(1814-1884) Brother of Levi Stewart

By Hannah Friel Davis

 William Jackson Stewart was born in Overton Co., Tennessee the 19th of December 1814. He was the fourth child and son of William Stewart & Elizabeth van Hooser. All together there were five sons in the family—Squire (who died in infancy), Riley, Levi, William Jackson and Urban Van Stewart. Throughout his life he was known as "Jack" Stewart, particularly in Utah and the West.

After the Blackhawk Indian war had taken place in Illinois in 1818, he moved with his parents to Madison Co., Illinois where his mother’s parents had moved in 1812. There he met and married Sarah Dickens Gentry September 29, 1833. His wife was born Feb. 24, 1815 in Adair Co., Ky. She had migrated with her parents, Robert Gentry & Julia Simpson, to Madison Co., Ill. prior to 1830, before they moved on to Carroll Co., Missouri.

To this union eleven children were born, eight of them being born before they migrated to Utah. They were: Permelia Jane, b. 16 July 1834 Madison Co., Ill.; Sarah Elizabeth, b. 8 Jan. 1836 Carroll Co., Mo.; John, b. 2 Dec. 1837 Daviees Co., Mo.; Uel, b. 3 Mar. 1840 Quincy, Adams, Ill.; Neri, b. 18 Jan. 1842 Nauvoo, Ill.; d. –Sept. 1844; Esli, b. 23 Feb. 1844 Nauvoo, Ill.; Melchi, b. 10 Oct. 1846 Running Water, Nebraska; William Jackson, Jr., b. 3 June 1849 Fremont Co., Iowa; Eunice Ann, b. 1 Dec. 1851 Springville, Uri Electus, b. 19 Jan. 1855 Springville, & Erie Stewart, b. 28 May 1857 Springville, Utah.

When the family came in contact with the LDS church, William Jackson Stewart’s wife, Sarah, became the first one in this family to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This took place Aug. 18, 1836. A month later William Jackson Stewart followed his wife into the waters of baptism. Both had joined the church only six years after it had been organized.

While the family lived in Carroll & Daviess Co., Missouri, much opposition towards the Mormons continued to oppress them in the form of mobs attacking them. On an election day in Gallatin, Missouri, William Jackson Stewart’s brother, Riley, encountered some men who called Joseph Smith a liar. Unable to withstand the prophet’s name being slandered, Riley struck a man by the name of Weldon with his fist. The mob who’d been picking for a fight jumped on Riley, stabbing him in the shoulder and nearly beating him to death. The Mormons there took up the fight and rescued Riley from the mob. After that, the Stewart brothers were constantly harassed by the mobs. As a result, all of them soon fled back to Illinois where Riley settled in Madison County and William Jackson settled in Quincy, Illinois.

During this time they encountered all the trials and tribulations the main body of Mormons encured. William’s mother, Elizabeth (Van Hooser) Stewart, who had joined the LDS church in her old age, and moved with her sons wherever they went, finally settled in Nauvo. She died here in 1843.

After Joseph Smith had died, it became evident that the Mormons would have to press on or else their homes would continue to be burned and destroyed, their lives constantly in jeopardy. So, William Jackson and his family started their journey across the plains. They didn’t arrive in the Salt Lake Valley with the first group, but made it by the fall of 1849. During this struggle to cross the plains, they had two more children.

The Stewart family settled in Springville, Utah where he owned and operated a store of general merchandise. When "Jack" arrived, he brought a lot of trinkets to sell. He built a house of logs that was located in the south-east corner of Springville. Later he moved to the south side of the old fort, which is now west of the Jefferson School. His store was another log house, which had stables and coops facing east.

In that pioneer store, he carried everything he possibly could. He took in his trade everything that he could possibly use or trade again. Because he paid well, he always had men and boys working who needed supplies from the store. He took poles, posts, firewood, hides, grain, hay, butter, cheese, eggs, and traded them again. He even traded horses, mules and wagons. He was a keen trader and built up a lot of means in those days.

Goods hauled from the Missouri River by teams cost so much that, by the time they were ready to sell, the price seemed unreasonable. One year the country produced an usual amount of wheat, making the price of wheat drop as low as 25 cents per bushel. A man with wheat to sell in exchange for a pound of tea went to Gid Wood’s store on the north side of town. Gid told him that tea was so expensive and wheat so cheap that it would be "robbery" on his part to make the trade and refused to do it. So the man went to "Jack" Stewart’s store and asked how much wheat he would take for a pound of tea.

Jack spoke slowly and deliberately, "Naturally, if you want tea, you can have it for $5.00 a pound. It will take twenty bushels of your wheat to pay for it." The man delivered the wheat and took the tea.

William Jackson Stewart also owned 160 acres across from where the present Jefferson School now is. In its southwest corner a grove of bexelder trees planted by mother nature existed. Here for years the Sunday School held their annual outing. In those days they were called "jubilees" and the young girls and boys spent many glorious days there. That was when Springville had one bishop, William Bringhurst, and one Sunday School.

Uel Stewart’s sons and grandson once owned homes on part of this property. Eunice Ann’s children owned the northwest part of the property. Besides this large tract of land in Springville, William Jackson Stewart also owned land in Spanish Fork and the Cherry Ranch in Juab County, Utah.

In the autumn of 1854 William D. Huntington, William Smith, L. G. Metcalf, "Jack" Stewart, Jams Mendenhall, and John Whitebeck were called with others to go to the Elk Mountains in Arizona and look for a place or places for colonization. Under the guidance of High Forehead, a local Indian chief, the group set out. While on this trip they discovered some of the wonderful dwellings and fortifications of the cliff dwellers. One stone house, which they explored, sat on a shelving cliff and contained twenty-five rooms.

While on this journey, many times they were compelled to take their wagons apart and lift them piece by piece up the perpendicular sides of the cliffs while others led their animals around a circuitous and dangerous path to the heights above. When the wagons could be taken no farther, they were abandoned. The party returned home shortly before Christmas without finding a desirable location for settlement.

In 1857 "Jack" Stewart was called to serve a mission to the Eastern States. Instead of a proselyting mission, he was one of the missionaries who’d been sent back east to bring a handcart company westward.

While on this mission his eleventh child and seventh son was born. After he’d returned home and found out when the child was born, he realized he had camped beside Lake Erie that night, so they named their son after Lake Eire.

About the year 1859 or 1860 "Jack" Stewart, Jacob Houtz and William Bringurst financed the first cotton factory on Spring Creek. They brought cotton from the Virgin River country in Washington County and spun it into cloth. Solomon Chase built the factory, which was later abandoned when cotton became cheaper to purchase from the states than for them to make it. Then they transformed the mill into a woolen mill by putting new machinery in and made rolls and batts and woolen clothes for dresses and men’s suits. This factory stood one-and-a-half miles northwest of Springville. Jack finally sold the controlling interest to James Whitehead in 1876, who also made woolen clothes for several years before it burned to the ground.

In 1875 the Provo Woolen mills began. "Jack" put quite a large sum of money into this factory, which manufactured fine flannels, blankets, and even had contracts with the government for suiting navy uniforms. "Jack" prized this stock highly and told his children to hang onto it because it would always clothe them. This factory paid their help in script, which was traded to other people for the things they needed. This factory closed in the 1920’s, but it served the people well for sixty years.

During those early days, "Jack" was the only man in town who loaned money. He always had in whether he got it out of an old tin can, an old sock, a pile of sacks, or a hole in the ground. Because he was cautious, he always took a long time talking it over, learning what the money was going for, and how the borrower expected to pay it back. He hummed and hawed, then said, "He’d see." Because he never came to a rash decision at first and they had to come back to him and dicker some more, he was called "stingy and a miser." Yet he only got a note for security and lots of times he didn’t even get that. If he lived now in the hard days of borrowing, he’d be considered a generous and good man.

There was no bank in Springville during his lifetime and money was money in those days. He exacted high interest and, of course, a few people paid up. Often he told those who borrowed from him that if they didn’t pay him back in this world, they would have to pay four times in the next. When he loaned seed wheat, he asked for the wheat in the fall with a peck on each bushel for the accommodation.

William Jackson Stewart was a gruff character who argued and refused to have anything put over on him. Sometimes he appeared to be hard-hearted but, in reality, he was kind and full of feelings.

He died December 5th, 1884 in Springville, Utah at his home on the south end of main street where the D. &. G. Railroad now crosses the street. His wife, Sarah Dickens Gentry, preceded him in death August 11, 1882. Both are buried in the Springville Cemetery. When he died he left thousands of dollars in loans that were never paid.

Part of their epitaph reads: " . . They both were truly kind to us and lent a willing hand to help the poor and needy and God was their right hand. To all who on these verses gaze, this is the Lord’s command—Each be faithful to the end and help our fellow man."