Friday, September 30, 2016

A History of James Stapleton Lewis Part 3 - A Pioneer in the West

James records that they were in Marion County, Iowa, in 1846 where they crossed the Des Moines River. There on November 22, 1846, Alva Tippets Lewis, their sixth son, was born. At Mount Pisgah, Iowa, son number seven, Wilford Woodruff, was born on May 20, 1848. Their eighth and last child was born and died on January 18, 1851. He was named William Fallis in honor of the husband of James’ sister Rachel. After his arrival in Salt Lake, James had the births of Alva and Wilford entered on the ward records of the Sugar House Ward, but he did not have the birth of William entered. Celecta Haroldsen states that the reason James and his family remained in Iowa so long was because Brigham Young asked James to stay behind and grow crops for following groups of pioneers. They finally reached the Valley in 1852, traveling with the Isaac M. Stewart Company.

Following is a letter written by James to his brother, Joel Lewis, Jr. [Each copy of the newsletter was typed by various family secretaries and there are many typos and spelling errors. I don’t know which errors were directly copied from the original and which were made by the secretary, so I am correcting most misspellings but not the grammar.]
                                                                                                     Sugar House Ward
                                                                                                     G. S. Utah Salt Lake City,
                                                                                                     Utah Territory,
                                                                                                     Feb. 28, 1855
              Dear Brother,
              I now set down to write a few lines to you. We received your letter the first of February which gave us much satisfaction, and also much sorrow. Though we had not expected to hear of all our relatives alive again. I have written several letters and supposed that you had emigrated to some other country. We have never heard from you or any other person in that country since I left your house some twelve or fourteen years ago. [That would have been sometime between when the JSL family left Missouri and when they went to Nauvoo probably.] We should be very glad to see you all again but many circumstances would prevent at present. We want you to write to us and give all the particulars you can either of friends or acquaintances – all would be news to us.
              My own family is all with me at present but do not know how long they may remain so. We have had many difficulties hard to encounter with since I saw you. Sickness has followed us closely from Illinois to Iowa and from there here. My wife is sick at present with the mountain fever and has been so much of the winter. She is very low. She wishes to know how long her father has been dead. And she wishes to know whether her step-mother is still living, and of her friends as far as you know. I send you here a written power of attorney to collect what dues there is in her favor and send them to us. [It is on the basis of this letter that we know John Jones’ first wife Sarah Sumpter had died and that he had remarried someone named Sally (or Sarah) who is mentioned in his 1847 will as beloved wife Sally.]
              We are settled here in the midst of the Rocky Mountains, eleven hundred miles from the Missouri River. We crossed Missouri above Council Bluffs. We crossed but two ferries more, passed up the north side of the Platte, a river from a quarter to a third of a mile wide, is muddy like Missouri. Traveled up this river over six hundred miles and more than five hundred without ever raising the bluffs of that river. We saw not an Indian thus far but plenty of buffalo and good feed for cattle, good roads thus far, very destitute of timber the whole way, some places two hundred miles without any, cook with a little sage brush, generally about as high as a man’s knee and buffalo chips.   
              Leave the Platte and come to Saleratus Lake. This forms like ice in the dry part of the season, is of good quality. Near this is Independence rock, six hundred yards long, one fourth as wide, and very high. This is a perfect sight on the level bottom of the Sweet Pass through perpendicular rocks four hundred feet high. We followed this stream up to the south pass of the Rocky Mountains, ascent and descent not very steep, level for a few miles on the top, from here the waters ran south until we crossed the Wasatch Mountains. Green River is the largest about as large as the Wabash at Lafayette, is a branch of the Colorado and empties into the Gulf of California. A little farther on is Bear River and the Weber River, both of these flow into Salt Lake. 
              Here the country is very diversified, surrounded by high mountains on every side. The soil is of every quality, a great deal of good rich farming land. The valley is here about thirty miles wide. The water of the lake is very strong. There is no fish in it. Utah Lake, fifty miles from here is fresh water and plenty of fish. There is but little game, a few mountain sheep, antelope, black tail deer. There are large grizzly and brown bear, all scarce, the mountain wolf is most savage when pressed with hunger. I have known them to have killed cows and oxen in sight of the city in daylight. The feathered tribes are few, all kinds of grain and vegetables grow well here. 
              Most of the land has to be watered. One hand will water two or three acres in a day. Land is almost of every price, generally five or ten dollars, sometimes much more. A great deal of good land among these valleys is not claimed or settled. Mormon settlements extend north seventy miles, south a hundred and eighty, are generally provided with forts in case of trouble with Indians who are very low and degraded. Range is good for stock, many winter without being fed; are generally herded off from the farms both summer and winter.
              It has been very mild here this winter. They have been plowing and sowing all this month. April is the general planting month. The principal timber is fine and fir grows on the mountains. There is some oak, maple, birch, cottonwood and willow, mahogany, cedar and box elder. The buildings are for the most part made of dobies and unburnt brick. When made of blue clay makes a very good house. There are good mills and machinery here, plenty of merchandise, money scarce at this time. Very many pass every year this way to Oregon and California. In traveling here we traveled through a part of Oregon and California. As to political matters it is a well organized government. All religion is tolerated, all rights respected. There is no common stock here. Every man controls his own property. It is the healthiest country we ever lived in. The water is generally very good but here are warm springs here and some boiling hot. There is a canal laid out to connect Utah Lake and Salt Lake. We have snow in sight of us all the year around. We can see all over the valley and see the lake. The islands in the Lake are high mountains. It is twenty miles to it. A common pailful of Salt Lake water will make five pounds of salt.
              I am now in a hurry to get my letter in the office as the mail goes east but once a month. I leave it to your own judgement about the matter of attorney. Any money that is good in Saint Louis would be good here. I expect you will have to send it by letter. I have by the advice of the governor taken my mother’s name for a middle name on account of others here of the same name. Be sure to notice this in directing a letter or I may not get it. No more at present but remaining your affectionate brother.
                                                                                              James S. Lewis to Joel Lewis
              Give our respects to all.

James owned a farm in the Sugar House Ward with a “dobie” house and was considered a successful farmer. He seemed to have a bit of wanderlust as his father had had before him. In 1863 he moved to Coalville, Summit County, Utah where he bought a large farm and raised grain and cattle. Here he was counted one of the wealthiest farmers in the area.

In 1865 he took a second wife in polygamy. She was Mary Swenson, born November 4, 1831, in Calmer, Sweden. James was endowed and both wives were sealed to him on August 15, 1864, in the Endowment House according to their TIB (Temple Index Bureau) cards.

The story behind this event is a wonderful example of how stories about ancestors may be passed down in very different form in various branches of a family. My grandmother was told by her mother Abigail Celecta Lewis Ottley and/or grandmother Waighty Celecta Lewis Lewis that polygamy was a tremendously difficult trial for Anna. Yet when I began to meet Lewis “cousins” I learned an entirely contrasting story. In this alternate version, James had sought help for Anna with her chores because of her ill health. A young Swedish convert without family or friends in Utah joined the household where Anna taught her to speak English and how to manage a pioneer household. Then, when Anna’s health continued to deteriorate, she suggested that James approach Church leaders about taking Mary as a second wife if Mary were agreed. Two very different accounts (with the second now the version I believe) – perhaps colored by personal views and experience with polygamist families.

On June 23, 1866, a daughter was born to James and Mary named Rachel Stapleton. In 1867 the family moved to Montpelier, Idaho. On May 12, 1868, Hyrum Smith Lewis was born to James and Mary at Montpelier. 

In Dingle Dale, James had a hay ranch called Big Timber near Montpelier and also owned a piece of land in Hooperville, Utah. He talked of going into the mercantile business, but never did so. Again the family moved, this time to Brigham City, Utah, where they lived seven years. James owned a house and two city lots. On December 19, 1868, the first son of James and Anna, Joel Jones Lewis, died at age 37. He had never married.

A second son was born to James and Mary on September 18, 1871, at Brigham City. He was named Cyrus Sackett Lewis in honor of the husband of Nancy Stapleton Sackett, James’ mother’s sister. Cyrus died April 17, 1874.

The following was written for the Lewis Family Newsletter by Hyrum Smith Lewis and appeared in the March 1936 edition.
              “1875 is perhaps the most memorable year in my life because of the experiences we encountered and while those experiences would seem like a midnight dream or the fanciful hallucination of a deranged mind, they are absolutely true.
              “In February father decided to seek holding on the frontier, so with his son Alva and grandson Jimmie they traveled farther west, wending their way through snow, over mountains, much of the time without even a trail. After several days, landing in Marsh Basin, - this they considered a Utopia, a heaven of bliss. In a short time Father and Jimmie returned, leaving Alva to get logs and build a cabin  when we could return.
              “On March 24, a brother Isaac who was working in the mountains was killed in a snow slide. Weeks went by and his body was not found. Alva, still at Marsh Basin, with no means of communication, no letter or word, dreamed one night that Isaac had been killed in a snow slide. In the dream he saw the   location and also discovered the body. So impressed was he that at day break he was on his way, with a horse to ride part of the time – and almost without rest he traveled to Corrinne, 120 miles distant, there to learn that his dream was true, and in the early morning a few days later he found the body which had been buried in snow for six weeks.”

Isaac was a violin maker and left a wife and children. Hyrum continued:
              “After a short time we were anxious to get to our new haven of peace when another disappointment was ours. Our horses had wandered away and search seemed in vain. After a long time they were found and a long hard journey began. For several days of this journey we were in sight of the snow slide that had taken Isaac’s life – we could in imagination at least, see his widow and four children pondering over life’s sad trail.
              “On June first we arrived in Marsh Basin. At that time it was most inviting, green grass in abundance, streams of sparkling water and everlasting hills surrounding us with plenty of timber near by . . . . Neighbors, they were few and far between. How did we live? I don’t know. We planted a garden, and, in father’s words, ‘Never has the labor of my hands been more remunerative in bringing abundance than in this place.’ Our health was good, appetites robust. We built a log room about 16 x 16 feet and this was our home – earth floor, earth roof, a fire place. Furniture there was none. Mother had a shelf on the wall used for a cupboard, china closet and other purposes.
              “Early in the fall, a committee of one came to this home, informing us of the death of a little child. There was not enough lumber in one place to build a little casket, and we were asked what we could contribute. Without hesitation or reservation my mother took the contents off of her only shelf and placed them on the dirt floor, and the shelf went to serve as a lid for the little casket. A grave was dug in the wilds and a pole about twenty feet high was raised a short distance from the grave so that it could be found. A few of us gathered and the sorrow was intense. I was there with bared head and     feet, not altogether because it was sacred ground, but because I did not have those useful articles of apparel. As we stood around this grave the only service was the reading of the Galilean by father. This was the first death and burial in Marsh Basin.”

Those who made the journey to Marsh Basin were James Stapleton Lewis, Mary Swenson Lewis, Rachel, and Hyrum. They started at Brigham City and camped or watered at the following places: Bear River, Malad River, Point Lookout, Blind and Blue Springs, Dillies Ranch, Curlew, Deep Creek, Pilot Springs (here Alva and his family left and went to Nevada), Devil’s Dive, Round Mountain, Kelso, Clear Creek, Raft River, Cassia Creek, and then, Marsh Basin.

Rachel Lewis Harper adds:
              “Father went to Albion, Idaho in 1875 and homesteaded 160 acres of land with water rights. A little later he filed on 40 acres more under the Timber Culture Act, a fine piece of land; he planted many trees of different kinds. At that time Idaho was a desert, the valley had no name, but was called Cedar Valley or Marsh Basin, and is now called Albion. Although it was late in the season when we reached the valley, we plowed and sowed and reaped. There were five families in the valley, so we indeed were pioneers. Father and Mother hauled logs from the mountains, built them a cabin, which we moved into in October – a dirt roof, dirt floor, no windows, but it was a shelter. The valley was full of wild cattle and Indians. We were ever mindful of our faith. Our first meetings were held in a Bowery made of brush and willows. My parents were very devout Christian people. We prayed, sang hymns, bore testimonies of God’s goodness to us in preserving our lives from all evil. We had good times in those days and we loved one another.”

Anna Jones Lewis did not go with her husband to Marsh Basin. Whether it was because of poor health or a desire to stay in the Corinne area, I do not know. It is possible that the legal prosecutions against polygamists that were then being carried out throughout Utah territory were a partial cause of James’ desire to move from Utah. After settling the family in Marsh Basin, James returned to Utah for supplies, and finding Anna in very poor health, remained with her until her death. It has always made me happy that James was with Anna at her death and that she wasn’t alone. However, this, of course, left Mary with her small children Rachel and Hyrum alone in Marsh Valley which would have been a lonely and frightening time for them.

On December 7, 1875, Anna died at Corinne, Box Elder County, Utah. She was 65 years old. Only three of her eight children survived this pioneer mother and wife. She was buried in the Brigham City Cemetery near her sons Isaac Morley and Joel Jones, and Cyrus Sacket Lewis (son of James and Mary) in a family plot owned by James Stapleton Lewis. [Lot 55, block 19, plot B.] Anna’s life saw travels from Kentucky to Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, from Iowa to the Salt Lake Valley, southeastern Idaho, and into northern Utah. Her life also spanned the infancy and early growth of the LDS Church, events in which she personally participated.

The only comment found in the extant journals directly relating to Anna Jones is:
              “The last three that were baptized were all of the branch of the church [Randolph County, Indiana] that gathered with the saints and died in the faith Sister Elizabeth Jones Jackson died in Clay County Missouri, 1835. Her sister, Anna Jones Lewis, died in Boxelder County, Utah, 1875, and I alone am left to bear testimony to their integrity, and their memory has a warm place in my heart in the year of our Lord 1900, Cassia Stake of Zion, Idaho.   J.S. Lewis”

It is unfortunate that we do not have access to a journal by Anna Jones Lewis. How did the forced evacuations of several homes, the pioneer life, the loss of children, and the conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affect her life and her feelings as a wife and mother?
On the occasion of American’s centennial, James Stapleton Lewis, pioneer and son of pioneers, wrote this poem. There seem to me to be some allusions to his earlier struggles for religious and personal freedom.

                                                          A ranch on the desert, a farm on the waste,
                                                               A home on the wilderness wild,
                                                          Is more than enough for a fanciful taste
                                                               For either man, woman, or child.

                                                          A home for to build, the land for to break,
                                                               A field for to fence in the wild.
                                                          For all that is here there’s enough to do
                                                               For every man, woman, or child.

                                                          Labor is wealth, labor is power,
                                                               And labor’s allotted to man.
                                                          Take pleasure in labor, forget there is sorrow
                                                               And do all the good that you can.

                                                          Let blessings descend upon home in full dress
                                                               For reward all the toil that is past;
                                                          And crown all the hopes with utter success;
                                                              And bless all that bless thee at last.

                                                          Free to the world, free to mankind,
                                                               Freedom of speech and of mind.
                                                          Wife, children and friends, health, plenty and peace
                                                               Make a home of a very good kind.

                                                          A voice from the free, a voice from the brave
                                                               We will go to our country’s call.
                                                          Here’s the land of the free and the home of the brave;
                                                               Here is plenty of freedom for all.

                                                          There’s room for the good, there is room for the great,
                                                               There is room for you and me.
                                                          Of all the gifts that grace the earth
                                                               Give me sweet liberty.       
                                                          Good will to mankind wherever they roam,
                                                               Good will to our friends all alone,
                                                          Good will to the fair, our neighbors and all
                                                               In this beautiful basin, our home.

                                                          This centennial year with a world-wide renown,
                                                               Our country’s flag and the free
                                                          Our fathers have fought and our mothers have sighed
                                                               Again and again, Ah, for thee.

                                                          Now Liberty’s standard to all is unfurled
                                                               To nations afar off and near.
                                                          May we hope her success will crown all the world
                                                               E’er another centennial year.

                                                          Though folly and fashion hath encircled the past
                                                               And filled up their measure it would seem,
                                                          May profit in future – we have now come at least
                                                               To the end of the Pioneer’s Dream.
                                                                                      (Newsletter, April 1936)

The Logan, Utah Temple was dedicated on May 17, 1884.  In November of that year, members of the James Stapleton Lewis family made their first of many trips to the temple which was the second operating temple in the LDS Church.  They would stay for several days. The pattern in their temple trips was to do baptisms for a day or two and then do endowments for the dead.  More baptisms than endowments were done in each trip.  They also did some sealings. In searching through Logan Temple records, I have identified more than 600 ordinances performed by the JSL family for the Lewis, Jones, Sumpter, Swenson, and Norton lines. The importance James placed on this work is indicated by his sacrifice in traveling from Albion, Idaho, to Logan, Utah, several times a year. He began these trips at age 70.

Celecta Ottley Haroldsen, my grandmother, visited the home of “Grandfather James Stapleton” and “Aunt Mary” (as she was called by the descendants of Anna Jones Lewis) many times. She described him as a “marvelous character” though he was quite old. He would have been 81 when Celecta was born. He did remain quite active until the last few years of his life. 

The home he and Mary lived in was small and simple. Both James and Mary were known for their generosity and kindness; many of their possessions were given away to others in need. Some of the memories that Celecta had of James are of his kissing her and of his walking two miles to Church meetings.

Towards the end of his life, he became quite inactive and Mary cared for him. James Stapleton Lewis died May 22, 1901. Celecta Haroldsen remembers going to the funeral. Her mother, however, was expecting a child (Alice), and according to the superstitions of the time could not look upon a dead person and so did not attend the funeral.

In the preface to the manuscript of his journals, Clara Lewis Hall, one of his granddaughters, noted that James was six feet tall and “walked in such pride and dignity.” She also stated, “He left these words to his children: ‘Always appear at your very best. Nothing less than your best is ever good enough.’”

James in buried in Albion in the southeast corner of his homestead beside his wife Mary Swenson Lewis and several descendants. This ground was donated by James for a cemetery; today it is known as the “Mormon Cemetery.”

The 87 years of the life of James Stapleton Lewis saw great changes in American life. A continent was settled by pioneers. There were many technological advancements. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established and also saw much change and growth. Lorenzo Snow was the Prophet at the time of James’ death. Certainly the motivating force in the life of James Stapleton was the Church and his family. His strong testimony was demonstrated by his willingness to align himself and his family with the Church, regardless of the persecutions or inconveniences which resulted. He remained active in the Church throughout his lifetime. He was responsible for the temple work for many of his relatives and in-laws. In an age when many were illiterate, James was an articulate man, as shown by his journal excerpts and poetry.

It is appropriate to close with his testimony, quoted here from letters to two nieces as copied in his journal.
              “Now, dear niece, I may never write to you again. When I was young, I left my home, friends, and country for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as taught by him and his apostles. I am this day blessed a hundredfold. Many years ago in my patriarchal blessing, I was promised joy in my posterity. What is the matter with the world, have they a gospel for each one? Surely it looks that   way, and if there is not enough to go around, there is plenty of material to make more of the same   kind. It only varies in price according to quality to suit customers. Will God accept what he has not appointed? So far as I know the gospel vendors do not claim that God has planned the system of their salvation.
              “Dear niece, I know of no news more important than that of salvation. Jesus Christ atoned for Adam’s sins and provided the laws of the gospel for man’s acceptance, and the conditions of the laws are these: men must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, must repent and forsake all their sins and be baptized by immersion for the remission of their sins. . . . He must be born again of water and the spirit or he cannot see the kingdom of God. He must have hands laid upon him for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
              “The office of this Holy Ghost is to guide [to] all truth and even show things to come. All ordinances of the gospel must be performed by those having authority from God. All the laws of the gospel are intended to be so plain that every man and woman can easily understand it, and by the spirit of God it will be made manifest to him or her.
              “I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, his prophesies are being fulfilled right along. He called on all mankind everywhere to repent and forsake their sins and obey the gospel as Jesus and his apostles taught it. He organized the true church, he concentrated all former dispensations, he brought forth and established the Holy Priesthood no more to be taken from the earth. He taught architecture in the building of Temples. . . . He taught Colonization. . . . He taught astronomy far beyond his time. . . . He translated records. . . . He corrected the errors of ages, and God was his instructor. He brought forth truth from the other side of the veil before the world was.”
              “Did the Mormons deceive you, uncle? No nothing of the kind. I was a Mormon in all but the name before I ever saw or heard of one. Now I will tell you how I found the people, for your uncle knows them as but few other men do, because my acquaintance has formed at their homes, in their associations, and in their councils the greater part of my life. They teach the gospel as Jesus and the Apostles did. They practice it as far as human weakness will permit. . . .Perhaps my dear niece will say, can my Uncle believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet in our own day. In answer, I can testify he has made the gospel plain, he has done what no uninspired man could do.”

It has been interesting and inspirational to collect the information for this history. I hope when we meet James Stapleton Lewis beyond the veil, he will be pleased with what we, his posterity, have done with the birthright he, Anna, and Mary have given us.

If you are interested in reading more about JSL’s history in Utah and in Idaho, I suggest the excellent history written by Janis Durfee which can be found on her website:    

A History of James Stapleton Lewis Part 2 - Joining the Saints in Missouri

James Stapleton Lewis became an LDS missionary himself. He was ordained a priest by Seymour Brunson on December 2, 1831.

              “Soon after I traveled with Elder Fallis into the state of Ohio baptizing some. At one meeting a noted man by the name of Kyler came to criticize. I being young, only seventeen years of age, was reading the different passages that related to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the work of the last days. Mr. Kyler interrupted me by asking why I read in detached pieces instead of reading that book in connection, he supposed I was reading the Book of Mormon. He was thus made ashamed before the whole congregation when he was informed the scripture was quoted from his own Bible.            
              “At another time a school mate of mine but older and farther advanced, he belonged to a sect called (secedry ?) noted for reading scriptures, kept contradicting and talking until I offered him the stand and would wait until he would get through but he declined. When the Lord put a few words into my mouth that so silenced him he never spoke another word. At the close of the meeting one requested baptism.
              “I returned home and traveled again into Ohio with Elder Levi W. Hancock. In Greenville, Ohio, a meeting with ____ appointed in the court house. Time came to open the meeting. A mob had concealed themselves in the upper story of the house, came down yelling and singing vulgar songs, broke up the congregation, and we traveled on. This was in Dark County, State of Ohio, March, 1832.
              “In April traveled with Elder Jackson on to the White Water River. Held meetings. Some were convinced of the truth of the gospel, were afterwards baptized. Some of them crossed the plains with us in the year 1852.
              “At the crossing of the Wabash River there was a camp of Indians – we were told they were Catholics. In the morning Elder Jackson, myself, and a few others stopped to see them. All but one of the men had gone hunting. Enos, the one left, could talk so we could understand. They had a flat stick about one foot in length and one inch wide with seven characters cut in it. This seemed to be a kind of Urem and Thummen to them for they appeared to understand everything we said to them by pointing from one character to another as the subject changed. Sometimes they shed freely while we talked to them and they pointed to their characters.
              “Enos said they had a Prophet – we gave them a Book of Mormon. Enos said, ‘Yes, Prophet say a book      first come to white man then come to red skin. Prophet know all the book in his heart. Prophet say we go West maybe next year.’ They did and found Elder Jackson and talked with him near Independence, Missouri. On seeing them, Elder W. W. Phelps wrote the verses, ‘Oh stop and tell me red man.’ They settled them above Fort Leavenworth.
              “The Missouri people called them ‘Mormon Indians.’ I believe they offer prayer in concert. When we had prayer in the morning they said, ‘One good man over the river.’ They were called Kickapoos, but parts of several tribes, Sacks, Foxes, and some others. Their humility surpassed anything I have ever seen before or since – this was 1832. . . . [I am uncertain if this event with the Indians was part of JSL’s missionary experiences or whether it happened as he made his way to Missouri.]
              “In June, 1832, I started to gather with the saints in Missouri on foot and alone, going by Logansport on the Wabash River to see my sister and continued down the river and joined a company of saints also going to Missouri, pitching their tents by the __________. Fortunately for me, as I was coming into camp, Brother Rawson, a man I had never seen before, met me and asked me if I would go with him and help him with his team. At once, I told him yes, as I wished to go with someone. On going to the tent, to my surprise, there was Sister Anna Jones. She was engaged to help Sister Rawson on the way to Missouri. I was of some benefit to the company as a kind of commissary to go ahead and purchase supplies and have them ready by the time the teams came up.
              “On going to Missouri, I made my home with Elder Horace Rawson whose family I ever after held in the highest esteem. The last time I ever saw Sister Rawson was in the Logan Temple. I said to Sister Rawson, ‘This is a good place to meet in after being acquainted more than fifty years in which time having passed through all of troubles of Missouri where our houses were torn down over heads and our property destroyed.’ We were compelled to leave Jackson County, then Clay County, then the State of Missouri, then Illinois, and the United States. Any one of these was trouble enough for one life time. And but very few have survived them all to tell the story of a people persecuted for righteousness in this generation.
              “In going to Missouri the company traveled pitching their tents by the way, stopping over Sunday and having a meeting. Their teams were for the most part ox teams. . . . At Pekin I was very sick with fever but was cared for in all kindness and soon recovered at Quincy. The company stopped and worked for a week. Arrived at Independence September the 2nd day of 1832. I now set about finding a place to get work. Went to Big Blue River, worked for Father Rockwell and Porter Rockwell. Stopped over Sunday and went on to Lyman Wight’s and seen him once on a mission. He directed me to the Whitmer settlement.”

James Stapleton Lewis and Anna Jones were married by W. W. Phelps on May 10, 1833. (The Marriage Records of Jackson Co., MO, vol 1; TIB and Endowment House records of J. S. Lewis.) 

Anna Jones was born in Kentucky on November 10, 1809 according to her TIB card. [Her birth date is also given as November 5 and 9 and 1810 in other sources.] Her parents were John Jones and Sarah Sumpter who were married in Franklin County, Virginia, 12 August 1790 with marriage bond record of 5 July. (Marriage Bonds of Franklin Co., Virginia, 1786-1858.) Anna was ninth of eleven children. Only she and her sister Elizabeth joined the LDS Church.

James’ and Anna’s first child, Joel Jones Lewis, was born in Clay County, Missouri, February 27, 1834. Anna’s sister Elizabeth Jackson, died in July, 1835, in Clay County and was buried on Shoal Creek west of Liberty. [In published records of early LDS Church members in Missouri, Elizabeth’s name is absent. The record of her death in JSL’s journal is the only place it is recorded (though record of her marriage to Henry S Jackson can be found in Clinton County, Ohio.) In those published lists, Henry is listed with his second wife Sarah.]

John Alma Lewis, second son of James and Anna, was born August 22, 1835 [other records give 1834 and 1836.] In 1838, James and Anna moved their family to Cass County, Missouri. There on February 6, 1838, James Ammon was born. He died April 28, 1840. (Newsletter, January 1936.)

Writing of his experiences in Missouri, James’ indignation at the unjust treatment of the Saints is evident.
              “In reading of 123 section book of Doctrine and Covenants, requirements made of the Latter-day   Saints to present an account of their losses in property and character by being driven by mob violence from the State of Missouri in the year 1833 in the presence (in open day) of the Civil Authorities and also of the military officers including Lieutenant Governor Lilburn W. Boggs of Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, doth witness that I, James S. Lewis, did clear and fence with nails, it being timberland, five acres of land and raised a crop of corn and vegetables. Gathered it home half a mile distant where I had built a good log house 16 by 18 feet in the square. Loss of my labor crop and right to the land 1000 dollars.
              “Military orders allowed me three days to go in which I should not be molested. Having no team I got a small trunk and three quilts in another man’s one-horse wagon, already crowded with a large family. My wife and myself thought of no conveyance but to walk out of Jackson County, Missouri and then where we knew not.
              “The Prophet requires facts – suffering and abuses. Suffering cannot be written; of abuses will only relate one or two. Late in December of 1832, the house that I was in, Brother Fallises, was assailed on the outside around the doorway and on top, unroofing and pitching the timbers on the inside where were three beds – all occupied and asleep, at the first. Any of the pieces pitched in would have crippled or killed any that it might have hit. Those at the doorway shot through, there being only a quilt hung up, the walls in the opposite side of the house. Was just opposite the pillow where Brother and Sister Fallis lay and about eighteen inches from it. Providentially I lay on the floor. Had I raised on my knees as naturally I would attempt to go under one of the beds, would have been shot through the body. Thanks to a kind providence no one in the house was injured.
              “The same winter at a very late hour of the night we were aroused by the screams of a widowed sister, Sister R. Stout. Brother Fallis bounded from our bed, no time to dress, ran to her relief in great danger of violence to ourselves as there was some dozen of men.
              “At my house late in October, my wife being alone, hearing a slight sound on the outside of the house, parted the quilt door, when horror of horrors, there was the blackest negro of Missouri two yards off. With one bound she passed him and ran half a mile upgrade to the nearest house, and she was in delicate health at the time.
              “1837 I settled on Crooked River, Ray County, Missouri, in what was known as the Dutch settlement of Mormons.
              “1838 rented a large farm in addition to my own. Hired help and raised a crop of grain and vegetables worth 1000 dollars. Paid the rent in making improvements on the farm for that year, and paid rent for two years more. I could have more than doubled my interest the two following years, therefore, place my damages at 5000 dollars with 10 per cent interest from date, except 6 dollars that was paid on my crop of 1838.
              “I left the state of Missouri under the exterminating order of Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, leaving the most flattering prospects of accumulating wealth, and in addition had abundance of promises of protection and safety from all harm if I would only stay. ‘Thank you for all your personal good wishes, but if my people have to go I must go with them.’
              “In mid-winter with wife and three small children, we started a distance of two hundred miles to satisfy the demands of a Christian state. We passed through some of the most bitter places where Sisters were driven out of their own homes when a new born babe was not an hour old. Of course the mother died before she could be got to a place of safety. The Christian name of this place was DeWitt, Missouri. It was a Mormon town, but in the district of Sashel Woods, the Christian minister wielded all his efforts and all his influence in favor of the mob.
              “Damages sustained in losses of character as a free American citizen. I, James S. Lewis, was by the highest authority of the sovereign state of Missouri expelled from that state to leave my own house and legally acquired landed property, deprived of my liberty, and sadly against my will and against my interest to leave the land of my choice. Being thus humiliated below all the American races, even those that are held in ignoramus [sic] servitude and valued only as common property. To say the least, my indignation is not bounded in value by dollars and cents.
              “When we get to another state how shall we be received? My outfit was sorry enough, but what can the people say of us. ‘Here is a family exiled and driven out of Missouri as unfit to live in that sovereign state.’ Can we look anybody in the face, can we expect a favor or even a kind look from anybody? Not only so, but Missouri sent all her influence against us with all manner of false and slanderous reports against us and officers with trumped up writs. Some of our best men were hounded more than three hundred miles in Illinois and some were kidnapped and taken and imprisoned in Missouri and sadly treated without any just cause. This unjust persecutive spirit never grew less but increased as will be shown in their conduct hereafter.
              “October, 1838, I will go back a little when Far West was taken and her leading men captured. A Mock Court Martial was held to try ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On the jury at this court martial were seventeen of Missouri gospel mongers. I suppose this was the cream of their religious faith, for they voted that these Mormon ministers should be shot the next morning at eight o’clock in the presence of their wives and children. But a Gamaliel was found in the person of General Donephon (the greatest lawyer in Missouri) who wrung his hands, swore by all the authority of Heaven and Earth that it was murder, cold-blooded murder, and he would have nothing to do with it, and ordered his Brigade to be ready to march immediately. October, 1838-1839, the Legislature of Missouri appropriated two hundred thousand dollars to pay the mob militia for driving the Mormons out of the state of Missouri (over and above what they obtained by plundering all that the Mormons could not put into a wagon many times with two or three families to a wagon.)
              “I will now come again to my own family. We are now among strangers and those that know us not (I mistake) this is well known of us – that we have been expelled from a sovereign state as being unworthy to live in in. This is humiliating beyond the value of dollars and cents to a true American citizen guilty of no crime against any state or against the morals of any religious denomination.
              “But, I, James S. Lewis, plainly charge the state of Missouri for the loss of my liberty in all its bearings in that state and by its authority One Hundred Thousand Dollars for my share with legal interest from 1838, thinking by the time that is paid Missouri will learn to respect decent people respectfully.”

In 1900, James Stapleton wrote concerning this trying period:
              “I write a few lines that come from some reflections in looking over some incidents of the past. What I know of the history of my father – he was a Pioneer in practice among the foremost in that line. In my own experience, it seems to have fallen to my lot to be on the Frontiers nearly all of my life, and have, therefore, been thrown among the coarser employments of life. My duties seemed to call me to assist in opening up some new localities in which I have been fairly successful.
              “In Jackson County, Missouri, I made a very fair start – cleared and fenced a small field, built a good log house, raised and gathered a crop just in time to be obliged to leave it to the mob. At Crooked River I rented a farm and leased land for a term of years. After putting in my crop, I surprised my employer and his neighbors by hiring some help, clearing my lease, and putting it in and raising a fine crop on it too; thus, paying my rent for several years in advance. I barely sold enough to a mobocrate friend to pay my hired help. 
               "Now comes Governor Boggs’ order to his mob army to drive the Mormons from the state of Missouri or exterminate them. I need not say the mob was not buying our farms or crops. It was pick up and go or we will kill you. It was two hundred miles to any other state, and how we would be received when we got there was a very serious question. I, being more fortunate than many others, arrived at the Mississippi the middle of January and got work on an island until spring. There were many on the road and the Prophet and many others in prison. Many strong men were apostatizing, and among the number were the best friends that I had in the world, such as Oliver Cowdery, the Whitmers, David and John, Jacob Hiram Page, a brother-in-law. [This may be a reference to Henry S. Jackson who was examined by the Far West High Council and eventually joined the Reorganized LDS group.] Some of the twelve staggered and some fell. Times were precarious. There was no gathering place, many could go no further. I gave up my opportunities to stop to those that could go no further, and I went to Rock Island, Illinois. Not feeling at home there, I went into Indiana, and here I found myself of some benefit to Elders passing on missions. Quite a number were baptized, some of which came with us to Nauvoo in October, 1844.”

In the Bible his mother had given James, the birth of his fourth son, Francis Marion, is entered for March 30, 1841, in Carroll County, Indiana. James’ father, Joel Lewis, died January 20, 1839. It is supposed that James and his family returned to Indiana after leaving Missouri, perhaps because of this death. They remained in Carroll County until 1843, at least, while James farmed. His Bible records the death of Francis Marion on May 27, 1843. (Newsletter, February 1936.)

While he was residing in Carroll County, James received reports of the growth of the new headquarters of the LDS Church in Nauvoo, Illinois, where the Saints had begun to settle in 1839. Longing to be again with those of his own faith, James disposed of his farm in Carroll County and moved his family and household to Nauvoo in 1843 or 1844 [if the 1844 date is correct, the Lewis family would have arrived after the deaths of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. In that case they may have moved to the Nauvoo area in order to be associated with whatever the Church would do in consequence.]

Upon the arrival at Nauvoo, James and Anna would have found a bustling city. The temple was under construction which had begun in 1841. However, there were signs of the difficulties that would lead to the expulsion of the Lewis family along with the Saints from their homes again. In 1842 an attempt on the life of ex-governor Boggs had resulted in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s arrest on the accusation of being an instigator. He was arrested again in June, 1843. In June, 1844, the destruction of the press of the apostate newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor, by order of the Nauvoo City Council brought more mob anger. The outcome was the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith on June 27, 1844.

That same year on October 15, the fifth son of James and Anna was born. He was named Isaac Morley Lewis. James, Anna, Joel, John, and Isaac were among the thousands who left Nauvoo beginning in February, 1846. They, however, did not reach the Salt Lake Valley until 1852. (Newsletter, March 1936.)

James Stapleton Lewis noted:

              “After the whole Mormon people were driven from the State of Missouri, their persecution still followed in Illinois until the same spirit prevailed there and until the same result followed. Governor Tom Ford of Illinois was too cowardly to come out as Governor Boggs of Missouri by the authority of the state, yet Ford pledged the honor of the State of Illinois. These are matters of history. I have only to bear testimony of the truth of them.”

A History of James Stapleton Lewis Part 1 - Early Life

In 1986 I wrote a history of James Stapleton Lewis, my third great grandfather. I have decided to post that history on this blog in several sections to keep each part manageable. Some of this content will repeat from other blogs.

James Stapleton Lewis was an early and faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was both a Mormon and an American pioneer whose life encompassed events we now read only as history. My grandmother, Celecta Ottley Haroldsen, has recounted her memories of “Grandfather James Stapleton,” so, even though he is my third great grandfather, he does not seem so far removed from me.

Several years ago, I wrote a brief history of James Stapleton Lewis. Since that time, I have found more information about him. This is a more extensive biography of his life, but is still a scanty outline of a fascinating man.
In 1935 to 1936, a Lewis Family Newsletter was edited by Arthur K. Love, a Methodist Episcopal minister from Hagertown, Indiana [a great grandson of James’ brother Joel Lewis, Jr.] Its purpose, among other things, was to furnish accurate and authentic information concerning the origin of the Lewis families. Three branches of the Lewis family are chronicled in this newsletter. One of these is the James Stapleton Lewis family.

The newsletters used family Bibles, court and land records, family tradition, and oral history as sources. Generally these newsletters seem to be accurate when carefully typed. The newsletter account of Joseph Lewis, breeder of fine horses, as the father of Joel Lewis, Sr. continues to be controversial. When stating information from the newsletters, I will indicate the edition date in parentheses.

James Stapleton Lewis was a journal keeper, possibly for as long as seventy years. After his death, these journals went to various descendants. In 1964, the living grandchildren decided to make a typed copy of the three surviving volumes of his journals. A copy is located in the Idaho Genealogical Library in Boise. Extensive quotes from this journal will be used in this biography so that the reader may get a more personal glimpse of James Stapleton Lewis. (Punctuation has been added to facilitate reading.)

Other verifying sources will be indicated throughout the history. The book Joseph Smith and the Restoration by Ivan J. Barrett has been used to verify LDS Church history mentioned in this account.

James Stapleton Lewis’ father was Joel Lewis [usually called Sr. to differentiate him from his son Joel.] James seemed to be very proud of his pioneering father and wrote the following about him.
              “My father, Joel Lewis, Sr., was born February 1, 1776. Served in the war of 1812 under General Anthony Wayne. Employed in building Forts through the Northern parts of Indiana and Ohio – Fort Greenville, Fort St. Maryes, Fort Defiance and Recovery, and Fort Wayne through which was all a dense forest of unbroken wilderness. This line of Forts was to keep back or protect the settlements from the merciless Indians who were hired and furnished with firearms and other war material to harass the unprotected settlements of American pioneers. This done by the British Government to recover her suppressed rights which she had lost in the war of 1776, but this was only a blot added to another blot on her civilization which she would now in 1900 be glad to wipe out of history.
              “My father afterward carried the United States mails through this Indiana wilderness country, crossing the Wabash and other rivers without a house on either side, without bridge or boat, sometimes swimming his horse from bank to bank. At night lay down in wet clothes covering with a saddle blanket, wet too, and take comfort at the music of the wolf’s howl or the Indian yell. Now the Indians of which I write are not like the half starved and dwarfed Indians of these Mountains. They are in a country where game was plentiful. They were well fed and large and fully developed, ranging from six to six and a half feet in height and capable of great endurance, wily and artful in war. These were the allies Great Britain employed to harass our protected frontiers, with whom we had to contend and guard against, not like the strife of the battlefield where it is Turk against Turk, but the most cruel savage who knows no mercy but watches for his defenseless prey and darts upon it as a Tiger. And woe be to the captive a far worse than immediate death awaits him or her as the case may be. No tongue can tell, no pen can describe the experience of our fathers and mothers in the history of the early part of the century.
              “My father, Joel Lewis, Sr., gave all that he could give for his country and his posterity but his life and did not withhold the offer of that.”

He further wrote:
              “My father . . . periled his life in many ways to assist in securing his country’s freedom and blessing of peace for himself and his posterity after him, not being associated with any class of religious faith. He was a firm believer in the Bible and read it much.
              “I am proud this day to say of my Father, he was a man far above the principle of deception or    hypocrisy, a lover of truth and fair dealing with all men. His integrity was above suspicion, brave and generous to a fault. Was a pioneer of no small ability, penetrating far into the unknown dense forests    of the wilderness of the great Western wilds of North America. Civilization has followed in the path of the brave pioneers and leaves the world to write their history which to say the least alas . . . . who can write the fearful facts of those early pioneers or give the credit that is due to them – impossible.
              “My Father, Joel Lewis, was there – my mother was there.”

Writing of his mother, James said:
              “My mother, Rachel Stapleton Lewis, was born 1773 in the state of Maryland. Was early left an orphan, the youngest of four daughters. Her parents were slave holders but when she was of age   there was but little left for her. She was baptized in the Church of England, taught her children to believe the Bible. She had eight children, only four that lived to be grown, two sons and two daughters. Died near Logansport, Indiana. Was seventy-three years old. My father, Joel Lewis, Sr., also died near Logansport . . . age sixty-four years.”

When Rachel Stapleton’s father died, the three oldest daughters were bound out. Rachel, as the youngest, remained with her mother. According to the February 1936 newsletter, the court recorded this action on August 6, 1777, in Rowan County, North Carolina, court minutes.

Marriages of Rowan Co., North Carolina: 1753-1868 records the marriage of Joel Lewis and Rachel Stapleton in January, 1795. Joel and Rachel stayed in Rowan County for several years where four children were born. Joel Jr. was born in 1806 at Crab Orchard, Kentucky. This birth at the terminus of the famous Wilderness Road indicates the family’s westward migration. The family continued to Sugar Creek Township, Greene County, Ohio, where others of the Lewis and Stapleton relatives were settling (Newsletter, November 1935.)

Three more sons were born in Greene County. The last was James Lewis (he added the Stapleton in later life) who was born on February 22, 1814 (TIB James Stapleton Lewis.)

James’ only living brother, Joel Jr., who was nearly eight years older than James, ran away from home as a young teenager. As a protest against doing what he considered “girls’ work,” he joined a band of roving Miami Indians. When he reappeared six years later in all the trappings of an Indian brave, James was fascinated. He enjoyed reciting the tales told him by his brother. (Newsletter, November 1935.)

When only James and his parents remained at home, the restless spirit came to Joel Sr. again. The family moved further west to Clay Township, Cass County, Indiana, sometime between 1830 and 1832. Two of their married children were already in Indiana and the third joined them a few years later. (Newsletter, December 1935.)

In 1831, James Lewis’ future was forever changed when he was converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His conversion only fifteen months after the Church was organized is recorded more than once in his journals. The following is a combined account of his writings.

Note the introduction of several key people in his life. “Squire John Jones,” his future father-in-law; Anna Jones, his future wife with whom he was obviously already acquainted; Elizabeth Jones Jackson, Anna’s sister. The Elder Jackson mentioned possibly was Elizabeth’s husband, Henry S. Jackson. James’ sister Rachel was married to William Fallis and his brother Joel’s wife was Mercy Fallis. Whether the Elder Fallis mentioned was related to these Fallis families is unknown. However, no mention is ever made of any of James’ family having joined the LDS Church.
              “I, James Stapleton Lewis, will say of my father, Joel Lewis Sen., that he was a great reader of the Bible but was not a professor of the religion of his time. My mother was baptized into the Church of England when quite young. She taught me to revere the Bible above all other books. When I was a boy at school, a Book providentially fell into my hands called the American Antiquarian, which had an influence with me in determining my course in life. By it I learned that America had surely been peopled by a race of inhabitants far more civilized than the present race of Indians.
              “All civilized nations keep records. The question with me was, were they Christian and of what kind? As to the religious matters, my mind was curiously worked upon. I believed the Bible, but as far as the sects were known to me, I was infidel. At my age, I was disgusted with much that was called    religion, and promised myself never to engage in any religion that I did not know to be true. And if I obtained that fact, I never would depart from it as I had seen many do – join the church in an excited time and soon after become dissatisfied and more wicked and corrupt than ever before. A secret something seemed to whisper that I was young and in the course of my days would see something of as good authority as in the days of the apostles of old.
              “When about seventeen years of age, a man, an ex-preacher, came near where I was staying, late in the evening, did not dismount but said he had rode forty miles that day to overtake two mormonite preachers that have a golden Bible taken out of the earth, that they were preaching the ancient apostolic doctrine and that next Sunday they would preach in Mock’s barn. All of this was said almost without taking a breath. My own thoughts I cannot explain, but my first thought was that this is the very thing I have thought would come in the course of my days. The words I had heard went through me in every part of my system. I remembered the Bible, also what I had learned of the ancient peoples of America, and above all the secret whispering now settled more strongly than ever before.
              “Mr. Mock was a wealthy Dutch farmer at whose house I was very intimate, accordingly I went to hear the strange men. When I arrived there to my great surprise there was already gathered the greatest congregation I had ever seen in the country. Thomas B. Marsh was preaching from the prophecies of Isaiah some of which I remember to this day 1896. After he had finished his discourse his traveling companion Selah J. Griffin arose and bore testimony to what had been said and related the manner in which the Book of Mormon or the plates from which it was taken was translated and the testimony of the witnesses Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris and also of the eight witnesses. . . .
              “Squire Jones, an ex-preacher, was put forward to talk to them. False reports had not yet reached there. Squire Jones could ask questions they could not answer, but they answered many questions he had never heard answered before. And my father-in-law, Squire John Jones, went home a wiser and better man than he came, for he never raised his voice against their doctrine.
              “In the afternoon preached at Father Lindsey’s, a Methodist, where they held Methodist meetings. And it being their day, their preacher came riding up in good style, did not dismount, called Father Lindsey out, insulted and abused him for allowing those deceivers to preach in his house, altho he  was aged enough to be the preacher’s father. The Elders passed on down the Missouri river.
              “Soon after, two other Elders came, Levi W. Hancock and Zebedee Coltrin, and began baptizing my associates and many others, sometimes a dozen at a time. I was sorry to see them so forward, for they went out of the church very much as they came into the church. Of myself, I think I was better prepared to endure than many of my own age. The Elders quoted liberally from the scriptures. I was careful to see every one of them with my own eyes and knew they were in my mother’s Bible.
              “Taking in all of the evidences of scriptures and my antiquarian evidence of older nations of our own   American country, and above all those sacred whisperings that no human could give, the last of the baptisms in our place was Sister Jackson, her sister Anna Jones, and myself. I was baptized by Levi W. Hancock in water and the Holy Ghost before I set my feet on dry land, where I was confirmed by Zebedee Coltrin July, 1831, Randolph County, State of Indiana . . . . The Elders . . . continued until they had baptized eighty members including myself.
              “I will state one case of baptism, that of a young lady who had been confined to her bed with sickness for two years under the care of two doctors. In December the snow was on the ground. She was carried to the water over two hundred yards and was carried into the water and was baptized. She walked back to the house. In the spring following went five miles to meeting and rode behind me on a horse. The two doctors and all the citizens of Winchester beheld a miracle they could not gainsay. Her name was Charlotte Lindsey, since died in faith speaking in tongues.”

The two sets of missionaries who taught and then baptized James were divinely commissioned. See Doctrine and Covenants 52:22, 29 and 56:4-6. On August 13, 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith en route to Kirtland after his first visit to Jackson County, Missouri, met several Elders on their way to Zion. Joyful salutations were followed by the receiving of a revelation of encouragement (D & C 62.) The missionaries’ labors had met with much success. Two, Levi W. Hancock and Zebedee Coltrin, had baptized one hundred persons. (Barrett p. 163; Ensign, October 1992 “The Saints of Winchester, Indiana”)