Our Pioneers, The Vernal Express, 3 Sep 1931 and 10 Sep 1931, Siney Lewis, Sr.
I was born August 1, 1848 in a little village called Mosquito Creek, near Council Bluffs, Iowa. 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.
My father David Lewis, was born April 10, 1814, in the state of Kentucky and became a member of the L.D.S. church March 24, 1835. In 1837 my father and mother went to Missouri. They settled on a piece of land about 18 miles from Far West and about one mile from Hawn's Mill, the scene of the Hawn's Mill massacre. My father went through this massacre without a single scar, although five bullets pierced his clothing and he had shells strike near him in many instances. After the mill was raided and the men retreated to the blacksmith shop for shelter, they were shot out like rats. When every man had been killed or wounded, my father walked through heavy rifle fire to a patch of woods where he sought shelter.
In some way my father got together an outfit consisting of a team and light wagon and took us back to Kentucky where his people and mother's people lived. During the absence of my parents from Kentucky, my grandfather Trail had died leaving a large estate. My mother took her share of the estate in equipment for emigration to the west, one Negro slave called Jerry and money. We started back to the gathering place of the immigrants in Missouri with two yoke of oxen, two covered wagons well loaded with supplies, including seed grain and garden seeds, bedding, clothing and food. We left Kentucky sometime in 1949.
My father was a cooper by trade and he was kept constantly busy supplying barrels, tubs and kegs for the caravan.
The journey was started across the great plains when I was only two years old. 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 and some of these plunging snorting beasts leaped over the lower end of the very tongue upon which I was sitting.
We reached Salt Lake Valley in the fall of 1850. 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 Fort Douglas now is located.
The next spring we planted what little grain and seed we had left expecting a good crop. But that was the year the grasshopper plague came and we were not fortunate enough to save any of our crop. The winter of 1851-52 was just as hard as any previous one had been as we had very little to eat which caused us to feel the cold keenly.
Mother bought a little home and about fifteen 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.
We all worked as soon as we were old enough and each had his job of 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.
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 method of starting fires as long as we had dry material.
When I was six years old I formed a community herd of cattle and each day took them to graze 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 capitol and as far south as the penitentiary.
My father married two women--sisters, whose last name was Price in about 1853. Shortly after this he was called to go South and help settle the country there. He took his two new wives, two covered wagons, two ox teams and my older brother Preston to drive one of the yoke of oxen. This left mother with no help but the Negro slave Jerry and the younger children.
My schooling began when I was about five or six years old. My first teacher was a heartless brute and my first school year remains a bitter memory to me. The school terms were short and irregular and I think the whole amount I received was about two years or terms as they are measured today.
My father died in 1855 or 1856 in the Southern part of the state. He had started for Salt Lake to make us a visit but became so ill that they stopped at Parowan where he died.
From that time on I had to do my share to help care for mother. My oldest brother was married in 1867, being only seventeen years of age. My brother David was thirteen years old and I was nine at this time. Times were hard and any kind of work for boys where they could draw pay for it was very scarce.
In 1866 I made a trip across the Plains, in the company of 70 other "bull whackers," as men who drove owen were called, to bring in converts who were waiting at the Missouri river to come to Zion.
Our trip out was uneventful but coming back our camp was visited by the thieving Indians who tried to steal our cattle. While assisting the guards to drive the Indians away. I fell into a well that had been dug by U.S. soldiers when the Indians had been between them and the Platte River (where our camp was located). Although it was only about fifteen feet deep it was straight up and down and my escape seemed impossible. I shot off my gun, using all the cartridges I had to attract attention but no one heard it. Finally I found a tuft of grass growing out in the well as high up as I could reach and by digging niches for my feet I finally managed to get high enough to call for help. My fellow passengers had given me up for dead or thought I had had been taken by the Indians.
My brother David died in California while was away and this left me the whole support of my mother, brother and sister.
I made another trip across the plains a few years later and brought another load of immigrants safely to Utah.
In 1874 I was married to Elizabeth Coleman who came with her parents from England in 1864. To this union were born twelve children. Our first child died when a littler over a year old. The rest all grew to adulthood except Aaron who was born in 1894 and died in 1901.
We lived in Holladay, Salt Lake County, the first eleven years of our married life and our first six children were born there.
We moved to Midway Wasatch County in 1896, where two more daughters and two more sons were born to us.
In 1896 we moved to Ashley Valley were we have since resided. Our last two daughters were born since settling in Ashley. We have had our home burned to the ground twice and our crops completely destroyed once by fire with no insurance either time.
I never did take much active part in church affairs but I have always been a staunch believer in the L.D.S. Church and faithful in keeping the commandments. I was ordained a high priest, January 26, 1970 at Vernal. (Siney Lewis died on November 28, 1929, at his home in Vernal leaving his wife and three sons and six daughters to mourn his loss.