Leavett, Jeremiah Sr. or Leavitt, Jeremiah Sr.
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The Life of Thomas Rowell Leavitt and His Descendants
Jeremiah, son of Jeremiah I and Sarah Shannon, was born 30 May, 1797 at Grantham, New Hampshire.
He married Sarah Sturdevant 6 March, 1817. She was born at Caldonia Colk New Hampshire 3 Sept. 1798. Immediately after their marriage they moved to Hatley, Quebec, Canada, fifteen miles from the Vermont border, where the soil was rich and deep and timber plentiful. Here they would build a permanent home and rear their family.
This was the birthplace of our Grandfather Thomas Rowell Leavitt I. He was sixteen months old when they left Hatley and moved to the United States with the Mormon colony of emigrants led by Franklin Chamberlain who married Lydia, the oldest child in the family.
This wagon train consisted of Mother Sarah Shannon, now a widow, her children and grandchildren, twenty-three souls in all. Her husband, Jeremiah I had passed away in 1806 at the age of 46 and he is buried in the Leavitt Cemetery at Hatley, Quebec, Canada.
Now you ask why did they leave Canada? They had worked hard and struggled so long to become established in homes of their own. The country was becoming more settled and surveyed roads were being built. Why did they leave? To find the answer we will go to Hatley.
They were religious people, but their children were going to different denomination, all teaching the Bible, all having a different interpretation to the scriptures. Grandmother Sarah Shannon was confused. She felt there should be one true religion teaching all the same religious principles.
About this time the Mormon missionaries were sent to Eastern Canada. Many listened to them and were impressed with the Joseph Smith story. Among them the Leavitt families. Mother Sarah Shannon felt this was the very thing she had been searching for.
Her son Jeremiah and his wife Sarah Sturdevant compared it with the scriptures and were soon converted. Grandmother Sturdevant states in her journal it was the book Doctrine and Covenants that really converted them. They knew no man or set of men who could write such a book or even dare try to write such a book. It had to be revelation from God.
Their next move was to prepare to leave Canada and join the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio. They left 20 July, 1835 and arrived at Kirtland in September.
It was here they met the prophet Joseph Smith whom they had read so much about.
The weather had been hot and the roads rough all the way, with hills to climb and rivers to cross. They had to find work before they could go on. They could go no farther.
The second journey was to take them five hundred miles to Twelve Mile Grove near Nauvoo where the rest of the company had settled. When they camped near Lake Michigan, they were forced to stop again. Grandfather Jeremiah II had to find work.
Here they found three orphan children left among strangers. They were children of Nathaniel, Jeremiahs brother. Nathaniel had died and was buried here. The childrens mother had died and Nathaniel had married a second wife. At the death of Nathaniel, she went back to Canada and left the children. Jeremiah took them along, making eleven children in his wagon.
Again the road was bad. At one place they had to cross a five mile bridge over a swamp. This was made of poles with no dirt covering. It nearly jostled them to pieces.
They arrived at the Twelve Mile Grove to find their friends and family sick and discouraged. Mother Shannon had passed away of hardship and exposure. Many of the company were ill. They had bought good farms, but there was so much malaria around that those who did not have it, moved around heartsick and discouraged. Some of them began to doubt the truth of the church which had cost them so much.
Jeremiah and his wife brought new zeal, hope and courage to the group. The oldest(er) sons went with their father to Juliette where he could get three dollars a day with his team working on a dam. The boys worked wherever they could get work. Mother Sarah took in washing.
They went back in the spring and took a farm on shares where they raised a good crop. They had five milk cows so they could make butter and cheese. Then Jeremiah decided to use the labor of his sons on a farm of his own. He bought land out on the prairie and built a home there. There was every indication they would soon be well-to-do. Then misfortune came. Their mother had taken ill and they had lost their last cow. Jeremiah made enough rails to buy another cow, but there was so much malaria around that as soon as his wife was strong enough Jeremiah decided to sell out and move to Nauvoo. Most of their friends were going and they wanted to be with the main body of Saints.
They started in November. When they arrived they bought a house three miles from the city and plowed and sowed the land into wheat. Before harvest they found irregularities had been found in the survey so they swapped again, bought a farm seven miles from the city by the big mound. This was in 1841.
For six year the family had been on the move, living a few months or a year at a time wherever they could get work. Now at last they felt they would have a permanent home. They were seven miles from Nauvoo but they could drive to church and keep in touch with their people.
By now two more children were added to the family, Betsey Jane, born 12 May 1839 at Hancock, Illinois and Sarah Priscilla, the twelfth child born 8 May 1841 near Illinois. When we think of the pleasure a new baby brings into the home, we can remember Thomas, the baby, was the pride and joy in his fathers family for five years. Now in 1841 he is seven years old with two baby sisters. Now he is old enough to wonder, "Why cant we have a home where we can stay all of the time." It would be hard to explain to a seven-year-old "why" they were always moving from one place to another. Now he is old enough to ask question, feel the cold and sometimes the hunger, old enough to help gather wood, run errands and help in the care of his little sisters.
There was every promise that this would be a permanent home at the big mound. The farm was in a good location with a beautiful site for a fine home they planned to build on top of the mound. Sand and gravel were all hauled for the foundation.
Things were going well until 1844 when mobbings began. Before this time the Leavitt families had always lived among people who were not of their faith and who had no sympathy for them, but never before had they witnessed such depredations as they watched from the big mound. Such fires and killings! They watched in horror and fear, for their own lives were in danger. Only once did the mobs threaten them. A group rode up to the fence and started toward the gate.
Weir, a young giant of twenty-two faced them and said, "Tie up your horses and come on in fellers, come on in and have a drink." They were so surprised at this welcome that they followed him around the house to the cellar. He poured them a pitcher of wine, then lifting the barrel, drank from the bung hole. They saw his great strength, the cool fearlessness in his eyes; perhaps they noticed his brother Lemuel, Dudley and Thomas, just boys, but boys with fight in them. They got on their horses and rode away.
In the spring of 1844 farm work went on just the same but they were always conscious of danger. When they drove into town they heard the mobs had taken the prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum, but they had been taken before. When word came of their martyrdom they drove into town. They must find out. Crowds were gather in the streets, gloom written on every face. With their prophet gone, what could they do? The next day their bodies lay in state. People thronged there for one last look at their beloved prophet, and his brother Hyrum.
This experience was so indelibly stamped on their minds, it only helped to strengthen their testimony, increase their faith and give them courage to go on at any cost. The family were all present when a meeting was called, 8 Aug, 1844 when Brigham Young was chosen to take the prophets place.
The family started home downcast and troubled. The mobs were out to destroy and drive every Mormon out of the country. They drove to the home of their daughter Lydia. They found other families already there. Armed and ready a rider called. One woman began to cry and begged her husband not to go. "If I had forty husbands and that many sons, I would urge them all to go. I would go myself if I could," grandmother told her.
It was evident they must leave the state if they wanted to live, either leave or renounce their religion. This they would never do. They would die first.
Now they were on the move again in search of a new home. Eighteen months after the martyrdom of the prophet the Mormons left Nauvoo. They had been ordered out of the state.
President Young tried to get permission to stay until spring but was told to get out immediately Some time in February the Leavitts left the farm and gathered with neighbors and friends in an old school house.
The first night out their mother Sarah had a premonition that if they did not get out of there they would all be killed. It was the first time she had ever shown fear. Now when she suddenly became afraid, they listened to her an hurriedly piled all their belonging into their covered wagons and set out for the Mississippi River, eight miles away. They arrived on the bank where many others had gathered and were crossing as fast as they could. Before morning this school house was burned to the ground. Not until they reached the other side could they feel safe.
They arranged the wagons as close together as they could get them and built a fire in the center. During the night snow and high winds struck the camp. It was almost impossible to keep covers on wagons or beds.
They had to stay here for two weeks until all the cattle and horses were across. The family had a trying time. They were not prepared with supplies or outfits to take them on a long journey. They had let the church use one wagon and team of oxen to haul church supplies. This meant they had one wagon and one team of oxen to pull it. It was loaded with their supplies and household necessities which meant the mother and her children must walk behind the wagon.
In April, 1846 they reached Mt. Pisgah, one hundred and fifty miles west of Nauvoo, This was one of the stopping places or camps for the Saints. The father had the boys built a shelter for the family and planted some crops. They did not have provisions to last until harvest.
Grandfather Jeremiah decided to take his oldest son Dudley, sixteen years old and go back to Boneparte. His son Jeremiah had married and was living at that place. They could live with them and work to get supplies. Then Jeremiah and his family would go back with them to Mt. Pisgah and they would go on and joint the rest of the Saints.
Weir and Lemuel had gone on ahead to Council Bluffs.
This left Mother, Mary, Amelia, Betsey, Priscilla and Thomas, now twelve year old. Shortly after their father left, their mother became very sick with chills and fever. Their friends were good to them, bringing food and fuel, washing clothes, doing anything they could for she was a very sick woman, but soon the whole camp came down with this same sickness.
Grandmothers journal states, "I was the first one to take sick, three hundred took sick and died after that and I was spared alive."
The father back in Bonepart also took sick. They nursed him tenderly and did all that could be done for him but it soon became evident he could not get well. In his last hour and his last breath he sang, "Come let us anew our journey pursue, I have fought my way through, I have finished the work Thou didst give me to do." He could not go on. To this day this has been the Leavitts favorite hymn.
The mother and her children waited for his return and were almost prostrate at the news of his death. Jeremiah and Dudley coming to bring the wagon, Weir and Lemuel coming from Council Bluffs with medicine and food, now for a short time she had all of her sons with her again.
This was the last time they were all together. Their father, Jeremiah II passed away 20 Aug. 1846.
Copyright Shirl R. Weight 08/27/11 11:32:59 AM
Copyright © 1996 - 2019 Shirl R Weight Tuesday, 01 January 2019 08:33:23 AM