Biography of Siney Lewis Sr. Son of David and Duritha Trail Lewis written by his daughter-in-law, Crystal P. Lewis, from his dictation and in the first person as though he were the writer.
On August 1st 1848, in a little village called Mosquito Creek near Council Bluffs Iowa, twins--a boy and a girl, were born to David and Duritha Trail Lewis. I, Siney Lewis was the boy. My twin sister was named Olive. Our names were symbolic of two of the sacred mountains in the Holy Land, Mt Sinai and Mt. Olive. There were three children older than we Arminta, Preston King and David.
While we were still small babies, mobs composed of men prejudiced against our people, because of religion, came upon us, took all the property they could carry or haul away and burned our homes from over our heads. In some way my father got together an outfit consisting of a team and light wagon or double buggy, and took us all back to Kentucky where his people and mother's people lived.
After my parents were converted to Mormonism in Kentucky they traveled or were driven by hostile mobs from place to place, always seeking a place where they might worship God as they pleased in peace. They had traveled around about 12 years before taking this trip back to their old home.
During the time they had been gone my grandfather Trail had died leaving a large estate. My mother took her share of the state in equipment for emigration to the West, one Negro slave called Jerry and money.
When we were ready to start back to the gathering place of the Saints, we had two yoke of oxen, two covered wagons well loaded with supplied, including seed grain and garden seeds, bedding clothing and food. We also had two good milk cows. We left Kentucky sometime early in 1849 and joined the Saints who were moving Westward.
My father was a cooper by trade and as barrels, tubs and kegs were in great demand by the Saints for storing supplied for traveling, he had more orders for work than he could do.
The people did not move very fast that first month. They would stop at favorable locations, build a few rude log cabins, and make a settlement for a short time. Sometimes they would come to an old fort or settlement where some houses were all ready built that had been abandoned.
We were stationed for a short time in Iowa (I don't remember the name of the settlement). Here father's work was so much in demand that he hired a young fellow named Baker to help him.
My sister Arminta although only 14 years old was large for her years and was very pretty. My mother could see a growing attachment between her and young Baker but my father seemed blind to it. Mother worried a great deal over this affair but father thot her fears were groundless.
We were living in a two story house at that time and Arminta's room was upstairs. One morning was awoke to find Arminta and Baker gone. She had thrown her clothes from the upstairs window and sneaked downstairs where he was waiting with a horse.
We never saw her again. He heard rumors of her from time to time but never really found out what became of her. We all missed her very much especially mother who had depended on her to care for one of us twins while she cared for the other. Mother never really got over losing her and was always hoping to hear of her or that she would return.
Soon after this we began our journey across the Great Plains. Although I was only two years old some of the incidents and scenes remain in my memory, to this day, of that hard journey. I remember vividly a huge herd of stampeding buffalo that rushed through our camp grounds. They were upon us almost before we had time to turn around. I was sitting on the wagon tongue close to the wagon (for no one had had time to take me into the wagon) and some of these plunging snorting beasts leaped over the lower end of the very tongue upon which I was sitting.
Fortunately I escaped unhurt but a very frightened little boy. I imagine my parents and the rest were more frightened if possible than I was.
About fourteen years later I went back over this same trail to bring immigrants to Utah, many of the scenes were familiar to me.
We reached Salt Lake valley in the fall of 1851. My father located a vacant adobe house and moved the family into it.
The winter was long and very cold for us as we were used to a much milder climate. Father and Jerry the Negro hauled wood for the one fireplace from the canyon near where Ft. Douglas now stands. The wood was green and very slow burning and it was hard to keep us little children warm.
The next spring we planted what little grain and seed we had left expecting a good crop. But that was the year of the "grasshopper plague" and we were not fortunate enough to save any of our crop.
The winter of 1852-53 was just as hard if not harder for us than the previous one had been. We had very little to eat and that caused us to feel the cold more keenly.
Mother bought a little home and about 15 acres of land not far from where the City and County Building now stands, with the money she had saved from her share of Grandfather Trail's estate and sale of the women slaves to Reed Smoot's father.
We all worked as soon as we were old enough and each had his job or chores to do. In the fall after the harvest, mother would take the younger children with her to some field recently vacated by the reapers. Here we would glean the few stalks of grain they had left and put them in mother's apron.
When we arrived home we would thresh this grain out of the stalks with sticks or by rubbing it between our hands and blow the chaff away. It was then ground through an old coffee mill, mixed with cold water into a batter by mother and fried in an iron skillet held over the coals raked to the front of the fireplace. We were each given one of these cakes with a small cup of milk each evening and morning. There was no midday meal for us, and no "piecing" between morning and evening meals.
I must have been about four or five years old when I began herding our cow up and down the bank of the irrigating ditch in front of our place. I had to keep her from getting into our own and our neighbors gardens and fields. Sometimes I would go with other boys to a nearby slough, made by the waters of Emigration and City Creeks. Here we would catch frogs or small fish and roast them over a fire. We didn't know what matches were and had no flint and steel to start our fire with, but we possessed a priceless treasure in the form of a sun glass which was quicker and surer than any other primitive methods of starting fires as long as the fuel was dry.
When I was about six years old I got some of the neighbors to let me herd their cows along with our own, for which I received 1 1/2 cents per head each day. I took them out along the East Bench as it was then called, where the U. Of U. Now stands, wandering as far North as the present site of the Capital and as far South as the Penitentiary.
There were other boys who herded in the same vicinity and I had some of the happiest times of my life playing with them while our cows were feeding. We still caught fish and frogs in the creeks and ditches, roasted them over fires and relished them greatly.
But we weren't successful in catching our dinner every day and were often very hungry. One day an older boy and I were together. We hadn't had any lunch and no prospects of getting any. My mother had always taught me not to beg but the pangs of hunger can make us forget any teaching. We talked it over and finally decided to ask an English lady, who hadn't been in America very long, and who seemed prosperous and kindhearted for something to eat. We knocked on her door and made our request very timidly. We hadn't overestimated her for she was very kind to us and gave us each a large slice of bread and butter. Since that time I have had many wonderful meals at Thanksgiving, Christmas and other times but never one of them tasted so good to me as that bread and butter did that day. I have never forgotten that lady's kind face and generosity and never will.
On January 14, 1853, a new baby boy came to our home and was named William Trail Lewis. He was a joy and comfort to all of us.
About this time 1854 my father married tow other women-sisters-whose last name was Price. Soon after this he was called by the heads of the Church to go South and help settle some new colonies. He took his two new wives, tow wagons, two ox-teams, and my brother Preston to drive one of the teams.
This left Mother with no one to help her with the little farm and us children except Jerry, our faithful old Negro. But she was a very good worker and manager and we seemed to do as well as we did before father left.
My first schooling began when I was a little chap of five or six. I well remember my first teacher-not because of anything he taught me, but for his cruel and unhuman treatment of all of us. The schoolhouse was a crude log structure with holes between the logs large enough to throw a cat through. We sat shivering on the sawed log benches, with no rest for our backs and our feet dangling a foot or more from the floor.
One day this fiend lined a bunch of us little fellows up at the back of the room for punishment. As I remember it now, we hadn't been doing anything to break any of the rules but he simply had a grudge against us all and enjoyed torturing us. He took a whale bone ruler, made us hold out our cold little hands, one at a time, while he whacked them with this ruler until they were black and blue and swollen terribly. My mother was very angry when she saw my poor hands and tried to get father to do something with this man. But father always hated strife of any kind so the incident was passed up. But I vowed, then and there, little though I was that I would get even with that man if I ever grew large enough and had the opportunity.
Years later when I had grown to be a strong sturdy young man my brother Preston saw this teacher in the Penitentiary. He had led a wicked life and his physical power was practically gone. Preston told him of my vow to get even with him and that I was certainly strong enough to do it now. He claimed he had forgotten about punishing us but I hadn't. However, I never got the chance to try to even that score as he died a short time afterward in the Penitentiary.
The school terms were irregular and short in those days here in Utah. If all the schooling I ever really received had been counted in terms or years I'm sure it would not have amounted to more than two years.
My father died in about 1855 or 56 in the Southern part of the state where he had gone to colonize. As soon as his health began to fail he started for Salt Lake City, but when he reached Parowan he was too ill to go farther. He died and was buried there. He had only paid us one visit since his trip South.
I remember I was too young to realize the significance of his death. Mother came to me where I was herding the cow. My sorrow was for her only because she was crying so bitterly as I knew very littler about my father and hadn't seen him for some time.
In the spring of 1864 I started out with a company of about 70 other teamsters or "bull whackers" as we were called, to bring in immigrants who had been converted to the church from nearly very country in Europe. Each man had one wagon and two yoke of oxen. We didn't have any exciting adventures on our way out and as we were not loaded heavily we made good time. But on our return trip we had plenty of excitement. I had sixteen passengers in my wagon men, women and children.
When we came to the Black Hills everyone who could walk had to do so, as the climb was heavy. I had one woman in my wagon who weighed about 200 lbs. Who refused to walk. The captain of our company rode up and seeing this women still riding told me to order her out. I did so and it made her very angry. She climbed down and began walking, but instead of following the road she started off over the country. The captain rode after her on his horse and made her come back. She was about the angriest woman I ever saw.
I had quite an exciting experience while we were camped near the Platte River. I was helping cook supper when all at once I heard the crack of rifles and realized with fear and trembling, that the camp guards had discovered Indians either after our oxen or attacking the camp. I fell for my revolver and found it safe in the holster. I left the rest of the preparation of supper in the hands of the women and ran to join the guards.
The cattle were scattering in every direction. I ran as fast as I could to head some of them when all at once I fell into a deep hole. I found out later that it was an old well that had been dug by U.S. soldiers, to supply their camp with water, while a hostile band of Sioux Indians were between them and the river. Luckily for me it had dried up and was not as deep as wells often are. I called for help but no one heard me. I shot once or twice also. I put my revolver back in the holster and began to study how I could escape from my prison. I began kicking at the sides of the well and found that I could make holes that would answer as steps. I reached my hand up as far as I could and found a tuft of prairie grass that was firmly rooted. I held onto the grass tightly and put my feet into the holes I had made which raised me a long ways and prayed as hard as I could. By working in this way I finally emerged from the well. Believe me the campfires were surely a welcome sight for only a few minutes before I had almost lost hope of ever being found or getting out.
When I reached camp the men were all out searching for me. They thot that the Indians had captured me when they fled from the guards. Everyone rejoiced especially my passengers at my safe deliverance.
Upon reaching home after this journey I found that my brother David, who had gone to California about the time I started my trip, had died and was buried in California somewhere.
I made another journey across the plains a few years later and brought in another load of immigrants. I did everything I could to help support my mother. When she was a girl she had every comfort and luxury, been attended by slaves--of which her father owned many as he had a large plantation in Kentucky. Therefore the poverty which she had to endure after she came to Utah was very hard on her.
In 1872 I met a pretty little English girl. She had only been in America a few years. He name was Elizabeth Coleman and she was the prettiest and most charming girl to me, that I had ever met. I fell in love with her at once. We were married Jan 5, 1874.
Our first child was born the next November. We named him David after my father and brother who had died in California.
Altho he was a handsome sturdy fellow he didn't stay with us long for that dreadful scourge scarlet fever attacked him and he died Feb 17, 1876 being one year and 2 months of age.
Soon after this I met Elizabeth Blair whom I decided to make my plural wife. On August 16, 1876 our daughter Lenora was born. We called her Nonie. She was a beautiful child with large dark eyes and reddish brown hair.
I married Elizabeth Blair Oct 10, 1876. As both wives were named Elizabeth we called the first one Lizzie and the 2nd Betty.
Siney Lewis, son of David Lewis and Duritha Trail, was born 1 August 1848 in Mosquito Creek, near Council Bluffs, Iowa. Siney had a twin sister, Olive. While they were still small babies, mobs composed of men prejudiced against the LDS Church came upon the Lewis family and took all their personal property and burned their home. They went back to Kentucky where Duritha's family lived. These good people, with their family, were driven from place to place seeking a place where they could worship God as they pleased. About this time, Duritha's father passed away leaving a large estate. Duritha took her share in equipment for emigrating to the west - one Negro slave and probably two women slaves and some money. They also had two yoke of oxen and two covered wagons well loaded with supplies. They left Kentucky early in 1849 and joined the LDS pioneers who were moving westward. They reached the Salt Lake Valley in the fall of 1850. They located a vacant adobe house and the family lived there the first winter suffering many hardships. The next spring they planted their grain expecting a good crop, but that was the year of the grasshopper plague and they lost everything. Siney and the other children worked hard as soon as they were old enough, gleaning wheat and herding cows for other people to make a few extra cents. The school terms were short and very irregular. Siney received very little schooling.
In the spring of 1866 he started out with a company of about 70 other teamsters of "Bull Whackers" as they were called, to bring back emigrants from the east who had been converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints. He made another trip across the plains a few years later to bring emigrants to Salt Lake City. In 1872 he met a pretty little English girl named Elizabeth Coleman. They fell in love and were married 5 January 1874 in the Endowment House, Salt Lake City, Utah. She was born in Hemel Hempstead, Bedfordshire, England, 6 December 1856, daughter of George Coleman and Elizabeth Bailey.
Siney married Elizabeth Blair as a plural wife. She was born 9 May 1856. Six children were born to this marriage.
In 1887 Siney and his family moved to Midway, Utah, where they lived for several years being very active in the LDS Church. He was also director of Wasatch Water Company and was an Indian War Veteran. He was one that loved excitement and a celebration. He loved to dance, sing, play his accordion, and he called for the square dances for many years. He was head of his house and he seldom whipped or scolded, but his word was law and his children all realized this. He was always interested in civic affairs of the community and helped in many ways. Siney was a staunch Latter-day Saint and never missed a meeting when it was possible to be there. He was always the first one to pay his taxes and he never knew what it was like to owe anybody. In about 1896 the Lewis family moved to Vernal, Utah, where Siney lived the remainder of his life. On January 26, 1907 he was ordained a high priest. He died 28 November 1929, a fine honest man who had given his life to his family, friends, and community. His second wife, Elizabeth Blair, died 19 November 1887 in Big Cottonwood, Utah. His first wife, Elizabeth Coleman, died 18 December 1932 in Vernal, Utah. Siney Lewis and Elizabeth Coleman were blessed with twelve children, the first six born in Holladay, Utah, the next four born in Midway, Utah and the last two born in Vernal, Utah.
Siney Lewis and Elizabeth Blair were blessed with six children, all born in Holladay, Utah.