time approached for her baby to be born, Levi, who was rebuilding, sent the oldest boy Thomas with her and the younger two children to Payson where she could receive the proper care and where they could stay with relatives. Levi came up to be present at her confinement, but found the baby boy, Benjamin Levi, already born. Later in the fall when they returned they found a nice new home awaiting them; and eleven-room adobe, all plastered, painted and papered. When Brigham Young first came down and stayed there, as he always did on his visits until Levi’s death he said,"Why Brother Levi, you have built a beautiful home here. I could think I was right in Salt Lake City." (The Kanab adobe proved to be of poor material and this building cracked so that after Levi’s death, Artimacy had to have it replaced by brick. This brick building was the one later occupied by the Edwin D. Woolley family. His daughter, Mrs. Israel Chamberlain, is the present owner.
Those in Kanab who prospered most were the cattle and sheep men who found good grazing on nearby mountains. In 1870 a portable steam sawmill was to be set up. Brigham Young arranged for this and for Levi Stewart to run it. At first it was at Scootumpah, south of the East Fork Mountains. Then it was moved in 1871 to Big Springs on Buckskin Mountains. The houses in Kanab were mostly built from lumber from this mill. At first his elder sons ran it. Again it was moved a few miles further south to Castle or Rigg Springs or DeMott Park. He paid the Indians for the water rights and had a large herd of cattle there. In the summer the family went out either to Big Springs of the Park and made large tubs of butter and cheeze to last the year round as well as for sale. This was always a pleasant experience for the ones privileged to go along, as the scenery was most delightful.
Levi also had part interest in a tannery in which they made leather for their ordinary purposes, for there were in the town shoemakers and men who could make fairly good harness. He also had an interest in a gristmill that was placed a few miles up the canyon. In this the settlers ground flour, buckwheat, cornmeal, and cereals. In order to finance these things he sold his stock in Z.C.M.I. He had brought $8,000 with him from his property in Salt Lake with which he stocked his store in Kanab. He owned the only store there. He also owned at the time what is known as Cave Lakes, Three Lakes, some fruit land in Dixie, many horses and cattle. The telegraph was for years in the Stewart home.
On the second trip from Salt Lake, even though every item to be taken to the new home must be considered carefully because of the long distance over the rough canyon roads,little more that trials, they brought along a Mason and Hamlin organ. This organ was in the family until a few years ago when it was destroyed by fire.
Levi was always very just and friendly with the Indians and the local Indians were loyalty itself. They would bring their blankets and pine nuts to his store in Kanab and he would send them to Salt Lake and get the best prices he could for the owners. Sometimes when game was scarce he would kill a beef and give it to them. Once Old Stub, of the Kanab Piutes, was at Lee’s Ferry and saw the Navajos on the warpath and heard their plot to attack Kanab. He was afoot, but he determined to get the warning to the little outpost. He ran, walked, anyway he could to get the warning to Kanab, eighty miles away. It was freezing weather. The men later said his way could be tracked by his bloody footprints in the snow. He went directly to Levi Stewart and fell exhausted as he gave his news. In this way the whites were prepared for the Navajos so that when they came a little later they were met by the intrepid Jacob Hamblin. He finally persuaded them to come to a council in the fort. After much talk, promises were made and they smoked the pipe of peace.
Levi’s health had never been good since the fire. In 1877 he was further pained at news of the death of the beloved friend and leader, Brigham Young. He told his family that he would not live long, although he was then only 66. In June 1878 he left home for Salt Lake City. He had leased his sheep to James A. Little on a share basis and was on his way to sell wool which he hauled to Nephi. Grandfather was riding in his spring buggy with James A. Little. He told Brother Little that he felt tired and wished to lie down on his bed which was arranged in the back of the buggy. (Two bags of wool served as a mattress and a fairly comfortable bed was made for the entire trip, which would mean several weeks each way over those rough roads.)
Brother Little looked back to see if Levi had got down all right and saw him sitting swaying unnaturally with the motion of the buggy. By the time he got back to him he was dead. The little cavalcade of wool teams and buggy turned sadly back to Kanab. First they had to pass through the Indian Camp. The Indians knew something had happened when they saw the well-known spring buggy. When they were told the news, they wept and cried out, "We haven’t any father now, we haven’t any father now. No one will take care of us any more." Every man, woman, and child followed the wagon into town wailing in this manner.
At home the news did not come entirely as a surprise. He had told his family a few weeks before that he was called to the other side, that there was work for him to do. He had given directions as to his burial. Lucida, who was now thirteen, said she wept all forenoon of the day he had died away from them. She had felt that all her world had slipped away. When she saw the messenger, Uncle Lawrence Mariger, coming she said, "Father is dead!" Artimacy, who had her two-month old baby Ethel in her arms, fell to the floor stunned, even before this was verified when they heard the wailing of the Indians, "We haven’t any father now."
At the funeral, James A. Little said that the morning of his death Levi Stewart was filled with visions of the hereafter. "If ever a man was filled with a knowledge of the beauties and the mysteries of the hereafter, he was that morning as we rode along."
Levi Stewart is buried in Kanab by the side of his wife and sons who had died so tragically seven years before.
-Marjery Browne Cottam