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,
Feb. 28, 1855
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.
THE PIONEER’S DREAM ON THE DESERT
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: GenealogybyJan.com