William Stevens son of Roswell Stevens
Contributor: RWhisnant Created: 4 years ago Updated: 4 years ago
A Life Sketch of William Stevens
By Abbie Stevens Young
William Stevens was a son of Roswell Stevens, who was born in Connecticut, February 27, 1772, and Sybil Spencer, who was born April 4, 1778, in Washington Berkshire, Massachusetts. William was born October 1, 1799, in Arkansaw, Herkimer County, New York.
We next find the family living in Branford, New York, where the second child was born. In 1808 they were living on the Grand River in Upper Canada. In 1816 they were in the town of Chipeway, Upper Canada. Mention is also made of their having lived in London, Canada, also Gore District near Mount Pleasant and finally in Mount Pleasant, Upper Canada. This is all the information I have been able to obtain concerning his early life. In searching the history of Connecticut for genealogical information, I found where the early settlers of Northeastern Connecticut were driven from their homes by the Indians and a number of families, including the Stevens family, went up into the State of New York.
William Stevens married September 2, 1827, Marinda Thomas, who was born June 27, 1809, in New Jersey. She was a daughter of David Thomas and his wife Ellen of Mount Pleasant, Upper Canada. Some believed and were baptized that same year, others were baptized the following year, but William deferred his baptism until June, 1837.
The family emigrated from Canada in 1838, with the intention of going to Missouri but having heard of the troubles of the Saints in the State, they wintered in Illinois and joined the Saints in their gathering place in Commerce (Nauvoo), Hancock County, Illinois. Here he became acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith. During the exodus of the Saints in 1846, he came West and remained together with seventy-five other families at Council Bluffs, where there was a large branch of the church, with James Allred as Bishop. While residing there, William’s wife and son Walter were baptized in 1847. His wife was not strong and the trials and hardships endured by the Saints in those perilous times told heavily upon her health. This, with the care of her large family, who all came in less that nineteen years, and the loss by death of four of her children, one being her eldest daughter who died very suddenly, one a little girl of five years old, and two younger sons, caused her health to become worse and a few weeks after the birth of her last child, she passed away on the 27th of June, 1848, her thirty-nine birthday. The baby died August of that year. Thus, in a brief space of time, William buried his wife and five of their children. He had in his employ, to assist in the care of his wife and family, Matilda Yancey. She remained with them and on the 6th of August, 1852, became his wife. She was indeed a mother to his children and her memory they love and revere.
In the summer of 1850, they started West in William Snow’s company, arriving in Salt Lake City, on October 1, 1850. On the fourth of October, three days later, the Stevens family moved south and located a spring which is now known as the “Stevens Spring”. It is located on the State Highway between Pleasant Grove and American Fork. Two large rooms built of hewn logs were soon erected to serve as their home. All the North end of Utah Valley attended all church meetings, school, dances, and other amusements, in this building, until the Indians drove them into a Fort in 1853. His son, Walter, built an adobe house, consisting of two rooms and a basement in Pleasant Grove, (then known as Battle Creek). This house was also used for meetings, school and dancing for a time.
After three years sojourn here, William Stevens was called to help settle the Southern part of the Territory and the family went as far south as Fillmore, when Apostle Erastus Snow, who had charge of the colonies in the Southern part of the state said, “Brother Stevens, will it make any difference to you if you do not go any farther south than Fillmore?” His reply was, “no, Brother Snow, I am ready to locate wherever you say you want me, and since my grain and other supplies are already in Pleasant Grove, it would be quite an advantage to me to not have to haul them farther than Fillmore.” “All right, Brother Stevens, it will be Fillmore” How characteristic of the true gospel convert was the spirit or our early day Pioneers! How aptly it was expressed by the poet, “I’ll go where you want me to go dear Lord, I’ll be what you want me to be.”
Such a man was William Stevens, and after a sojourn of two years in Fillmore, during which time he built another home, Apostle Erastus Snow again came to him and said, “Brother Stevens, will it make any difference to you if you do not remain in Fillmore but go over to Cedar Spring and help colonize there?” Again cam the unhesitating reply, “Brother Snow, I am ready and willing to go where I am called.” “Alright then, Brother Stevens, we want you at Cedar Springs.”
The following account is coped from the History of Holden:
“Holden, or Cedar Springs as it was formerly called, was settled the 15th day of June, 1855, by ten families called by church leaders to leave their homes in Fillmore and go about nine miles north and make a settlement on the creek or by the springs. The first families to arrive were those of William Stevens and Richard Johnson. They were soon followed by eight other families.”
Fillmore was designed as the Capitol of the territory in 1851, a year after the official designation of Utah as a United States Territory. Both town and county were named after President Millard Fillmore, who signed the papers to make Utah a Territory. A State house was built in Fillmore. The Legislature met first in this historic building during the session for the 1855-56 Biennium, the first and only full session held there. At that session, Heber C. Kimball was President of the Council (Senate) and Jedediah M. Grant was the Speaker of the House. But thereafter, it was found more convenient to transact business in Salt Lake City. Afterwards, the Legislature convened each year at Fillmore and immediately adjourned to Salt Lake City. The Sixth Territorial Legislature officially designated Salt Lake City as the Capitol in place of Fillmore. William Stevens was a member of the Territorial Legislature during the 1856-57 Biennium. He also was a member of the High Priest’s Quorum.
1n 1861, he was called to furnish three yoke of oxen to cross the plains and assist the immigrants to Utah. It was his son, David R., who took the outfit through. William Stevens was a very successful farmer and stock-raiser. He not only raised both beef and dairy cattle, but horses and sheep as well. He was very industrious, kind and generous. When his daughter Rachel’s husband went on a mission to England, he had her move to Holden from Pleasant Grove. HE provided her with a place to live and helped to provide for her needs of her and her three small children. In his characteristic way, he took he into his kitchen and lifting the lid of one bin, said, “Now here is flour.” Then lifting the lid of another bin, said, “And here is sugar. Use all you want of it, but don’t waste any.”
His wife, Matilda, daughter Rachel and three of his daughters-in-law were expert in making a superior quality of butter and cheese which found a ready market at attractive prices. Even the buttermilk became famous, so that for many years Holden was known far and near as “Buttermilk Fort.” This was due to the fact that freighters traveling to and from Salt Lake City and the Dixieland, found Holden a convenient and friendly camping place where they were generously provided with refreshing buttermilk. It was necessary for the early settlers to build and live in a fort for protection against the Indians whose ward and depredations were a serious and dangerous menace at the time. The new settlement was also called “Cedar Springs” in its early days, but at the advent of a Post Office, it was officially named Holden. As so this became his permanent home where he lived the remainder of his life, and his name has been handed down in honor and reverence. Many deeds of benevolence, kindness and charity are still remembered and spoken of him. I will not attempt to write of them in great detail but will only mention a few briefly and they will suffice to show who was the index to his whole life.
During the pioneer days in Millard County, the dam at Deseret went out and the settlers lost their crops. The next spring, some of the people there had no flour for bread or seed wheat for planting. William Stevens at Holden had a granary full of wheat.
Speculatators from Fillmore came to buy it and offered him five dollars per bushel for it, to sell at a still higher price to the needy in Deseret, intending to take a mortgage on their crops for security. William Stevens refused to sell them a single bushel of his wheat, but sent the entire amount, as a free gift, to the needy in Deseret, to be distributed to them by their Bishop, according to their individual needs. And again, when the settlers in Sanpete County had their horses stolen by the Indians, leaving some of them without a team to plow their land for planting of crops, he gathered up all of the young and usable horses he had on the range and sent a band of thirty to the Bishop, to be given to the brethren who had been thus robbed.
A blacksmith living in Deseret during the early settlement of that town, moved to Pioche, a mining town in Nevada. His wife’s mother was living with them in Deseret, but when he moved and left her alone and un-provided for William Stevens learned of this and drove to Deseret, a distance of thirty miles from Holden, and rescued the woman from her sorry plight. He took her to his own home where he gave her the care and tenderness that he would have bestowed upon on one of his own family, for the remainder of her life and buried her at his own expense in his family burying plot.
Before William Stevens died, he wrote a letter to President Brigham Young, in which he said that he had never been called to go on a mission to preach the gospel, but had been permitted to remain at home with his family and attend to his business affairs; that the Lord had greatly prospered him in all of his undertakings and now he desired to make a gift to the church to be used in the benefit of families of men called to fill foreign missions, and the emigration of the poor saints, and he asked that a responsible man be sent down to receive the gift. The man came and gift consisted of $5300 gold coin. He was always a generous and regular subscriber to the Perpetual Immigration Fund and also made other smaller gifts to the Church at various times. Truly, “he who giveth to the poor lendeth unto the Lord.”
He died the 5th of February, 1877, and was buried at Holden, Millard County, Utah.