George Washington was President of the United States when Elijah was born in Romney, Hampshire County, Virginia on September 17 1793. His parents were Solomon Newman and Jane James Newman. We have very little information about his parents. The following information is found in his daughter, Letha Newman Hunter’s personal history. She stated Elijah grew up on a plantation in Romney.
His parents died in 1802 when he was around nine and that he was brought up by a trusted freed slave couple. She also wrote his parents had moved from Maryland and were originally from Germany and England. Romney was in the western part of Virginia and later became part of West Virginia when it was made a state.
The first record we have of Elijah is found in the Virginia Census of 1810 which identified an Elijah Newman as a white free male age 16 to 26. There is no one else mentioned in the household. We are confident this is our Elijah.
In a short biography about his son, William B D Newman, the author mentioned that Elijah fought in the War of 1812. We have not been able to verify this with any records, but believe this information could be true. Elijah would have been nineteen.
We are not sure where Elijah lived for the next several years. We found an Elijah Newman in the 1820 Federal Census in Kentucky, but due to the ages given we do not believe it to be our Elijah. But we believe he did move to Kentucky during this time.
We have found Elijah’s marriage record to his first wife Matilda Downing. They were married on July 26, 1826, in Mason County, Kentucky. Her father James Downing was a witness on the certificate. Matilda was 22 years old and was born and raised in Kentucky. Her family were farmers by trade and in the 1820 Federal census there were eight slaves in the household. We believe Elijah was also a farmer by trade at this time.
They had one son, William Brown Downing Newman born on March 10, 1827 in Mason. Matilda died around 1829. Their son, William was left with Matilda’s family to be raised in Ripton, Ohio. Later in life, William crossed the plains by wagon train and settled in Washington state. He fought is some Indian battles and lived near the central coast of Washington. He was married twice. His first wife, we believe died shortly after they were married. His second wife was a widow with four children and they had four children. One of her children from her first marriage is an ancestor of Bill Gates. William died on May 14, 1903 near Tacoma.
After Matilda’s death Elijah moved to Ohio where he met and married Losana Bentley on September 9, 1832 in Hamilton County, Ohio. Losana was born in Spring Creek, Pennsylvania in 1813 and was 19 when they were married.
We have found additional information on Losana. When she came across the plains in 1852 (see story about Elijah returning to Kaneville in 1850) the records had her name as Losina Bentley Manwill. We have also found other records with her first name spelled differently but similar sounding. Spelling of names was left to the writer and that is why we have so many different spellings. We have chosen to spell her name as Losana. In Letha Newman Hunter’s history she referred to Losana as Lacina Hammond. We have found a history on John Manwill which stated he had married Losana in 1853 and that she was a widow. We know they came across the plains in 1852 together with his children from a previous marriage, along with her daughter, Virginia Lovina Newman, by Elijah. Though not married Losana went by the last name of Manwill. We believe Letha’s history of Losana’s last name of Hammond was in error. Also during this period of time a person would identify themselves as a widow or widower, even if their former spouse was still alive and no longer living with them.
Per family history, during 1832 Elijah heard about the Gospel at a sermon by the Prophet Joseph Smith in Cincinnati (which was a small town at the time in Hamilton County). Elijah joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints in June of 1832 and was possibly baptized by Lyman Wight. Lyman later becomes an Apostle of the Church.
In the next few years Elijah and Losana move to Missouri to be with the Saints. We are not sure of all the places where they lived during this time because the Saints moved several times due to persecution. We do know they lived in Far West for some of this period because of Elijah’s claim against the State of Missouri (see later paragraph).
Records show Elijah was imprisoned with Joseph Smith and 42 other members of the Church in the Richmond, Missouri jail on November 13, 1838. He was arrested for high treason against the state, as well as murder, burglary, arson, robbery and larceny. Elijah was freed from the jail about two weeks later but was told he would have to return for a trial. The reason Elijah was released was he agrees to leave Missouri with the rest of the members of the Church. In Federacy of 1841 Elijah returned to Missouri for a trial. He was found innocent of all charges because of testimony that he was not present at the event he was charged for.
After the Saints were expelled from Missouri, Elijah and Losana started their journey to Nauvoo, Illinois to be with the members of the Church. Before arriving in Nauvoo, Virginia Lovina Newman was born on June 4, 1839 in Alton, Illinois. Later in life, Virginia married William Dame in 1856 or 1859. William had an active part in the Mountain Meadow Massacre. He died in 1884 and she married Hans Mortenson on March 3, 1886. Both marriages were polygamous, but Virginia never had any children. She dies on August 22, 1891 in Parowan Utah.
While living in Nauvoo, Elijah made a claim against the State of Missouri through the Federal Government. Elijah Newman’s redress petition reads, “No sooner had our brethren put themselves into their hands than the troops commenced an awful yelling and shouting such as I never before heard[.] … These troops burnt large quantities of house logs. I judged to logs to be sufficient for forty or fifty houses They were houses taken down and moved into town just before the troops came there and the owners had not time to put them up again they were moving in for their safety. I saw the soldiers pull down the body of one house in Far West and burn the logs, they also burnt many rails I was ordered, together with the rest of my brethren that were in town onto the public square where we were closely surrounded by a strong guard and there compelled to sign an instrument of writing said to be a deed of trust, which was to bind us to put all our property into the hands of a committee to be applied in paying the debts of any of the church members…” [Elijah Newman, Johnson, Clark V., ed. Mormon Redress Petitions (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, 1992), His redress petition was denied
Also while living in Nauvoo, Elijah received his first Patriarchal Blessing on August 4, 1840 by John Smith. Another was given on February 18, 1854 by Elisha Groves in Parowan. Both record Elijah’s birth date and both mention his parents by name. We also learn he was a member of the Nauvoo 2nd Ward and paid taxes to the City of Nauvoo in 1842. Losana’s mother, Patience Greene Bentley, was also living with the family at this time.
In the Time and Seasons of April 15, 1844 there was an article in which Elijah was called to serve a mission to Ohio along with several other Elders. We believe Elijah served his mission, but because the Prophet Joseph Smith was murdered in June of that year, we are not sure how long Elijah was in Ohio.
We have also learned he was a carpenter by trade while living in Nauvoo and advertised in a pamphlet for work in February of 1840. This information was found in the “Book of prices of work adopted by the House Carpenters of the town of Nauvoo”. We have one record where he was paid $4.00 for some carpentry work for Joseph Young. We are confident he helped build the Nauvoo Temple and he and Losana received their Endowments on December 17, 1845. The Temple records had Elijah’s birth year as 1789. We are confident this was in error. Too many other records point to 1793 as his birth year.
Again the Saints were forced from their homes in Nauvoo and fled to what was called Winter Quarters in Nebraska in early 1846. Here Elijah volunteered to go with Brigham Young and the first wagon train to the Great Basin (later referred to as the Salt Lake Valley). He was outfitted for the trip by Bishop Daniel Spencer. We read in a journal: “During the winter of 1846-47 Bishop Spencer fitted out three of the pioneers, Francis Boggs, Elijah Newman, and Levi Kendall, letting them have two yoke of oxen with wagon, provisions, farming tools, seed, grain, etc. ‘If their testimony be true say he, these oxen drew the plow that turned the first sod in Salt Lake Valley’.” Elijah was responsible for the plows when Brigham’s company entered the Valley and so there is a real truth to this story.
Brigham Young and the company left Winter Quarters in early April 1847. The following are excerpts from several journals that mention Elijah during the trip. Elijah was 53 years old and was one of the older members of the wagon train.
William Clayton writes in his journal on April 16, 1847 “This day is gloomy, windy and cold. About 8 the Camp were called together and organized. 2 Captains of 100s viz Stephen Markham and A. P. Rockwood were appointed, also 5 captains of 50s and 14 Captains of 10s. There are 143 men and boys on the list of the pioneer company, three women and Lorenzo Young’s two children. 73 Wagons. O. P. Rockwell has gone back to camp with J. C. Little, Bishop Whitney, Lyman, Wm., Kimball and J. B. Noble return from here to Winter Quarters.” Elijah was assigned to the Eight 10s along with Levi and Francis.
Heber C. Kimball writes in his journal on Sunday, April 25th “Morning very pleasant, wind southwest. We are now camped near the Loup Fork, but are only about 14 miles from the main Platte River. It is said that if we follow this fork a hundred miles further, we shall then not be over thirty miles from the main branch. Early this morning four antelope were discovered grazing on the opposite side of the river about a mile and a half northwest from Camp. About 4 o clock P.M. Brother Elijah Newman was baptized in the lake by Elder Tarlton Lewis for the benefit of his health. He has been afflicted with the black scurvy in his legs, and confined to his bed for some time. When he went to the water to be baptized, it appeared difficult for him to walk even with two sticks, but after going through the ordinance and having hands laid on him, he walked back to his wagon without either staff or assistance of any kind, and seemed much better.”
In Albert Rockwood’s journal he lists the priesthood calling of the members of the wagon train. Elijah is listed as the President of the 3rd Quorum of Seventy.
In another journal we read that Heber C. Kimball selected the following pioneers to form the advance company under the command of Pratt, aided by Stephen Markham: O.P. Rockwell, Jackson Redden, Nathaniel Fairbanks, Joseph Egbert, John S. Freeman, Marcus B. Thorpe, Robert Crow, Benjamin B. Crow, John Crow, Walter Crow, William H. Crow, George W. Therlkill, James Chesney, Lewis B. Myers, John Brown, Shadrach Roundy, H.C. Hansen, Levi Jackman, Lyman Curtis, David Powell, Oscar Crosby, Hark Lay, Joseph Mathews, Gilbroid Summe, Green Flake, John S. Gleason, Charles Burk, Norman Taylor, A.P. Chesley, Seth Taft, Horace Thornton, Stephen Kelsey, David Grant, James W. Stewart, Robert Thomas, C.D. Barnum, John S. Eldredge, Elijah Newman, Francis Boggs and Levi N. Kendall.
As they get closer to the Salt Lake Valley another journal comments on the efforts of the advance party. “July-Wednesday 14 The day has been very hot with occasionally a light, breeze. Several of the brethren have been out hunting & brought in several antelope which appear to abound in this region. Bro. Woodruff and Barnabas Adams went back to the other wagons this morning. They returned at night and reported that president Young is considerably better, but brother Rockwood remains very sick. There is one or two new cases of sickness in our camp, mostly with fever which is very severe on the first attack, generally rendering its victims delirious for some hours, and then leaves them in a languid weakly situation. It appears that a good dose of pills or medicine is good to break the fever. The patient then needs some kind of stimulant to brace his nerves and guard him against another attack. I am satisfied that diluted spirits is good in this disease after breaking up the fever. At night had a light shower.”
Family history has Elijah riding with Orson Pratt to locate the entrance to the Salt Lake Valley. The next day Elijah was sick and this was the day Orson locates the entrance to the Valley. Family history also had Elijah’s wagon as the second wagon in the Valley. Upon entering the Valley on July 24, 1847 the following journal entry tells us about Elijah’s assignment. “about ½ past 9 the brethren were called together & after a few introductory remarks by El. O. Pratt, O. Pratt made prayer to Almighty God, returning thanks for the preservation of the Camp, their prosperity in the journey, safe arrival in this place; consecrated and dedicated the land to the Lord; & entreated his blessings on the seeds about to be planted; & on our labors in this valley. after a few remarks by El. Pratt & Richards—a Committee of Five; Shadrack Roundy, Seth Taft, Stephen Markham, Robert Crow, & Albert Carrington—were appointed to look out a place for planting Potatoes, Corn, Beans &c. who left meeting for that purpose. It was then voted that Charles A. Harper, Charles Shumway & Elijah Newman be a committee to Stock Plows & Drags & to call those men to their assistance that they wanted—it was also voted that Henson Walker, William Wadsworth & John Brown be a committee to superintend the mowing & rigging up of Scythes—Stephen Markham was appointed to attend to the Teams, & see that fresh sets were hitched up every four hours.”
Once in the Valley we have this report about several meetings from Sunday October 3 to Saturday, October 9, 1847 “The Saints met in a conference to sustain their leaders. John Smith was sustained president of the stake of Zion in Great Salt Lake City. Charles C. Rich and John Young were chosen as his counselors. John Smith, the uncle of the prophet Joseph Smith, was also sustained patriarch of the Church. Brigham Young was sustained as the president of the whole Church. The High Council was sustained. Albert Carrington was chosen as clerk, historian, and deputy postmaster for the city. John Van Cott was elected city marshal. On Thursday, Tarlton Lewis and Elijah Newman were appointed to make the gates for the fort. “
Family history has Elijah going back to Kanesville, Iowa around 1850 to locate Virginia and his wife Losana to bring them to Salt Lake. As the story goes, he finds Virginia with Letha Jane Killian Hood and her two young daughters. Letha had just recently been widowed and Elijah’s wife had run off with a William Pratt and left Virginia with Letha to help care for her children. In 2010 we discovered a letter written by Elijah to his son, William dated July 28, 1850. The letter was written in Greater Salt Lake City and mailed to William in Putman, Illinois. In the letter Elijah asks William to locate Virginia and Losana in Kanesville and see if they are interested in coming to Salt Lake. This letter does not disprove that Elijah had gone back to the Winter Quarter’s area in 1848-49 and discovered Virginia with Letha Jane, but we do not have any record of his return to Salt Lake City during this period of time. We think Losana could have left Virginia with Letha Jane for a while but took back Virginia when Letha Jane traveled to Salt Lake in 1850.
Another family history has Letha coming across the plains by herself with her two daughters and possibly Virginia. Letha Jane did not travel with an organized company of the Saints but arrived in Salt Lake in 1850. Here she meets Elijah and they were married in October 1850. The Killian family had lived in Far West and the Nauvoo area at the same time as Elijah so we have a feeling that Elijah and Letha were acquainted with each other.
As previously stated we have determine Virginia came across the plains with her mother in the Jolley Company in 1852 and her mother’s future husband and his family. This information was found in the Pioneer Index system of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The discovery of Elijah’s letter to his son in 1850, the pioneer records of the Jolley Company of 1852 and John Manwill’s history has changed many of our thought on our oral family history.
In December 1850, shortly after his marriage to Letha Jane, Elijah volunteers to migrate to Iron County in southern Utah. We read about this in Bancroft’s History of Utah: “In the winter of 1849-50, it was ordered by the first presidency that Parley P. Pratt, with a company of fifty men, should explore the southern part of the territory in the neighborhood of Little Salt Lake. They found the brethren at Manti well pleased with their location, there being a good stone quarry and an abundance.
The report of Parley being favorable, a party of about one hundred and seventy persons, well supplied with wagons, implements, live-stock, seeds, and provisions set forth, with George A. Smith in charge, on the 7th of December, 1850, toward the south; and on Centre Creek, in a valley of the Wasatch Range, about two hundred and fifty miles from Salt Lake City, built a fort near the site of the present town of Parowan. Pasture and timber were plentiful, the soil was of good quality, and in the season of 1851 a bountiful harvest was gathered from about one thousand acres of land. The main attraction, however, was the immense deposits of magnetic iron ore found in the neighboring mountains. In May, Brigham and others visited Parowan and addressed the people in the fort. The Indian name Parowan was then recommended and adopted.”
The Deseret News published a list of the pioneers that were leaving for Iron County on December 21, 1850. Elijah was listed in this article, Letha Jane was not listed. Also Elijah was listed on the first census for Iron County. He occupation was listed as laborer..
On May 16, 1851, Brigham Young ordered a municipal government to be organized. Elijah became a city councilman in Parowan. He was also listed as a High Councilor in the Stake of Zion in Iron County on May 12, 1852. Family history also had him speaking at a Conference in 1852. He also served as a Justice of the Peace for several years.
In May of 1851, President George A Smith reported: “Elisha H. Groves, Elijah Newman, Aaron Farr, Samuel Bringhurst, Burr Frost, Robert Green and Peter Shirts went on an exploring trip for three days. They found coal in Summit canyon. The next day George A. Smith sent Peter Shirts and Elijah Newman in search of salt. The others went to Iron Spring for iron ore. Brother Shirts and Brother Newman brought in several bushels of beautiful salt.”
Elijah and Letha were sealed in the Endowment House in Salt Lake on December 11, 1851.
Because Letha Jane was not listed in the first census of Iron County, we believe she stayed with her parents in Salt Lake City for a couple of years. It appears Elijah would return in the winter to stay with the Killian’s and his wife. In Letha Newman Hunter’s history she wrote that the families first home in Parowan was made of adobe, but later Elijah built a nice two story log home.
In the 1856 Census Elijah is listed along with Letha and Letha’s two daughter, Nancy Jane and Mary Ann (both list their last name as Newman and not Hood) and Matilda Newman. The 1860 Census has Elijah (67) (listed as a farmer), Letha Jane (34), Nancy (14), Mary (12), Elijah John Killian (4) , LaVinnia (2) and Letha (5/12). Matilda likely died during the four years between the census. The 1870 Census listed Elijah (77) (listed as a carpenter) and Letha (47) (listed as “Keeps House”) Mary Ann (21) is listed as a Newman. Then Elijah John Killian (14), LaVinnia (12), Letha (10), George (8), Solomon (5) and Matilda A (2). We have learned Matilda was Mary Ann’s daughter. It should be noted that all the names were spelled differently in each census. For clarity we have spelled them correctly.
We have reviewed the Iron County’s Deeds of Records and found Elijah had six deeds recorded during his life. The family was never really prosperous. There were great hopes for Iron County but it never produced any quality iron ore and so it relied on its crops and ranching for a livelihood. Because of the dry nature of its climate it could not support a large population nor export crops to Salt Lake City. Eventually after a grand start with iron ore smelting, cotton mills, tanneries and other endeavoures the pioneers of Iron County settled into raising crops for local consumption and ranching.
In 1857 the area was involved in the Mountain Meadow Massacre. We have not found any references to Elijah being involved in the massacre. But he was listed as a private in the Nauvoo Legion during this time.
Elijah and LethaJane had seven children. The first two, Matilda (1852-1859) and Lydia (1853-1853), both died early in life.
Their next child was Elijah John Killian Newman born on November 27, 1854. He went by John and we believe he died in Arizona in 1911. Family rumor had it that he married an Indian girl. In 2010 we found the record of his marriage to Altagracia Barela on February 17, 1887 in Apache County Arizona. We have no record of them having any children. In the 1900 Federal census he was living with a niece in Sterling Utah and the record stated he was single. We also found him living in Yuma Arizona in the 1910 Federal census.
LaVinnia Dame Newman was born on March 27, 1857. She married John Thomas Gant in Salt Lake City on July 4, 1877. They were parents of eight children. They also lived in Park City, Utah and Anaconda Montana due to her husband’s occupation as a wheelwright. The family moved back to Salt Lake City after she was diagnosis with cancer. She died on January 19, 1895 in Salt Lake City. After Elijah’s death, the Federal census of 1880 had Letha Jane living with LaVinnia and her husband in Salt Lake City.
Letha Newman was born on April 9, 1859. She married Robert Hunter on December 29, 1873. They were the parents of nine children. The family settled in the Twin Falls area of Idaho and Letha died on February 20, 1940. Letha Jane probably lived with Letha and her family for many years after moving from Salt Lake City.
In Letha Newman Hunter’s history, she wrote that Elijah was in California in 1859. She stated he missed his daughter’s marriage. This was the marriage of Virginia to William Dame. We wonder if Elijah was planning to take the family to California to live in the San Bernardino colony of the Church. We have no other record of this trip other than Letha’s comment. During this period the Utah War was going on as well as the fallout of the Mountain Meadow Massacre. Of course the family did not move.
We read about his attendance at a Church conferences in Parowan in the Dessert News and that he was ordained a High Priest in 1861.
Their next child was George Newman who was born on March 27, 1862. He never married and his exact date of death is unknown. We believe he lived in Idaho and the Ogden area of Utah. We know he enjoyed raising and racing horses.
Their last child, Solomon Alonzo Newman was born on March 26, 1865. He married Winnie Louisa Davis in November 1888. They were the parents of five children and lived in the Three Creeks area of Idaho. Winnie left Solomon in the early 1900s and they listed themselves as widow and widower in several Federal census records. He was a farmer and ranch hand by trade. He died on April 1, 1924. We also believe Letha Jane lived with Solomon’s family for a period of time.
One of Solomon’s daughters, Nugget Newman Axe shared a couple of stories about her grandfather and grandmother In one, Nugget described Letha Jane as a tall woman with a large frame. Another, was about the family in the early 1870’s. Elijah was very ill and it was necessary for Letha Jane to provide for the family. She was employed as a cook for men who worked in the mines at Peoche, Nevada. This was about 100 miles from Parowan. She took her two youngest sons with her. While she was in Peoche, Elijah lived with his stepdaughter, Nancy Jane Hood Kenner and her husband or they with him in his home. He became very homesick for his two little sons, so Letha Jane sent Solomon Alonzo back to Parowan. Letha Jane was not present when Elijah died on December 12, 1873.
Elijah’s obituary in the Deseret News of January 8, 1873 stated: “ At Parowan Dec. 12. Elijah Newman. Born in Hampshire Co. Virginia, Sept. 17, 1793; Emigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he embraced the Gospel; in 1832 moved to Missouri; suffered with the Saints in their mobbings and with them was expelled from the State settled in Nauvoo; worked upon the Temple till completed; received blessings therein, and with the first companies in 1846 crossed the Mississippi river for a home in the West; came with the Pioneers in 1847 to S. L. City; went with Pres. Geo A. Smith to Iron Co. where he lived a faithful and true Saint to the day of his death. He leaves a wife and six children and numerous friends.”
As we reflect on Elijah’s life we are in awe of his courage and faithfulness to the Gospel. He lost his parents at an early age. He probably fought in the War of 1812. He was imprisoned for his belief and forced from several homes while living in Missouri and Illinois. He helped build a Temple to Lord in Nauvoo. He crossed the plains with Brigham Young’s first wagon train when he was 53 years old. He volunteered to migrate to Iron County and was among the first settlers of this area. He was married three times and helped raise nine children. He lived a full life and died in his 79th year.
We take pride in Elijah’s legacy and enjoy seeing his name inscribe on “This is the Place” monument and a journal entry with his name at the Church’s History Center.