John Alma Lewis

Weatia (Weighty) Celecta Lewis

John’s Early Years

John Alma Lewis was the second of eight sons born to James Stapleton Lewis and Anna Jones. He was born 22 August of either 1835 or 1836. Niece Clara Hall in her writings entitled "From Between the Pages of the Bible", the 1880 Cassia County Census and John's cemetery headstone all show 1835, while a letter from Rachel Lewis Harper, and the Albion L.D.S. Ward records give his birthdate as 1836.

John and his older brother, Joel, were both born in Clay County, Missouri, where their parents had established a temporary home after being driven from their home in Jackson County, Missouri, two years earlier. In 1837, his family moved to the settlement of Crooked River in Caldwell County. That year, the Missouri legislature had created Caldwell and Daviess County as a refuge for the Mormons who had already been turned out of their homes in Jackson County. Life was good in the little Mormon community, and James and Anna felt their prospects for the future were bright. A son, James Ammon was born that year.

Their persecutors followed, however, inciting the local residents against the Saints. Most of the Mormons were Northerners, while the Old Settlers were from the South, so political issues, including slavery, as well as religious misunderstandings led again to mobbings, burnings, beatings, and even murder. The ill feeling against the Saints expanded, and in the fall of 1838, Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued an Extermination order, in which he declared that the Mormons must leave the state immediately or face extermination. James wrote:

I left the state of Missouri under the exterminating order of Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, leaving the most flattering prospects of accumulating wealth and in addition had abundance of promises of protection and safety from all harm if I would only stay. "Thank you for all your personal good wishes, but if my people have to go I must go with them."

In mid-winter with wife and three small children we started a distance of two hundred miles to satisfy the demands of a christian state (Journal).

Joel would have been four, John was either two or three, and James Ammon just a young baby when the family was forced from their home a second time because of their religious beliefs. They journeyed across Missouri, reaching the Mississippi River by the middle of January. James obtained employment in Rock Island, Illinois. There were so many families pouring into the area and needing work that James gave up his position and the Lewises continued on to Indiana. They settled in Carrol County just a short distance from Logansport where James' parents and sisters were living.

The Lewises were in Indiana about five years. Another son, Francis Marion was born there. He and James Ammon died when they were each about two years old. Joel, John's grandfather died in 1839, probably during their stay there. When John was eight or nine years old, the Lewises chose to join again with the Saints who had established another settlement at Nauvoo, Illinois. They arrived sometime in 1844, and on 15 October, their fifth son, Isaac Morley Lewis, was born. The family found the city in turmoil. The persecution had begun again, resulting in the murder of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum,

The situation continued to deteriorate. Homes were burned, Saints were beaten and killed, and the government leaders sided against the Church. The Saints were forced a third (for some, a fourth) time from their homes and property. They headed westward, following a prophecy by Joseph Smith that they would eventually be forced to the uncivilized lands of the west.

The exodus from Nauvoo was a difficult one. Supplies were short, the weather was bad, and disease was rampant. The family settled shortly in Marion County, Iowa, where Alva was born, moving for about five years to Mount Pisgah, where James was called to help grow crops to resupply the passing wagon trains.

In 1852, the farming settlements in Iowa were disbanded and James and his family started west. John would have been at least sixteen, and likely expected to shoulder the responsibilities of a grown man.

The Lewises settled in Sugar House, moving in about 1862 to Coalville, Summit, Utah. Rachel, John's younger sister, wrote the following to John's daughter, Abbie, in answer to her queries about John's early life.

Jan 17, 1936

Honeyville, Utah

Dear Niece

Abbie your Father was born Clay Co, Misouri Aug 22 1836, the 2nd son of James Stapleton Lewis and Anna Jones Lewis. He moved with his Parents across the Desert having the trials and hardships of such a Journey it's equal can not be told I have heard Father say they (?) children never complained though they were without bread never a murmer…(Rachel).

John made two trips across the plains. As a teamster, he was responsible for bringing other pioneers to Utah. Lewis Ottley, Abbie’s grandson, recalled that on one occasion, "a team of oxen started to run and grandfather just couldn’t stop them. He just started making them run and made them run until they were completely give out" (Taped Interview).

Weatia Celecta Lewis

Weatia was the daughter of David Lewis, a trapper and explorer, and Mary Gibson, a Scottish immigrant. She was named after her grandmother, Weighty Stanton Lewis, wife of Lemuel Lewis. Her name is most commonly spelled Weighty, but her funeral memorial, which would have been approved by her family members, gives her name as Weatia. Weatia was born 14 September 1851 in Brown’s Fort, one of the early settlements in the Ogden, Utah area.

As a young man, David had signed on with Jim Bridger in St. Joseph and been with him for several years. Her mother, Mary, had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Scotland, and come to Utah with her two sisters. David married Mary’s sister, Ellen, as his plural wife in 1854. The two families moved frequently, living at Brown’s Fort, Kaysville, Great Salt Lake, and Fort Bridger. They also lived at Sugar House and Coalville, where they apparently knew John’s family. John remembered Mary, and she died several years before he and Weatia were married.

The 1860 Census shows David and his families living in Green River Territory, Utah, now a part of Sweetwater County, Wyoming. By 1863, David was living along the Bear River near Bear City, about 11 miles southeast of Evanston, Wyoming. The Bear River has cut a swath through the dry barren desert, forming a fertile valley, no more than a mile across but stretching north and south as far as the eye can see. It was here that Weatia’s mother, Mary, died at the age of 35. She was buried on the rocky hill overlooking the homesite. Weatia, just twelve years old, became responsible for much of the care of her younger brothers and sisters. Her Aunt Diana (Diana’s identity is unclear) helped with their care. When David brought another wife home, "Weighty just up and decided to get married" (Notes, Julia Hall Dixon).

Marriage and Early Life

John and Weatia were married 23 January 1866 in Coalville, Summit, Utah, by John’s father, James, who was serving as both the Bishop of the Ward and the Justice of the Peace. Weighty was just fifteen, and John was about thirty years old. Their first child, Mary Anna, was born in Coalville the next year. John’s parents moved to Montpelier, Idaho, that same year, moving shortly after that to Brigham City, Utah. There is nothing to indicate if John and Weighty followed them to Idaho, but their second daughter, Olive Matilda, was born in Brigham City in January of 1870. She was named after Weatia’s sister, who may have died young. Abigail was born in 1871 in Deweyville, a small community just north of Brigham City, and David was born in 1874 in Hooperville. He was named after Weighty’s father and a brother. Rachel, John’s half sister, wrote: "I can remember him and his family while they lived in Hooper, Utah. I remember Isaac and family while their the fine Tomato patch Alva and family lived their also…the next I remember it was up in Dewyville in April 1875 while Issac was in the Snowslide" (Letter). Isaac was killed by a snowslide as he and a friend were cutting wood for the railroad. Their bodies were not found for several weeks. Alva was in Albion, Idaho, building a cabin for his parents to move into when he had a dream in which he saw the body of his brother trapped in the snow. He quickly returned home, finding that his dream was reality. The dream had been so vivid, he was able to locate Isaac’s body (Hyrum).

Shortly after Isaac’s burial, James and his plural wife, Anna Maria Svennson—or Mary Swenson—moved to Albion, Idaho. Their younger half brother, Hyrum, indicated that Alva went part way with them before separating at Pilot Springs, heading for Nevada. Rachel wrote that John and his family moved to Nevada about that time and were there for two or three years.

In 1876, Helen Agnes Civilla was born in Slatervillle, a small settlement in Weber County not far from Brigham City. It is unclear whether the family had moved back to Utah briefly, or if they were visiting at the time of the delivery. The baby was named Agnes after Weatia’s sister, but everyone called her Civilla. That same year, John and Weighty moved their family to Albion, Cassia, Idaho, joining his father, James. The valley was sparsely settled, and the Indians were a serious threat. Abbie was about five years old when they moved to Albion. Her daughter, Celecta Haroldsen, wrote of those early years.

…her childhood was as a member of a pioneer family in hostile Indian Country. She often told how her parents would hide their children in the bushes, thick weeds or an alfalfa patch, when they saw Indians coming or knew that they were on the war path. Children were never left unattended. The Indians had been known to kidnap if given the opportunity. It was common for Indian women to strip clothing from white children and put them on their own Indian children…A typical group of five to twenty Indians would go from house to house demanding whatever attracted them. They would refuse to leave until each had received a gift. A group gift was never satisfactory.

When the family first arrived in Albion they settled on what was later known as the Dewey ranch. (note: The Deweys may have been neighbors from Deweyville, Utah. JCD). They soon moved to a place at the foot of Mt. Harrison, thinking the water situation would be better. This place was later known as Danner Canyon. The neighbors were few and far between and Indians roamed about. The Lewis family built a log cabin to serve as their home. One day the family left home to obtain supplies for the winter. They returned a few days later to find everything they owned in ashes. Financially, the family never completely recovered from this loss. The settlers believed that the fire had been started by Indians. After this tragic event, the family moved to the central part of the valley where the Indians were less numerous (Haroldsen, p. 1).

Rachel recorded:

John and family moved to Nevada, they were there for 2 or 3 years then came to Albion moved up in the western part of the valey and owned a good farm had plenty of wood on the farm, plenty of water springs of clear cold water where he irrigated his lovely orchard, garden, and grain rasberries and black caps. I rember he afterwards moved in the Eastern part of the Valley where he had some fine fruit trees and they raised some fine Squash and other vedgitables, a nice hay ranch besides. he was the only one who stayed in Albion after he moved he acquired quite a little property cattle horses wagons white top on a light wagon, sheep. He was a self supporting man, a real benefactor he surely made vedgitation grow where none brew before. I have been to John’s home and taken my family with me and been royally entertained also my husband has been banqueted at this humble home…(letter).

The homestead in the "western part of the valley" would have been the ranch in the foothills of Mount Harrison that was burned out. The eastern ranch was located about a quarter mile south of Raymond Wickel’s farm on 1000 South.

John built a log cabin, stable and other outbuildings. Lewis Ottley remembered visiting his grandparents whenever his family went to Albion for supplies. The two-room cabin had been carefully built with the logs fit together expertly and chinked against the weather. The hard packed dirt floor was covered with hand made rugs and allowed for no drafts. The sod roof leaked only occasionally and then a pan would be put under the drip until the roof could be repaired. A cast iron cookstove warmed the cabin. The cabin was always cozy and warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Weighty was "neat and her house was always scrubbed clean" (Julia Dixon). Furniture was mostly homemade. Bedframes held straw "ticks" for mattresses. Every harvest, the old straw would be emptied, and the tick stuffed with fresh straw. There were always plenty of homemade quilts for bedding. Whenever the family stayed, the children would be bedded down on the dirt floor while the folks visited late into the night. The Ottley children would then be tucked into the bottom of the white top buggy and sleep as their parents traveled the fifteen miles or so back to their home in Elba, usually arriving in the early hours of the morning.

John dug a well that at certain times of the year flowed. Water was drawn with a bucket, and carried indoors for the household needs. The fields and garden were irrigated from the nearby mountain streams. Grandmother always had at least two or three beehives, and the family kept a milk cow and horses. Grandmother always milked the cow, while Grandfather cared for the team (Lewis, Tape). They probably had a few other cattle and sheep as well as chickens. Hyrum remembered that Weatia "raised a large garden and sold the extra vegetables in town. The restaurant for the freighters liked to buy from her because ‘Weighty’s vegetables are clean enough to eat’ " (Julia Dixon).

Two more children were born in Albion. Rosella was born on 16 August 1889; thirteen years separated her and Civilla. Frederick Danner Lewis was born 20 May 1892, and was named after Matilda’s husband. Sadly, this second son died on 22 October 1900, at the age of eight. He was buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Albion. Fred Danner and Dave Lewis were both Masons, and encouraged the parents to bury the boy in the Masonic Cemetery because they felt the grave would be better cared for.

John and Weatia

John was a tall, big man. In later years, he was bent over. His hair was black and curly and worn long over his collar. In a picture of John with his father and brothers, Wilford and Alva both sport shorter haircuts and the popular moustaches, while John has the more traditional long beard and hair. Rachel described John as "a very even tempered man very quiet unassuming mind your own business never loud He had the respect of his children " (Rachel, letter). Lewis recalled misbehaving once, and Grandfather Lewis spanked him. Turning the young boy over his knee, Grandfather spanked his own hand instead.
Although it didn’t hurt Lewis, it frightened him. Lewis also remembered that his parents had loaned Grandfather a cow. When he returned the animal, Grandfather tied her behind the white top buggy and led her from Albion to Elba; the slow plodding of the cow set the pace for the nearly twenty mile journey. Lewis and his siblings watched from their front lawn as Grandfather slowly made his way across the valley floor. Grandfather Lewis was visiting Abbie when the freighters delivered her newly purchased organ. Although he was very old, Grandfather helped the men lift the heavy instrument out of the wagon and carry it into the house (Taped Interview).

Weighty was "square-built, but not heavy, with dark straight hair. It might have been a little reddish, like Alice’s and Matilda’s was." She always wore an apron. She was an "opinionated woman" (Julia Dixon) and perhaps a little stern. Her grandson, Ewart Ottley, remembered that when he misbehaved, his parents would threaten to send him over to live with Grandmother Lewis, and he didn’t like the idea much (Ewart, Taped Interview). When Lewis knew that Grandmother was coming, he would go out into the pasture and pick a bunch of wild flowers to give to her, and she always seemed to appreciate it very much (Lewis, Taped Interview). Her brother in law, Hyrum, said at her funeral that "she may not have been a popular woman, but she was a hard-worker." Then he went on to mention that she "had raised several orphans—she has earned her crown in heaven.’ (Julia Dixon).

Weighty did raise several young children. "She was always taking in the homeless, usually a relative of some kind" (Julia). David’s wife, Louise, died in October 1909, after just three years of marriage, leaving two young daughters, Gertrude and Louise. Weatia stepped in to help raise her young granddaughters (Dave). James Lewis Clark, Annie’s son, lived with his grandparents for a time as well (Lewis, taped Interview). The 1880 Census shows two young orphan children, Archie and Sarah Lewis, living with Weighty and John. There is nothing to indicate who the children were, or what happened to them, but Civilla named one of her sons after Archie.

The life of a pioneer woman was a hard one. Weighty raised seven children in a two-room log cabin, burying her youngest child. She milked the cows, tended a large truck garden, cared for two or three hives of bees, cooked over a wood stove, hauled water, made soap, washed her clothes in a tub and performed countless other chores. She made all of their clothing. Her mother, Mary Gibson Lewis, had come from Paisley, Scotland. She taught Weighty to sew, using a "weaver’s knot" so neatly it could not be detected in sewing or knitting. Weighty did beautiful handwork. Her granddaughter, Alice Ottley Hall, had her knit the lace on a pair of pillow slips for her wedding, paying her grandmother so that she would have a little spending money. Weighty used the "lemon stitch and weaver’s knot" that her mother had taught her. The pillow slips were passed by Alice to her own granddaughter, Celecta Dixon Moss as a namesake gift (Julia).

John died in Albion on 3 September 1919. He was buried next to Frederick in the Masonic Cemetery. The grave of his daughter-in-law, Louise Wickel Lewis, lay just slightly to the northeast. John would have been eighty-four or eighty five years old, depending upon his birth year. Weighty was sixty-eight when John died. Their son, Dave, had taken over the place, and Weighty stayed there for a while, helping with the girls. Her last years were spent living with her daughters. Weighty had never learned to read, and her eyes reached the point that she could not do handwork. Lewis remembered his grandmother sitting in a chair with her hands folded. He said that she loved to visit Rosella, and some of the folks would drive her to Boise in their newfangled Ford car. One day while Abbie was away on a Stake Relief Society assignment, Weighty slipped away from their home in Conner Creek and walked to Albion, a distance of nearly twenty miles. She wanted to "go home to the old place and see Annie" (Dixon). In 1984, granddaughter Alice Ottley Hall wrote, "I can even now, plainly remember the kind, wistful look in Grandma Weighty’s eyes, when she said she would like to go, just one more time to her mother’s grave and put some more rocks on it" (Dixon). Whenever the children had visited the grave, they would put rocks on it to protect their mother from the wild animals.

Weighty died at Abbie’s home in Conner Creek, Cassia, Idaho, on 22 May 1928. She was seventy- seven years old. Weighty was buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Albion next to John and Frederick. Her funeral card read:

A precious one from us has gone—A voice we loved is stilled; A place is vacant in our home, Which never can be filled. God in His wisdom has recalled, The boon His love had given. And though the body slumbers here, The soul is safe in Heaven.