A SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF LEVI STEWART
Adapted from writings by Lucinda A. Stewart Brown, daughter and Clarice Stewart Anderson, granddaughter and Preston Nibley for the Church Section of the Deseret News
Edited by 2nd great-granddaughter, Marion Stewart Peterson
If we could turn back the hands of time, back to the early years of 1800, and to visiting among the hills of Overton County, Tennessee, we would find there sons of the descendants of Samuel and Lydia Stewart. It was here about 1807 our progenitors 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, excepting Levi.
Levi Stewart was born 28 April 1812 in West Edwwardsville, Madison County, Illinois where Elizabeth had gone to be with her mother for the event. He was the third son of William and Elizabeth Van Hooser Stewart. His great-grandfather, Samuel Stewart, lived in Augusta, now Rockingham County, Virginia. In 1746 he moved to Rowan, now Forsyth County, North Carolina, on the banks of the Yadkin River. His great-grandfather, Joseph, moved to Overton County, Tennessee, when Levi's father, William, was born. Levi lived in Tennessee until he was about ten years old when the family returned to Illinois where he grew to manhood and worked on his father's farm.
Little was 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. Character and pleasing personality won many friends wherever he went.
On 7 February 1834 (12 February 1833) Levi married Melinda Howard, who, with her husband, were visited by missionaries in Vandalia, Illinois and were baptized in April of 1837 by Jefferson Hunt. They were married in the Nauvoo Temple in 1846. Levi moved to Caldwell County, Missouri and remained there until the Saints were driven from the state. He then moved to Iowa and later to Nauvoo, Illinois where he was active in the Church. He served as a missionary in southern Missouri in 1843 and was successful in baptizing 24 people.
Melinda and Levi had the following children born to them: Elizabeth Jane, Melinda Elvira, Joseph Abram, John Riley, Emma, Louisa and Levi Howard. They bore the persecutions given the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints while they were in Illinois and Missouri. He was deeply attached to the Prophet Joseph and also to his brother, Hyrum. At the time of the martyrdom, he and his brother, Urban Van, were on a mission in Southern Illinois. They never completed the mission because they were called home on account of their mother's death.
After the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1844 Levi followed the leadership of President Brigham Young in the exodus of the Saints to the west. As they journeyed across Iowa he made frequent trips back to Nauvoo to carry the mail. Reaching Winter Quarter, Nebraska, Levi remained with his family until the spring of 1848 when he continued the journey to Salt Lake Valley, arriving with the company reaching Salt Lake City in September of 1848.
Grandfather Levi was a man of courage, applying himself to the Church, and as a reward he was blessed with land and he prospered. He built a home across the street from the City and County Building, then called Emigration Square on Fourth South and State Streets. He was one of the first merchants in Utah. He was sent back east in the light wagon by President Brigham Young and Heber C., Kimball, and brought a lot of merchandise as his share of the enterprise. With this he started a store.
In 1848 Levi was a hunter in President Young's big company that came to Salt Lake that year. Being enterprising he held many important positions in the community. His name also appears on speaking assignments in the old Bowery and the Tabernacle.
Levi's first store was located just west of the Deseret News Building and across from the Tabernacle. Afterwards, he and Bishop Hunter started to build a big store at Fifth South on Main Street. President Young asked them to give up the idea as he had something else in view, meaning the organization of ZCMI. At the President's request, he put what money he could spare into cooperation as it was called. Soon after, he was called to devote his time and money to the building of a paper mill. He worked at this for some time. During these first years in Utah he was in the Bishopric of the 8th Ward.
On 13 (23) December 1852 Levi married Margery Wilkerson. In 1853 Grandmother Melinda's twin daughters, Merinda and Meranda were born. Happiness followed by sorrow for Melinda gave her life for these babies. She left three sons: Joseph, John and Levi and five daughters: Jane, Louise, Emeline, Meranda and Merinda (twins).
Margery and Levi had eight children: William Thomas, Eliza Luella, Charles Courtland, Margery Ann, Heber Carlos, Edward Lorenzo, Lucinda Araminta and Hyrum Smith. On 25 December 1854 Levi married Artemacy Wilkerson, a sister to Margery. They two lived happily together, taking care of the little ones left by Melinda, as well as their own. Levi and Artemacy had ten children: Sarah Lucretia, Urban Van, Alonzo Lafayette, Mary Artemacy, Seymour, Brigham Freeman, David Brinton, Ellen Lenora, Benjamin Levi and Ethel.
In 1864 Levi bought a farm at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon. He moved his entire family out there and was chosen First Counselor to Bishop David Brinton. He used the five hundred dollars he could raise for some machinery for the paper mill; then, President young released him from the mill and gave him a contract on the railroad. This put him on his feet again.
He went on a tour with President Young several times, visiting the various settlements of Utah and Nevada. On the last trip they went to Kanab and President Young asked him to colonize that place. This was in March 1870. In May, 1870, he left his home in Cottonwood, with his wife, Margery, their oldest son, Tommy, their daughter, Luella, and their youngest, Lucinda. The trip took six weeks. Kanab had been settled as early as 1864, but on account of trouble with the Indians, only five families were there when Levi Stewart and his group arrived. Among them was the famous Indian missionary, Jacob Hamblin. On the way to Kanab they went through Toquerville where they left Luella to learn telegraphy.
The family went as far as Pipe Springs where they remained until the 14th of June. At This time the fort at Pipe Springs was being built and the men plowed and put in grain and corn before going on to Kanab. They also brought the telegraph line to Pipe Springs, and Luella was the operator making her the first operator in the state of Arizona. The next year it was brought to Kanab. President Young was anxious to be in communication with outlying settlements on account of the Indians.
In the company that left Pipe Springs for Kanab were: Levi Stewart and his wife Margery and three children from Big Cottonwood; Brother But of Big Cottonwood; Allen Frost, Bountiful; John Morgan, Goshen; William Thompson, Bountiful and T. Jackson Stewart, Big Cottonwood. Some of these men stayed at Pipe Springs until the next day. Then they came on to Kanab. Here they found Jacob Hamblin, John Mangun, James Mangun, George Ross, James Wilkins and families living in the fort. These earlier settlers and a few others built the old fort and came in the spring of 1869 to live.
Some of the rooms of the southwest corner were unfinished. All of them were full of vermin from the Indians. Rattlesnake skins were in some of the rooms, showing who had been the tenants. The local Indians were glad to have the people come and were loyal friends.
In September President Young came again to Kanab. He organized the ward with Levi Stewart as Bishop and Lyman W. Porter and Ed Noble as counselors.
The townsite was chosen and surveyed by Jesse Fox. Charlie Riggs was one of the chairmen. Water was very scarce, the hot sand of the creek bed drinking it up until it would not reach town, sometimes until 4 p.m. in the evening. The President, seeing this, said, "Brothers, the time will come when this creek bed will harden until there will be plenty of water." This happened twenty years later. In November, the rest of his family came to Kanab. Levi also brought a saw mill, which was put up north of Scootum Paw, afterwards, removed to Buckskin Mountain. He was stock raiser and had an interest in horses and mules.
On 14 December 1870 a catastrophe occurred that almost broke up the settlement. Five of Levi's boys were sleeping in the northwest corner room of the fort. It opened into the room used as the kitchen. The kitchen caught fire, cutting off their escape. Levi tried to save them by lifting the corner of the dirt roof, but it was too heavy. When the alarm was given, the men did all they could to rescue them. Margery, unseen by the men at work, rushed into the flames. She found her nephew, Alonzo Lafayette and Barbey Stout. Pushing them through the door she saved their lives. Before she could find and rescue the others, a keg of kerosene exploded, killing the six. Regardless of this terrible tragedy Levi was determined to remain and do what he had been called to do.
He built a new home with eleven rooms where many pleasant evenings were passed. In 1871, his youngest son, Benjamin Levi, was born in Payson, Utah on June 27th.
In 1873 or 1874 they established a grist mill and a tannery under the direction of James L. Bunting. Most of the boots and shoes worn by the people of Kanab were made from leather which was made in this tannery. Even before the United Order the people tried to be self-supporting.
Levi also ran a store. He bought all the pinenuts and bunkins from the Indians giving them clothe and clothing for they were practically naked when Kanab was first settled.
There was one thing that Levi Stewart was greatly interested in, although he had very little schooling himself. He was anxious to give the children every advantage possible making every sacrifice to meet his obligations. Once he sold a one-hundred-dollar watch to pay the teacher for in those days each child was charged tuition.
His health was never good after the fire. It affected his heart causing an asthmatic condition. The struggle in the desert coupled with the weight of his grief took a heavy toll on his strength.
Levi was a great reader, a student of nature, quite an astronomer and could use the compass in surveying. He was also an excellent mathematician.
He was released from the Bishopric after the United Order, L. John Nuttal taking his place. He had been a bishop or a counselor for twenty years. Just after the Kanab Stake was organized with William D. Johnson as bishop, Levi began to have spells with his heart. About this time, on the 16th of April, his daughter, Ethel was born. It was close to his 66th birthday.
In June, 1878 stake conference was held. On the 8th he left for Salt Lake to sell the wool from his sheep. His former counselors, James A. Little and Edward Noble, were with him. They drove to Johnson, loaded up and started early the next morning. At 10 o'clock he said he would lie down if Brother Little would drive.
Levi Stewart passed away on 14 June 1878 leaving one wife and fifteen children and a host of friends. The funeral and burial were held the next day in Kanab. Speakers at the service were James A. Little, W.D. Johnson, Jr., and President L. John Nuttall. They extolled him as being a devoted husband and father and a true and faithful Latter-Day Saint and elder in Israel. He was buried in the Kanab Cemetery next to his wife, Margery, and his children. A marble monument was erected to his memory. Grandfather Levi was the father of 28 children. Certainly the name of Levi Stewart should go down in the history among the valiant builders of the west. May the memory of his faith remain ever in the hearts of his descendants.
On 11 April 1950 a tablet honoring Levi Stewart was placed on a monument which was erected on the spot where Fort Kanab once stood.
Note: Assistants in research to Clarice Stewart Anderson were: Ellen Stewart Honsley, Logan, Utah and Zoan Houtz Bean, Hollywood, California