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Lavina Lee (Young)

Birthdate: (62)
Birthplace: Putnam, TN, USA
Death: July 4, 1883 (62)
Place of Burial: Nutrioso,Apache,AZ
Immediate Family:

Daughter of David Adolpheus Young and Elizabeth Vance
Wife of John Doyle Lee
Mother of John David Lee; Ellen S Clark and Sabina (Melvina) Lee
Sister of Mary Vance Lee and David Isom Young

Managed by: Arthur Rexford Whittaker
Last Updated:

About Lavina Lee

Lavina YOUNG was born 25 Sep 1820 in Putman, Jackson, Tennessee, the daughter of David YOUNG and Elizabeth VANCE. Lavina died 4 Jul 1883 in Nutrioso, Apache, Arizona, and was buried Jul 1883 in Nutrioso, Apache, Arizona.

Both families, the Youngs and the Vances, were some of the earliest settlers of middle Tennessee, having arrived there at about the time the territory achieved statehood. David and Elizabeth probably lived on the same land for forty years. During that time they had eight children. The first was born about 1807 and the last in 1825. Lavina with the second youngest in the family.

David and Elizabeth and their three youngest children, Mary, who became known as Polly, Lavina and David Isom, became members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1842. Other Young and Vance families living in the area were baptized at the same time.

In 1845, the year they joined the Church, David, Elizabeth and those three children moved to the center stake of the Mormon kingdom of God on earth, the City of Joseph, as Nauvoo was sometimes called. Little is known about the family after their move and while they lived in Nauvoo, but it was certain that they kept in close communication with their missionary patron, John D. Lee, who had baptized them.

When the Saints were driven from Nauvoo, the Youngs were among them. Traveling across the territory of Iowa in the middle of the winter of 1845-1846, they experienced the ordeals of ice, snow, rain, and mud with everyone else. Following the trail marked by President Young, they passed through such places as Sugar Creek, Farmington, Keosaqua, and Garden Grove. While bogged down at the Pleasant Grove encampment, they would have heard President Young summarize the situation of the Saints and give them a glimpse of what he saw in the future.

"...Some have started with us that have turned away...and perhaps more will yet go. Yet I hope better things for you. We have set out to find a land and a resting place where we can serve the Lord in peace. We will leave some here because they cannot go further at present, but can stay here for a season and recruit and by and by pick up [and] come on while we go a little further, lengthen out the cords & gather all the saints together in the place where we will build up the House of the Lord in the mountains....Inasmuch as we are united, we will prosper and I know that if this people will be united and hearken to council, that the Lord will give them every desire of their hearts..."

It took three months to travel the distance from the Mississippi to what became known as Winter Quarters on the Missouri River. By November, the family had been at the Missouri for several weeks and in serious trouble. The entire family was sick and they had no shelter or provisions. David, the father, was elderly, seventy-four years old, and unable to do much even when fit and well. Elizabeth was sixty-three years of age. The children would have borne the burden of the physical requirements of the trip across Iowa, particularly twenty-one year old David Isom. They had made it thus far but they found themselves facing what appeared to be insurmountable obstacles having to do with their very survival.

About that time, John D. Lee returned from a three month special mission assigned him by President Young. He found his own family in much the same condition as the Youngs and immediately took charge, building shelters and procuring food and supplies. In the meantime, he discovered the plight of the Young family. Without hesitation, he rendered assistance, took care of their immediate needs, then gave David Isom money to lay in supplies for the approaching winter.

A few months later the elderly couple witnessed the marriage of their daughters, Polly and Lavina, and another Tennessee convert, Nancy Gibbons Armstrong. Those three ladies were married to John D. Lee in a single ceremony on February 27, 1847. The marriage was performed by President Brigham Young at Lee's Winter Quarters home. Lee made note of the event in his journal:

"Nancy Gibbons Armstrong, Nancy Vance Young and Lavina Young were sealed to John D. Lee for time and all eternity in presence of Brigham Young and David Young." Following that unusual ceremony, the party all sat down to a "sumptuous supper." Afterwards, President Young and his wife entertained the group by singing several songs which Lee described as "...both sentimental and sacred."

A month later President Young left Winter Quarters with a pioneer company to blaze the trail to their new home in the west. John D. Lee and his family moved from Winter Quarters north about fifteen miles to establish a farm on which they were to grow corn for the general migration of the Saints, anticipated the following year. Lavina, the fourteenth wife of John D. Lee, went with the family to the new farm, which was given the name Brigham's Farm or Summer Quarters.

As the land was being tilled in preparation for planting, Lavina's parents, young brother and others in the settlement contracted a strange disease with which no one seemed familiar. The illness proved to be a very virulent, debilitating ailment. There was little anyone could do beyond treating them with homemade elixirs and herbal potions and administering priesthood blessings. Sometimes the sickness progressed so quickly that it was over before the victim could receive any attention. David Isom was the first in the settlement to pass away. He was buried on a nearby hill in a new graveyard given the name of Fairfield Cemetery. Others followed, including both parents of the Young family, David and Elizabeth, all of whom shared a place in Fairfield Cemetery as their last resting spot. The disease finally ran its course and survivors were left to fulfill their farming mission at Summer Quarters.

One could imagine the feelings of both Lavina and her sister; the new family which they had joined suddenly became their only family, the center of their lives. They had to rely wholly on their husband, John D. Lee, and his extensive group of adopted sons, daughters, and plural wives for companionship and support when confronted with the awesome challenge of crossing the great plains to the Rocky Mountains.

After a year at Summer Quarters the Saints were ready to move on to the Salt Lake Valley which Brother Brigham and his company designated as the new gathering place for the Saints. They left the Missouri River encampment on May 26, 1848. Lee described in his detailed journal entries the journey along the Platte River, through the high plains country of Nebraska and Wyoming and across the Great Divide, down into the Salt Lake Valley. He rarely mentioned any individual members of the family in his journals.

The strenuous, unvarying routine of the trail, though, must have soon become a test, particularly for the women, not only of their physical endurance, but also of mind and will. The continual dust created by the lumbering draft animals and the churning of wagon wheels was suffocating at times, and a constant source of discomfort and complaint.

The Platte River road was smooth, flat and easy at times, but too often it turned into sand hills and sand valleys, while the heat was unbearably oppressive. One of the most formidable challenges came in small packages, namely the mosquitoes. Most of the diaries of those using the Platte River Trail, or the Oregon-California Trail, as it came to be known, mentioned the profusion of gnats and mosquitoes. It seemed a never ending contest with the irksome little creatures to avoid their voracious appetites.

One of the most frequent sources of complaint, perhaps for Lavina and other female pioneers, was the necessity of cooking food over open fires. Fuel had to be gathered daily, and as soon as camp was set up at the end of the day and a fire started, the women began preparing the evening meal. The requirement of working so near the open fire caused long skirts to become scorched and riddled with holes. When the bake oven, or dutch oven as we know it today, was used, as it was for almost every cooked meal, the lid had to be removed often to check the food. The fronts of dresses were scorched and toes of shoes burned along with a blistered face.

Another chore to be done, though not as frequently as cooking, was washing clothes. It was no simple task in that era, under the best of circumstances. It took on gargantuan proportions when traveling across the plains. Not only was water scarce, what was found was usually so laced with mineral salts that it was almost ineffectual as a cleaning agent. The lye soap carried with them was not much help either.

Lavina experienced those arduous homemaking chores and vexing duties, all of which had to be performed regardless of time or place. Because of the nature and extent of the one-thousand-mile, three-month-long hike across the plains, everyone's clothing became dirtier faster and everyone, with increased need for energy, hungered more intensely. So it was with every household chore. What was a simple task in the environs of a home, became a veritable monster of a job while on the trail.

The family reached the embryonic city of Salt Lake the last week in September, and immediately set about preparing shelters. The winter of 1848-1849 was difficult for them but that was nothing new. They had experienced far worse than that and were prepared to carry on. Through sharing, encouraged by Brigham Young, everyone in the settlement was able to endure the harsh winter months.

Lavina, with some of the others, moved to a place John had constructed, with the help of his wives, at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, and began building up their assets of cattle, sheep and the land itself.

The year 1852 was a pivotal one for the John D. Lee family. He was called to fulfill a mission to southern Utah. Departure with two of his wives, Lavina and Polly, began a twenty-seven year sojourn in the land to the south.

Lavina's first child was born while the town of Parowan was being organized. Named after his father and his mother's father, he was given the name of John David. Her second child was born a year later in the same community. Their third, Sabina, was born in Cedar City. Each of those children, on arriving at adulthood, married siblings of the John Wesley Clark family.

Eventually Lavina and her sister and their children moved to Washington, Utah, where John had purchased land in 1858 with the intent of experimenting with the cultivation of cotton. They lived there for the next twelve years, raising their families in one of the finest homes that John D. Lee had ever built. It was a large rock house which he called his "mansion."

At the urging of Brigham Young in 1871, John sold his properties at New Harmony and elsewhere and moved to an area north of Kanab, known as Upper Kanab. Lee referred to the place in his diaries as Skutumpah, an Indian name. Shortly after the move, and before the families of Lavina and Polly had arrived at the new place, John learned that he had been excommunicated from the Church, but for what reason, he could not immediately discern. Some of his wives left him at that time. Those remaining included the Young sisters. They arrived a few months later at the Skutumpah location.

Lee stayed there, operating a sawmill for no more than a year, at which time he moved south into the Territory of Arizona. President Young had given him the responsibility for setting up a ferry at the Colorado River crossing.

Lavina and Polly remained at the Skutumpah location. Many of the Clark family members moved into the area until, at one time, it was given the name Clarksville. Following Lee's death they moved briefly to St. George, then into Arizona several miles from Springerville, almost on the eastern border, at a place they called Lees Valley. Able to endure only one freezing cold winter there, they moved the following spring about twenty miles to the southwest to the little settlement of Nutrioso.

It was there that Lavina remained for the balance of her life. With her children and grandchildren, her sister, Polly, and the family nearby, she seemed to have lived a very satisfactory life. Her daughter Ellen's husband, John Wesley Clark, Jr., became the first postmaster of Nutrioso.

Lavina lived for only a few more years. She took ill one day and was unable to recover. She passed away at the age of sixty-three. Her grave is in the Nutrioso town cemetery a few miles north, off Highway 666, going toward Springerville.

In the year 1888 many of the Lees and Clarks moved back to Utah. By that time they had built up considerable herds of cattle which they drove back with them. Polly did not leave, however, and seemed to have continued a happy life in the little mountain settlement. Her death came in 1893 at the age of seventy-five. The remains of the two sisters, Polly and Lavina, who had been together all their lives, were not separated at death. They were buried next to one another in the little Nutrioso Cemetery, a few miles east of the town.

She married John Doyle LEE 27 Feb 1847 in Winter Quarters, Douglas, Nebraska.

They had 3 children:

i. John David LEE, born 19 Mar 1851, died 22 May 1922.

ii. Ellen S. LEE, born 11 Nov 1852, died 12 Jun 1924.

iii. Melvina LEE, born 18 Jun 1855, died 8 Feb 1920.

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Lavina Lee's Timeline

September 25, 1820
Putnam, TN, USA
April 12, 1842
Age 21
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
April 12, 1842
Age 21
March 19, 1851
Age 30
November 11, 1852
Age 32
Parowan, Iron, Utah, United States
June 18, 1855
Age 34
Cedar City, UT, USA
March 20, 1857
Age 36
July 4, 1883
Age 62
July 1883
Age 62