Roswell Stevens, Jr.

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About Roswell Stevens, Jr.

Mormon Pioneer:

"...Stevens, Roswell – (2nd Ten) Born Oct. 17, 1808, at Grand River, Upper Canada, to Roswell and Sybil Spencer Stevens. He was converted to the Church through the teachings of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon and was baptized in 1834. He married Mary Ann Peterson, and they moved to Nauvoo, where he became a member of the local police force. After the exodus from Nauvoo, he enlisted in the Mormon Battalion and marched south. However, when John D. Lee and Howard Egan overtook the Battalion's march at Santa Fe, N.M., to collect and carry wages back to Winter Quarters to the soldiers' families. Stevens was sent back to accompany them. He was assigned to be a foot hunter in the first company. Upon reaching Ft. Laramie, he was one of three chosen to accompany Amasa Lyman to Pueblo, Colo., where the Mississippi Saints and sick detachments of the Mormon Battalion had wintered, and bring them to the Salt Lake Valley. When he arrived in the valley, he lived first in Alpine, 30 miles south of the new city, then moved to Weber Valley, some 40 miles to the north. His daughter Martha was the first white child born in this valley. He was sent in 1879 as part of an expedition to explore southern Utah. The explorers found a location for a settlement near the San Juan River, where the town of Bluff, San Juan Co., now stands, and there he died May 4, 1880, at age 71. He was placed in a rude coffin made from his wagon box and buried in the site selected for the town cemetery..."


Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847–1868 Brigham Young Pioneer Company (1847) 1st trip Age 38

Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847–1868 John G. Smith Company (1851) 2nd trip Age 43

Find a Grave Details below.

"Roswell Stevens was a very early member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He suffered the persecutions that plagued the Saints from the extermination order of Missouri to his death in Bluff City, Utah. The difficult assignments he accepted from his Church evidenced the character of this man and his depth of commitment. Six times it required that he leave his property and move to a new location, not for a better situation but to save the lives of his family. The graves of some of his children were left behind in three of the moves. His devotion to his religious beliefs is a grand legacy for his descendants." (Elaine Justesen, AG)

Biographical Summary:

"...Roswell Stevens, Jr., brother of William Stevens, was one of the original pioneers of Utah. Many references are made to him in various historical records. He was born October 17, 1809 at Grand River, Upper Canada, a son of Roswell Stevens and Sibbell Spencer. He was converted by the preaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, and was baptized in the Spring of 1834 by John P. Greene. Later he and his family, consisting of his wife and five children, located in Nauvoo, IL, where he served as a member of the police force. After the exodus of the Saints from Nauvoo, Brother Stevens was one of the men who listed with the Mormon Battalion. He enlisted 7/16/1846 in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and was discharged in July of 1847 in California. His rank was 4th corporal in the Army, in Company E of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War. He traveled with his company as far as Santa Fe when he, John D. Lee and Howard Eagan were appointed to return to Winter Quarters and take money contributed by members of the Battalion to assist the Saints. In the Spring of 1847, Brother Stevens was selected as one of the pioneer company and arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley in July, 1847. He returned to Winter Quarters later the same year with President Brigham Young and was specially appointed to care for the families of the Mormon Battalion men until they could be sent to Salt Lake Valley. In due time, he too came back to Utah and died at Bluff City, San Juan County, Utah on May 4, 1880, as a faithful man of the church. Roswell Stevens was an old man when he arrived in Bluff and was the first person to die after they arrived. His coffin was made from his own wagon box. The headstone on his grave reads...Roswell Stephens, Private, Company E, Mormon Battalion Volunteers in the Mexican war, and gives his birth and date death..."


Biographical Summary #2:

Roswell Stevens Jr. was the third child born to Roswell and Sybel Spencer Stevens. Roswell’s ancestors have been traced to Yorkshire, England and include Puritans and early American settlers. After the American Revolution, Roswell and Sybel Stevens immigrated to Ontario, Canada, where young Roswell Jr. was born and raised. Little is known about Roswell’s early life, as he left behind no written recollections of his own. Eventually, while still in Mt. Pleasant, Ontario, Roswell married Vallie Mariah Doyle, and the two settled down to farm, eventually having four children.

In the fall of 1833 Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon preached to the Mt. Pleasant community, where Roswell and his family first heard the gospel. In December of 1833 Roswell’s sister, Sarah, was baptized, and in the spring of 1834 Roswell and his family joined the LDS church as well. In 1835 Roswell sold his farm and brought his family, along with his sister Sarah, to Missouri. After settling initially in Caldwell County near Far West, Roswell moved farther north to Daviess County. Soon after, Roswell’s parents joined them in Missouri. When the bulk of the Latter-Day Saints moved from Missouri to Nauvoo, Roswell Stevens Jr. and his family went with them. Roswell served as a police officer in Nauvoo and aided in the construction of many public and private buildings. Although little is known about the Stevens family’s activities in Nauvoo, they were some of the first church members to receive their endowment in the Nauvoo Temple. Eventually Roswell became a “right-hand man” to Brigham Young and was given responsibility to gather boats and ferries to assist the saints in crossing the Mississippi. Roswell also served as a bodyguard for prominent church leaders during the exodus from Nauvoo.

Mormon Battalion Member

Roswell Stevens Jr. was one the men who enlisted in the Mormon Battalion shortly after leaving Nauvoo en route to the West. Roswell was appointed 4th Corporal in Company E, where many of his trademark pioneer skills would be refined. Roswell accompanied the group to Ft. Leavenworth, where he sent his meager clothing allowance back to Council Bluffs to aid his family. Despite a debilitating sickness, Roswell stayed with the Battalion until they reached Santé Fe, where he was chosen to take $4,000 of Battalion wages back to Brigham Young and the rest of the Saints. For most of the return trip Roswell acted as John D. Lee's bodyguard. This trek proved providential as it quickly boosted Roswell’s health, in preparation for future travels.

Emigration and Utah Settlement

Upon his return to Council Bluffs in 1847, Roswell was selected by Brigham Young to accompany the first wagon train to leave for the Salt Lake Valley. In addition to being an outstanding carpenter, Roswell was good with a rifle and was subsequently chosen to provide game meat for the company. When the wagon train reached Ft. Laramie, Brigham Young assigned Roswell to go with three others to Colorado and guide another group of saints to the valley. This group eventually joined the first company in the Salt Lake Valley five days after Brigham Young and the original party arrived. The following August, Roswell returned to Winter Quarters with Brigham Young and was given stewardship over the families of the Mormon Battalion members.

In 1850 Roswell brought his own family to Utah and settled in Mountainville, now called Alpine, south of Salt Lake City. Here Roswell was a counselor in a branch presidency and had an active role in building the local meetinghouse and school. In 1851 Roswell returned again to Winter Quarters to captain one of the last wagon trains of Nauvoo refugees. In 1853, after Roswell returned to his home in Mountainville, his wife Mariah divorced him. She promptly remarried and moved to Idaho. One year later Roswell married Mary Ann Peterson, the daughter of Charles Peterson, another valiant colonizer and faithful Latter-Day Saint. Together Charles and Roswell helped build a road into the Weber Valley and eventually settled in what is now Morgan, Utah.

Roswell and Mary Ann’s first two children were the first white children born in that area.  Roswell and Mary Ann’s life in the Weber Valley was rugged but good.  They coexisted peacefully with the local Indians and were primarily self-sufficient.  Often, the family would awaken on winter mornings to “find an Indian asleep on the rug in front of their fireplace having quietly opened the door during the night and crept in where it was warm”.  Here Roswell and his family lived in isolation.  They often went without bread because it was too expensive to have it brought to them.  Eventually, Roswell and his family homesteaded a tract of land across the valley, now called Enterprise, and operated a successful sawmill.  

In 1865, at the request of Brigham Young, Roswell moved to Echo Canyon to assist in the building of the railroad. While there, the Stevens family lived in caves and dugouts after their initial hut was torn down to provide lumber for a telegraph pole. In 1872 Roswell sold his Echo property and moved to Upton, Utah. While living in Upton, a diphtheria epidemic broke out and many children fell ill to the disease. Roswell, at this time an experienced carpenter, made many of the children’s’ coffins while Mary Ann added the cloth, lace and padding.

Hole-In-The-Rock Pioneer

In 1879 Roswell sold his property and joined a group of pioneers who were leaving to fulfill a request made by Brigham Young at the time of his death. His two nephews, Walter Joshua and David Alma Stevens, and their families were also part of the company. This journey, known as the Hole-in-the-Rock expedition, was long and arduous and took its toll on Roswell. Although he was older than most of the other pioneers, his trail blazing experience proved to be invaluable. In April of 1880, after six months of grueling travel, the group finally established the city of Bluff and completed their mission. One month later, Roswell, who had been suffering from pneumonia, passed away at the age of 71. He was buried in a coffin made from his own wagon box at the initial site for the town cemetery which was on the west bank of Cottonwood Wash. After it became apparent that Cottonwood Wash was prone to flooding Roswell’s grave was moved atop the cobblestone hill on the north edge of the town. Roswell Stevens was a devoted member of his church who consistently left his home and possessions to use his valuable pioneering skills on behalf of others.

SOURCE: Researched and written for the Hole-in-the-Rock Foundation by: C.S. M. Jones, LLC, Family Heritage Consulting.

i Some sources indicate Roswell was born in October, not November. See Andrew Jensen, Latter Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia.

ii Marlene W. Powell, “Roswell Stevens Jr. ,” unpublished history from the files of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City, UT.

iii Elaine Justesen, “Roswell Stevens,” unpublished history from the files of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City, UT.

iv Marlene W. Powell, 2.

v Ibid. Elaine Justesen, 15-16, indicates that no reason for the divorce was included in the ward’s records.

vi Margaret Checketts, “Excerpts from ‘Pioneering Morgan County” concerning Roswell Stevens,” unpublished history from the files of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City, UT.

vii Margaret Checketts, “The Life and Labors of Roswell Stevens,” unpublished history from the files of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City, UT.

viii Albert R. Lyman. “The History of San Juan County,” unpublished history, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, UT. Pg40.

==Biographical Summary #3:==

"...Roswell Stevens was born October 17, 1809, at Grand River, Upper Canada, a son of Roswell and Sybil Spencer Stevens. He was converted to the Mormon faith through the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, and was baptized in the spring of 1834 by John Y. Greene. Mary Ann Peterson became his wife. Some years later he moved his wife and their five children to Nauvoo where he served as a member of the police force. After the exodus of the Saints from that city, he was among those men who enlisted in the Mormon Battalion, serving as a 4th corporal in Company E. He traveled with his company as far as Santa Fe, New Mexico, when he and Samuel Gully, a 3rd lieutenant in the same company, were appointed to accompany John D. Lee and Howard Egan back to Winter Quarters to take money contributed by members of the Battalion to assist the Saints to the Valley. From the book Pioneering the West by Howard Egan we quote: October 16th. "In the afternoon Company B. drew 1 1/2 months pay, $2.60 to each person in money, the rest in check." October 17th: "Bros. Lee and Egan were making preparations to return to the Bluffs. They received $4000 from the Battalion to take back with them to the Church. About a month later, November 21st, John Lee and Howard Egan arrived at Winter Quarters, as special messengers from the camps of the Mormon Battalion beyond Santa Fe." — Deseret News.

In the spring of 1847, Mr. Stevens was selected as one of the pioneer company. He returned to Winter Quarters later the same year with Brigham Young, where he was appointed to help care for the families of the men of the Mormon Battalion until such time as they could be reunited with husbands and fathers in the valley of the Great Salt Lake.

After his return to Utah, Mr. Stevens moved his family to Alpine, and in the spring of 1855 moved them to Weber Valley. A daughter, Martha, was the first white child born in this place. His son, Charles Russell, was also born there. In the spring of 1879 President John Taylor, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sent an expedition into southern Utah to explore possible sites for future settlements. Roswell Stevens was a member of that party. The men selected a place on the San Juan River in southeastern Utah which they named Bluff. Shortly after their arrival Mr. Stevens passed away, May 4, 1880. Since there was no lumber available a crude coffin was made out of his wagon box and he was buried in a spot selected for the pioneer cemetery. Throughout his life he remained faithful to the principles of the Church of his choice..."

— Harriet Stevens, Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 2, p. 508


Roswell Stevens (1772 - 1847)

Sybell Spencer Stevens (1778 - 1862)


Maria Doyle Phelps (1809 - 1879)

Mary Ann Peterson Stevens (1839 - 1924)


Julia Ann Stevens Fausett (1830 - 1907)

Martha Ann Stevens Heiner (1855 - 1926)

Charles Roswell Stevens (1857 - 1925)

Ida Seretta Stevens McDonough (1860 - 1926)

Mary Rosetta Stevens Powell (1862 - 1947)

Roswell Henry Stevens (1864 - 1947)

Eliza Jane Stevens Foote (1866 - 1960)

Affalona Angeline Stevens Heiner (1868 - 1930)

Peter James John Stevens (1871 - 1911)

Lilly May Stevens Rock (1874 - 1958)

George Fredrick Stevens (1876 - 1957)

Burial: Bluff Cemetery, Bluff, San Juan County, Utah, USA

SOURCE: Find a Grave

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Roswell Stevens, Jr.'s Timeline

October 17, 1808
Mount Pleasant, Brant, Ontario, Canada
March 30, 1828
Age 19
Mt Pleasant, ON, Canada
February 17, 1830
Age 21
Mt Pleasant, ON, Canada
November 28, 1832
Age 24
Mt Pleasant, Peel Regional Municipality, ON, Canada
July 5, 1838
Age 29
Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois, USA
September 18, 1840
Age 31
Nauvoo, IL, USA
August 23, 1842
Age 33
Nauvoo, IL, USA
September 5, 1844
Age 35
Nauvoo, IL, USA
September 19, 1846
Age 37
Council Bluffs, IA, USA