Arnold Stevens History

Arnold Stevens History


Mormon Hero of 1846 and the story of his family during the great exodus West, under the direction of Brigham Young - the Great Colonizer- after first having been driven out of the United States. He then enlisted, along with 499 other men, to serve the US during the Mexican War. This left 500 women to drive teams with their children, across the wilderness to the valleys and mountains of the Intermountain West and establish the Territory of Deseret.

In The Beginning

  • Bastard, Leeds County, Ontario Canada


From "An Enduring Legacy" vol. Twelve, p. 329:

"I'll see you in the spring," and with a fond farewell he bid his family good-bye and marched away with the Mormon Battalion, but he didn't see them in the spring!

Arnold Stevens was born 24 Aug, 1802 in Bastard, Leeds County, Canada, to Jonathan Stevens, who was born at Nine Partners, Dutchess County, New York, in 1766 to Benjamin Stevens and Hopestill Shaw.  Jonathan, Arnold's father, moved with his family to Pittsford, Rutland County, Vermont, when that new territory was opened up to homesteading.  There he grew up and married Lucy Adams of the well-known Adams family in American History.  Lucy was born June 6, 1768, in Simsbury, Hartford County, Connecticut, to Richard Saxton Adams and Lucy Matson.  The marriage was in the Congregational church in the early 1790's, and to this union eleven children were born, Arnold being the fifth.

Just after the American Revolution, the Jonathan Stevens family moved across the St. Lawrence River into Upper Canada where many of the Loyalists resided, and at Bastard, Leeds County, ten of the eleven Stevens children were born.  Their Uncle Able was a Methodist minister, and the children were allowed to attend his church or the Presbyterian church nearby.

Arnold was a fine specimen of manhood at age twenty-six when he met and courted Lois Coon, daughter of Abraham Coon and Sabra Halliday.  Lois was born March 10, 1811, in South Crosby, Leeds County, Upper Canada.  They were married by the Reverend William Smart, minister of the Presbyterian church, Brockville, Province of Canada, United Counties of Leeds and Gronville.  The marriage took place December 19, 1830.  To this union were born eleven children; Byron, February 29, 1830; Sabra Elizabeth, December 25, 1831; Lois Ann, December 15, 1833; Rachel Matilda, July 25, 1836; Arnold, Jr., August 22, 1838; Ransom Abraham, September 27, 1839; Erastus Arnold, March 31, 1842.

In the spring of 1836, Mormon missionaries visited the home of Arnold and Lois.  Elders John E. Page and James Blakes-Lee visited them often, unfolding the story of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet, Joseph Smith.  Arnold and Lois were baptized November 18, 1836.  The church authorities encouraged the Saints to gather at the center of the Church; thus, in March, 1837, they left for the States. They stopped at Dublin, Wayne County, Indiana for a year, and it was here that Arnold, Jr. was born.

The family proceeded on to Kirtland, Ohio, where Arnold was ordained to the office of seventy and was with this presiding group when the decision was made by the quorum, in the upper room of the Kirtland Temple, to move the body of Saints to Far West, Missouri.  It was late in October when they arrived, too late to plant crops, but soon they were on the move again. [Historians tell us that the main body of the Saints made a forced exodus from Missouri during winter months, because of increasing violence against them and of the Governor Lilburn Boggs' infamous "Extermination Order.]

An Enduring Legacy, Volume Twelve, p. 330.

In Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois on September 27, 1839, Ransom Abraham blessed the Stevens' home.  The Saints were still on the move, and in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, Erastus Arnold Stevens was born March 31, 1842.

In the fall of 1844 Arnold was one of the high priests to preside over the branch of the Church in Montrose (Zarahemla) [across the mighty Mississippi River from Nauvoo, Illinois], Lee County, Iowa. It was here that their baby, Erastus Arnold, passed away at the age of one and one-half years. Arnold's mother, Lucy, died here on March 25, 1845.

Arnold had worked on the Nauvoo Temple and was among the church members called back to Nauvoo to receive their endowments.  Arnold received his endowments January 28, 1846; Lois took out her endowments February 4, 1846.  He had previously been given his patriarchal blessing on July 6, 1840, by Joseph Smith, Sr.

An Enduring Legacy, Volume Twelve, p. 330.

In February of 1846, the Stevens family, with some relatives and hundreds of other Saints, crossed the Mississippi River on the ice.  While on the ice [in sub-zero temperatures] they nearly lost one of their heavily loaded wagons as all but one wheel had slipped into the water.  Only by faithful oxen and strong arms of everyone was it pulled back onto the ice.  Sleet and snow greeted them as they reached the Iowa shore, but they formed circles of wagons at night and thanked their God for the safety of a new lands. [Midwives reported more than a dozen babies were born that night.] Through rain, snow, sleet and mud they trudged across the state of Iowa and Indian lands [later in the year, after harvesting crops at "Winter Quarters."]

Arnold and Lois settled near Council Bluffs where they set their efforts to putting in corn and wheat for winter use and lived in a wagon box.

It was in July 1846 that the Mormon Battalion was called to make the long march to California during the Mexican War.  Five hundred men between eighteen and forty-five years were mustered in.  Arnold Stevens was forty-four years old.  He became first corporal in Company D.

"A central mass meeting for council was held, an American flag was brought from the storehouse and hoisted to a tree mast, and in three days the force was organized and ready to march.  There was no sentimental affection at their leave.  The afternoon before was appropriated to a farewell ball.  Everyone was gay and happy, although there were no refreshments, and the ballroom was most primitive.  It was the custom, whenever the larger camps rested for a few days, to make great arbors, or boweries as they called them, of poles and brush and wattling, as places of shelter for their meetings of devotion and gatherings for conferences.  In one of these where the ground was trodden firm and hard by the worshippers of the popular Father Taylor's precinct, was gathered now the mirth and beauty of the Mormon Israel for the Battalion.  If anything told that the Mormons had been bred to other lives, it was the appearance of their women as they assembled here.  Before their flight from Nauvoo, they had sold their watches and trinkets as the most available resource for raising ready money.  Like their partners, who wore waistcoats cut with useless watch pockets, they, although their ears were pierced and bore the loop marks of rejected pendants, were without earrings, finger rings, chains, or brooches.  The lovely ladies lacked nothing, however, in their becoming attire with neatly darned white stockings, a bright clean petticoat, a perfectly starched collar, and well-washed lawn or gingham gown that fitted modestly to the slim waist of the pretty wearer.  If any of them spoke of poverty, it was poverty that had known better days.  Lois Stevens was a fine seamstress, and I'm sure she made the dress she was wearing." (From the journal of Colonel Kane.)

An Enduring Legacy, Volume Twelve, p. 331.

Arnold did not keep a journal while in the Battalion, but he wrote many precious letters to his family.  They tell of his great love and concern for his family and give  one a true mental picture of a very kind, gracious man, sensitive to circumstances of all those he loved, and living each day in the hope that he will see tham all again.  We quote from one letter - -  August 13:

"I count not find any shoes suitable for Abram you must buy a pair there and get or make him a good cap I could not find one suitable I got some jeans (like those I sent Abram0 for me, a couple pare of pantaloons and a pair of shoes and some cloth for garments.  I want you to get some drilling material and make you some garments and wear them constantly and I want you to send Bub to school if possible if not let no pains be spared at home to teach him how to read give my love to all the children tel Lois ann to write to her Pa and I would say to here and Rachel be good and kind to your Mothere do all you can to favor her and now I commend you all to God and to the word of His grace which  is able to keep you until we all meet again.  Do not forget me in your prayers and be assured you have mine dayly.

As to my health and fare my health is better than when I left my feet and legs bloat considerably and trouble me some about walking.  My lodging is to roll myself in my blanker and lay on the ground our tents are not large enough for six persons to ly down in comfortably We have flower and meet always but go to gether in such a way it requires a good appatite to eat it which we generally have I must close by subscribing myself yours as ever affectionate Husband'

An Enduring Legacy, Volume Twelve, p. 332

Later, Arnold was moved to Ft. Pueblo with the sick detachment.  He spent much of his time tanning antelope and deerskins, as they used them for clothing.  He was faithful to write to his family in Pottawatamie County, Iowa, and he was hopeful of meeting them in the spring.  Along the trail, while traveling toward Ft. Pueblo, Colorado: "This day I am to record the death of another of our comrades, namely: Arnold Stevens, 1st Corporal, Company D.  He was handling a wild mule when he was dragged over some logs and hurt internally.  He lingered from the 21st to the 26th of March when a blood vessel burst and suffocated him.  He was dressed in his [Temple] robes and neatly laid away in a coffin made of what is called puncheons of Cottonwood.  These are slabs split off like staves."

From the Colorado State Historical Society it was learned tht the Arkansas Riber overflowed its banks in the great flood of 1921, and the old pioneer cemetery was all washed away.  All that remained were bones strewn along the banks for miles and miles.

The LDS Church has placed a single monument near the spot where the old cemetery once was, stting tht near this spot were buried many of the Mississippi Saints and members fo the sick detachment of the Mormon Battalion who wintered at Ft. Pueblo in 1846-47.  Submitted by Ruth Naomi Brewer Pixton. (Susan W. Easton )

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