Friday, June 15, 2012

Levi Wheeler

     Levi Wheeler was born 5 July, 1812, at Greene, Kennebec County Maine, the son of Simon and Sarah Stevens Wheeler.  Simon worked for his father-in-law to be, Jacob Stevens, in Augusta, and Lewiston, Maine.  After their marriage Simon and Sarah moved to Greene, Maine, where they bought a home.  Several of their children were born at Greene and Leeds, town which were three miles apart.  Simon and Sarah moved about considerably and at present we do not know the birthplaces of all their twelve children.
     Levi told his family that his people were very early settlers in New England and had lived in Maine a long time, that his father was in the lumber business, as a boy he helped cut the trees and take the logs down the Kennebec and Penabscot Rivers.
     In the summertime, even at sixteen years of age, he went barefooted and bareheaded.  He
was very light complexioned, as were all the Wheeler Family, with blue eyes and light brown hair.  He wore his hair trimmed in an even length, what we today call a Dutch cut, his hair was thick and didnt stay smoothly combed.  He had a habit of running his fingers through his hair to try to smooth it down.  He grew to a height of six feet and weighed over two hundred pounds.  Levi was a happy person, fond of games and sports, active and light on his feet, a very good square dancer.
     In Abington, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, Levi Wheeler and Mary Ann Wilder Arnold were married 15 May 1838 by Reverend Williams Whiting.  She was the daughter of Johnathan
 and Mary Ann Wilder Arnold
      The first child, a son, Levi Lincoln Wheeler, was born there at Abington, 22 August 1838.  The family moved to Augusta, Kennebec County, Maine, where three more children were born to them, Calvin 14 August 1940, Almira, 15 May 1843; and George Walton, 30 March 1844
It happened here in Augusta, the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints called at the home of Mary Ann was very impressed by what they taught, and she was very desirous to hear and understand the doctrines of the gospel.  She asked them to return in the evening when Levi would be home to hear their message.
     One of the Elders was named George Walton, Levi and Mary Ann were converted and in honor of the Elder who had brought them the gospel, they named their baby George Walton.  They were baptized in March 1845, and the same year moved to Nauvoo, Illinois.
     The traveled with a very large group of settlers, some of whom were relatives including Levis mother, and brothers, Simon, Jacob Joseph and sister Martha.  Together with their families, we do not know how many more of the family were converts to the church.  They did not stay long at Nauvoo.  Their child, Melissa Ann, was born at Lee, Lee County, Illinois, 19 April 1847 and three years later at Paw Paw, Illinois, his beloved wife passed away 11 March 1850 of Tuberculosis.  She is buried in the Paw-Paw Grove Cemetery.
     The same spring and soon after the death, of Mary Ann, Levi, with some of his brothers and relatives, went to California to seek, like others, his fortune in the gold mining.  Levi left his five children with relatives who cared for them while he was away.
     On this trip to California, Levi drove mules, he preferred them to oxen as they were tougher and faster on foot.  The oxen were slow and could not travel the steep mountain.
     His work was successful and he returned with fair reward for his labors.  He was able to pay  his relatives for the care of his children and also purchase a most up to date sawmill of that time.
      It was run by steam, burning scrap wood and timber for fuel.  The sawmill was in two parts, the steam engine and the saw and carriage.  The steam engine ran the saw by a belt fastened to a pulley on one side of the boiler.  When the sawmill was moved it was put to two wagons, saw and carriage on one and steam engine and boiler on another.  The carriage was to hold the logs as they were cut.  The saw was in the middle of the carriage and the logs were squared and then cut into lumber.  This sawmill was the first such modern one to cross the Missouri River and come west.
     In 1854, Levi, with his young family, his brother Simon, and other relatives, made ready their wagons, provisions stock, and the sawmill, which alone took two wagons, and five yoke of oxen to haul, and came to Utah.  His son, Levi was now nearly sixteen years old.  He drove the three yoke of oxen it took to pull the steam engine and boiler part of the sawmill across the plains.  Someone else drove the two yoke of oxen it took to pull the saw and carriage part of the sawmill.
     Calvin, the second son, nearly fourteen years old, was a scout and night herder, who looked after the horses, and cattle and kept a sharp lookout for Indians along the way.  Sons, Levi Jr. and Calvin were both private guards for President Brigham Young later in Utah.  Almira, about eleven; George, ten; and Melissa, seven, each had their chores to do.
     Arriving in Utah the sawmill was first placed at Little Cottonwood Canyon, south of Salt Lake City.  Besides the family and relatives, a lot of men worked at the mill.  The lumber was hauled about twelve miles over a dusty road by ox teams to Salt Lake City.  Many new buildings were being built at that time, as Salt Lake City was growing very fast; and sometimes Levi had to take a share or part ownership in a business or building as payment for the lumber he had furnished, until a later time, as very little money was in circulation and exchange of produce instead of cash was common among the settlers.  While they lived there the children were baptized.  Calvin and Almira in 1854; and Levi and Melissa in 1856.  The family were members of the Taylor Ward.
     Levi was close friends with President Brigham Young and Apostle John Taylor.  He and
John Taylor bought a threshing machine together and at one time John owned half interest in the sawmill.
     Several old logging trails are still visible on the walls of Little Cottonwood.  The largest is a few miles long and runs parallel with the canyon, leaving the stream and gradually climbing the wall of the canyon finally reaching the rim. 
     About this time Johnston’s Army was moving into Utah.  Levi’s sons Levi Jr. and Calvin were with Major Lot Smith and his company of men who dug trenches across the canyon, threw up breastworks, loosened rocks on the heights, and prepared to resist Johnston’s Army.  They were also with Major Smith at the burning of Johnston’s Army provisions train at Echo Canyon, and took active part in various dangerous raids and stampedes.
     The next move was to Ogden, and the sawmill was placed at North Ogden which at that time was a beautiful grove of timber.  Levi made each of his sons a foreman in charge of the men who worked with them; and often told his boys, “A boss had to do two mens work, his own share of the work and the supervising too.”
            When Levi came to Ogden, there was no road or trail in Ogden Canyon. He took his oldest son, Levi and the oxen, and went up in the canyon and made the first road that was built there.  From North Odgen, Levi moved his sawmill to Odgen Canyon and onto Wheeler Creek, and Snow Basin or Wheeler Basin.
      Levi Jr. was in charge of logging the timbers out, and getting them down to the stream.  They would take the oxen and a two wheeled cart up and fasten the large ends of the logs on the cart and drag them down the mountainside to the stream.  Calvin was in charge of letting the logs down the river to the mill.  As the trees were used up the mill was moved closer to the timber.  George was in charge of sawing the lumber at the mill.  From North Ogden, to Ogden Canyon, on to Wheeler Creek, and Snow Basin or Wheeler Basin.
     Levi owned the first lumber yard in Ogden, and he owned an interest in some business places there for which he had furnished material.  He was a very close friend of Lyman Fass, who was president over the Bishops Wards of Ogden.  At this time he was a very wealth man.
    Simon, his brother, owned a sawmill in Ogden Canyon. It was different from the one owned by Levi, as it had among saw that sawed up and down, and one owned by Levi, was round and had a big fly wheel on the side of the engine which kept up the speed when the logs were very big or the work was very heavy.
     Because of the deep snow and ice on the river, the mill had to close in wintertime.  The boys found other work, Levi Jr. freighted from Butte, Montana to Salt Lake City, Utah.  They went to Promontory Point and got cedar fence posts to sell at Ogden.  At different times Levi did construction work and built canals, and his sons worked with him.
     Brother Jacob’s son, Beniah, visited his uncle Levi when he went to California in 1859, 1879 and again in 1884.  Levi and some of his friends in Utah accompanied Beniah on his first trip to Plumas County, California.  The facilities for mining were limited which meant exceedingly hard labors for the seekers of wealth.  Levi and his friends returned to their homes in Utah after having been away for about two year.
     In the year 1861, Levi married Jeanette Gillespie, nee Sinclair, and Margaret McAlpine Miller on the same day in the old Endowment House in Salt Lake City.  Jeanette had two children, William and Annie, by a former marriage, when she married Levi.  A son Lorin was born to them and Jeanette died when he was a tiny baby.
     Margaret had heard the gospel when she was in Scotland and had tried to get her husband to join the church.  He would not join, so Margaret came to America alone.  She was an old lady when she married Levi and a room was given to her in the home and she was taken care of where she kept house for herself.  She lived until Levi’s older children were married and had their first babies.  She was lovingly called Scotch Grandma, because she loved Levi’s grandchildren dearly.  She helped care for them, rocked their cradles, and sang Scotch lullabies to them. The young mother learned the lullabies and sang them to their children who still remember them and sing them.  Margaret passed away March 5, 1872.
     In 1865, Levi married Phoebe Roxy Perry at the Salt Lake Endowment House.  She was a young woman and eight children were born to this happy union.  They were: Mary Ann, Josiah, Leroy, Sarah, Almeda, Ida, Survina, and Bertha, the last three were born at Lewiston, Utah.
    The Perry’s were very poor people, and Levi looked after his wife’s people too.  When he bought for her, he bought for them.  Some of the Perry’s and Levi’s nephew Levi Smith, worked at the mill. Levi was very good to his wife and family, and she had everything that could be given to a pioneer home.  She was among the few women who wore silk dresses in those days.
      He built a lovely log home for her where the Weber College now stands.  It was large and roomy and the furnishings were the best that could be had at that time.  The fireplace was between the rooms and heated the whole house.  Lorin was with the family, and helped about the mill, and did errands.  The older children were all married while living here in Ogden.  Levi received his Patriarchal Blessing under the hands of Patriarch Charles W. Hyde, 23 May 1871 in Ogden, Utah.  
[Blessing of Levi Wheeler, Recorded in Book G, page 148
Odgen City, May 22 1871,
            A blessing given by Charles W. Hyde upon the head of Levi Wheeler, son of Simon Wheeler, born in Kennebec County, State of Main July 5, 1812
            Levi, I place my hands upon your head and I seal upon thee a father’s blessing for the Lord your God has protected thee through many scenes of danger, and thou wilt yet be called councilor in Zion to do much good in this kingdom.  Thou art of the house of Joseph and a lawful heir to the blessings of the Priesthood and a right to wives and a great kingdom upon the earth, and to redeem your dead until you are satisfied, and they shall rise up in the first resurrection and call you blessed.
            You shall do a great and mighty work in the temple of the Lord and commune with many of the holy prophets, and no good thing shall be withheld from you, for your last days shall be your best days.  It is your privilege to stand on the earth at the coming of the Messiah and to be changed in the twinkling of an eye.  These blessings I seal upon they head with all your father’s household forever and ever with the blessings of eternal lives with God and the Lamb forever and ever. Amen]
     About 1876 all of the family of Levi moved to Lewiston, along the Bear River.  He was an old man by now, but he put three yoke of oxen to the plow and drove them holding the plow himself, although his land was tough meadow sod which is hard to break.  He culd saddle a horse and ride just like a young man until the last few month of his life.
            Levi went to Paw Paw, Illinois, in the year 1863, when his mother died.  Some of his relatives came to Utah to visit him, one was his sister Martha Smith, whose son, Levi Smith worked at the mill.  His brothers Jacob and Joseph has also been in Utah and went with Levi to the gold rush in California.
     Lorin had married and moved to Montana.  Levi sold the sawmill to his sons Calvin and George about the year 1884.  He could saddle a horse and ride just like a young man until a few months before his death.
          Levi was a kind, gentle man, generous and loving, a hard worked and a friend to everyone.  He was tactful and often called upon to settle problems of other because of his understanding way.  His wife Phoebe said that never in his life did he speak an unkind word to her or anyone she knew. He even took time in his busy pioneer life to teach her to read and write.  He used his means to make life comfortable for his family.  He was a wise economist but a generous man, modest, plain and sincere.  He was a hospitable man who kept his hearth fires bright, and the latch string was always out, for he loved company.  He was always strong, hale and hearty.  He came of the good New England stock among the citizen of Maine.  His people could speak the Indians language, and he knew and understood the ways of the Indians.
       He made good because of rugged fiber of his frame, the iron determination of his will, and because he gave the best that was in him to his work.  The success of his business brought him a very wide circle of friends.  Levi Wheeler died on the Sabbath Day, 31 January 1886, and he is buried in the Lewiston, Utah Cemetery.
            [Deseret Evening News, 12 February 1886
Wheeler- on Sunday January 31st, at the Territorial Insane Asylum, where it was found necessary last summer to place him in consequence of him becoming demented, Levi Wheeler, lately of Lewiston, Cache County, but formerly Weber Co., where for many years he carried on quite an extensive business in running a sawmill, constructing canals, etc.  He was a native of Maine, and came to Utah in 1854.  He leaves a wife and fourteen children.]
     After the death of Levi, the mill was sold by Calvin and George to Henry Palmer; they received some horses as part of the payment at the time.  The boiler was inspected every year, and was still good. Hank Palmer put the sawmill on Dempsey Creek, for that was close to the mountains.  Later he moved it to a stream called the Marsh Creek, which flows westward and comes from the mountains near Downey.  At that time the mill would saw about two thousand feet of lumber a day.  It was the largest of several sawmills owned by Henry (Hank) Palmer. In the year 1897 Charles Bell went to work at the mill, he said it was sure an old timer.
     Leaving the boiler part of the sawmill in the mountains on Marsh Creek, where it is believed to be sill laying, Hank Palmer moved the saw part of the mill to Portneuf near Black Rock and close to where the State Highway Checking Station now is.  He used the saw here with another boiler until 1931, and all this time Charley Bell worked for him at the mill.
     In 1931, Charley Bell took over the mill and moved it up the Portneuf River to Inkom, and placed it on Rabbit Creek where it joins the Portneuf River. He operated it for two years, after that it is believed to have been scrapped.
   These facts have been related by Levi Wheeler and his children to their children and grandchildren.
    I am grateful to them for this history.
                                Ellen Cornwall Anderson- great grand daughter of Levi Wheeler.

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