The last of the Mormon Pioneers

Trying to trace my family tree has been a sobering experience, most of my ancestors have struggled and suffered and lived very ordinary lives in quite difficult circumstances. I recently had a breakthrough on detailed information about my great, great, great grandfather Alfred Stevens primarily because he became a mormon and the record of his life has been preserved much more than most. Connections to the Queen, mormon pioneers walking across the American plains to Utah and related to the first white man to be killed from native American uprisings – Apologies for the fragmentary nature of the narrative that follows but I feel it adds to the imagining of what they must have gone through:

Alfred Stevens, son of Aaron and Louisa Betts Stevens, was born 9 Jan 1815, in London, England. When his parents married, Aaron was 18 and Louisa was 16. They resided in London and also owned a country home in Essex. They helped supply milk for the poor.

His mother, left a widow at the age of 19 with two small children, placed Alfred and his sister, Louisa who was about eight months old, in the care of a governess while she took care of the business. The children were later put in a boarding school and soon after the mother married Mr. Greenfield, the Queen’s footman, which at that time was quite an honour.

When Alfred was 15, he ran away from the boarding school and joined the Navy. He loved the Sea, and in due time became Captain of a sailing vessel.

Alfred was of a religious nature and loved to read the Bible, which he knew and loved. On his voyages, the Bible was his constant companion.

On 21 Jun 1837 he married Miss Christina Lynd and from this union there were 11 children born. However, his twin sons, Charles Lynd and Aaron Bethel both named after their grandfathers had died as babies, one at age 14 months and the other 5 months later. These deaths were followed by two daughters, Elizabeth and Christina dying within 6 months of their births, the latter death being in 1850.

About 1850, when Alfred was 35 years old and the father of 4 living and 4 deceased children, some Mormon missionaries were on board his ship. He was drawn into their conversation, asking many questions and comparing their answers to the Bible. He was so comforted by the Plan of Salvation and knowing that this doctrine agreed with the Bible, Alfred was converted to their religion and baptized on 12 April 1851. He did not tell his wife for two years, knowing that she was very opposed to this unpopular new doctrine.

Alfred, Christina and family seemed to have no other thought than to come to America to be with the Saints. It was decided by the family that their oldest daughter, Hannah should go to America first, with her sister, Jane and earn the money for the rest of the family to come later. Sorrow and misfortune were their lot, however. Hannah’s baby, about 8 months old, contracted measles on board ship and died. On the journey through the Wasatch mountains, her sister Jane passed away in Aug. 1863. Hannah went on to Zion alone.

Three years later Alfred, Christina and three other children: Christina, age 13, Robert age 11, and Ellen, age 3, left Liverpool, England for America on 6 June 1866 on the packet ship, Saint Mark.

Concerning this voyage, is a section taken from ‘The Masterful Discourses and Writings of Orsonn Pratt’:

“On the 6th inst. the fine packet ship Saint Mark cleared from Liverpool for New York, carrying several hundred emigrants. The second cabin was occupied by 95 American adult passengers, members of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Elder Alfred Stevens, an English Sea Captain, was appointed president and unanimously sustained by the vote of the Saints. The Saints were suitably instructed in relation to the voyage and were promised a safe passage on condition of due diligence to all their duties.”

Landed at New York on the 24th of July 1866 after a fun, but long, voyage. Got registered at Castle Garden. Left there, passed through Canada by New Haven to Montreal, Toronto up to Point Edward. Crossed the river. St. Clair to Fort Huron, passed on to Quincy, ILL. crossed the Mississippi, then onward to St. Joseph, MO. Embarked on a steamer, got to Wyoming, Nebraska on the 3rd Aug 1866 in the afternoon.

“Between four hundred and five hundred wagons with three or four yoke of oxen to each wagon, were sent this year by the Church, to the Missouri River (Wyoming, Nebraska) after emigrants most of whom including, our own family, came expecting to cross the plains with Church teams. While stopping at Wyoming we could draw provisions from the Church store house, which had been erected on the camp ground.”

The Company that helped them on their way was the Andrew H. Scott Company, Departure: Wyoming, Nebraska 8-9 August 1866:

Company Information: About 300 individuals and 49 wagons were in the company when it began its journey from the outfitting post at Wyoming, Nebraska (the west bank of the Missouri River about 40 miles south of Omaha)

One young man in the party recalls:

It was the intention that our company should roll out of Wyoming on August

7th, but a terrible rain storm, accompanied by thunder and lightning, such as none of us from Scandinavia had ever experienced, visited the camp. The rain poured down in torrents nearly all day and the following night. The ground was thoroughly soaked by the downpour, and while the storm was at its worst the whole village seemed to be a perfect lake. Such storms occurred frequently in this locality in July and August every year.

Wednesday, August 8, 1866, will always remain a red-letter day in my recollection. At 10:00 o’clock in the forenoon, as passengers in Capt. Andrew H. Scott’s ox train, we left Wyoming, [Nebraska] to cross the plains. Our teams pulled out slowly, travelled five miles out on the prairie and encamped on the brow of a hill where we remained till the next day.

The rations allowed consisted of 1 1/2 pounds of flour and one pound of bacon each day for each adult besides sugar, molasses, dried fruit, and other eatables, all of which we were to cook and prepare ourselves to suit our respective tastes. Some of us found the baking of bread and the cooking of meals in the open air a somewhat difficult task, as we had never done the like before, but after a few days practice we mastered the situation, and life on the plains soon became quite natural and pleasant to those of us who were young and hearty. To the older members of the company, and to those who had large families of children, the case was quite different.

At several points on the journey we came in friendly contact with Indians, but we only saw a few buffaloes, for many of these noble animals had been wantonly destroyed by white hunters, thus wasting the food of the Indians, which made them very angry and while the Sioux Indians and other tribes showed hostilities to travellers generally, they usually distinguished between the “Mormon” caravans and others, and would steal from other travellers when they would leave the “Mormons” alone.

Quite a number of the people in our company died on the plains, but I failed to make a record of them, as I as yet was an amateur in record-keeping. During the early part of our journey we had plenty of food and some to spare, but on reaching the mountain country, where the temperature was colder, our appetites increased and yet our daily rations were cut down until we suffered for the lack of food, owing to the fact that the provisions which Capt. Scott’s train had cached at different points on the road to be taken up and used when the train returned with emigrants, had been stolen by Indians, or perhaps renegade whites, so we were put on half rations which made us go hungry at times.

Before we reached places where our stock of provisions could be replenished, we suffered considerably, and I, who was a robust and growing boy with a good appetite, could at times think of nothing more desirable than to live long enough to enjoy a square meal, or to have my appetite satisfied.

From South Pass on Sept. 21st Captain Scott sent the following telegram to President Brigham Young:

“Encountered a very severe snow and wind storm for twelve hours while passing from Sage Creek over the Rocky Ridge. Some cattle were badly frozen, eight head died and fifty more are disabled. The snow was six inches deep, feed covered up, heavy wind from the northwest, very cold. Today fine weather, cattle looking better. Camp in good condition. Shall move from here tomorrow.”

On the 7th of October 1866 our train emerged from the mouth of Parley’s Canyon

One of his co-travellers, Rasmussen, Niels, in his autobiography says:

“While staying two days at Wyoming, preparing for the journey across the plains, and during the early part of that journey, across the plains, the mortality continued among us at a fearful rate, until about one hundred persons out of a total of between two and three hundred had perished by the wayside.

My own brother, Hans Peter and mother, Rebecca, fell victims to the terrible disease Aug. 16th and 24th respectively, and were, like the other dead, buried without coffins, in shallow graves by the roadside, after being sewn up in sheets. The survivors passed on, never more to behold their lonely resting places again.

We travelled in the ill-fated train in the charge of Captain Abner Lowry, who was ably assisted by Elder Geo. Farnsworth, of Mount Pleasant, Sanpete County. His name will ever be held in affectionate remembrance by all the survivors from that fearful journey, especially by those who recovered from their sickness through his untiring efforts in alleviating their sufferings, which he did in many instances very successfully.”

Another co-traveller, Jensen, Julius in an interview is quoted as saying:

The leader was Abner Lowry, and we travelled by ox team. I recall seeing buffalo while crossing the plains. The leader called a halt. There were fifty wagons in the company. These were stationed thirty to forty feet apart, all facing the oncoming herd. We could see a dust at first but had no more than got lined up as commanded, when the herd was on us. The buffalo went in between the wagons. We were afraid the teams would stampede, but the drivers held them in control. We had plenty of buffalo meat for quite a few days.

A relief mule train, under Captain Arza E. Hinckley (sent out by President .Brigham Young), met us about four hundred miles east of Salt Lake City. All the orphans, of which there were many in our company, were taken by that train.

We arrived in Salt Lake City Oct. 7, 1866, while the main company, which lost nearly half their cattle in the snows in the mountains, reached the valley about two weeks later. The day after our arrival in Salt Lake City the orphan emigrants were all provided with homes.”

The Deseret Weekly News reported on 10 Oct. 1866:

GOT BACK.— Captain Arza E. Hinckley returned to the city on Sunday night, bringing with him 10 wagons of the 20 he took away to meet the immigration, and 87 passengers brought from Cap. Abner Lowry’s company.

The other 10 wagons he sent back with different trains as they were needed. Cap. Hinckley carried assistance and supplies to all the companies as they might be required. He travelled east 450 miles until he met the last company, Cap. Lowry’s, which he did in the midst of a snow storm. His arrival in their camp must have seemed like the visit of an angel. He then started on the return, bringing with him the number of passengers named. Cap. Lowry, he believed, would camp at Ham’s fork on Sunday night”.

The final remaining wagons arrived two weeks later reported by the Deseret Weekly News on 24 Oct. 1866:

GOT IN.—Captain Abner Lowry’s train of 60 wagons and about 100 passengers [started with 300 – about 70 “rescued” by Capt. Arza E. Hinkley – about 100 arrived in SLC ] got into the city on Monday, a little before noon. This is the last immigrant train of the season. They encountered some severe weather on the latter part of the trip; but the immigrants stood it very well. We are glad that this train has got in, and that all the immigration is safe in the Territory as early as it is. There was more mortality than ordinary in Cap. Lowry’s train, in consequence of a malignant form of dysentery which afflicted many on the first part of the journey across the plains; but the deaths, we are happy to say, were not so numerous as was currently reported some time ago.

The Stevens family arrived in Utah sometime in Oct. 1866, it is not recorded whether they were in the early or later arrivals that month, after suffering all the trials of the Saints at that time in crossing the plains. They made many sacrifices for the gospel of Jesus Christ, including leaving their homeland, family and friends, and more especially leaving a son and daughter, Alfred Jr. and Ann Agnes, never to see them again.

Arriving in Utah, they made their home in Slaterville, Weber County, where they engaged in farming. Alfred taught school in the winter, receiving produce for pay. Christina was a good wife and mother and a useful member of the church. She often went out to care for the sick in her community. In 1870, Alfred married in polygamy, a widow, Mary Slater Reed, with three children and together they had three more children: Louisa Jane, Joseph and Merilda.

Mary Reed has an interesting back-story in that she married a man called John Reed in Nauvoo and then moved to Slatervile, Utah about 1860. They lived in a little log cabin for a short while. John Reed received a call to move to Franklin, ID. He was killed by an Indian uprising in the Ogden area, the first white man to lose his life from Indian uprisings and a monument has been erected near the spot.

This was reported at the time as follows:

ATTACK ON SMITHFIELD. JOHN REED AND IRA MERRILL KILLED.

July 22nd Smithfield, Cache County, was attacked by Indians. A fight ensued: John Reed and Ira Merrill and two Indians were killed and several others wounded on both sides. The Indians sought to liberate one of their number who had been captured while stealing horses, but in the melee the guilty Indian and another were killed. Previous to this time, the Indians made a similar attempt of rescuing another at Logan, Cache Valley, Utah, but the whites rallied quickly, and in force, defeated the attempt.

Alfred Stevens died 31 Aug 1881 in Slaterville, Weber, Utah. His wife Christina died 12 Aug 1888. His polygamous wife, Mary Ann died 18 Jan 1929.

Sources

http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ut/county/weber/biography/stevens.htm

http://www.archive.org/stream/historyofindiand00gottrich/historyofindiand00gottrich_djvu.txt

Church Chronology by Andrew Jensen

http://www.pioneerancestors.com/media/10a%20William%20Peacock%20&%20Phyllis%20Hyom.pdf

Andrew Jenson, comp., Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 4 vols.

[1971], 1:597.

Utah Pioneer Biographies,” 44 vols., 15:98,100.

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you for visiting my blog and creating the link.
    I really admire your profound and informative writing.
    Wishing you higher and higher success in making contribution to the “training of the world and beautifying the souls of nations.”

  2. Hi, My family was also part of this party of emigrants. They left southern Sweden for Hamburg and sailed on a Norwegian ship. From New Haven, they must have been on the same train as the Stevens family. Of the eleven who left Sweden, only four survived the journey. Their record reports that entire families died of what is believed to be cholera. My great- great- great- grandfather and one of his daughgters were left to die on the train platform in St. Joseph, MO. I am not religious. It’s my opinion that my family left Sweden because of the poverty there and the promise of land in Utah. When I checked records in Mariastad, Sweden, it was recorded by their landlord that they left without giving notice and were considered outlaws. I visited Svenstorp, their home village some years ago and found a grave stone in the church graveyard with the name of the one brother who didn’t make the journey. It’s important to record this information for future generations. Thanks for your blog.

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