History of Elizabeth Jane Davis Stewart
By Daughter Saddie Stewart Hand
My mother Elizabeth Davis Stewart was born in Oberland County, Tennessee, on September 17, 1831. She was the fourth child in a family of twelve children of Henry and Rachel Hunter Davis. In 1838, when Elizabeth was seven years old, her parents heard the gospel and joined the Mormon Church.
Due to the unpopularity of the faith of the Mormon religion in this area, her parents decided to move to Illinois and join the Saints there. So in May 1840, they left Tennessee for Nauvoo, Illinois, a distance of six hundred miles. They took all their worldly possessions, which consisted of a black mare that was blind, one old horse, four cows, and a cart. They hitched the blind mare to the cart which had no tires except hickory wood. The cart was loaded with what clothing and provisions they had and one small child, Robert. The other horse was packed with bedding and two small children rode the horse.
Henry Davis walked and led the blind mare, while his wife, Larken, George, Jordan, and Elizabeth who was nine, walked and drove the cows. They traveled nine miles when the cart broke down. This delayed them some time, but by morning they were ready to go again. A few days later the old cart gave out completely. It was beyond repair so they loaded everything on the two horses and went on until they came to the home of an acquaintance, a family by the name of DeHart. Mr. DeHart helped them bring the cart in and repair it again so they could continue their journey.
It was a long and tedious journey across the state of Tennessee and into the state of Kentucky, where they crossed the Cumberland River on a ferry. They traveled across Kentucky without much trouble but the trip across it was like the one across Tennessee, a long and weary walk.
Just before reaching the Ohio River the old wooden tires of the cart gave out so they traded one of the cows for some steel tires. They crossed the river in a large house boat. On reaching the other side of the river they traded three of their cows for another horse and harness, wagon and cover. In this new outfit they had plenty of room for every one to ride.
On reaching Morgan County, Illinois they stopped over with a sister of Rachel Hunter Davis, a Mrs. Lucinda Demiss. Her husband was very bitter toward all Mormons, and he made it plain that as long as they stayed there he would remain away from home, so they moved on. Eight miles further on Henry Davis had a sister living. Even though they were not Mormons they were treated kindly. There they rested for several days before moving on. They enjoyed the trip to Hancock County where they stayed for awhile with a Mormon family. They lived about a mile from the Carthage Jail where the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum were martyred. There they were advised to go to a town by the name of Raymos where they would be able to obtain work, which they did, arriving there July 24, 1840. There was a colony of Saints here, so Henry Davis decided to stay for awhile. He worked for a Mr. Eaton and other farmers until fall, then he went into the hills and cut logs and built him a house to live in.
In the spring he sold his young mare to Mr. Eaton who was to pay for it in the near future. The next thing they heard Mr. Eaton had left for Michigan, without paying for the horse. Even though it seemed a small thing it was a great loss to them.
While living here, Henry Davis became ill and was confined to his bed for over a month. Following his illness Rachel Hunter Davis was stricken. She was confined to her bed for several months. Poor, sick and almost destitute yet their faith in the gospel never wavered. They were willing to sacrifice everything for their religion.
As soon as possible Henry Davis found work again and in spring of 1841, he bought a yoke of oxen. It was while they were here in Raymos that all the children were baptized. In the fall they moved and settled about four miles out of Nauvoo. Here they stayed for awhile. It was while they were here that their oldest son went back to Raymos to get some things that they had left. He went swimming in the old mill race and drowned. William Young, a nephew of Brigham Young, recovered the body and brought it back to burial September 18, 1841. The death of their son was a great blow to the family, but with a big family to support there was no time to look back. The last of September they moved into Nauvoo, where they traded their oxen for a house and lot, which they moved into in November. They lived here four years.
George, the second son, cut stone for the Nauvoo Temple until it was finished. Jordan worked for Parley P. Pratt and also helped out in the tithing office. Henry Davis took his part in defending the city as there was a great deal of unrest due to the persecuting of the Mormons. They were very happy while they were here in Nauvoo always contributing their part in whatever way they could.
Then came the awful tragedy, the martyrdom of their beloved Prophet Joseph, which happened June 27, 1844. Their hearts were filled with grief and their heads bowed in sorrow at the great catastrophe that had befallen them. They all attended the funeral.
Now the great question was, who would lead the Saints. The family attended the meeting that was called to decide about the leadership of the Church now that their Prophet was gone. This meeting was held August 8, 1844 at 2:00. There had been several speakers, but when Apostle Brigham arose to speak, every one cried out, "brother Joseph." Elizabeth testified that he looked and spoke, even to the tone of his voice, like Joseph. She had heard him many times for she was personally acquainted with the Prophet.
Elizabeth received her endowments in the Nauvoo Temple when she was fourteen years of age. She and her family were living there when the mob began their persecution. So, with the rest of the homeless Saints they packed all their belongings in a wagon and started west with the Saints. Their first stop was at Garden Grove, a place about 155 miles from Nauvoo. They stayed there until they could become better organized for the long trek westward. Their next stop was at Mt. Pisgah. It was while there that another great sorrow befell them; Elizabeth's father took sick and died. Her mother was a very courageous woman, so with one thought in mind, her family and her religion, she moved on west with the Saints, arriving in Salt Lake City in 1856. Elizabeth was then 18 years of age.
When Elizabeth had been in Salt Lake City for a year, she married my father Benjamin F. Stewart. They were married by Brigham Young in 1857. While in Salt Lake City, she had a blessing under the hand of Patriarch John Smith, April 6, 1852. In that blessing she received some wonderful promises which were fulfilled to the very letter. One of which was that she would never taste death, but would be changed in the twinkling of an eye and this was true. She died without any sickness or suffering.
After she was married, they lived in Mill Creek for awhile then went to Payson. They were among the first settlers of that place. She was the mother of ten children all of them born in Payson. Her husband was very active in religious as well as civic affairs. Their home was the stopping place for all the Church officials visiting there.
While living here in Payson they had many harrowing experiences with the Indians. On one occasion they were living at a saw mill in Payson canyon when Chief Walker and five hundred of his warriors went on the war path. There were three families living there at the time. They were afraid that at any moment the Indians would make a raid on them. They could not go into Payson as they would have to pass the Indian camp, so they sat throughout the night watching the Indians doing their war dance. During this ordeal they did not forget to pray. When daylight came, they were relieved to see the Indians ride over the hills, stopping only long enough to fire at some houses as they rode away. Down in town there was one man by the name of Keel killed as they rode through. On another occasion, my mother was forced to take her children down the canyon in the night as a result of an Indian raid. They did not have time to even put on their shoes even though there was snow on the ground. They had to move from the canyon as the Indians were so hostile and were always on the war path.
In the year 1871, they moved to Benjamin where they were the first settlers. The town was named in honor of her husband. They built and moved into a house just west of where the cemetery now is. During this time her husband built a one room house which was used for a school. They lived in this home for four years. Then moved down to what was called the lower ranch. They lived there for only a year and then moved back to their home which they enlarged. Since there was no chapel to hold church in, my mother offered their home for Sunday School and Sacrament meetings. They held these meetings in her home for a long time.
Mother lived in this home until the last three years of her life. Her health was very poor so she moved in with me. She passed away in her sleep February 10, 1920, at the age of 88.
A few personal comments added by her granddaughter Ruby Stewart Donnelly
I knew my grandmother very well. How important it was to me to run over to her house to show her something new that I had especially if it was a new pair of shoes, or a new hair ribbon. I used to help her quite often especially during the apple drying season. I would run the apple peeler, she would cut, core and spread them out to dry. My sister, Dora, and I used to sleep at her house at night, for as she was getting up in years, Dad and Mother did not like her to stay alone.
As a child I used to love to sit and listen to the many pioneer experiences she loved so to tell. How I wish today there had been a means of writing those experiences down so I could read them and better understand their importance today. She also was quite a student in astronomy. She loved to read any and all available material on the stars. Many a time on a clear night she would take us out and point out many interesting things to us.