Neriah and Rebecca (HENDRICKS) LEWIS
(Julia "T" Lewis, Dow Lewis, William Hendricks Lewis, Neriah Lewis)
"Just after we arrived at their camp some two or three hundred Indian Warriors came on horseback to serenade us. 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."
Both Neriah Lewis and Rebecca Hendricks were born in Simpson County, Kentucky on April 29, 1816 and December 23, 1817, respectively. Neriah was born to Neriah and Mary (Moss) Lewis, and was one of twelve children, eight boys and four girls. Neriah's family members were large in stature. Neriah was the smallest of the brothers, was six feet one inch tall and weighed one hundred and seventy pounds.
After marriage, Neriah and Rebecca made their first home in Macoupin County, Illinois, where they prospered and their first three children were born: William Hendricks on October 14, 1837, Benjamin Marion on March 20, 1842 and Neriah Robert on March 10, 1843.
During the winter of 1846, Neriah's brother, David, came to visit and preached the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ to them. Neriah accepted the Gospel and was baptized. His wife did not join the Church at that time.
Neriah's son, WIlliam Hendricks Lewis wrote an account of his family life during those years:
"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."
The first camp that Neriah's family rested after crossing the river was on the banks of Sugar Creek. Here they joined Bishop George Miller's company with which they would remain until after crossing the plains of Iowa. Bishop Miller was one of the twenty-five captains of one hundred appointed in Nauvoo. This little company, consisting of sixteen wagons and thirty or forty pioneers, left Sugar Creek for the Des Moines River on Wednesday, February 25, 1946. On this day at 7:00 pm. the thermometer stood at 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Their camp remained ahead of that of Brigham Young for much of their journey through Iowa, as Bishop Miller had ambitions of completing the journey beyond the Rocky Mountains by the end of the season. They arrived at a campsite near Des Moines River and Farmington sufficiently in advance of Brigham Young's group to have completed a fence and cleared a field before other companies arrived. Neriah's group had also procured some much needed corn for the benefit of all the saints.
According to the historian Bancroft:
"Without attempting long distances in a single day, they made camp rather early, and after the usual manner of immigrants, the wagons in a circle or semi-circle round the camp fire, placed so as best to shield them from the wind and wild beasts and Indians, with the animals at a convenient distance, some staked and some running loose, but all carefully guarded. The country through which they passed was much of it well wooded: the land was fertile and afforded abundant pastures, the grass in summer being from one to ten feet high. Provisions were cheap: corn twelve cents and wheat twenty-five to thrity cents a pounds, and all payable in labor at what was then considered good wages, say forty or fifty cents a day."
During the first 100 miles of their trek from Nauvoo, the various companies of Saints were somewhat disorganized in that there was not a comprehensive plan for the people as a whole. When Brigham Young began to implement an organized plan for the companies, Bishop Miller had already taken his camp, including the Lewis family, further on. On March 23, Brigham Young had William Clayton write a letter to Bishop Miller telling him that if he did not return to organize, the camp would be organized without them and they would be disfellowshipped.
Bishop Miller had the company backtrack a few miles to Shoal Creek where the Saints reorganized their companies. Although Bishop Miller was considered somewhat as a rebel, he retained his position of leadership as a Captain of one hundred.
Continuing with William's own account:
"We joined Bishop Geroge Miller's company and continued westward hoping to reach the Rocky Mountains that some season. However, after traveling a few hundred miles, winter came. We met some Ponca Indian Chiefs who told us they had graass, 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."
Young William did not know that there was more to the story. Bishop Miller had once again taken his camp ahead of the body of the Saints and was determined, in spite of the presiding authorities council, to attempt a crossing of the Rocky Mountains that year. He had taken the Lewis's and the other members of the camp and moved ahead past the Missouri River to Grande Island on the Platte River.
Bishop Miller, in his attemp to go west early, was acting against advice and counsel of the leaders of the church. The body of his company was convinced by Anson Call, sent as an emissary from Brigham Young, to return to the banks of the Missouri River to winter with the other companies. They did return, but received an offer to winter with the Ponca Indians at their settlement northeast of Council Bluffs, which they accepted with Bishop Miller's influence. Three of the advance companies wintered at Ponca.
"Just after we arrived at their camp some two or three hundred Indian Warriors came on horseback to serenade us. 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 Pawness 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. They fought like demons for their families. Their war cheif was killed and never before or since have I listened to such howling and mourning.
"During the fall and early winter we dug roots to eat wich we called pig potatoes. They were a great help to us, but later frost came and the cold was so intense the ground was frozen three or four feet deep. There could be no more digging of roots. When cattle died of hunger and cold, some of the people dressed, boiled and ate the meat.
"It was a cold hard winter and we suffered much from the want of food. About eight persons of our company died of black leg or scurvy and were buried without coffins. Our corral of wagons in this camp was a long one and contained our cattle and horses. It was broken up one night by stampeding of the cattle which ran over the wagons, as if nothing were in the way, and made kindling of most of our vehicles and their contents. Two boys were sleeping under one of the wagons at the time, but an old iron pot which stood under the axle-tree saved their lives."
On February 6, 1847, Ezra T. Benson and Erastus Snow requested that Bishop George Miller return to Coucil Bluffs with them to be with the body of the Saints. Bishop Miller had tried to persuade the camp at Ponca that he, instead of the Twelve Apostles, should be their leader. He claimed he had a right to lead the camp because of his "special appointment from the Prophet Joseph Smith." Neriah's family, as well as the others, would not accept his attempts at dominion over them, instead accpeting the authority of the Twelve, and on February 8, they reorganized the camp, releasing Bishop Miller and sustained Titus Billings as their leader. Bishop Miller became disgruntled, openly opposing the Twelve, and left. He lost his standing in the Church and later was known to have joined the apostate Lyman Wight in Texas. He soon left Wight and joined apostate James J. Strang on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan.
At the end of March, the Apostles requested the people at Ponca to return to the settlements on the Missouri and plant crops along the riverbanks. When Neriah's family and the camp returned to the Missouri, they left twenty three of their number buried at Ponca.
In the words of William:
"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 [Rebecca Hendricks Lewis] 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 [were] acquired to start again toward Utah.
"Having there earned sufficeint means to purchase a good outfit to come to the Valley, we started for Utah in April, 1851. At Winter quarters we joined Orson Pratt's company with James Cummings as Captain of Hundred and Ormus Bates as Captain of Fifty.
"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. [Later, two of these children went to live with Neriah's brother and sister-in-law, Beason and Elizabeth.]
"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. 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."
On December 6, 1854 Neriah's beloved wife, Rebecca died leaving her four children and the two orphaned children of her brother Allen. After the death of Rebecca, Beason and Elizabeth adopted these two children.
On March 28, 1857 Neriah married Martha Catherine Youngblood, daughter of John and Edna Neal Youngblood. She was born December 25, 1835 in Perry County, Alabama. Her family had joined the Church and immigrated to Utah in 1854.
Following his second marriage Neriah and his family moved to Farmington, Utah where Martha's first two children were born: Arza, December 15, 1857 and Martha Ellen, May 24, 1859. In 1859 Neriah went to Cache Valley to help colonize that territory, and in 1860 moved his family into the fort at Richmond, Utah.
Cache Valley was originally called Willow Valley, but when a trapper was accidentally killed while making a cache of furs, it became known as Cache Valley, Some believe that Cache Valley received it's name from the famed explorer, Jim Bridger, who stored a "cache" of supplies in a cave in the Valley. That cave was discovered around 1990 containng a number of old pelts, ammunition and odds and ends that would be considered typical for an expedition in the mid 19th century.
During the eight years Neriah's family lived in the Fort home, four sons were born and two daughters buried. Orson Hyde Lewis was born May 27, 1861, Francis Hyrum Lewis on Januray 15, 1865, Willard on April 28, 1866, and Ezra Lewis on November 18, 1867. Little Ellen died April 65, 1862 and Neriah's daughter from his first marriage, Reecca Louisa Lewis died the 12th of May 1863.
President Young had advised the people to build their homes close together in form of a fort, to give better protection from the Indians. Such a fort was built at Richmond on land which later became main Street, including the tabernacle square.
One of the settlers who did not heed council built his home on 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 buria; plot became the Richmond cemetery. Many of the Lewis family were later buried there.
When the settlers first arrived, the land was surveyed and each was given two city lots, plus twenty acres of farm land and five acres of meadow-land for pasture. At first a branch of the church was organized, later, when more settlers came, a Ward 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. The men spent much of their time in the canyons getting lumber for building homes and poles for fences. A sawmill was built in the canyon to facilitate their work.
The men usually worked in companies to provide better protection from the Indians. When it was necessary for people to travel between the different settlements they drove a team of horses, or oxen, or they walked. It was customary to stop at the settler's home along the way where teams were fed and food and lodging provided for travelers when needed. Men often walked from Richmond to Salt Lake City, a distance of ninety miles, to attend Conferences of the Church.
Cache Valley was used by several tribes of Indians as a winter camping area. Large bands would camp at Battle Creek, which is located a few miles northwest of Preston, Idaho, where hot springs made warmer campgrounds. Pioneers followed the policy of feeding the Indians rather than fighting them. This policy prevented bloodshed 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 is located a few miles north of Richmond, to which the settlers contributed. The Indians drew from this bin. Yet they felt exempt from punishment and often stole cattle, chickens, and other supplies from the settlers. They became a menance by day and a terror at night.
Near the end of the year an indicent occurred which resulted in almost total annihilation of the Indians. In December 1862 four men who were coming from the Salmon River for supplies were attacked by Indians. One man was killed and the others wounded and robbed. The survivors managed to get help from RIchmond and later from Camp Douglas in Salt Lake City. In the meantime the Indians demand for food became greater. Chief Bear Hunter was in Franklin when Colonel Connor's infantry arrived from Salt Lake. He mimicked the soldiers and acted unafraid. Someone told him that he may be killed and he replied "Maybe soldiers get killed too." After he left they noticed he was riding rapidly. As the Colonel had planned, the Indian did not know the calvary was back of the infantry. The troops stayed a few hours in Franklin. At one o'lock in the morning, the infantry left to go to Battle Creek on Bear River. An hour later the cavalry left; passing the infantry and arriving on the Bear River at dawn. The Indians waved the scalps of white women and challenged the troops to battle. The conflict lasted four hours in sub-zero weather. This was an important battle as it marked the close of organized Indian trouble.
In the following years the Indians sought revenge and woud kill and steal whenever they could see an opportunity to do so. An important factor in preserving the peace was the strict adherence of the settlers to the advice of Brigham Young not to infringe on the rights of the Indians, nor to allow the Indians to infringe on their rights.
In 1868, when the hostilities of the Indians had lessened, Neriah moved his family into a rock home he had built on his city lot. He carried pine logs from the fort to be used in the barn near the 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 mild and other foods. The orchard bore fruit and they had good gardens. Wilford, Albert, Edward and Hattie Arminta were born in this home to complete Neriah and Martha's large family (born July 25, 1869, March 25, 1872, and February 12, 1878, respectively).
Although a strong, man, Neriah was also very kind and his anger was seldom aroused. He was diplomatic and wise in judgement and was called to be one of the Church Judges. Most disputes or problems that arose amng the people in that period of time were settled by the Church, instead of the law. Neriah was instrumental in bringing about many peaceful decisions. He was appointed to the first City Council on May 28, 1868 and was a member of the school board. He was loyal to the counsel of church leadership and willing to do watever he was called to do, even though it meant sacrifice to himself and his family.
In 1876 the populations in Lewiston Utah increased to a point that there was appointed a regular mail carrier. This was done under the supervision of the federal govenment, and was let out to contractors, usually the lowest bidder. At this time Neriah carried the mail from Richmond to Lewiston on a little saddle pony. He was now in his sixtieth year. The letter bag was tied to the back of the saddle to make it secure and then taken to it's destination. Neriah appeared regularly at the back of the Coop Store and there delivered and picked up the mail. After a while his route was extended to Fairview, Idaho.
Because of his love and service to others, Neriah was greatly loved by friends and neighbors who respectfully called him "Uncle Neriah". When he died, 22 July 1890, 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." He was laid to rest in the Richmond Cemetery.