Neriah Lewis History
Early Church Membership Records
Neriah Lewis' parents were descendants of American colonists who had been a part of the early historical events of America. According to the family tradition Neriah Sr. had seventeen uncles in the Revolutionary War. Stories of their experiences were exciting to his children and grandchildren; especially tales of the soldiers who were spies. Neriah was tenth of twelve children. In 1810 the Lewis family moved from Pendleton District to Simpson County, Kentucky. The family members were large in stature. Neriah, who was the smallest of the brothers, was 6' 1" tall and weighed 170 pounds. The older brothers helped their father clear land in Kentucky so crops could be raised and homes built. It was related that they cut six to eight loads of wood per day.
Neriah married Rebecca Hendricks, daughter of Samuel Hendricks and Rebecca Dorris. She was born 23 December 1817 in Simpson County, Kentucky. After reaching Salt Lake Valley, Rebecca died and Neriah married Martha Catherine Youngblood. They were married 28 March 1857 in the Endowment House, Salt Lake City, Utah. She was born 15 December 1836 in Perry County, Alabama, daughter of John Youngblood and Edna Neal. Neriah and Rebecca made their first home in Macoupin County, Illinois, where they prospered and where their first three children were born.
In the winter of 1846-47, Neriah's brother David came to visit and preached the restored gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to them. Neriah accepted the gospel and was baptized. His wife did not join the Church at that time. William Hendricks Lewis, who was a young lad at the time, remembered well the events of those years and wrote the account from which the following information was derived.
"A few weeks after my father accepted the Gospel he sold out and moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. Soon after that we started for the great unknown West, traveling through Iowa to the Missouri River. A crude flat boat was constructed on which we crossed the Missouri River. We joined Bishop George Miller's company and continued westward hoping to reach the Rocky Mountains that same season. However, after traveling a few hundred miles winter came. We met some Punca Indian Chiefs who told us they had grass timber and water and we had better winter with them. We accepted their offer, left the trail we had been following and went with them. Just after we arrived at their camp some two or three hundred Indian Warriors came on horseback to serenade us. They were wearing war paint and rode at full speed in single file. They fired their guns as they came and did not forget to give their war whoop. It was very exciting for our people, many of whom had never seen an Indian before. While this was happening an old Chief appeared on the scene, excitedly waving his hands and giving words of command. He said a war party of Pawnees were at his camp killing their women and children. On hearing this the Warriors broke their serenade and went full speed to their camp where they had a desperate battle with their enemy. Their war chief was killed and never before or since have I listened to such howling and mourning.
"It was a cold hard winter and we suffered much from the want of food. About eighty persons of our company died of black leg of scurvy that winter. As soon as spring came, we made our way back to Winter Quarters where we remained and farmed during that season. We then moved to the Iowa side of the Missouri River and lived there one year. My mother was baptized in April 1848. My sister, Rebecca Louise Lewis, was born 18 September 1848 in Pottawattamie County, Iowa. The family moved to Platte County, near St. Joseph, Missouri and remained two years before sufficient means was acquired to start again toward Utah.
"Among the loved ones who died on the plains were Rebecca's brother, Allen Hendricks and his wife. This couple were survived by four children. Neriah and Rebecca took these children into their family.
"A short distance out on the plains we left the old road and went around the Elkhorn. This caused us to travel about five hundred miles without a road. We had a successful trip and arrived in Salt Lake City on the 7th of October 1851. My father purchased a home in the 15th Ward and we farmed the following season. In the fall of 1852 we moved to Centerville, but returned soon afterward to Salt Lake City. The family attended meetings in the old Tabernacle for years and listened to President Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and the apostles of the Prophet Joseph's time. We learned to love and cherish their teachings.
"One of the most tragic scenes of life is to see small children left without a mother. Neriah was called to witness this again when on December 6, 1854 his beloved wife, Rebecca, died and left four children of her own and two orphaned children of her brother, Allen. When the family had first arrived in Salt Lake City, Neriah's brother, Beason and Aunt Betsy, had taken two of the Hendricks' children to raise. After the death of Rebecca, they took the other two. This beloved couple, at that time, had a family of fourteen adopted children."
As mentioned earlier in this history Neriah married Martha Catherine Youngblood. Her people were among the early settlers in Perry County, Alabama. Martha Catherine's mother died when she was three months old. She and her sisters were raised in the family of her father's brother, Jessie Youngblood. After the family joined the LDS Church they came to Utah in 1854.
After his second marriage, Neriah and his family moved to Farmington, David, Utah where Martha's first two children were born. In 1859 Neriah went to Cache Valley to help colonize that territory and in 1860 moved his family into the fort at Richmond, Utah. During the eight years Neriah's family lived in the fort home, four sons were born and two daughters were buried.
Life in the early settlement at Richmond and some events which occurred during the time the Lewis family lived there have been vividly described in the history of Cache County compiled by M.R. Harvey. Additional source material for the following account was obtained from Cache Valley residents. President Young had advised the people to build their homes close together in the form of a fort to give better protection from the Indians. Such a fort was built at Richmond on land which later became the Tabernacle Square. One of the settlers who did not heed counsel built his home on the land allotted him outside the fort. Everyone feared for his safety. One night some of the men dressed as Indians went to his home. They were successful in frightening him enough so that he moved into the fort. However, they almost lost their lives when he started shooting. The first person buried in Richmond was a miner who was killed by Indians. His body was brought to Richmond and the land around his burial plot became Richmond Cemetery. Many members Lewis family are buried there. In the center of the fort at Richmond was a court several rods wide which extended east and west. A row of log houses was built close together on each side of the court. One historian describing the humble homes in the fort said, "The furnishings were few and simple. An adobe fireplace was built in one end of the house and around this was centered the life of the family." Immediately in front of each house was a walk, then a water ditch, finally the court. Just back of the homes was a street two rods wide which entered the fort at the east and west ends. Beyond the street were lots for gardens, hay-yards, and corrals. A strong, high pole fence was the outer protection and the stack yards and corrals were placed against it. The main road passed north and south through the lower section of the fort and court. This road later became Utah State Highway 91. Guards were stationed outside the fort night and day so they could give an alarm if necessary. Cattle were always guarded while they were in the pasture to keep the Indians from stealing them.
When the settlers first arrived, the land was surveyed and each was given two city lots plus 20 acres of farm land and five acres of meadowland for pasture. The leaders counseled together to plan for the safety and edification of the people and the building of the new community. First, a branch of the Church was organized. The people responded by sharing many pleasant hours as well as helping each other in their work and in times of trouble. Canals were built to bring irrigation water to the land. This was done by first plowing the land, then scraping the dirt back with a "devil". This instrument was made by fastening two poles together in a "V" shape and placing rocks on the platform built across the poles. The men took on the "go-devil" while the oxen pulled it to push the dirt. The finishing work was done with picks, shovels, and spades. It took a very long time before the project was completed. When the water started running in the canal, a water master was appointed to notify families of their turn to use it for their land. The men spent much of their time in the canyons getting lumber for buildings and poles for fences. There were no wire fences in those days. A sawmill was built in the canyon to facilitate their work. Wood also burns the longest and gives the best heat. Most of the wood was brought from the canyons in the summer and stored for winter use. Fires were started with dry shavings cut by sharp pocket knives which the men always carried. When it was necessary for the people to travel between the different settlements, they drove a team of horses or oxen or walked. It was customary to stop at settlers homes along the way where teams were fed and lodging provided for travelers when needed. Men often walked to Salt Lake City, a distance of ninety miles, to attend conferences of the LDS Church.
Other events told by the settlers to their children concerned the serious problem with the Indians. The following was based on an account by H.R. Merril and S.P. Morgan: "Cache Valley was used by several tribes of Indians as a winter camping area. Large bands would camp at Battle Creek, where hot springs made warmer camp grounds. Pioneers followed the policy of feeding the Indians rather than fighting them. This policy prevented blood shed for a time, but it led the Indians to believe that their word was supreme law. Their demands were often unreasonable and burdensome. A food bin was maintained at Franklin, Idaho which was located a few miles north of Richmond, to which the settlers contributed. The Indians drew from this bin. Yet they felt immune from punishment and often stole cattle, chickens, and other supplies from the settlers. They became a menace by day and a terror at night. Conditions became so bad during the winter of 1862-1863 that the people became alarmed. They felt that the Indians would drive them from their homes at any time and might kill many of them."
In 1868, Neriah moved his family into the rock home he had built on his city lot. He carried pine logs from the fort to be used in building a barn near his home. Members of his family have since marveled at his strength because he was able to carry logs which were eighteen feet long and ten inches in diameter. The family home was located across the street from the southwest corner of the tabernacle square. It was cool and comfortable and had a cellar to keep milk and other foods. Three children were born in this home which completed a family of nine. In February of 1878 when the fuel was getting low, it was necessary for members of the family to go to the canyon to replenish the wood supplies. An early spring thaw caused an avalanche which resulted in the death of Orson, a seventeen year old son. He was completely covered but his axe protruded from the snow. He died on the way home from his injury. This overwhelming sorrow came to the family only a few days before Hattie Arminta was born. Although a strong man, Neriah was also very kind and his anger was seldom aroused. He was diplomatic and wise in judgment and was called to be one of the LDS Church's judges. Most disputes or problems that arouse among the people in this period of time were settled by the LDS Church instead of by law. Neriah was instrumental in bringing about peaceful decisions. He also was a member of the school board. He was loyal to the council of LDS Church leadership and willing to do whatever he was called to even though it meant sacrifice for himself and his family. The following incident was typical of his dedication.
"In the spring of 1868 he was called to furnish a team and man to go back to the eastern states and assist the emigrating saints on their way to Utah. Although it was time to plant the crops, he sent his only team of horses and his son Robert, who was then seventeen years old."
Because of his love and service to others, Neriah was greatly loved by his friends and neighbors who respectfully called him "Uncle Neriah". When he died, the heritage he left his children was one of honesty, loyalty to right under all circumstances, love of fellowmen and country, and a strong testimony of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the latter-days. Neriah and Rebecca (Hendricks) Lewis were blessed with four children, the first three were born in Carlinsville, Macoupin County, Illinois and the last child was born in Pottawattamie County, Iowa. Neriah and Martha Catherine (Youngblood) Lewis were blessed with ten children, the first two born in Farmington, Utah and the remaining eight born in Richmond, Utah.