Three Noble Latter-day Saint Utah Pioneer “Foremothers” of Distinction:

From Biographical Sketches Written by Their Children, Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren
Compiled by © 2021 Margery Boyden, Scudder Association Foundation historian and Susan Sherwood Arnett
From Stewart family histories, for Scudder Association Foundation,
used by permission

 

Mother with children[1]

 

May I use the term, Foremother?’” says Mark F. Mariger, the great-grandson of one of these three women. He continues, [Foremother] is not listed in any dictionary, but I wish to take the liberty to use it to distinguish our brave women from our brave men. Women too frequently do not get recorded in history as do the men. Still is not their bravery, their part and actions just as important as that of the men?

During his lifetime, Levi Stewart was blessed with three strong, steadfast, faith-filled wives, committed to serving God and family, and willing to bear the hardships of pioneering not only in new frontier settlements but in also pioneering a new 19th century religion that they believed was a restoration of Jesus Christ’s ancient Christian church with its spiritual power and authority. Understanding their story from their perspective is essential to understanding why they were willing to do what they did although they were called upon to repeatedly sacrifice material comforts and physical and economic security. Motivated by their love for God and others, like the ancient saints of the early Christian period, these three 19th-century hardworking Latter-day Saint women traded material ease for what they considered to be a better and enduring substance” [Hebrews 10:34]. Like their distant cousin Scudder family counterparts, who were also extraordinary 19th-century women serving during the same time period alongside their Scudder missionary husbands in India and Sri Lanka, the character of these three Utah pioneer women were forged by the fires of faith to meet their pioneering challenges and its adversities. To understand why these women were able to do what they did, one must sincerely investigate the question, “Why were these women so willing and motivated?” Words from the scriptures they loved and from their admiring offspring supply some answers to this question. Several of their Stewart descendants, (who were also direct lineal Scudder descendants), have given accounts of these three foremothers stories that deserve to be shared with their 21st century relatives.  

Biographical Sketch of Melinda Howard,First Wife of Levi Stewart[2]

By Mark F. Mariger, a greatgrandson, with a few editorial notes added

Born – 7 November 1816 – Silver Creek Area, Madison Co., Illinois.
Married – 7 February 1833 to Levi Stewart at Madison Co., Illinois.
Pioneer of 1848, arriving Salt Lake Valley in autumn of that year.
Settled in Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah, died 24 Nov 1853 at Cottonwood

Mark Mariger begins:

Melinda Howard Stewart was truly one of the great foremothers among our pioneer ancestors. May I use the term, “Foremother?” It is not listed in any dictionary, but I wish to take the liberty to use it to distinguish our brave women from our brave men. Women too frequently do not get recorded in history as do the men. Still is not their bravery, their part and actions just as important as that of the men?

Her parents were John Howard and his wife, Jane Van Hooser (Hoosen). She was the fourth child in a family of nine, who were as follows, listed in order of birth: Abram, 8 May 1811; Riley, 18 Jan 1813; Elizabeth, 22 July 1814; Melinda, 7 Nov 1816, the subject of this sketch; Arriminta, 25 Feb 1819, who married Levi North; Louisa, 4 Feb 1820; William, 9 July 1823; Mary Ann, 17 July 1825; and John, 6 Feb 1827. All these children were born in Madison County and on or near the Silver Creek area.

A search of old maps and of Illinois History, has failed to produce a town or hamlet by the name Silver Creek. However, there is such a creek, which heads in the northern part of Madison County, near the town, Worden, and flows southward on through the county, into St Clair County, and on through Randolph County, where it joins the mighty Mississippi. Silver Creek apparently is the name of an area along this creek. Such areas are common. As we proceed, we will talk very much about Cottonwood, an area on Big Cottonwood Creek, not a town or a hamlet, but now part of Salt Lake County.

Little or nothing has been learned of her girlhood, but as she reached womanhood, she married Levi Stewart, in Madison County, Illinois, 7 February 1833. They moved to Vandalia, Fayette County, Illinois, some twenty or thirty miles east, where they established their home. It was at this home that their first three children were born, namely: Elizabeth Jane, 18 Mar 1834; Melinda Elvira, 19 Feb 1836, who died in childhood, 15 Oct 1837; and Joseph Abram, 1 April 1838.

As they were living a normal life for that location and time, two Mormon Elders came to Vandalia as missionaries. Levi and Melinda heard their message and in consequence, the whole course and path of their lives was changed. The testimonies of the Elders burned deep into their hearts, many of life’s questions that had perplexed them were answered. They entered into a deep investigation of this new doctrine. So intense was their thirst for truth that a trip was made to Missouri for this purpose. Before returning to Vandalia, they were both baptized and confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These baptisms took place in April 1837. They returned to Vandalia and the birth of their third child, previously listed took place.

Their membership in the Mormon Church brought upon them the full wrath of the persecution the Saints were enduring. They moved to Missouri where the Saints were gathering. They owned property here, as years later Levi filed a claim against the State of Missouri for a sum of nearly $4000.00 for damage done to his property by mobs. While in the West, their fourth child, John Riley Stewart, was born 21 Nov 1840 at Commerce, Iowa, near where Des Moines now stands.

We next find them in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois. Nauvoo was a beehive of activity. They were under heavy persecution and still endeavoring with all their hearts to build the Temple. So much had to be done that everyone was kept busy; food must be produced for both the people and for their livestock, material had to be furnished and prepared for the sacred building. There were thousands of tasks, sewing for example. Clothing had to be made for those who worked full time on the Temple. All Temple clothing had to be made, garments, the veils, the drapes, the ornamental and decorative pieces of art needle work. Food must be bottled and preserved for winter, the children had to be taught both in school and in church classes. It is said that Melinda did sewing for the Temple, but what she sewed is unknown to this writer.

Nauvoo Temple

The Nauvoo Temple, circa 1846, daguerreotype[3]

While in Nauvoo, both became first name friends of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Elizabeth Jane, their oldest child, named for Levi’s mother, Elizabeth Van Hooser, and for Melinda’s mother, Jane, (Elizabeth and Jane were sisters) was now eight years old, and wished to be baptized. Her parents had taught her the Gospel, and she had a strong testimony for an eightyearold child. She was a sickly child and had to spend much of her time in bed, due to her illness. Often, as she was home alone in bed, she prayed, and the burden of her prayers was that the Prophet Joseph Smith would be the one to baptize her, and if her prayers could be granted, that she had enough faith that she would be healed and become well and strong. She had not made her wishes known to anyone except the Lord.

One day they were baptizing in the Mississippi River. [Elizabeth Jane’s] father [Levi] took her to the river for that purpose. There were two groups baptizing, the Prophet was in the group higher up the river. Her father, not knowing her desire, took her to the lower group. Just before it became her turn to go into the water, she said, “Oh, Papa, I wanted Brother Joseph to baptize me.” The Prophet, who was some one-hundred yards upstream, could not have possibly heard the child’s remark, as she spoke in a low voice. He turned and looked at the other group and called out, “Brother Levi, is that your little daughter? I wish to baptize her, bring her to me.” So, her prayers were answered and in full too, for she regained her health and became well and strong and lived to cross the icy plains of Iowa and on into Utah where she raised a large family, did much Church work and colonizing and became my grandmother.

Nauvoo persecution intensified and then came that fatal day, 27 June 1844, when the beloved Prophet and his brother, Hyrum, sealed their testimonies with their life’s blood.

Less than a year before this terrible event, the fifth child was born by Melinda, in Nauvoo, 15 Feb 1843, they named her Emma. She passed away in May 1844.

It is supposed by the enemies of the Church that the slaying of the Prophet would be a knock-out blow to the Church and that without him it would fall apart. Levi and Melinda were no weaklings.

They worked hard to save the Church, calm the panic-stricken, strengthen the weak, and encourage all to support the new leaders. It was the efforts of the valiant, such as these, that strengthened the weakened Church, and brought unity among the strong who stayed with the faith. Both Levi and Melinda worked hard in this great aftermath, Levi working closely with Brigham Young and other leaders. Mob violence intensified as they saw the Church moving ahead under its new leadership. The heroic Saints completed the Temple and on 22 Dec 1845, Levi and Melinda received their endowments. A short time later they returned, and 13 Jan 1846 were sealed and remarried, making eternal covenants for time and all eternity.

As the command came to abandon the “Beloved City,” Levi and Melinda were prepared and ready to follow any order of their leaders, day or night. They could leave the Nauvoo Temple area now as they had completed all holy ordinances necessary, for who knew when or where the next temple would be built for such purposes?

In the dead of winter, 1846, they were literally driven from their comfortable homes by mobs. Many crossed the frozen Mississippi on the ice[4] and trod on to the icy plains of Iowa in sub-zero weather. Little Louisa was just a few months old, having been born 16 June 1845, now forced to travel in a covered wagon with no heat. What hardship and suffering for a tiny baby and her innocent mother. What had these brave souls done to warrant such abuse? Babies were born in these freezing cold covered wagons, others on the icy ground, where a blanket had been thrown over the snow, while other sisters held blankets up to cut the cold wind, while others attempted to keep a feeble fire burning, for light and to help keep the mother and her new little on warm. Exposure, often insufficient food and other hardships caused much sickness, and it became widespread among them.

Crossing the Mississippi on the Ice

Crossing the Mississippi on the Ice, by C. C. A. Christensen[5]

Elizabeth Jane, now a strong young girl of twelve, was a great help, tending babies as her mother went to help the sick and the dying. These most wonderful foremothers were called night and day to assist the young mothers as they had their babies, to lay out the dead, and besides have all their own work and their families to care for.

Temporary camps or settlements were built on the Iowa plains. These were known as “Camps of Israel.” Melinda was at Camp 2. She was often left alone as her husband left to fulfill various assignments, providing meat from wild game for the camps, carrying mail and important letters between the Camps and Nauvoo. Often large sums of money were entrusted to him to carry to Nauvoo and elsewhere to buy provisions, livestock and wagons, etc. In these camps, temporary houses were built, usually of logs and had sod roofs.

They moved on westward to where Omaha, Nebraska now stands. It was then known as Winter Quarters. Here their seventh child, Levi Howard Stewart, was born, 6 May 1848.

Winter Quarters by C C A Christensen

“Winter Quarters,” by C. C. A. Christensen[6] 

Shortly after this birth, the wagon wheels rolled again, on toward the west, and this time to their destination, the Great Salt Lake Valley. Again, Melinda was forced to travel with a tiny baby, just weeks old, little Levi Howard. They must have been a very strong sturdy people to withstand such hardships and survive the rough roads, the heat of the day, the cold of the night, besides the fear of wild beasts, snakes and Indians. Bravely they moved on, arriving in Salt Lake City in the autumn of 1848.[7]

Upon arriving in the valley, lots and farms were allotted to the families, according to their needs and desires. Levi Stewart obtained a lot of one and a quarter acres, located on the west side of State Street, about one-hundred fifty feet south of Fourth South Street, across the street from the block upon which the City and County Building now stands.[8] His farm was located in Cottonwood, on Big Cottonwood Creek at Highland Drive.[9] I have not found its acreage.

From records of my grandmother, Elizabeth Jane, Melinda’s first child, I believe that they established their home in Cottonwood, and started immediately to build a house, barn and other shelters. They had to produce all their own food, so cows, chickens, livestock and farming was a must. As far as I can determine, this was Melinda’s home. All her children, born in Utah, were born in Cottonwood as early as 1851. Her husband became a member of the bishopric here in 1851, proving this to be his home ward.

Levi Stewart built a large mansion of two stories and many rooms. Melinda’s eight child was born in Cottonwood, 15 July 1851, and named Emeline Howard Stewart.

In 1852, Grandfather Levi married another wife, Margery Wilkerson, who proved a fine wife and a perfect mother. She and Melinda got along very well, both being converted to the doctrine of plural marriage, and they liked each other.

It is my opinion that about this time, Grandfather Levi built a house on his city lot on State Street, and it was the permanent home of Margery. All her children were born here. She was a member of the Eighth Ward, and the home was in that ward. However, she and members of the family spent much time on the farm in Cottonwood, helping on the farm, for it produced food for all Levi’s families, they all working in harmony together. Aunt Ella [Stewart] Udall, Margery’s daughter, spent enough time on the farm to establish lifelong friends among the neighbors. Years later, when she lived in Arizona, she always visited Aunt Nona Boyce in Cottonwood when she came [to Utah for General] Conference, etc. Aunt Nona Boyce Taylor and Eliza Luella [Ella] Stewart Udall were lifelong friends. I say Aunt Nona as she is my wife’s aunt. She often spoke of Ella Stewart.

Melinda’s ninth, tenth (and last) children were born, 30 Oct 1853, in Cottonwood, twin girls named Merinda and Marada. The hardships of pioneering with all its problems, trials, sorrows and sufferings had taken a heavy toll from Melinda’s strength. Faithfully, she had answered every call from her Church without hesitation. Now, in the same sweet spirit of willing submission, she answered her final call from the Master, to come home. She passed away 24 Nov 1853, still a young woman of thirty-seven years. It was less than a month after the birth of her dear twins. Her funeral was held in Cottonwood Ward and she was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Little Merinda passed away 16 Oct 1854. Marada lived to be about fifteen, passing away in 1868. Both are buried near their mother in the Salt Lake Cemetery.

Headstone for members of the Levi Stewart family who are buried in Salt Lake City, Utah 

Headstone for members of the Levi Stewart family who are buried in Salt Lake City, Utah[10]

A year after Melinda’s death, Grandfather married another wife in 1854. She was Artemacy Wilkerson, a sister to Margery. Artemacy was a fine and true wife and raised a large family of fine children.

Editorial note: Artemacy had recently divorced her first husband, William Cassady, who had chosen to leave life among the Latter-day Saints for the lure of the gold fields of California. Artemacy was not willing to go with him in pursuit of worldly wealth for she was not willing to trade away life in Zion with its more enduring substance of a Christian community that shared her values, family associations and the riches of eternity.  Life among the family of Levi Stewart would give Artemacy a secure place among the Saints and, as her story reveals, would prove to be a huge blessing to all of the posterity of Levi Stewart for several generations because Artemacy outlived Levi’s other two wives by more than a half a century. Melinda’s and Margery’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren considered Artemacy as a beloved mother and grandmother and great-grandmother figure in their lives.

Mark F. Mariger concludes his sketch of Melinda in these words: “Following the death of Melinda, it is my opinion that Grandfather Levi changed his place of residence to the home on State Street in downtown Salt Lake. Let us always be proud and thankful for our great Foremother, Melinda Howard Stewart, and for our great Forefather Stewart.”[11]

The stories recorded for Margery and Artemacy by their posterity show why they too are still held is such high regard by thousands of descendants of Levi Stewart. Don’t miss the following stories that pay tribute to these two other extraordinary women, these mothers of many Scudder descendants, who took pioneering to a new level as they helped to settle the wild frontier of southern Utah. Stories by their posterity, and by many family letters that have been preserved, show they did this while also fostering what became a strong multigenerational family culture of love, faith, service, excellence and family loyalty.)

 Biographical Sketch of Margery Wilkerson Stewart

Biographical Sketch of Artemacy Wilkerson Cassady Stewart


[1] Melinda (Howard) Stewart and children.

[2] Mark F. Mariger, “Biographical Sketch of Melinda Howard.” Copy not dated and is as it is in the original sketch with a few minor spelling and punctuation edits for clarity and with a few pictures added. Its author, Mark F. Mariger, spent much of his life in recording and preserving his family’s history and in furthering its family history research pursuits.

[3] Lucian R. Foster, “The Nauvoo Temple,” c. 1846, a daguerreotype (a naturally reversed imaged produced on silver-plated copper), flipped here to present an image of the ‘Temple on the hill’ just as a visitor of the time would have seen it, towering over the city upon a high bluff,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nauvoo_Temple_(flipped_Daguerreotype).jpg. Wikimedia, Public domain.

[4] “Exodus from Nauvoo, February–May 1846,” https://media.ldscdn.org/images/media-library/gospel-art/church-history/saints-crossing-the-mississippi-83478-gospel-art-kit-story-410.pdf?download=true. Discusses the several months’ process that began with  most families with their wagons being ferried by barges but due to a freeze in late February the river froze and some crossed on the ice, considered a miracle at the time,.

[5] C. C. A. Christensen, “Crossing the Mississippi on the Ice,” painted about 1878, Museum of Art, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, https://moa.byu.edu/cca-christensen-highlights/.

[6] C. C. A. Christensen, painted about 1878, Museum of Art, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, https://moa.byu.edu/cca-christensen-highlights/.

[7] Conquerors of the West: Stalwart Mormon Pioneers, Vols. 1–2, states that the Stewart family arrived in Salt Lake City with the John W. Cooley Company, https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/2100000020:6230.

[8] The Levi Stewart home on State Street was on the site of the present-day Scott M. Matheson Court House across from the Salt Lake City and County Building, https://slco.org/sheriff/public-safety-bureau/locations/matheson-courthouse.

Matherson Cout House  Matheson Court House on left and Salt Lake City & County Building on the right. Satellite view, Google Maps.

[9] The Stewart home in Cottonwood is no longer standing but was near present day Highland Drive and Murray-Holladay Boulevard at 4800 South.

[10] Melinda Howard Stewart, Findagrave, https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVVP-Z949. Note: spelling of names may vary from the most common spelling on majority of other records—not unusual for the time period. Spelling was not then as precise.

[11] Mark F. Mariger’s sources for “Biographical Sketch of Melinda Howard” include:
Biography of Levi Stewart by Clarice Stewart Anderson a granddaughter
Melinda Howard’s notes,
owned by her daughter Elizabeth Jane.
Records and Notes compiled by Elizabeth Jane Stewart Farnsworth.
History of Cottonwood Ward.
Records of Mary Melinda Farnsworth Mariger
Conversations with Nona Boyce Taylor.

 


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