Louisa Wells (Free) (1824 - 1886)

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Birthplace: Belleville, St Clair, IL, USA
Death: Died in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, UT, USA
Managed by: Arthur Rexford Whittaker
Last Updated:

About Louisa Wells (Free)

Louisa FREE was born 9 Aug 1824 in Fayetteville, St. Clair, Illinois, the daughter of Absalom Pennington FREE and Elizabeth or Betsy STRAIT. Louisa died 18 Jun 1886 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah.

The Free family became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the summer of 1835 when Mormon missionaries came through the area. Prior to that, Louisa's parents were often at odds with one another, disrupting family tranquility through controversy over their respective religious beliefs. Absalom was a strict Methodist, and Betsy, a member of the Baptist Church. "Their religion was always a bone of contention," wrote Emmeline B. Wells, until they both embraced the LDS faith.

Louisa's childhood was sometimes difficult. Absalom was a strict disciplinarian, which in a sense, was an asset in his farm work. Through exacting principles of economy and undeviating demand for production of the land by all the family, he became a well-to-do farmer. In those achievements, some of the family members felt that his requirements were overly strict, that he was too zealous in his demands on them.

Louisa, the eldest daughter, was described years later by Emmeline as a beautiful girl. A dainty, refined young lady, she had lovely hazel eyes and comely brown hair. Emmeline also described some of the arduous tasks demanded of Louisa. Along with other chores, "no matter how cold, dark, and stormy the weather, she was forced to get up at four o'clock every morning to complete milking several cows."

Shortly after joining the Church the Free family moved to Missouri to be with the body of the Saints. Whether or not Absalom had sold his farm near Fayetteville is unknown. He likely did not, for when John D. Lee was on a missionary assignment to the southern Illinois area in 1842, that was were he found them.

In Missouri, Absalom was one of the band of Mormons in 1838 defending the city of Far West. At its capitulation to the Missouri militia, the Free family lost their property, everything they owned. During the early months of 1839 they made the trek back to Fayetteville, Illinois where they lived for the next few years. They eventually moved to Nauvoo where in April 1844 Louisa became John D. Lee's third plural wife. They were sealed in the Nauvoo Temple on January 20, 1846.

A son, John Brigham, was born to Louisa and John on February 26, 1846. This was about ten days after abandonment of the city of Nauvoo by President Young when the first contingent of Saints left the city. John had gone to assist the President's caravan of fifteen wagons and fifty family members. He remained with them until reaching Sugar Creek where a camp was set up. Afterwards, on the twenty-seventh, he returned to Nauvoo to make provisions for moving the remainder of his own family. In the meantime John Brigham had been born and was two days old when Lee arrived back in Nauvoo.

Within a few days John had everything ready to move in his four wagons. It took most of the day Tuesday, March third, to get everything over the river but by Wednesday they were ready to set out across Iowa to somewhere west. At the time they did not know where their journey would lead them, perhaps to the Rocky Mountains, or maybe to wait out the winter somewhere in between.

After finally stopping at the Missouri River near the eventual site of Winter Quarters, some difficulty arose in the family which then consisted of eight wives. Perhaps it was nothing more than an exchange of harsh words but Lee felt it necessary that he move two of them over to the camp of his friend, William Pace. Subsequently, when he left to fulfill his mission to Santa Fe, some of the wives moved back with their parents. Louisa was one of them. The others had tents in which to live.

Later, when John received the assignment to grow corn at Summer Quarters, Louisa accompanied the Lee family and assisted in every way to make the project a success. Sometime during the early months of 1848 she moved back with her parents who were also living at Summer Quarters. Her relationship with John had obviously deteriorated and it appeared that Louisa's mother Betsy was in part responsible. The final breach came on March 22, 1848 when Lee called at the Free home. There were some words of remorse regarding their relationship but it was evident that the situation was irrecoverable. As John departed Louisa accompanied him to the gate and asked that he come often to at least visit their little son, John Brigham, even though affections for one another were gone.

She did not return to the Lee family but crossed the plains with he parents. Years later, Lee wrote that "she lived with me about one year after the babe was born...[though] our friendship [afterwards] was never broken." It was not until May 12, 1849 after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley that a divorce was formally written up and "the union was dissolved in good feelings and the consent of both parties."

Louisa subsequently married Daniel H. Wells. John Brigham remained with his mother and the Wells family until his early death at the age of ten years and five months.

After the death of Louisa at age sixty-two on June 18, 1886, Emmeline B. Wells wrote:

"Louisa was well known throughout Utah as a most unselfish dispenser of charity and an ever ready friend and helper of the sick and needy.... Her hospitality was proverbial and unbounded, but as wife and mother she shone brighter, more gentle, more tender, noble and devoted. As a friend to the needy and friendless and nurse to the sick, her sympathy and generosity were ever enlisted. She never spared herself trouble or inconvenience when she thought duty or affection called her to act."

At the 1925 annual reunion of the Wells family, she was thus remembered:

"Aunt Louisa, of blessed memory to the older members of the family, would have reached her centennial had she lived until the 9th of last August. It is 38 years since she died. She was mother to the whole family, husband, wives and children, in sickness, in health, in joys and sorrows. She made possible in the beginning, the good fellowship to which our family success is due."

She married (1) John Doyle LEE 19 Apr 1844 in Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois

They had 1 child:

Heber John LEE, born 26 Feb 1846 in Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois, died 1858 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah. Louisa married (2) Daniel Hanmer WELLS 15 Feb 1849 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah.

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Louisa Wells's Timeline

1824
August 9, 1824
Belleville, St Clair, IL, USA
1845
April, 1845
Age 20
1846
January 20, 1846
Age 21
1849
February 15, 1849
Age 24
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah Territory, United States
1852
March 13, 1852
Age 27
Salt Lake City, UT, USA
1857
April 13, 1857
Age 32
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, UT, USA
1867
July 31, 1867
Age 42
1886
June 18, 1886
Age 61
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, UT, USA
1969
February 6, 1969
Age 61
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