RACHEL STAPLETON LEWIS
(Taken from the Thomas Harper Book)
Rachel Stapleton Lewis was born June 23, 1866, in Coalville, Summit County, Utah. She was the daughter of James Stapleton Lewis and Anna Maria Svensson. Anna Maria was the second wife of James who practiced the law of plural marriage. Rachel was the first natural child and was followed by two brothers, Hyrum Smith Lewis born 12 May 1868 in Montpelier, Idaho, and Cyrus Sachet Lewis, born 10 September 1871 at Brigham City, Utah. Cyrus died at the age of 4.
The following autobiography of Rachel Stapleton Lewis Harper was read at the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers held in Seretta Smith's residence in December0 1941, in Brigham City, Utah.
We moved to Brigham City about 1869 when I was only 3 years old. My family, like the majority of the pioneers were poor and endured the hardships and made great sacrifices for our religion.
At the age of 6 years, I attended school at the home of Sister Box who was the teacher. Sister Ralph was also one of my teachers.
When 8 years old, my family planned to move to Idaho, a part known as Cedar Valley, now Albion.
My brother Alva had gone first to build a house for the family. While he was there, our brother Isaac was killed in a snow slide in the Deweyville Mountains. Ephriam Cuttler was taken at the same time. Alva dreamed his brother was dead and was shown where he could find his body, so he left Idaho to make his search and his dream was fulfilled. (Note: the two above mentioned brothers are children of the first wife.)
The family arrived in Idaho, 1 June 1875. We drove our covered wagon up to the house our brother had built for us to find it already occupied, as a man was just turning out his chickens. Someone in the absence of our brother had claimed our house.
My father said there is room for all, so we drove a couple of miles west and prepared to build another home. Our wagon home served us for the time being. First we plowed a piece of land and planted a garden so as to replenish our food supply as soon as possible. Father and mother cut and hauled the logs from the canyon. I can remember when we moved all we had into the partly built house. Roof partly covered, dirt floor, no doors or windows put in. It was raining and I can well remember how happy we were and thankful for the incomplete home.
Though we met with disappointments, and hardships, our faith was undaunted and we struggled on trying to build the home of our dreams.
That fall, Father left for Brigham City and there he buried my aunt (Father's first wife, Anna Jones). This left mother and we two children away out there alone as far as relatives were concerned. Nearest neighbors, one mile away. The nearest post office or store was sixty-five miles.
I can see my poor mother crying. She would pray with us children nights as long as we were wake. We heard from Father once in three months. We would go up and meet the freight trains and that was our only mail. (Note: the freight trains were wagon trains).
The next year I went to school. Walking nearly three miles and after all these years, I am happy and thrilled to know that my first Idaho teacher has not forgotten me, as in 1935 I received a Christmas card with a few lines for me. His name is Frank Ribblet and lived at Malta, Idaho, at the time of his death. That winter, Mother had me crochet lace for a lady's window curtain (4 yards). She paid me with a peck of potatoes which we planted.
Later as the valley was settled, we had school houses nearer and teachers boarded at our home. We had a farm of 200 acres. We raised 1,000 bushels of grain, potatoes, turnips, carrots, and also mangle beet (this was feed for the cattle and pigs.) Later, there was a church thirty-six miles farther west and one fifteen miles south and we would go to Sunday School and meetings. Soon a branch was organized. Father was president. In 1883 and 1884 a ward was organized with William T. Harper as bishop. I can say that my father's humble home has sheltered President Lorenzo Snow, Minnie I. Snow, John W. Talor (four of the quorum of twelve apostles). In this dispensation I was taught the Gospel by devoted parents, very honest in their belief. I have always loved the Gospel. I will relate an incident when I was young.
There was no tabernacle in Brigham City. Meetings and Sunday School were held in the courthouse. Charles W. Penrose was the visitor and his talk was on marriage. I came home and told Mother I was going to marry my Father because Brother Penrose said, "Girls, marry in your own religion." I thought Father was the best man. That is all I can remember of his sermon.
Another incident impressed me when but a girl. One Sunday before they were organized as a ward, we saw a couple walking through the field. They were looking for work. We invited them to eat. While he was washing for dinner I said to Mother, "He is a Mormon." She asked me how I knew. I said, "I saw his garment strings they have on their undershirts." So mother asked him and that was not the last of Brother and Sister Jones. They found work and we were dear friends as long as they lived.
We have had many young folks stay at my Father's home and attend school both district and normal. From Brigham I remember Reuben Beecher one term of state normal, also John H. Lowe, a prominent lawyer. I remember a young girl who stayed and went to school with me. The first meal after the blessing she said, "Mr. Lewis, is their writing on your plate?" It was the first blessing on the food she had heard, but not the last one.
I sent a letter or two to my friend Annie Sorenson now Annie Christoffersen. She is very dear to me yet. I have a card she sent me many years ago.
As the valley was settled, ours like other small towns had stores, post offices, creameries, saw-mills, church houses, church granaries, and so we saw the valley grow and our dreams come true. We were privileged to worship God, pay our tithing and our fast offerings.
I married young, not eighteen years old. I met Bishop Thomas Harper during one of his visits to Albion while he was traveling in company with some of the church leaders who were entertained at the home of my father, James Lewis. These were times of polygamy and I accepted Brother Harper's proposal to become a second wife and was married 1 November 1883 in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, Utah by Daniel H. Wells.
I came with Bishop Thomas Harper to live in Harper, then known as Call's Fort, about six miles north of Brigham City, Utah. Being the second wife, I lived in a log cabin close to the big rock house where the first wife Hannah Jones Harper lived with their eleven children. Here I gave birth to six children: Mary Adelia, Hannah Jane, Rachel Annie, James S., Sarah Abbie, and Ella Mae.
I joined the Relief Society when I was nineteen years old and served as secretary many years. I served as President of the Primary, and was President of Y.W.M.I.A. over thirteen years. I have always worked hard and have been greatly blessed. I have never been cold.
I was left a widow when I was thirty-three years old with six children, a baby four months old. Sister Harper, my husband's first wife took us into her home as there was no means to keep two homes. She helped me raise my family and we were as one happy family.
(Her father, in a letter written to niece Mercy Winters, writes: "I have just come home--have been to visit my daughter Rachel Harper, 140 miles distant. She is now a widow with six children, five girls and one son, in good circumstances and a model family of pleasantness. Her husband was a bishop of much repute and a good man.")
I had my Patriarchal Blessing and nearly every promise has been fulfilled. I bear my testimony to the truth of this Gospel. I know God lives and Jesus is the Christ, the Son who bears the sins of the world. This is the Gospel of the Latter Days, which shall never be taken from the earth or given to another people. I have labored in three temples and would love to visit others. I am thankful for my blessings. I have been healed when sick. After one of my children was born I was in great pain. All at once Sister Harper (my husband's first wife) spoke to me and asked, "How are you, Rachel?" "I am better," I said. She said, "I have been praying for you."
This being a polygamous marriage, Bishop Harper fell under condemnation of the U.S. Law. He was imprisoned for six months and was under penalty of a $300 fine, which was a considerable amount to raise at that time. These were trying circumstances and the burden of caring and rearing the children fell primarily upon the mothers and children.
I am the mother of six children, forty-four grandchildren, and twenty-six great grandchildren (1941). I was seventy-five years old on June 23rd. I was born and raised in the church. My Mother was a second wife and I also was married and lived under the same order, so I know the joy and love that can be had under that order. I feel I am better for having had that privilege.
(Mary Adelia, the eldest child, tells of the great love between her mother Rachel and Hannah, and how helpful Grandma Hannah was in assisting her with her little family. Upon the death of Brother Thomas Harper, Rachel and her family were invited to live in the rock house. Note inserted by Joseph Yates).
I have seen all of the Presidents of our great church except Joseph Smith. I rode on the train with Brigham Young, 1 May 1875. My father worked for Hyrum Smith. He knew the Prophet, the three witnesses, also the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon. He knew all the First Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
I have been taken back east to my Fathers relatives twice. My brother Hyrum Lewis sponsoring my trips. It was one of the greatest thrills of my life.
At this time I am in good health, working in the Logan Temple and enjoying my labors for I know it is the work of the Lord. I enjoy my family and visit them whenever the opportunity comes and I am thankful for them.
After the children were reared and married, James, the only son and his wife Zillah Wight occupied the Harper house and farm until the death of Rachel, 13 September 1946. Rachel was a faithful soul. She never remarried, remaining true to her family and Brother Harper, which was how she always referred to him. During the years I remember her, she spent her time visiting with her children and grandchildren who cherished her dearly.
Even though her means were meager, she always radiated a spirit of pride, poise, and humility, and appreciation of the little things that was unexcelled. As she would walk along the highway, sometimes by necessity and many times by choice, she always took time to call on friends and neighbors, to pluck a bouquet of flowers by the wayside or to help a friend in need. Her love for life and beauty might be expressed in these lines of a poet who said, "Die when she may. It might be said of her, she always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where she thought a flower would grow.'
A grandson of Rachel, Delbert Harper Holmes, helped her write the preceding talk and the remainder was written by another grandson, Joseph L. Yates.
The following is a letter of Sympathy to Hannah Jane Harper from her mother, Rachel Lewis Harper.
August 12 Sarah's Birthday
Loved ones, we do pray for you. You have the sympathy of ever one. Brother Lilywhite only have 4 in bed: his wife and 3 daughters. All the men folks are well. Maria Baty is on the Beaver dams. We got home 11 o'clock when we got to Ogden the car we should have come on was gone 30 minutes so we wated 1 hour 30 minutes for Brother Hunsaker met Annie she stayed all night her babies were good. I do hope you feel more reconsiled to the lot you have to cary. there are not many who have not laid someone most dear to them away. I often think of Thos. Loveland. I canot comfort you the Lord is the only One where you can go for comfort go to Sunday School go to Meeting there is the only place to get consolation or that has been my experience. I have been drying peas and beans since I came home we have washed and ironed and patched and have the stockings left to day. I have felt very misrable sinse I got home --feel better to day. Mary picked currants Thursday she said that I could go and pick next Thursday as we have not yet had any only a few yellow ones I could find. I believe their will be plenty of peaches there is no news only so much to do. I will not be surprised to see you any time now. Murna has got to visit she is happy, unless your mourning disturbs her and you must not. Dear Jane be wise do not neglect the sweet Baby take care of her and you will have comfrot do not let her nurse so many tears you remember Ella was weaned when she was 9 months old Grandma said she had drank enough tears. Forgive me fornot getting this of for to day but there is no news and I think it is not much to send you. Love to all write when you feel like it. Enough
The following notes by Lyma S. Hunsaker record the events at Rachel's funeral.
Funeral Services for Rachel Stapleton Lewis Harper
Died 13 September 1946 Buried 16 September 1946
Harper, Utah Calls Fort Cemetery
Near her Husband Thomas Harper
Duet by Harold B. Felt & Wife "The Lord's Prayer"
Prayer by John Hunsaker
First Speaker Norman S. Lee
Solo by Mrs. Felt, accompanied by her husband on the violin and John H. on the piano "The Stranger of Galilee"
A tribute by the Relief Society President, Georgia Stokes: She was Sister Harper's companion as Relief Society Teacher. Felt that she should make it as easy for Sister Harper as she could, but Sister Harper said, "No we must do our duty. We are out to do our duty today and must do it well." They walked two miles and back each time they went teaching. Friends, family or religion, she always spoke well of everyone.
Third Speaker Ex-Bishop Emery Wight: She always spoke well of everyone., always happy whatever her work, always satisfied. She lived her religion I every way.
Solo by Sheldon Homes "That Wonderful Mother of Mine"
Tribute by Anna S. Christofferson; Her first playmate. Knew her since 1870. She never complained , always gave encouragement to others and made them feel worthwhile.
Duet by James Christensen & Mrs. Gideon Holmes "In the Garden"
Fourth Speaker Abinadi Tolman: She taught love, patience, and kindness.
Closing remarks by Bishop of Harper Ward: She left this testimony with me. We are children of our Heavenly Father. This life is a school. He knows what is best for us and if we keep his commandments, everything will be made right some day.
Duet by Sister Holmes and Daughter "If I KnewYou and You Knew Me":
Benediction by Patriarch William Horsley
Telegram from Indiana stating--Deepest love and sympathy.
Dedication of Grave by Hyrum S. Lewis: Sister Rachel L. Harper was one of God's choice spirits. I will always be grateful for her friendship and lesson she taught me.