LEVI STEWART

(1812-1878) Son of William Stewart and Elizabeth Van Hooser

Written by Delva Stewart Ricks, a great granddaughter

It has been said of old, "By their fruits ye shall know them". Here then are some of the fruits of my earthly sojourn: "Told as it could have been written by Levi Stewart and in some cases he did write the actual words." Delva Stewart Ricks.  

There is joy in ones heart to be able to say, "I was born of goodly parents." My ancestors had been among some of the earliest immigrants to come to these shores to escape the tyranny of the old country and find the freedoms afforded in the newly discovered lands of America.

The ancestry to which my direct lines are traced are found in North Carolina and then my people moved into the State we now know as Tennessee. From the South, my parents traveled Northward. It was in Illinois, the town Edwardsville, in Madison County, that my Mother, Elizabeth Van Hooser, gave birth to me on April 28, 1812. My Father, William Stewart, was pleased to have a third son, but perhaps my mother would have liked a daughter. She never knew the pleasure of having one. My parents had five sons in all. The first born they named Squire but he died in infancy. All others, Riley, William Jackson, Urban Van, and myself reached full maturity. 

In these early frontier days, it was necessary for the families to live close together and help one another in order to meet the tasks of daily living. When one family moved, the whole family moved. For example, when my wife, Melinda, and I moved from Illinois to join with the group of people known as, "Mormons" my brothers and mother also came and lived not far from us in Daviess County, Missouri. Mother was a widow at the time, and lived in one of my brother's households. (Elizabeth and William had divorced and she was living with her son, Urban Van)

 Melinda Howard, my second cousin, and I married when I was but eighteen. Our wedding day, 7 February 1833, was a happy one indeed for me. She was a good homemaker, an excellent weaver and an expert spinner and dyer of woolen cloth. She kept us well clothed and would prepare delicious meals from the game I would bring in.

 It was about the year 1836, when two Mormon "Elders" came into our community of Luck Creek, Illinois. I was interested in what they had to say about this new religion. When they left, it was not too long before other Mormon missionaries came and yet more. My interest was so stirred that I decided I must go to the headquarters in Far West, Missouri, and learn more first-hand from those who dared to claim that there had been a Prophet of God raised up by the Lord, to restore His Gospel in its fullness. With this in my mind I traveled to Far West in the spring of 1837.

 The earth was alive and radiant with the new growth along the countryside. Our Father created many beautiful wonders for man to enjoy and be a part of. Feeling excited and looking forward with much anticipation, I met with some of the leading men of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. From the start I was impressed by the good men I met, and of the sincerity of the message. I wanted to be a part of this great work so recently begun. As the season had brought new growth, I began a new life by entering the waters of baptism on April of 1837, before I returned to my family in Illinois.

 The spirit of "gathering" burned within my bosom, so, Melinda and I sold our property as expediently as possible and made the move to be near the saints in Far West. Our sorrow in leaving Illinois was the grave of our little girl Melinda Elvira born the 27th day of February 1836 who died October 15, 1837.

We began our journey with our two living children, Elizabeth Jane, four; and our newborn son, Joseph Abraham. We arrived and began to settle in along the Shady Grove Creek area about the Fourth of June 1838. As we'd been taught the ways of industry we soon had ourselves in rather comfortable quarters for the frontier.

Our pleasing circumstances were soon to be marred by tensions and mob violence against members of the church. This was then to uproot our lives in a manner never before experienced. Petitions to the Governor of the State fell on deaf ears. The Governor saying it was important to stop the rising tide of fury against the people who called themselves a "Mormon. We were among those forced to flee the State of Missouri for our very lives. Our claim against the State for our lands and home was in the amount of some $3,950.00. This brought little solace and nothing to fill the empty coffer.

Traveling northward, I took my family into Iowa. We lived there for a short time with our fourth child, John Riley, being born to us near Council Bluffs on the 21st day of November, 1840.

The year 1843 found us once again with the Saints. We'd gathered into the State of Illinois and found a haven in Nauvoo. We established a home and many experiences to enrich our lives became our blessings.

It was my joy to become a part of "The School of the Prophets!" An appreciation for learning and cultural refinements were taught. The uniform I wore as a part of the Nauvoo Legion was special to me along with my sword. Every tenth day I tithed and would spend it working on the Temple we were building for the Lord. When a time for relaxing came, the manly sport of wrestling was engaged in; however, none of us could best our beloved Prophet Joseph. We would welcome this time of diversion to refresh our tired bodies from the hard toil we were engaged in of building this city. I will go into some detail at this point, for what we did here was to be the same later in the West. One man by the name of Samuel A. Prior wrote in the History of the Mormons: "I gazed for some time with fond admiration upon the plain below. Hereand there arose a tall majestic brick house speaking loudly of the genius and untiring labor of the inhabitants, who have snatched the places from the clutches of obscurity and wrested it from the bonds of disease; in two or three short years rescued it from dreary waste to transform it into one of the first cities in the West. The hill upon which I stood was covered over with dwellings of men. Amid them was seen to rise the hewn stone and already accomplished work of the temple which was now raised fifteen or twenty feet above the ground...I passed on into the more active parts of the city looking into every street and lane to observe all that was passing. I found all the people engaged in some useful and healthy employment. The place was alive with business, much more so than any place I have visited since the hard times commenced. I sought in vain for anything that bore the marks of immorality, but was both astonished and highly pleased at my ill success. I could see no loungers about the streets, nor any drunkards about the taverns. I did not meet with those distorted features of ruffians or with the ill bred or impudent. I heard not an oath in the place, I saw not a gloomy countenance; all were cheerful, polite and industrious."

Such was the activities of this illustrious ancestor! Can we as part of his posterity say we have engaged in such functions? Nay, we do not build new cities but we can be productive citizens. (Now his story once again.)

The year 1843 brought another little daughter into our home only to be called away again after such a brief stay. Emma was born February 15, 1843 and died the 26th day of May 1844.

I was called to fill a six-month mission for the church in April of 1843 and though it was a hardship and sacrifice our testimonies sustained us. The following letter I wrote upon my return to Nauvoo to the "Times and Season!' 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. 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; who 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."

On my first Mission for the church in April of 1839, in company of John D. Lee, we walked 30 miles the first day and had a discouraging time trying to find lodging. Finally we were invited in for the night by a man who said he had "just as leave entertain horse theives as Mormon preachers" but, to come on in anyway. We spent a comfortable night and left early the next morning. The next day was not so discouraging. In the next town we met a lady as we stopped for a drink of water. She invited us into her home to preach the Gospel to her friends and family. People who know me say they know I enjoy talking to people and explaining gospel principles. They are right. At home I talk to my neighbors and this mission took us into Ohio, Kentucky and then to Tennesee where we stayed sometime with relatives in Overton and Jackson Counties.

Two events that were faith promoting to me I shall relate at this time. The first occurred as we were making our way through the darkness while fleeing Missouri. Melinda was holding the baby, Joseph, in her arms when we hit something and he was jolted from his mother's arms. The wheel of the wagon ran over his head. We were frantic and fully expected to pick him up dead. He lay as if his very life was crushed from him. His little head was horribly flattened. Holding the Priesthood of God, I laid my hands upon him and administered to him giving him a blessing. Melinda joined me with her faith asking for divine aid. Our prayers and supplications were answered inasmuch as the child was healed and he never suffered any ill affect. He. Joseph, lived to be 59 years of age and was a fine intelligent man. The second event I would like to share happened after the Prophet Joseph Smith had suffered martyrdom. There were those who thought that the killing of Joseph Smith would put an end to the rising tide of "Mormonism," however it was followed by an increase in the Latter-day Saint ranks. The leadership was being challenged by several. Brigham Young, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, made arrangements for a conference of the Church to be held. I had returned from my mission so I was in attendance at this conference. I bear record to my family in all humility, when Brigham Young stood up to speak, it was in every respect as if the Prophet Joseph was there. His voice, his appearance, everything was the same. I beheld the transfiguration of Brigham Young! I knew the mantle of the Lord had fallen upon him to now lead and guide His people. I knew Brigham Young was the Lord's mouthpiece. I named your Grandfather Brigham Freeman Stewart after this good man.

I shall now make quick work of the rest of my story for you should by now feel of my spirit and the things I stood for.

We were driven from our homes in Nauvoo, as we had become a very powerful force in the State and some of the officials were afraid we would take over the running of Illinois. Persecution set in and in the most inclement season of the year, we were forced from our homes. We crossed the river on thin ice. Our makeshift tents and coverings gave little comfort. Many people became ill; there was deep distress among the Saints who had been compelled to leave their comfortable homes. Though I had left with the first company of Latter Day Saints going west, I was asked by Brigham Young to stay at Winter Quarters and run a kind of commissary for those who would be coming on in other groups. For the next year our family remained in Nebraska performing the needed task of supplying the companies of Saints to the best our ability to do so.

My partners in life and I spent our adult lives as colonizers and as pioneers; helping to build the west and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We worked hard and took care of what the Lord blessed us with. It was my good fortune to run a general merchandising store, operate a paper mill, farm, graze cattle and sheep, bring in equipment and have the first lumber mill in Southern Utah. It has been a blessing to my family for me to fill missions for the church, and help in the building of three of our Father's Temples; Nauvoo, Salt Lake and the St. George. There have been many trials, losses, tribulations and sacrifices in connection with the living in this our "Second Estate". We came here to this earth to be tried so we could become what manner of men we might. To myself and to my family, I have lived life and fulfilled the callings given me to the extent my natural talents would allow me to grow. May my posterity know of my great love and concern for their welfare. May each of you be blessed in righteousness to the fulfillment of your talents and gifts that our Father may endow you with. FAREWELL, til we meet again.

As we have felt our Grandfather's great spirit, may we now strive to learn a little of the three ladies he shared his life with. We've met Melinda, who followed where he led, struggled with the elements in their travels, and maintained a home of the comforts that were available to them. She bore ten children and gave her own life in the birth of twin girls born 30 Oct. 1853. Nov. took her! She had to be a lady of much courage, faith, (not only in her Maker but also in her husbandís abilities), fortitude, and patient. She was sealed to her loving and caring husband the 14th day of January in the year 1846, in the Nauvoo Temple before leaving for the West. Three of her children died in infancy and three others only lived a short life span, the oldest of these three being 36 years and the others 13 and 22 years. Elizabeth Jane reached the age of 63 and was married to Moses Franklin FARNSWORTH. Joseph Abraham lived to be 59, and he married Sarah Elizabeth EWELL. John Riley married (1) Frances Ellen VAN HOOSER and (2) Eliza STEVENSON and reached the age of 76. Louisa the 6th child was born June 16, 1845. She married Nephi Porter STEVENSON and was 46 years old when she died in 1891 March the 7th.

 Margery WILKERSON was born in 1832 and became the wife of Levi the thirteenth day of December in 1852. She crossed the plains with her family. Originally of Indiana, they too had gone to Missouri to join the saints. In Salt Lake in 1852, a friend of Levi's drove up with a company of emigrants and told Levi he had brought him a wife. Thinking little of it he said, "That's nice". Four months later they did marry and were later sealed in the Endowment House on February 13, 1853. Margery bore him eight children of her own and aided in the care and rearing of the children of Melinda's upon her death the 24th day of November 1853

To speak the name of Margery one must reflect on her courageous daring in which she gave of her life trying to save the lives of others. December the 14th, 1870 was etched on the hearts of the family members left to mourn the grievous loss. Perhaps the raging fire that started and spread so rapidly was caused by a burning torch thrown there by a prowling Indian. Her daughter, Ella remembered how her mother threw a spread around her shoulders and rushed into the fire. She was headed to the room in which some of the boys of the family slept. This room had no windows or doors, as did none of the outside rooms of this once used fort. This was meant to make it a stronghold against the Indians. The only exit was through the flaming kitchen. Once in the kitchen Margery found the hired man, Harvey Stout with Alonzo, the ten-year-old son of her sister, Artemacy. She pushed them through the door and turned to find the others. No one knows what really happened then.

 When it was over and cooled to the point one could work in the ruins, the mother and three small boys ages 13, 9, and 7 were found huddled in the immense fireplace; charred. It was believed that in the smoke filled room Margery had thought she had found an exit. Her arms were around her three children giving comfort in this agonizing period. Alonzo told afterwards how Levi, 22 year old son of Melinda, realizing they were trapped, tried to lift the sod roof of the bedroom, but it was too firmly packed with grass and willows to give way. Levi also perished along with Urban Van, the 13 year old son of Artemacy. Not knowing this drama was enacted, Levi Stewart and other men aware that this room contained stores of powder and kerosene, seized axes and battered through the wall from the outside. When they crawled through the narrow opening they found the room filled with smoke and the beds empty. No one was in the room! It was impossible to get through the blazing inferno of the kitchen, so Grandfather Levi ordered everyone out and they carried with them two kegs of powder already smoking and dumped them in the creek; then the kerosene exploded into flames!

 Margery's mother love was greater than her fear for herself! "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Margery exemplified this in her action.

 Levi never dared give up to his intense personal suffering, inasmuch as it was he who was the leader in the community and to whom the people turned to in all matters. He served not only as Bishop of the Church but also as the Mayor of Kanab, Utah at this time. Four days later he wrote the details of the fire and it was published in the Deseret Evening News under the date of 22 December 1870. The great Indian "Peacemaker," Jacob Hamblin told of one day finding Grandpa alone in the canyon, on his knees pouring out his grief and praying for the strength needed to carry on with the great responsibilities given to him. In front of the members in this small and struggling community he did not give vent to his feelings as he must keep up the morale of the disheartened people. His health gradually broke, and five years later he was released from the Bishopric.  Upon learning of the tragedy, President Brigham Young made a trip alone to offer personal condolence to the bereaved father and husband. He stated: "Brother Levi, Sister Margery went to heaven in Glory and Bravery!"

 Alone with a small child to care for, Arteimacy was asked to join the household of her sister, Margery, and Levi Stewart in a plural marriage. Alone in the wilds of a hostile environment, with few comforts, harsh weather conditions and the need to provide for her son, William Jackson Cassaday, she joined the Stewarts in holy matrimony. The family records indicate that Grandfather, Levi, adopted young William.

While Levi was busy in business pursuits; developing a tannery, a grist mill, and as an officer in the Brigham Young Express Co., his wives were just as busy caring for the ever growing family and the many weary travelers or sick imigrants who needed kind attention to be nursed back to health. The basement of their home frequently housed a whole family until arrangements could be made for them elsewhere in housing of their own. The Stewart family home was located between Fourth and Fifth South and between Main and State Street. Levi had been given this choice piece of property upon arrival to the Salt Lake Valley. It was directly across the street from Emigration Square, the place where all the "saints" stayed when they first drove into the city. Flour, meal, sugar and other commodities were shared, especially did their hearts go out to the members of the handcart companies. One traveler sojourned with them seven years.

And so, the family lived and prospered for about fifteen years with a second home established in an area called Big Cottonwood. In March of 1870, Levi received a calling from President Brigham Young that was to draw upon all their human efforts to endure. They were asked to go to a Southern most point in Utah to colonize an area described by some as the least accessible in the United States; the community remaining so until after 1920.

Margery was given the opportunity to accompany Levi on the initial trip inasmuch as Artimacy was recovering from the shock of childbirth and then losing the baby two months later. "Aunt Macy" (as she was lovingly called by Margery's and Melinda's children) elected to continue at home to maintain it and give direction to the children who were to aid her in this endeavor. There were eleven young people to help with the chores and run the farm. They ranged in age from 21 to 3 years old, with our own grandfather, Brigham Freeman, being just a lad of five at this time.

The month of May found the group prepared and ready to go to the designated place. Brigham Young had further asked the family to select one of the daughters to learn telegraphy as they intended to extend the line of the Deseret Telegraph Company to Kanab and Pipe Springs. Young Louella (Ella) was chosen for this task at the tender age of 15. She along with her older brother Thomas, nearly 17 and Lucinda 5 accompanied their parents into the south wilderness. By pre-arrangement with Brigham Young, Ella was left at Toquerville to get the needed training.

The trip took nearly six weeks but the different duties and the relative quiet was a good time. Levi and Margery did not realize they soon were to be parted in this earth life. They arrived June1870 where they found an old fort west of where Kanab now is. This had been built as a protection against the Indians. Portions of the fort were cleaned and used to shelter the family that had come. Within a short time after their arrival the whole fort that had needed repair was re-built and completed.

Artieacy and the children in Salt Lake were brought down to Kanab in September 1870. It didn't take long for these two sisters to engage in worthy pursuits. While the men worked on the community buildings, ditches, damming streams, hauling water for drinking and spreading the Gospel to the friendly Indians, they engaged themselves in teaching the Indian women how to bathe and care for their infants. They made and shared warm clothing with them, as the Indian people were in need of warmer clothing often times.

Two stories in regard to the Stewart family dealings with some of their Indian friends seem appropriate here.

Bishop Levi Stewart won the friendship of the Indians. He loved them, preached the Gospel to them, and showed them how to be a better people. One of the Indians he had converted was baptized on a very cold winter day. Upon coming out of the water he seemed so chilled that Bishop Stewart took off an extra heavy wool shirt he was wearing and helped the Indian man put it on. According to the story, early the next morning,Levi Stewart's family was visited by a large number of the natives who had come to be "baptized Mormons" so they could have warm shirts, too.

The other story tells of the loyalty given to Great-grandfather by "Old Stub" a Piute of Kanab. He was at Lee's Ferry, and saw the Navajo's on the warpath. He overheard their plot to attack Kanab. Old Stub was on foot but he walked, ran, or moved anyway he could to get the warning to the little outpost. It was in cold freezing weather. Men later said they could track him by his bloody footprints. He reached Kanab, eighty miles away, went directly to Levi Stewart's home and fell exhausted as he gave his news. The settlers were thus prepared for the Navajos when they came a little later. They were met by the intrepid Jacob Hamblin who persuaded them to come into the Fort to a council. After much talk and promises they smoked the pipe of peace.

At the time of the fire, Artemacy was not feeling too well and had fainted when she arose from her bed to help. It was such a sad time for all the family. So often the greatest healing balm any of us have at a time such as this is the demands life gives to us in the service we must render in behalf of those who remain in our care. A devoted mother, now she had the responsibility to care for the remaining children of her beloved sister, Margery.

That she performed this labor of love in a most excellent way is attested to by the remark made by the little Lucinda. Later in life when she said that if her own mother had come back she would not know which she loved the best. Thinking of Atemacy's welfare when the time drew nearer for the birth of the new baby, Levi sent her with the oldest boy Thomas. He was to drive Artemacy and the two younger children to Payson, Utah where her parents were so she could have better care.

Levi was involved in building. When he brought his wife, Artemacy, back to Kanab after the birth of Benjamin Levi, on the 27th of June 1871, a brand new home awaited them. It was a two story six-room home completed in 1872.

Great-grandmother bore one more child Aunt Ethel who was just a little baby when Great-grandfather passed away. His health had begun to fail after the heavy toll of grief from the events of the hard years in Kanab. Though he would not shrink from any duty he was asked to do, nor turn a calling aside, the tragic incidents left their mark. When his close friend and leader, President Brigham Young, died in 1877 he told his family that he would not live long.

While beginning a trip to Salt Lake City on business, death came swiftly and quietly. This account from the diary of Lawrence C. Mariger, a son-in-law, who was with him when he passed away: On June 12th we started for Salt Lake City, each having a team. Brother James A. Little accompanied us as a passenger, and Edward A. Noble with his team. We stayed at Johnson on the night of the 12th at my sister's. The 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 campfire. 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. We hitched the teams up while Brother Noble was taking his breakfast and left camp about 10 o'clock. 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 and remarked that it was making him sweat right good. I told him perhaps a drink of water would help him. He drank some and said he felt better. Brother Little got into the wagon and took the lines and told Brother Stewart that he had better lie down on the bed in the back part of the wagon, which he did. 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. We immediately turned the wagons around and returned to Kanab. We arrived about 3 p.m. with the body.

Artemacy lived an additional 35 years after the death of her husband. She passed away in December 1914 at one of the children's home in Alamo, Lincoln, Nevada.

 And so ends the life sketch of the parents of Brigham Freeman Stewart. They had their losses but kept going, disappointments but they rose above them, heartbreaks and their faith helped them endure.