A LIFE HISTORY OF LEVI STEWART

Compiled by Susan Sherwood Arnett, ©2021, used with permission to the Scudder Association Foundation
With a few historical facts and notes added by Scudder Association Foundation Historian
All rights reserved.
 

Levi Stewart picture[1] 

Levi Stewart’s journals were lost in a tragic fire, so these recollections about his life are taken primarily from accounts by his children and grandchildren. A few other sources have been added to provide historical context, including connecting him to his Scudder ancestry.

Levi Stewart’s maternal ancestors from the Scudder and King families came to America in earliest colonial times with the Puritan migration in 1637 and 1635, respectively, and his New Netherland ancestors, Pietro Alburtus arrived in 1635 and the Manje family by 1642.[2] Levi’s furthest back proven Stewart ancestor, Dr. John1 Stewart, is documented first at Long Island from 16861697 but, as a serious study of all of his available historical records in three colonies exposes, his origins are not yet proven by any primary source record, although he has been the victim of numerous historically unfounded and speculative efforts to give him other peoples’ identities.[3] In 1697, Dr. John1 Stewart moved his family to Shrewsbury, Monmouth, New Jersey for three years and then to Sussex County, Delaware in 1700 where he died between 1 September 1704, the date he made his will, and 13 January 1704/5, the date his will was probated.[4]

Born in Delaware about 1740, Levi5 Stewart’s grandfather, Joseph3 Stewart, moved as a child with his parents Samuel2 and Lydia Stewart to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and then to Rowan County, North Carolina. By the late 1780, Joseph3’s family was moving westward from North Carolina to eastern Tennessee, eventually settling at Overton County, Tennessee. About 1807 at Overton, Levi’s father, William4 Stewart, married Elizabeth Van Hooser (some pronounce it Hoover), the daughter of Abraham Van Hooser and Mary Williams (Wilhelm). Abraham Van Hooser’s ancestors are thought to be among early settlers of New Netherland by about 1640. His ancestral Williams family from Wales was in the Shenandoah Valley in the mid 1700s.

Childhood. William and Elizabeth 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. Unless otherwise noted, this history is compiled primarily from histories written by two of Levi’s granddaughters, Clarice Stewart Anderson and Margery Brown Cottam.

Levi Stewart, third son of William Stewart and Elizabeth Van Hooser was born 28 April 1812, at West Edwardsville, Madison County, Illinois, where Elizabeth had gone to be with her mother for the event. After the birth of her baby, Elizabeth took her little family back to Overton county, Tennessee. There they lived until Levi was about age twelve year of age when his parents, William Stewart and Elizabeth (Van Hooser) Stewart, were divorced 13 September 1824. The four surviving children were Riley, Levi, Jackson and Urban. (The oldest son, Squire, had died in infancy.) Little else is known of Levi’s young years, but photographs show him growing to be a man of large stature, well over six feet tall, with dark hair and blue eyes.

Marriage and early life. On the 12th of February 1833, Levi married his cousin, Melinda Howard, daughter of John Howard and Jane Van Hooser of Effingham, Madison County, Illinois. She was a first cousin on the Van Hooser line and a fellow Scudder descendant on the Stewart line, being the granddaughter of Lydia Stewart and Abraham Howard. Lydia4 Stewart, the eldest sister of Levi5’s father William4, had married Abraham2 Howard (John1), in 1782, before her younger brother William4 Stewart was even born. Melinda4 Howard was a generation younger on the Stewart line than her husband Levi5 Stewart. Levi took his bride to Vandalia, Fayette County, Illinois to make a home. Here their first three children were born: Elizabeth Jane, 18 May 1834; Melinda Elvira, 27 February 1836 (who died in infancy); and Joseph Abram, 1 April 1837.

Melinda Howard Stewart and Children

Melinda (Howard) Stewart and Children

Life was almost primitive, with 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, card 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 manufacturing from carding, spinning, dyeing, weaving, and sewing into well-made garments. Melinda was the typical thrifty housewife, even at an early age.

Levi’s conversion. In 1836 two elders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Murphy and Peter Dustan, stayed a few days with Hanford Stewart, a cousin of Levi who lived in Vandalia. 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, 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 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 memoirs of one of his 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.[5]

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 which was to be his guide throughout life

Early version of the The Book of Morman

Early edition of the Book of Mormon.[6]

 The move to Missouri. The next we hear, the little family 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 Daviess County, at a place called Narrowbone, afterward, Ambrosia. Levis brothers Riley, Jackson, and Urban, also lived nearby and their mother lived with one of them. The country around for some fifteen or twenty miles each way was settled by the Latter-day Saints. The location of the new Stewart home was a good one with plenty of pure cold water; and a small lake nearby was filled with many kinds of fish so that there was an abundance for any needs. There were also groves of oak and hickory on the rolling land all about. Before many months, a fairly comfortable home was established.

W. P. Peniston, candidate for representing Daviess county in the state legislature, had been bitterly opposed to the saints. He was active in the agitation which caused their removal from Clay County and fearing that they would not support him in the election, he planned to prevent the saints from voting in Daviess County.

In July 1838, Levi visited the settlement of Adam-OndiAhman and remained at the home of Judge Morin, a 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 stand their ground and maintain their rights.

The Saints were now being persecuted and driven from their homes because of sentiment against the Church. Levi was a devout believer, an active member, always willing to defend his leaders, and his Church against those who would destroy them. He was present at the election held 6 August 1838.

Determined to vote. When election day arrived, no heed was paid to the warning of the judge, however, and the saints went to the polls unarmed. Peniston was at the polls and harangued the voters against the Mormons. He accused the leaders of being rascals, and the rank and file he denounced as dupes, and thieves. He declared that if the Mormons were allowed to vote, the old settlers would soon lose their suffrage. In the midst of this abuse a local bully, Richard Weldon, assaulted Samuel Brown, one of the brethren.

Following the assault upon Brown, the fight became general and a number on both sides were bruised and otherwise injured, though none were killed on either side. When they said that Joseph Smith was a liar, Levis brother, Riley could stand it no longer and gave Weldon a stunning blow. The mob then fell on Riley, knocked him down, and kicked him crying, Kill him, kill him, shoot him!” They would have killed him had not John L. Butler sprung in amongst them and knocked them down. Riley was stabbed in the shoulder and severely battered but managed to escape to the home of his wifes brother. As long as he stayed in Missouri the mobs sought his life. During about five minutes it was one succession of knock downs, when the mob dispersed to get firearms. Very few of the brethren voted. It is admitted by Missouri’s historical writers (History of Daviess County, Birdsall & Dean and History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties), that the old settlers undertook to prevent the Mormons from voting; that the old settlers were the aggressors; that they began the row; and that the blow which began the hostilities, was uncalled for.

The old settlers were the first to withdraw to arouse their sympathizers and to arm themselves.  Meanwhile the saints had become determined to maintain their rights and a renewal of the conflict seemed inevitable. Under these circumstances the county authorities in charge of the election came to the brethren and pleaded with them to withdraw, saying that the riot was a premeditated thing to prevent the Mormons from voting. The brethren being unarmed withdrew to their farms, collected their families, concealed them in the hazel thickets and stood guard over their wives and children through the night as they lay on the ground in the rain.

Near tragedy turned into a blessing. During the persecution that followed the Saints in Missouri, Levis 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 mothers 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 a healing blessing 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.

Persecutions. 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.” 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. Levi Stewart was among those who were forced to march double file and surrender themselves and their arms.  Then 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 at 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 wifes 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. 

General Wilson was in charge of 500 troops sent to force upon the Saints the signing of the treaty of Adam-OndiAhman, 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-ondiAhman but the officers, who seemed to have taken a liking to their guides, gave them a pass saying they had passed their examinations and had been approved as innocent and allowed them to go to 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 Joseph Smith and the leaders were still in prison, we have a record of Levi Stewart going with a companion to Father Smith (Josephs 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 also to be set apart to the ministry.

LDS Pioneer Missionaries by Robert Theodore Barrett

LDS Pioneer Missionaries by Robert Theodore Barrett, with permission 

Hyrum Smith, the prophets brother, gave Levi a patriarchal blessing, which is on file in the Church office. Shortly afterwards, Levi was ordained to the lesser Priesthood, possibly under the hands of Joseph Young and Levi Hancock.

Church History references state that among claims filed against the State of Missouri for property destroyed when mobs drove the Saints from their homes, was a claim by Levi Stewart for $3,950, a sizable amount for those days.

The move to Illinois. The Stewart family left for Fayette County, Illinois, about the middle of February 1839, about 8 1/2 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. But 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.

First mission. After making arrangements for the comfort of his family during his absence, Levi 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 log-rolling that day and many people were around the house. They requested lodging for the night.  Their request 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 their 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 in. They were served a good supper and soon Levi was enjoying himself talking to the family. Lee said of Levi, He was a great talkerliked to hear himself talk.”  His fine character and pleasing personality won many friends wherever he went.

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 to preach to the people she would call in.  It was here that they preached their first sermons. They then 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 his 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, preaching and explaining the Gospel to the people nearby.

Back home. Levi returned to his family in Quincy 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 and Levi gave one out of every ten days to work on the Nauvoo Temple.

As sentiment grew more bitter, and the people were driven from pillar to post, Levi took his family to Iowa. Here, a fourth child, John Riley, was born 21 November 1840, near where the city of Des Moines now stands. Afterward, Levi and Melinda went back to Nauvoo, where two more children were born: Emma 14 February 1843, who lived less than a year, and Louisa, 16 June 1845.

In Nauvoo Levi 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. The School of the Prophets began in January 1833 at the Newel K. Whitney home in Kirtland, Ohio and taught the leaders both theological and secular learning. The school provided a setting for spiritual experiences and in-depth discussions of gospel principles, as preparation for those who would preach as missionaries. One such experience was the revelation now known as the Word of Wisdom. This is mainly where Levi developed a love for learning and culture and it meant so much in later pioneer days in Utah when he was to be instrumental in molding the lives of others. 

Second mission. At a conference held at Nauvoo, 10 April 1843, Levi and James Pace, father of John Pace of St. George, Utah, were later called to labor as missionaries in Missouri. 

Under the date of 13 April 1843, from Journal History, Elder Levi Stewart wrote from Nauvoo to the Times and Seasons 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, and 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 

Levis name is mentioned frequently in Church history during this period in connection with the life of Joseph Smith, as well as with his brother, Hyrum.

Third mission. Levi was sent on another mission to preach the Gospel in nearby states, in company with his brother Urban. They were called home, however, because of the death of their mother, Elizabeth Van Hooser Stewart on 27 August 1843 at Nauvoo. Again, they went forth only to be called back —this time because of the assassination of the Prophet Joseph Smith on 27 June 1844.

Back 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.

Things finally came to a head the Nauvoo charter was revoked[7] and the Saints were soon to be driven out. The Stewarts were among those whose comfortable homes were taken away from them, whose crops were burned. The ruffian who took their house merely came in and told them they had just so much time to clear out. He then threw his suspenders at Levi and declared that they were to pay for the place. Margery Cottam, Levi’s granddaughter said, “Grandfather was a very uncomplaining person, so he seldom talked of the hardships he passed through. We wish he had left a detailed story of these stirring events in his life.”

While in Nauvoo, Levi tried to sell his property, but had to flee from the mob, after disposing of only a part of his holdings.   In the Nauvoo Neighbor, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, Wednesday, October 29, 1845 appeared the following notice:

For sale or exchange for lands near or within twenty miles of Nauvoo. A farm of 200 acres, 185 improved, good buildings, a first-rate orchard, situated ten miles south of Pinckneyville, Perry County, Illinois. For further particulars enquire of Levi Stewart.

When the Nauvoo Temple was opened for endowments, Levi and Melinda received their endowments on 22 December 1845 and were sealed in the eternal marriage covenant on Jan. 13, 1846.[8]

A 19TH-CENTURY DAGUERREOTYPE OF THE ORIGINAL NAUVOO TEMPLE

A 19th-century daguerreotype of the original Nauvoo Temple

Preparation for exodus. The Saints worked unceasingly at the manufacture of wagons, harnesses, and other articles needed for the journey west. Trees were cut, the lumber was boiled in salt and water or else dried in kilns to cure it quickly and toughen it. Leather was tanned, iron was hand wrought by blacksmiths into wagon wheels, rims, axles, horseshoes, and the like.

By February 4, 1846, the first contingent left Nauvoo and crossed the river. Levi 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. As the persecuted Saints moved westward, families were scattered over the prairies. Temporary settlements were made for the benefit of companies who would follow later. These settlements that were scattered across Iowa were known as Camps of Israel.” Levis name is mentioned frequently through this period of Church History, being closely associated with President Brigham Young, having left Nauvoo with the main exodus of the Saints early in 1846 in Brigham Youngs large company. At this time, he was in charge of important mail between these Camps and Nauvoo. The following items of interest were copied from Journal History:

Camp of Israel, Richardsons Point, Iowa, 55 miles west of Nauvoo March 12, 1846. About seven oclock, Levi Stewart arrived from Nauvoo bringing 34 letters for individuals; one to Orson Hyde from President Young; March 16, Levi delivered more mail, one letter for Orson Hyde; May 12, 1846, President Young sent Levi with letters to Trustees at Nauvoo, to send 24 ox teams and wagons fitted for the western expedition, with flour, provisions, and necessary equipment. Also, to let Levi have one team and wagon to bring his family to the second Camp established at Garden Grove on their way to Zion.

In June 1846, he was sent to Nauvoo, with money and instructions to John D. Lee to procure cattle for the camp at Garden Grove, Iowa. This settlement was 145 miles west from Nauvoo on the Grand River. The company had reached here April 24, 1846.  While the pioneers lived in these settlements, or Camps of Israel”, they organized themselves into groups, each having specific responsibilities. One group took charge of the livestock, another was responsible for fuel, another to keep the camps working harmoniously together, etc. Levi was named foreman of one of the companies over the Second Camp.

In July 1846, the main body of Saints had reached Council Bluffs, then onward to Winter Quarters, now Omaha, Nebraska. By March 1847, Winter Quarters contained 41 blocks, 820 lots and 700 houses, log and turf, with 22 wards. Schools were established and missionaries sent abroad.  Most of the families were destitute. 

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 commissary. In the same way Brigham Young had others stay and plant crops that they themselves would never use but which would mean the difference between life and starvation for those coming later.

After arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young left Utah on August 26, 1847, to return again to Winter Quarters, and arrived October 31. Levi attended the General Conference held December 1847 when the new 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.

In Winter Quarters, during the privations and suffering of these Mormon people, a seventh child was born to Melinda and Levi, 6 May 1848. He was christened Levi Howard Stewart.

Winter Quarters by C. C. A. Christensen
Winter Quarters by C. C. A. Christensen[9]

The exodus. The first company left on the 9th of May, but Levi and his family did not leave until May 26th in the company of Brigham Young. There were, in all, 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. With their family of five children, Levi and his wife, Melinda, with many other pioneer families, continued their long perilous trek across the plains to join those courageous Saints who had reached Salt Lake Valley the summer before, in 1847.

As they moved westward, the Saints had to travel through lands belonging to the Indians:  the Pottawattami, the Sioux, and the Omaha Tribes. Church History states that in February 1847, Brother Levi Stewart had been authorized by a letter from the High Council, to call on Major Harvey, Superintendent of Indian Affairs at St. Louis, for a Government permit for the Saints to remain on Indian lands.

Salt Lake Valley. The company in which the Stewarts traveled from Winter Quarters arrived in Salt Lake Valley in September 1848, after four months of weary travel.

FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE VALLEY - SALT LAKE VALLEY IN 1847
“First Glimpse of the Valley,”  Salt Lake Valley in 1847[10]

Levi was allotted the entire block in Salt Lake City between State and Main Streets and 4th and 5th South streets. This is directly across the street from the presentday Salt Lake City and County Building which was at that time called Emigration Square. It was where all the emigrants stayed when they first drove into the city. At this time, Levi and Melinda had five living children, three boys and two girls. Three more daughters were born to Levi and Melinda after they arrived in Salt Lake, Emmaline and the twins Merinda and Marada. The advance party of the Latter-day Saints had been in Utah only fourteen months prior to their arrival and the first 1847 settlers view of the Salt Lake Valley was of a barren land full of sagebrush with one lone tree at what is now 600 East between 300 and 400 South. The Lone Cedar Tree is memorialized by a monument placed by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers in 1933.

LONE CEDAR TREE MONUMENT

Lone Cedar Tree Monument[11]

The Latter-day Saints lost no time as they began to build their new home in the Salt Lake Valley.

SALT LAKE VALLEY, 1850

Salt Lake Valley, 1850[12]

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; and, 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 an entire family would be taken into the Stewart home for days, weeks, or even months. In 1856 word came of the sufferings of two hand cart companies on the plains. They had started too late in the season and the 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 family were stricken in only slightly lesser degrees. The father would go out and bring in salt from the lake and this little legless 12-year-old girl would stand on two pitiful stumps and grind the salt which was then sold.

Levi Stewart’s great-granddaughter, Glenna Sanderson, shares this story she heard her grandmother Lucinda Brown, Levi’s daughter, “repeat in most solemn reverence saying that she saw it happen with her own eyes.”

Her father’s (Levi) house was large and built west across from Emigration Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. When the handcart companies arrived in such pitiful and destitute circumstances, he took several of the people into is home to live. One of them being a twelve-year-old girl whose legs had been frozen off just below the knees.

President Brigham Young visited Levi and told him that the Lord would bless him for taking these people in. President Young said, “I promise you that so long as you waste nothing you shall never be in want.” The crops had failed and the pioneers in the Valley were short of food for the winter. Grandma said she remembered that at this time, the beginning of the winter, that when her mother (Margery) opened the flour bin to get flour, there was just enough for one batch of bread. But a few days later, or whenever it was she went to make bread again, there was again just enough for one batch of bread. And thus it continued all through the winter; each time there was flour enough for one batch of bread.[13]

There was one traveler taken in, in this way, who lived in the Stewart household for seven years and worked for his board. His name was Godfreyson. His son lived to tell of the kindness of Levi Stewart to a friendless, 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.

Plural marriage. Levi Stewart was converted and baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1837, at age 25. He continued faithful to his new religion throughout the rest of his life. In Old Testament times, the Lord commanded some to practice plural marriage—the marriage of one man to more than one woman. By revelation, the Lord commanded Joseph Smith to institute the practice of plural marriage among Church members in the early 1840s. For more than half a century (between 1852 and 1890), plural marriage was practiced by some Latter-day Saints under the direction of the Church President.[14]

Women and men who lived within plural marriage attested to challenges and difficulties but also to the love and joy they found within their families. They believed it was a commandment of God at that time and that obedience would bring great blessings to them and their posterity. Church leaders taught that participants in plural marriages should seek to develop a generous spirit of unselfishness and the pure love of Christ for everyone involved.

The reasons for this practice are not known. But the results are known. Plural marriage resulted in the birth of large numbers of children within faithful Latter-day Saint homes. It also shaped 19th-century Mormon society in many ways: marriage became available to virtually all who desired it; per-capita inequality of wealth was diminished as economically disadvantaged women married into more financially stable households; and ethnic intermarriages were increased, which helped to unite a diverse immigrant population. Plural marriage also helped create and strengthen a sense of cohesion and group identification among Latter-day Saints. Church members came to see themselves as a peculiar people,” covenant-bound to carry out the commands of God despite outside opposition.

Levi Stewart was one of the 5 to 15% of Latter-day Saint men who practiced plural marriage.[15] Beginning in 1852 he married his first plural wife, Margery Wilkerson. After the death of his first wife, Melinda, he married one more plural wife, Margery’s sister, Artemacy Wilkerson. 

Not all families were as successful at plural marriage as the Stewart family, but the result was a remarkable family culture of love and respect for one another, service and faith in God. The Stewart family stories serve as an interesting contrast to todays individualism and self-focus.

Margery Wilkerson Stewart. In 1852, a friend, Brother Wimmer, 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 Margery Wilkerson. 

Margery Stewart and child

Margery Wilkerson Stewart 

Levi found that she had crossed the plains with her parents and several siblings. 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 on them. A quick friendship between Levi and Margery developed into a lifelong devotion. They were married four months later, December 1852.

The following children were born to them: ”William Thomas, 8 October 1853; Eliza Luella, 21 May 1855; Charles Courtland, 8 February 1857; Margery Ann, 24 September 1858; Heber Carlos, 25 April 1861; Edward Lorenzo, 1863; Lucinda Arminta, 6 January 1865; Hyrum Smith, 13 April 1867, a still-born baby. 

In the autumn of 1853, on October 30th, Melinda’s last children were born, twin daughters, Merinda and Marada. Happiness was followed by dark clouds of sorrow.  The mother, Melinda, gave her life for these babies within a short month; she passed away on 24 November 1853, of phlebitis. Within a year, Little Merinda was laid beside her mother. The other twin, Marada, died when about thirteen years of age.

Business and Church. Levi Stewart was a man of faith and courage. He obtained a good education for those times. He also applied himself diligently to his Church and business. As a reward, Levi was blessed and prospered and soon established a general merchandise store on the corner across from Temple Square. Listed with men doing a good cash business in Salt Lake City in 1854 is the name of Levi Stewart. His name also appears on speaking assignments. In the Old Bowery he delivered a sermon, 3 August 1857, choosing as his subject’ “Live in the Path of Duty.” On another occasion, he was a speaker in the Tabernacle. He is said to have had a good command of language, and was a fluent, convincing speaker.

Levi owned and farmed a large acreage on Big Cottonwood Creek, where he also built a home, and the family lived part of the time. Here he operated a paper mill for a few years.  In the spring of 1851, when Jonathan C. Wright was sustained as Bishop of Cottonwood Ward, Levi was chosen as first counselor and Charles Bird as second counselor. On July 15 this same year a baby girl was born at Cottonwood. She was called Emaline. In 1852 when Abram O. Smoot succeeded Jonathan C. Wright as Bishop, he chose Jonathan C. Wright as his first, and Levi Stewart as his second counselors. They served until 1854.

Artemacy Wilkerson Stewart. On 23 December 1854, Levi married Margery’s sister, Artemacy Wilkerson Cassidy, whose former husband had left her and his life among the Latter-day Saints, heading for the gold fields of California. Artemacy had married William Cassidy in 1850 in Illinois prior to the family’s exodus to Utah. One account states William Cassady returned from California to try to persuade Artemacy to go with back him. Due to her religious convictions and priorities, Artemacy made the choice to divorce Cassidy and remain in Utah with their only son.

ARTEMACY WILKERSON STEWART-2

Artemacy Wilkerson Stewart 

Levi and Artemacy had a family of ten children, namely: Sarah Lucretia, 22 December 1855; Urban Van, 30 December 1857; Alonzo Lafayette, 8 January 1860; Mary Artimacy, 6 September 1861; Seymour, 13 April 1863; Brigham Freeman, 2 April 1865; David Brinton, 12 February 1867; Ellen Lenora, 19 December 1369; Benjamin Levi, 27 June 1871; and Ethel, 16 April 1878. Levi also adopted Artemacy’s son William Cassady.

Being an enterprising, responsible man, Levi held many important positions in his community.  At one time he was vice-president of the Big Cottonwood Co-op Store. He was also an officer in the Brigham Young Express Company, known as the B. Y. X. Company. Later on, in 1868, when the Union Pacific Railroad extended its line from Omaha, to meet the Southern Pacific coming from San Francisco, he took a contract for part of the work in Weber Canyon, near Devil’s Slide, employing thirty-five men.

Again, on 18 March 1864, Levi was called to serve in the Bishopric, this time as second counselor to Bishop Sheets of the Eighth Ward, Salt Lake City. Robert Daft acted as first counselor. 

The following year, 1865, we find him back at Cottonwood, where he subsequently became first counselor to Bishop David Brinton. He served in this capacity until called to Kanab, in southern Utah in 1870.

Evidence of Brigham Young’s confidence in Levi, and their association, is noted in early Utah history, as well as at Nauvoo, and during the westward migration of the Mormons. During the last years he resided in Salt Lake City, he was granted the privilege of using President Young’s office two nights each week for his ecclesiastical duties. Records show that they made several trips together to the new settlements being colonized in Sevier County and farther south. These trips provided valuable information and experience for the calling which came to him later. 

There followed a year of illness for Margery who lost a child in a placenta-previa birth. 

Early in the winter of 18691870, President Young asked Levi to accompany him and his party of about thirty on an inspection tour of the southern part of the territory, 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 Zion’s Canyon; then via Pipe Springs to what is now Kanab. Conferences were held at each settlement.

The call to Kanab. When they returned to Salt Lake, a plan was already worked out by Brigham Young for a new frontier in this wilderness. He asked Levi to head a band of Saints to colonize and strengthen the settlement of 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 was 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. They must leave their home, fertile fields, and wellestablished business for new frontiers. But he and his two loyal wives never for a minute doubted the wisdom of President Young in asking them to make this sacrifice. No call seemed too great a sacrifice. It never seemed to have occurred to them that they were doing anything out of the ordinary. 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. 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.

Levi was instructed to select his own company for this mission. Following is a list of these families who moved to Kanab with him (copied from the History of Kanab Ward): Levi Stewart and family, consisting of 17 members: Moses Franklin Farnsworth and family, consisting of 7 members; David Brinton; Burt, the blacksmith; John Rider and family, consisting of 4 members; Lyman Porter and family; all from Cottonwood. Allen Frost and family, consisting of 6 members; Edward A. Noble and family, consisting of a family of 4; William Thompson and Edward Cooke, all from Bountiful, Utah. Other families followed later.

It was decided that the first group to go to Kanab should include only a few of the men and Margery and three of her children, Thomas (now seventeen), Ella (fifteen), and 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, Edward Noble, John Rider, Edward Stevenson, Levi Hancock, Lyman Porter, Dilworth Brinton, and Jacob Hamblin who joined them in Dixie with his wife Louisa.

For this pilgrimage they were instructed to take their livestock, tools, and farm machinery, besides stores of provisions necessary to meet their needs for two years. Margery’s son, Thomas, drove a large army wagon with some furniture and supplies. The parents with little Lucinda rode in a small one-seated buggy.

Because of the lack of roads, the trip had to be made by way of Utah’s Dixie, and then passing through Parowan, Cedar City and then Toquerville.

SALT LAKE TO TOQUERVILLE TO KANAB, UTAH

Salt Lake to Toquerville to Kanab, Utah, Google Maps

When they reached Toquerville, it was arranged for their daughter Eliza Luella Stewart to remain with the Haights 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 Springsthe first telegraph office and she the first operator in the Territory of Arizona. Ella sent the message to the world of John Wesley Powell’s exploration down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon. The following excerpt is copied from a letter Ella wrote to Leonard Heaton, the Superintendent of Pipe Springs National Park:

In March 1870, my father, Levi Stewart, was called as a missionary to colonize Kanab, Utah.

President Brigham Young asked Levi to have one of his daughters learn telegraphy as they intended to extend the line of the Deseret Telegraph Company to Kanab and Pipe Springs. In May 1870, father, on his way to Kanab, left me at Toquerville, Utah, to study telegraphy.

Early Life in Kanab. Traveling six weeks, the colonists reached Kanab on the eighth of June 1870, after having stopped a few weeks at Pipe Springs to put in gardens. They knew there would be no chance to plant crops in Kanab that year until canals were dug for irrigation.

They found an old fort north of where Kanab now stands, which had been built as a protection against the Navajo Indians. This had been occupied by Jacob Hamblin and four other families who had arrived and farmed a little the year before in 1869. At least it afforded a shelter; the most livable of the rooms were put to immediate use and the whole fort completed within a short time.

This fort was used as a temporary home for Levi’s family, as well as a general storehouse for supplies. From the time of their arrival at Kanab, Levi was in charge of the settlement. In September 1870, President Young and his counselor, Daniel H. Wells, visited this colony and organized a ward, choosing Levi Stewart as first Bishop of Kanab. His counselors were Lyman Porter (another history says, James Little was the counselor) and Edward Noble. They were ordained and set apart by President Brigham Young and Daniel H. Wells. Levi was bishop until shortly before his death when his health was failing.

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 cliffs 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 Lucinda 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 midday before it 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.

 

Levis Stewart

Levi Stewart

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.

FIRE!!! 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 as 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 not 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 dohow her mother, Margery, 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 feeta 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 the 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 through into the suffocating smoke-filled room. 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 H. 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 following letter written four days later by Bishop Levi Stewart, himself, and published in the Deseret Evening News under the date of 22 December 1870, tells this terrible tragedy in his own words:

We have received from Bishop Levi Stewart the following account of the terrible calamity which has overtaken his family:

Kanab, Dec. 18, 1870, via Toker (Toquerville): Ed. Deseret News: One of the most heart rending scenes took place on the morning of the 14th about 4:30 A.M., resulting in the death of my wife, Margery, and her sons, Charles C., Heber Carlos, Edward; also my sons, Levi H. and Urban Van Stewart who perished in the flames. Although there was a guard on at the time, he failed to know anything about it, until the cry of fire by myself, at which time two rooms were in a light of flame. Seven boys were sleeping in the back room, two of whom escaped thru the flames, there being no other opening to the room. My wife, Margery, rushed in through the flames to waken her children, and perished before there was any chance of rescue, although there was an opening made in the back part of the house within 5 minutes from the time we awoke but all had perished by the explosion of the coal oil which was stored in the room with them. E. H. Stout and Alonzo Stewart were the two who made their escape before getting badly hurt. They are out of danger at present, the latter only slightly burnt. The origin of the fire is a mystery to all.”

The News continued:

This is the most appalling calamity, we believe, that has ever occurred in the Territory since its settlement. We feel convinced that the sympathy and condolence of the entire community will be with Bishop Levi in the fearful dispensation of Providence which has overtaken him.

ST. GEORGE UTAH TEMPLE[16]

St. George Utah Temple 

St. George Temple, Faithful to the End. Notwithstanding, these brave souls must carry on. Homes had to be provided, the country must be developed. When the Temple at St. George was under construction, Levi and his sons set up a sawmill at Big Springs, on the Kaibab, then known as the Buckskin Mountain, and sawed and hauled lumber to help with the building. Levi assisted in building three temples: Nauvoo, Salt Lake and St. George.

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. By then his family had begun to live 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, and when the time approached for her baby to be born, Levi, who was rebuilding, sent the oldest boy Thomas and the younger two children to Payson, Utah with her 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, an 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, Artemacy had to have it replaced by brick.

This brick building was later occupied by the Edwin D. Woolley family. His daughter, Mrs. Israel Chamberlain, later lived in the home.)

In 1870 Levi Stewart set up a portable steam sawmill. At first it was at Scutumpah, south of the east fork mountains. Then it was moved in 1871 to Big Springs in the Buckskin Mountains. At first his elder sons ran it. Again. it was moved a few miles further south to Castle or Rigg Springs. 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 or the park and made large tubs of butter 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 harnesses. He also had an interest in a grist mill which 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 ZCMI. 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 and many horses and cattle. The telegraph was for years in the Stewart home. Those in Kanab who prospered the most were the cattle and sheep men who found good grazing on nearby mountains.

The friendship of the Indians was won by Bishop Stewart. He loved them, preached the Gospel to them, and showed them how to be a better people. An amusing incident is told in connection with one of the Indians he had converted and baptized. It was a very cold winter day, and after coming out of the water, the old Indian seemed so chilled that Bishop Stewart took off a heavy wool shirt he was wearing over his other shirt, and helped the old Indian put it on. According to the story, next morning early, Bishop Stewart was visited by a large number of the natives who had come to be “baptized Mormons” so they could have warm shirts, too!

On the second trip they made from Salt Lake, they brought along a Mason & Hamblin organ which was in the family for many years before it was destroyed by fire. Every item to be taken to the new home had to be considered carefully because of the long distance over the rough canyon roads, little more than trails.

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 the items 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 Kaibab Paiutes, 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 and 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 who finally persuaded them to come to a council in the fort. After much talk, promises were made and they smoked the pipe of peace.

Failing health. Levi’s health had never been good since the fire and after five years of faithful service as Bishop of Kanab, his health began to fail. The weight of his grief and the struggle to make homes in this desert, had taken a heavy toll on his strength. So, in 1875, Bishop Stewart and his counselors were released, succeeded by L. John Nuttall, who also acted as President of the Kanab Stake. In 1877, Levi was further pained at the news of the death of their 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.

Death & funeral. While en route to Salt Lake City, on 14 June 1878, death came suddenly and quietly to Levi Stewart, not far from home, at Black Rock, in Johnson Canyon.

 

Levi Stewart Death Notice[17]

The following account is taken from the diary of Lawrence C. Mariger, a son-in-law, who was with him when he passed away:

About June 1st 1878, Brother Levi Stewart and myself concluded to put what money we had together and start a Mercantile Institution in partnership. On June 12th we started for Salt Lake City, each having a team. Brother James A. Little, accompanying 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. 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.

In the morning we found that Brother Noble’s team had gone back toward Johnson, and he returned for them, getting back to the camp about 9:30 A.M. We hitched the teams up while Brother Noble was taking his breakfast and left the campground about 10 o’clock, Brother Stewart driving the middle team, Brother Noble drove behind and myself in the lead. Brother Little walked in consequence of the heavy sand.

We had gone about one-half mile when Brother Stewart spoke from his wagon and said that he had a 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, to which he replied that perhaps it would. I then stopped my team and took the keg of water back to 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.

We had gone about five or six rods when 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. This was a very strange death. He suffered comparatively little pain.

We immediately turned the wagons around and Brother Little and I returned to Kanab with the body, where we arrived about 3 p.m. It was a severe shock to the family. It was indeed a time of grief, losing a kind and wise husband and father.[18]

On the next day, June 15th, 1878, the funeral services took place at 2 p.m. with Brother James A. Little, W. D. Johnson Jr., and President L. John Nuttall as the speakers on that occasion.

In the diary of David Udall. another son-in-law, we find this account verified. On 21 June 1878, Edward A. Noble, who was with Levi, also, at the time of his death, stopped at the home of Ella and David in Nephi, and gave them the above particulars.

Another account reports that Levi 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 cried out, “We haven’t any father now. No one will take care of us anymore,” and 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. Lucinda who was now thirteen, said she wept all forenoon of the day he had died. She had felt that all her world had slipped away. When she saw the messenger, Uncle Lawrence Mariger, coming she said, “Father is dead!” Artemacy, who had her two-monthold 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, Brother James A. Little said that the morning of his death, Brother 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.”

In the cemetery at Kanab, Levi Stewart was laid to rest with his wife and children who had died so tragically seven years previously.

On April 11, 1950, a tablet honoring Levi Stewart, first Bishop of Kanab, was placed on a monument which is erected on the spot where Fort Kanab stood, where his wife Margery and his five sons lost their lives when the fort was destroyed by fire.

FORT KANAB MARKER

Fort Kanab Monument 

Levi Stewart was the father of 28 children, 12 of whom preceded him in death including the 5 who perished in the fire. From those who remained Levi leaves a large posterity. A kind devoted husband, a loving father, a humble elder in Israel, who did his duty to God and his fellowmen, as he saw it. Certainly, the name of Levi Stewart should go down in history among those noble, and valiant builders of the West. May the memory of his faith and diligent works ever remain in the hearts of his descendants!

Since 2001, a 9-foot bronze statue of Levi Stewart stands in Levi Memorial Park in Kanab, Utah to memorialize his legacy. The sculptor chose to represent Levi as a grieving husband and father petitioning God in prayer for comfort and strength to press on after the loss of his loved ones who perished in the fire.

 

Large Levi Stewart Statue

Levi Stewart Statue, Levi Stewart Memorial Park, Kanab, Utah 

The Mothers. At the close of this sketch, it seems appropriate to pay tribute to the wives of Levi Stewart. Every man needs a good wife for complete living, someone to help carry the burdens of the household, and to inspire their husbands and children to success. Levi was fortunate in having three such women Melinda, Margery and Artemacy each rich in purpose and faith and in those qualities that go to make inspirational womanhood. These pioneer grandmothers left a great heritage of character and deeds to practice in our daily living. May the memory of these noble women be an eternal benediction to their children and their children’s children, through to the last generation.

An address delivered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on March 16, 1892 by Dr. Charles William Elliott, president of Harvard University, expressed it well when he said, “Did it ever occur to you what is the most heroic part of planting a colony of people which moves into a wilderness to establish a civilized community? You think, perhaps, it is the soldier, the armed man or the laboring man. Not so, it is the women who are the most heroic part of any new colony (Applause). Their labors are the less because their strength is less. Their anxieties are greater, their dangers greater, the risks they run are heavier. We read that story in the history of the Pilgrim and Puritan colonies of Massachusetts. ‘The women died faster than the men; they suffered more.’ Perhaps their reward was greater too. They bore children to the colony. Let us bear in our hearts, veneration for the women of any Christian folk going out in the wilderness to plant a new community.

“The Mormon women, in all that makes for heroism; patient endurance, silent suffering, tender sympathy— issuing from love’s fountain, calm courage, and clear, soul-inspiring faithwere not one whit behind their brothers. In all things, the men and women of this movement were worthy of each other.”[19] 

(Three Noble Latter-day Saint Women)


[1] Levi Stewart, photograph, date uncertain.

[2] Margery Boyden, From Conscience to Liberty: Diverse Long Island Families in a Crucible that Gave Rise to Religious Freedom, v. 1, 1526–1664, (By the author, October 2020), Part A, 54, Chapter 7, “Goodman Scudder, His Immigration to America and His New England Society,” Chapter 8, “Anne Hutchinson’s Influence on Early Settlers of Massachusetts and Its Spread to Many Rhode Island and Long Island Families, including Kings and Underhills,” Chapter 11, “A French/Belgian/Italian ‘Dutch’ Family, Typical Diversity at Early Long Island,” Part B, Chapter 20, “More Religious Discrimination and Persecution Provokes More Migrations in America,” and Index for pertinent Scudder, King, Alburtus and Manje family members, and Dr. John Stewart.

[3] A summary of the history of Dr. John1 Stewart will be the subject of a future article in this Journal. Stewart’s more detailed history is included in a future book by this author with more history about the Scudder extended family where From Conscience to Liberty, volume 1, ends in 1664.

[4] Will of [Dr] John Stewart, Sussex County Wills, Book A, A:50-52, modern copy. Text taken from copy of Pg 4545, Sussex County Probate, Delaware Public Archives, Hall of Records, Dover, Delaware, 19901.

[5] Margery Cottam Brown, “Some Incidents in the Life of Levi Stewart, Founder of Kanab, Utah,” History of Kane County, comp. Adonis Findlay Robinson, (Salt Lake City, Ut.: The Utah Printing Co., 1970), 539.

[6] Photo of early copy of the Book of Mormon. As of 2021, The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ is now available in 115 languages with more projects for more languages in process. Excerpts are currently available in another 20 languages.

[7] “Nauvoo Charter,” The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/topic/nauvoo-charter.

[8] Sealing: “In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the word sealing refers to the joining together of a man and a woman and their children for eternity. This sealing can be performed only in a temple by a man who has the priesthood, or authority from God. According to Latter-day Saint belief, the sealing means these family relationships will endure after death if the individuals live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. For latter-day Saints, the family is essential go God’s plan as the most important unit both on earth and in eternity.” https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/sealing.

[9] C. C. A. Christensen, “Winter Quarters,” by Brigham University Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Winter_Quarters_by_C.C.A._Christensen.png. Public domain.

[12] “Salt Lake City in 1850,” Engraving from American Pictures Drawn with Pen and Ink by Samuel Manning, (London, 1876), US National Archives, 513336.jpg, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%22Salt_Lake_City_in_1850.%22,_1850_-_NARA_-_513336.jpg.

[13] “Levi Stewart,” by Glenna Sanderson, Great Granddaughter.

[14]“Plural Marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Gospel Topics Essays, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/plural-marriage-in-the-church-of-jesus-christ-of-latter-day-saints?lang=eng

[15] “The Mormon Church officially renounces polygamy,” History.com Editors, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-mormon-church-officially-renounces-polygamy

[16] St. George Utah Temple, photographer Tuxyso, Wikimedia Commons /CC-BY-SA-3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St._George_Utah_Temple_2013.jpg.

[17] “Sudden Death,” Deseret News, June 15, 1878, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6ft9fjs/2650259.

[18] Date and account of Levi Stewart’s death is in Mark F. Mariger, “A Chronological History of Lawrence Christian Mariger, by his son Mark F. Mariger.  Account of Levi Stewart’s death, quoting from Journal of Lawrence C. Mariger, part 1.

[19] Dr. Charles William Elliot, in an address in the Tabernacle at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, from Americana Illustrated, (National Americana Society, 1912, (quoted from Deseret Evening News, March 17, 1892); 878; also in A Comprehensive History of the Church, Volume III, p. 291.

OTHER SOURCES:

Election in Gallatin, Missouri, August 6, 1838. Birdsall & Dean, “History of Daviess County”, and “History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties.”
Elder Levi Stewart wrote from Nauvoo to the Times and Seasons, 13 April 1843, Editor, John Taylor. From Journal History.
Notice of sale of property by Levi Stewart in Nauvoo Neighbor, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, Wednesday, October 29, 1845.
“Levi Stewart History,” by Glenna Sanderson, Great Granddaughter.
Ella Stewart Udall’s childhood recollections from Arizona Pioneer Mormon David King Udall, pp. 247, 248.
“Margery Wilkerson” by daughter, Lucinda A. Stewart Brown; edited by 2nd great granddaughter, Marion Stewart Peterson 1997.
Letter from Levi Stewart at his wife and sons’ deaths, Kanab, Dec. 18, 1870, via Toker (Toquerville): Ed. Deseret News:
“Levi Stewart History,” by Glenna Sanderson, Great Granddaughter
An address by Dr. Charles William Elliott, president of Harvard University, delivered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, March 16, 1892.
Roberts, B.H. – A Comprehensive History of the Church Volume III, p. 291.


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