By LaRon Taylor, 2006
Levi Roberts, b 26 February, 1815, in Deerhurst, Glouchester, England, md Harriett Ann Efford abt 18 Aug, 1835, d January 22, 1894 in Kaysville, UT
On the day that Napoleon and 1200 men left Elba to start the 100 day re-conquest of France, Levi Roberts was born in Deerhurst, Glauchestershire, England. We find nothing of his childhood until his marriage to Harriett Ann Efford on August 18, 1835 in Deerhurst, so we know he lived there until he was at least 20 years old. The actual record of their marriage is as follows: “Levi Roberts of this parish, bachelor & Harriet Efford of this Parish, a minor were married in this Church by Banns with consent of Parents this Eighteenth Day of August in the year One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty Five. By me R: Hepworth, Curate. This marriage was solemnized between Levi Roberts X his mark Harriet Efford X her mark”. In the presence of Thomas Roberts, William Cox, Eliza Roberts.”
Levi & Harriett soon learned of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while members of the United Brethren Church. Wilford Woodruff was the missionary that was told by the Spirit to go south to the location of this group and all were converted. Only Levi & Harriett were converted from their immediate families, however. A record of this mass conversion is contained in the writings of Wilford Woodruff (grammatical errors are contained in the writings):
“The rector sent a constable, and 2 clerks as spies to attend the Mormon meetings and find out what they did preach. They were all pricked in their hearts and received the word of the Lord gladly, and were baptized and confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“The rector became alarmed and did not dare send anybody else. The ministers and Rectors of south England called a convention and sent a petition to the archbishop of Canterbury, to request Parliament to pass a law prohibiting the ‘Mormons’ from preaching in the British Dominion. In this petition the rector stated that one ‘Mormon Missionary’ had baptized 1500 persons mostly members of the English Church, during the past seven months. But the Archbishop and Council, knowing well that the laws of England gave free toleration to all religions under the British Flag, sent word to the petitioners, if they had the worth of souls at heart as much as they had the ground where hares, foxes and hounds ran, they would not lose so many of their flock. I continued to preach and baptize daily. On 21 Mar 1840 I baptized Elder Thomas Kingston he was the superintendent of both preachers and members of the United Brethren [Levi & Harriett would have been baptized on about this same day].
“The first thirty days after my arrival in Herefordshire, I had baptized 45 preachers and 160 members of the United Brethren, who put into my hands 1 chapel and 45 houses, which were licensed according to law to preach in. This opened a wide field for labor, and enabled me to bring into the church through the blessings of God, over 1800 souls during 8 mo. including all 600 United Brethren except one person; also including some 250 preachers of various denominations. The field of labor embraced Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, and Worcestershire, and formed the conferences of Garway, Godfield, Elm and Frome’s Hill .”
After their conversion, Levi and Harriett came to America on the ship “North America” in 1841, then by boat from New Orleans up the Mississippi river to Nauvoo. Another source documents their journey from England on the ship Echo, and it arrived in New Orleans on the 16th of April, 1841. When they arrived in Nauvoo, Levi became a bodyguard for the prophet Joseph Smith but little is known of the events he was involved in during those troubled times. We know his bodyguards were under constant threat from the mobs, but Levi’s experiences elude us. Nauvoo was a prosperous town and the Saints enjoyed peace for a short time, but again that was eliminated by the mobs and they were driven from Nauvoo in the dead of winter in February, 1846. The journey to Council Bluffs and Winter Quarters was a trial that cost many saints their very lives, but Levi and Harriett and their 3 children made the journey with their lives intact.
In July 1846, under the authority of U.S. Army Captain James Allen and with the encouragement of Mormon leader Brigham Young, the Mormon Battalion was mustered in at Council Bluffs, Iowa Territory. The battalion was the direct result of Brigham Young’s correspondence on 26 January 1846 to Jesse C. Little, presiding elder over the New England and Middle States Mission. Young instructed Little to meet with national leaders in Washington, D.C., and to seek aid for the migrating Latter-day Saints, the majority of whom were then in the Iowa Territory. In response to Young’s letter, Little journeyed to Washington, arriving on 21 May 1846, just eight days after Congress had declared war on Mexico. Little met with President James K. Polk on 5 June 1846 and urged him to aid migrating Mormon pioneers by employing them to fortify and defend the West. The president offered to aid the pioneers by permitting them to raise a battalion of five hundred men, who were to join Colonel Stephen W. Kearny, Commander of the Army of the West, and fight for the United States in the Mexican War. Little accepted this offer.
Colonel Kearny designated Captain James Allen, later promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, to raise five companies of volunteer soldiers from the able-bodied men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five in the Mormon encampments in Iowa. On 26 June 1846 Allen arrived at the encampment of Mt. Pisgah. He was treated with suspicion as many believed that the raising of a battalion was a plot to bring trouble to the migrating Saints.
Allen journeyed from Mt. Pisgah to Council Bluffs, where on 1 July 1846 he allayed Mormon fears by giving permission for the Saints to encamp on United States lands if the Mormons would raise the desired battalion. Brigham Young accepted this, recognizing that the enlistment of the battalion was the first time the government had stretched forth its arm to aid the Mormons.
The Mormon Battalion was formed and became the “ram in the thicket” (coined by B.H. Roberts) for the destitute saints.
Levi joined the Mormon Battalion at Council Bluffs as a private in Company “E” and crossed the plains and mountains to California. At the time of departure, his wife was an invalid, so it required great faith for him to leave her behind. On July 21st they started on the march to the tune, “The Girl I Left Behind Me.” The following is a quote from the journal of (unknown) regarding their journey to California:
“Upon arriving at the Missouri River late in June, Robert learned that the U.S. Government had asked for 500 men to go to Mexico or California to participate in the war with Mexico. [p.56] Quoting: “Brother Young, Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards came to us to preach and to call for volunteers to form a battalion. I was one to go. I was a private in Company E. This was quite an undertaking. Six men out of a company of seven were on the march, leaving our families and stock in the care of an old man and a boy. If it had not been for the cause of God, we never could have left our families in the wild prairies with a murderous mob in the rear and an Indian-ridden country before. We had a promise that they should be taken care of, and that if we would be true to God and our Country that we would not have to fight.”
B. H. Roberts says in one of his histories that the Battalion was the ram in the thicket for the Church as it was only by their entrance into civil service that the homeless Saints were granted the right to graze their stock and plant crops on government lands. Else they must have moved into the desert wholly unprepared for its hardships.
“We mustered at sunrise July 18, 1846, and received our equipment at Fort Leavenworth. We arrived at Sante Fe in September, a distance in all of nearly 2000 miles. When we saw the sun go down in the Pacific it was an agreeable sight after passing thru so many deserts. We learned that peace had been declared. We did guard duty for six months, when we were discharged July 16, 1847. We bought animals to ride and pack home again. We traveled about 800 miles to Sacramento. Daniel Browett, Robert Harris, John Cox, Levi Roberts, Richard Slater and myself messed together all the way from Council Bluffs to Sacramento, I being the cook.”
Another quote from the same book addressed the suffering during their journey with the Battalion: Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 20, p.56:
“Their spiritual stamina found food each morning and evening in prayer. They tried constantly to keep before them the promise made to them by Brigham Young. At one time when human endurance was almost spent, one of their comrades arose and drew from his pocket a small American flag, saying: “This flag, brethren, was made for me by my wife before we left the States. It is for this, comrades, that we toil, and for a home for the Church.” Next morning they were up at sunrise and in the harness toiling courageously toward the Pacific (10).”
In addition to the journey to California, the following is quoted from the journal of Robert Mason (uncertain) regarding their journey home:
“One company was reenlisted for six months; the rest of the Battalion bought animals to pack and ride home again. We travelled down the Tulare to Sacramento, about 800 miles away. I got a fine mare and a Spanish pet. We travelled on to Mr. Sutter’s Fort at Sacramento where we got a fresh supply of provisions. Daniel Browett, Robert Harris, Henderson Cox, Len Roberts, Richard Slater and Robert Pixton messed together all the way from Council Bluffs, I being the cook for the mess. We travelled by the way of the Truckee River, after crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and had passed the place where the Donner Party was overtaken in the snow…. The brethren found one body that had been buried in the snow.
“After travelling over the mountains one day we met with some of our brethren from the Valley. This was a time of rejoicing. Captain Brown who left us at Santa Fe with the sick which went by the way of Fort Kearney and a few brethren with him from the Valley, brought news that we were not to go to the Valley, and told us we had better stay another year in California. So the company divided right where we met each other; some went on to Winter Quarters; some to the Valley, and some turned back. Daniel Browett, Slater, Cox, Levi Roberts and myself turned back to Sacramento and went to work for Mr. Sutter who treated us very kindly. I sent a mule to my wife with Brother Harris, which she got….
“We all went to work at the same place for Captain Sutter. We took the work of cutting a millrace. Brother Browett went [p.379] to work with the millwright, this was in September and later on in the fall, I and two others took sick with the bilious fever. We were so sick we couldn’t help each other to a drink of water. We lay under some ties and had to crawl around with the sun to keep from making us chill…. Our appetites were very poor, and our food was flour, water and squash. Had it not been for the thoughts of my wife and family I could have died, but we all three recovered after awhile and went to work on the millrace again and worked all winter. Sometime in the winter two of the brethren who were working for Mr. Sutter in the mountains found gold in a tailrace they were making. Mr. Sutter let me see the first gold they found before sending it to San Francisco to get it tested. In May 1848 some of the brethren and myself made a trip in the mountains to try and find a road over (instead of going down Truckee River, as we had to cross it about 20 times) but when we got in the mountains we found so much snow we had to return, and on our way back I stopped at what we called the Mormon Island, where there was some of the brethren at work getting gold, Brother Sidney Willis and his brother; also Brother Hudson. I stayed here for a short time and got some gold.
“In June we called a council of brethren together and concluded to start on our journey home. We gathered to a place in the mountains called Pleasant Valley. We stayed here until all had gathered, and we chose Brother Daniel Browett as president of the company. Brother Browett thought it best that someone should go ahead and look out a road; himself, Brother Allen and Henderson Cox started, each riding a horse and leading a pack mule. I asked Brother Browett if he had his garments on; he said, “No.” I advised him to put them on, but he took no notice of it. We waited for them to come back and began to feel uneasy as some of the brethren said they had seen an Indian pass through the timber with a red shirt on. After waiting until we thought they had time to come back, we started with our wagons and stock and on the 27th of June we stopped and camped on the divide to see if we could find the brethren. We had two small cannons that we had bought from Mr. Sutter. Two of the brethren and myself loaded them and fired them off but to no use as they did not come. We sent some more of the brethren on ahead to look out a road and a little way ahead of us they found some new made graves. Several of us uncovered them and found our brethren side by side with their clothes taken off them. They were badly mutilated and had been shot full of arms. We called the place ‘Tragedy Spring.’
“We continued on our journey looking out our road one day and traveling it the next until we arrived at Carson Valley. We now crossed the 40-mile desert to the sink of Mary’s River [p.380]. We got there at night. Here were some hot springs which one of our dogs drank at and got his tongue scalded.
“We traveled up Mary’s River. The Indians attacked us and killed one of our horses. Nothing more of note transpired until we met some packers who told us they had come by the way of Salt Lake City, around the north end of the Lake, struck the Fort Hall road at Goose Creek Mountains. We traveled on their track or trail and one night we traveled around the point of a mountain and camped at a spring and as the sun went down we saw the Salt Lake for the first time which made our hearts glad, and we felt to rejoice that we were so near home. The next day we traveled over a sage plain past a large spring on the Malad River, traveled on and crossed Bear River and on the 26th of September, 1848, we arrived at Haights Creek. This was 18 miles from Salt Lake City. Next day we arrived in the city where I met my wife about a mile from the Fort, after an absence of two years two months and eleven days, this being September 27, 1848. My wife had arrived on the 20th with the President. She had yoked her cattle and drove them across the plains, 1000 miles.”
After Levi’s discharge at Los Angeles on July 16, 1847, and after enduring the events noted above, he returned to Council Bluffs where the family made preparations over the next two years to come west. He was thrilled to find that his invalid wife had been miraculously healed and was whole again. They traveled with the independent company of Captain Pearson and they arrived in Salt Lake City in the fall of 1850 and settled on a farm in Kaysville. Levi built his family a 4 room log cabin on their farm. In 1865, he built another home of logs which has been moved to the Pioneers Trails Village by “This is the Place Monument.”
Levi entered the law of plural marriage when he married Sarah Davis in 1857 but Sarah stated that they were divorced because of neglect and abuse after the birth of their only child (14). This is the only record found that refers to any problems Levi may have had as a father and husband, but it is felt that it should be included with this record.
Levi made baskets of willows that grew on Kaysville creek and took them to Salt Lake City to sell. He was also proficient in the art of grafting. Whenever a new variety of fruit tree was brought into Utah he procured a slip and grafted it into one of his seedling trees. He named the fruit after the person who gave him the slip. In fact, he had the greatest variety of apple trees in the state. He raised the first English walnuts in Kaysville, and also grew some watermelons.
Levi Roberts passed away at his home in Kaysville, Utah, from a kidney disease on January 22, 1894.
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