MARGERY WILKERSON

1832 - 1870, Wife of Levi Stewart

(written by daughter, Lucinda A. Stewart Brown; edited by 2ggranddaughter, Marion Stewart Peterson 1997)

Margery Wilkerson Stewart was born in Jackson County, Indiana on 16 Nov 1832 where her mother had gone to visit relatives her home being in Illinois at that time. Her father, Thomas Wilkerson, was born in Virginia and his father, David Wilkerson, was an intimate friend of George Washington and was with him in the Revolutionary War. He crossed the Delaware that memorable Christmas in the same boat with General Washington.

He moved to Kentucky where he married and buried his first wife. Soon after, he met and later married my grandmother, Eliza Fallowell Hampton.

My mother was their oldest daughter and was named for a great grandmother who lived to be one hundred and two years old. Being the oldest daughter of a large family she was expected, at an early age, to help her mother. When she was only eight years old she would go with her mother, who was an expert weaver, and took contracts weaving all kinds of fine cloth. Margery would assist by tending the baby and winding bobkins. In this way she soon learned to spin yarn and flax thread and also to knit and later to weave.

Her younger sister, who later became my stepmother, told me that they made all their dolls and toys. They would get a little piece of white cloth and print flowers on it with the juice of berries making some purple, red and pink using this to make their doll dresses.

In those days cook stoves were scarcely known and my mother learned to cook over a fireplace. She was a grown woman when the first stove came into the neighborhood. Her parents were industrious, honest, hard working people and she grew up with the same high ideals. At the age of nineteen she crossed the plains, with her parents, driving ox teams. In the year 1852, a few months later, she was married to my father, Levi Stewart, in the Endowment House at Salt Lake City on 13 Dec 1852. This was a plural marriage, my father already having a wife and family. The following August, Levi's first wife gave birth to twin daughters and it was followed by a long, serious illness.

On 18 October 1853 my brother William Thomas Stewart was born. Mother was at the home of her mother, and when the baby was three weeks old, father took the two of them home. Levi's first wife was anxious to see the boy. She held him in her arms and kissed him saying, "He is ugly, but he is beautiful." This good and noble woman soon after passed away leaving a large family to the care of her daughter Jane and my mother, Margery.

My mother's sister, Artemacy (Macy), came to help with the family. She had been left a widow with one child. Later she married my father, and for seventeen years the two sisters lived in perfect harmony in one home. One man, who worked for my father for seven years, said it was impossible to tell which children belonged to my mother or my aunt. The two older girls, Ella and Sarah, played a game of changing mothers and if one mother was busy, the other would nurse her baby. If trouble arose among the children at their work or play, either mother would go out and settle things either by reproof or correction as if all were her own children.

My grandmother was a midwife and her daughters inherited a natural ability for nursing and caring for the sick, comforting and helping those in trouble. Once when my father was presiding over the Mill Creek Ward, a young mother from Denmark, unable to speak English, brought her young baby to Church to be blessed. The little one began to fret and cry until the mother was so embarrassed she did not know what to do so my mother took the baby to the stove and uncovered its feet and warmed them and the child began laughing. The mother was unable to express her gratitude except with tears and smiles. It was little kindnesses like this that endeared her to so many people.

We lived just across from Emigration Square and when the weary footsore people would arrive, my parents would take as many of them home as they possibly could, sometimes as many as seven or eight would make their home with us until they were married or made other arrangements.

In 1869 my father was invited to go with President Brigham Young and others to visit the Muddy Settlements and Southern Utah. My mother and brother, Tommy, went with him. It was on this trip my father first saw Kanab and received a call to take his family and colonize that country.

In the spring of 1870 my father, mother, brother Tommy, sister Ella and myself, then five years old, started for Kanab, accompanied by my brother-in-law, Frank Farnsworth, Ed Noble, Allen Frost, John Rider and others. We stayed in Toquerville a few days, then went on to Pipe Springs where we stayed three weeks before moving on to Kanab, arriving there about May 20.

Some people who had left the Muddy had stopped here a year or two before and partly built a fort. We found it in this condition. Jacob Hamblin, his wife Louise, Charlie Riggs from Santa Clara came the same day we did and a little later the Mangrums and James Wilkins came. My mother, Louise Hamblin and myself were the very first women settlers. I was just a child. My sister, Ella, had been left in Toquerville to learn telegraphy and later took charge of the office at Pipe Springs. She is on record as the first telegraph operator in Arizona.

My mother began to take an interest in the Indians. They were almost naked except for a breech cloth. I remember seeing mother put some of the babies in a tub of water and give them a good scrubbing and then dress them up in some of my clothes I had out-grown. I also remember watching her trying to teach the squaws to wash clothes.

In the fall my father and the other men, after repairing the Fort, returned north for their families and great number of people were coming by this time. I will try and give a list of the ones that were in the Fort that winter. We had four rooms; two on the west and two on the north. Next to us on the west were first Brother Frost, Brother Rider, Brother Noble, James Wilkins, Jim Mangrum and Ammon Tenny next to ours. On the north were Frank Farnsworth, Brother Brown, Brother Bunting and McComels. On the east were Jacob Hamblin, George Adair, Charlie Riggs and others in tents. There were no houses on the south side - only a rock wall.

On the night of December thirteenth 1870, or rather the morning of the fourteenth, we were awakened about 2:00 am with our kitchen on fire in the corner room. Seven of our boys were sleeping with no way out only through the burning kitchen. In trying to get the boys out, my mother ran into the burning building. She succeeded in pushing two of the boys to the outside door, my brother Alonzo, then ten years old, and a hired man, Harvey Stout. My mother gave her life trying to save the others.

A few days before her death, my sister, Jane, lost a little girl four days old. She was the first white child born and buried in Kanab. While preparing it for burial, mother said that she hoped when she died she would have friends enough to lay her away nicely. But all they could do with mother was to wrap her remains in pieces of linen.

Thus ended a noble and useful life at the age of thirty eight.