Monday, February 4, 2013

Alexander Nephi Stephens

Alexander Nephi Stephens



Alexander Nephi Stephens was born 11 December 1840 in Brown County, Illinois.  He was the 5th child in a family of 12 (9 boys and 3 girls).  His father was John Stephens and his mother Elizabeth Briggs.


John and Elizabeth were converted to the Mormon Church and John was baptized by the prophet Joseph Smith.  He and his wife were endowed in the Nauvoo Temple 6 Feb 1846.


Because of the bitter persecution in July 1846 the Stephens family left Nauvoo and started across the plains to Salt Lake.  Alexander was just 9 years old at this time and much of the journey he walked, as there were several children younger than he was and there was so little room to ride in the two wagons filled with the family possessions.


The Stephens family reached the Salt Lake Valley in October 1849 and after a few days lay over in Salt Lake went on to Ogden where they purchased two city lots on 24th Street near the Weber river, below where Wall avenue is now.  A one-room house was on the one lot and they built another room onto it and so were fairly comfortable for the winter.  In the spring they homesteaded a farm in the Birch Creek area.


In the spring of 1857 President Brigham Young called out the State Militia to prevent Johnson’s Army from entering the Salt Lake Valley.  The federal government was afraid the Mormons in Utah were becoming too well established and successful, so on the pretence they feared a rebellion the sent an army to subdue them.


The father and oldest son Otha were stationed at Echo Canyon to stop the army from entering the valley that way.  Later Alexander Nephi was sent with a group to Lost Creek to prevent entrance from that direction.


Brigham Young felt the Mormons had been persecuted, murdered and robbed in Missouri and Illinois both by mobs and government authorities and now the United States was about to adopt the same course and he and the Mormon people resolved the army could not enter the Salt Lake Valley. They would resist to the death the troops entering the valley.


In 1860 Alexander Nephi married Sarah Ellen Gheen who at that time was only 16 years old.  Her parents had been Quakers but had joined the Latter Day Saint Church.  Alexander Nephi and his young bride rented a small place on 24th Street and Grant Avenue in Ogden where he made a living working in a general merchandise store.  Here three of their children were born -  a boy and two girls.  Eight years after his marriage Alexander’s father gave him a piece of land on the farm and he built a two-room log house with a lean to and a dirt roof.  It was built on a small hill facing the east mountains and just below the hill was a spring of cold water and a little creek.


In this home on January 4th, 1869, a second son, John Andrew, was born and nine days later the mother, Sarah Ellen, passed away.  The mother’s sisters (two of whom had married Heber C. Kimball) took care of the baby and the youngest girl.  Later another sister, a Mrs. Elmer, took them.  The two older children lived with their father’s brother Daniel and his wife.  In August of the same year Alexander Nephi married Amina Raymond and the children were united again.  The children learned to love their new mother and she was very good to them.  She later had two sons and five daughters of her own.


On April 10th 1873, Alexander Nephi married Mary Eames as his third wife.  She was an English girl who with her family had joined the LDS Church and immigrated to America where the settled at Plain City.  Her father contracted diptheria and died about a year after coming here. In order to help provide for the family, Mary did house work for any one who needed her.  She was working in the Stephens home and was just 17 when she met Mr. Stephens and married him.  Later she became the mother of eight children (4 sons and 4 daughters). Four of her children died in infancy.


In March 1879 Lester Herrick and Charles Middleton of the Weber Stake presidency organized a company of saints to settle in Idaho on the Snake River with John K. Poole as president.  Mr. Poole had visited the Snake River Valley with a trapper the year previous and was very desirous to promote settlement there.  He interested the Stephens and Raymond families along with a few others to go to Idaho with him.


When Mr. Stephens and Mr. Raymond arrived at Poole Island, later known as Menan, it was late in March and they each staked a claim on a quarter section.  Then they returned to Ogden to move their families.


Before the family left for the Snake River country Alexander Nephi had the Browning Brothers make him a special gun which he named Sally Ann.  It could shoot either large or small bullets and could fell a deer a half mile away.  This gun was a prized possession and he became an excellent shot with it.  The Stephens family loaded all their possessions in wagons and set out over the trail- like road for their new home.  It was a road easy to trace by the clouds of dust, which hung over it.


As Mary was expecting her fourth baby she was left behind in Ogden until the others could get settled in Idaho.  Her two oldest children (a girl and a boy) had both died before they were three years old.  Her fourth child, a boy, was born in August 1879 and Mary and her two children joined the others in Idaho in November. This boy died in August the following year.


They arrived on their claims on July 2, 1879, after a long, tiresome journey.  Mid-summer was a wonderful time of the year for these settlers to arrive.  Their quarter section of land was well covered with heavy river grass and sage brush higher than a horses head.  In true pioneer spirit they started to fell the cottonwood trees and peel them into logs.  A two-room house was raised in no time and they set about clearing their land.


The early settlers had to do things the hard way.  They had only the most primitive tools to work with.  The land was covered with sagebrush and this had to be cleared off, the ground plowed with a hand plow and leveled before it could be planted.  The crop was planted by hand, a man broadcasting the see.  After the crops were grown they had to be harvested by hand.  The grain was cut with a cradle and tied into bundles by hand.  Later the bundles were threshed by hand using a homemade flail.


Since Alexander Nephi had two families, so was living in polygamy, the government agents were constantly after him.  He hid out whenever he knew any deputies were around and he had to constantly be alert and on the move.  He had a hiding place fixed in one of his homes and all his children were always on the watch for the government agents.  Finally Alexander Nephi and some of his polygamist friends decided to leave the country for a time.  They disguised themselves as trappers and trapped through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.  After several months of living this way he returned home and gave himself up.  He was tried and sent to the Idaho penitentiary where he served for six months then was paroled because of good behavior.


Some time later the government decided to allow the Mormons who had more than one wife to continue to live with their first wife without being molested.  They were to provide for their children, and future plural marriage was forbidden. Eventually the persecution quieted down and they were able to work out their own problems.  For many years Alexander Nephi lived quietly enjoying his families and helping build the town of Menan and the church in that area. 


He loved to hunt and fish with his sons.


On November 21st, 1915, Amina passed away in Ogden, Utah, and was buried in the Ogden Cemetery near Sarah Ellen.  January 17, 1916, Alexander Nephi died in Menan and was brought to Ogden and was buried in the Ogden cemetery with his two wives.

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