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Biography of Almeda Stewart McClellan

The ancestors of Almeda lived in Antrim, Ireland. They left Ireland and came to America in 1719. Settling in New London, Connecticut, they later moved to Vermont, then Ohio.

Benjamin Franklin Stewart was married to Polly Richardson on October 14, 1837. They moved to Fox River, Iowa, where Almeda was born February 8, 1841. Here they heard the Mormon missionaries and were baptized, and later moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. When the Saints were driven out of Nauvoo, the Stewart family went with them to Council Bluffs. In the year of 1846, Almeda with her father, mother, and baby brother went with a small company traveling to meet the Saints before their departure across the plains. Being but five years of age, the unusual happening made a lasting impression on her memory. She said:

“I remember the time when a young lady was bitten by a rattlesnake. And another time when we were camped near a small stream, most of the people became ill. Father and Mother were about the only ones who were not stricken. My baby brother and I were very sick. A man by the name of Whipple lost his wife. Father moved the Whipple wagon to the side of his so he could look after the sick ones. A large family by the name of Shupe were all ill, and all but two of them died. Father spent his entire time caring for and administering to the sick. The ones who died were given the best burial that was available at that time. The dead were wrapped in sheets and placed in coffins made by peeling the bark from trees.”

“My next recollection was of a little log cabin on cag creek near the Missouri River, where my little baby brother died, and another baby brother was born.”

“In the spring of 1847 my father, Benjamin F. Stewart, was chosen to go west with a company of fifty men to find a place of refuge for the exiled Saints. This left my mother to fit up her own wagons. She drove the horse team and hired a boy to drive the team of oxen. The first night out, we camped on the banks of the Missouri River, and it rained all night. The next morning we were ferried across the river; so many people rushed on the boat that it started to dip water.”

“We traveled with the A. O. Smoot Co. in companies of fifty. At night the wagons formed a circle to make a corral for the stock. My mother had to take care of her own team, as well as look after her two children.”

“We were frightened one time when we passed an Indian village, but the Indians did not molest us. Another time we heard a rumbling sound and soon after that, a large herd of buffalo came in sight.”

“My father was one of seven men selected from the original group of pioneers to remain at the Platte River, to ferry other Saints over the river, who came later that year. He was joined at Council Bluffs and followed in the second company, arriving in Utah September 27, 1847.”

“The most thrilling experience of all was when we reached the top of a mountain and looked down and beheld the beautiful Salt Lake. A prayer of thankfulness was offered by all in the company.”

“In a short time after our arrival, each family was busy preparing a place in which to live. My father built a small log house. Our furniture consisted of a bed made of logs put in the wall and slab placed across them. The table was made of a goods box.”

“Father was called to go south with a group of men on an exploring expedition, and they went on as far south as Parowan. It snowed very hard, and it seemed that they had come to a mountain of snow. While Parley P. Pratt composed this song and sang it:

T’is winter: the mountains
Are manteled in snow.
Throu its deep heavy breastwork
We can no farther go.
Its peaks and its cliffs
Extend almost to the sky
And its proud towering summits
Our passage defy.

“They returned to Salt Lake and remained until spring, then began the move south. Father took up land in Mill Creek and built a thatched roof house.”

“Many of the people lived on greens, sego lily roots and thistles. A young man out hunting stock got hungry and ate poison sego. The Indians told him that he would die at sundown. When he came home, he fell off his horse and was very ill; he died soon after.”

“The spring crops looked fine, and all were encouraged. They expected a bounteous harvest until the crickets came and began devouring them. Then all felt that their efforts had been in vain and that all would be lost. One day when we were in the fields trying in a helpless sort of way to eradicate the crickets, we heard a cry and the sound seemed as though it came from a cloud in the heaven. Seagulls came from the supposed cloud and began devouring the crickets. They would eat all they could, then disgorge themselves, and eat more until the crickets had all disappeared. The crops were saved and harvested in the fall. The grain was cradled and the threshing was done by having oxen tramp over it. The wheat was winnowed out on a windy day and then taken to the mill and ground into flour.”

“Father and Mr. Porter had a mill up Mill Creek Canyon. We remained here until Uncle Jackson Stewart came from Nauvoo. Father told him that if he would go to a little creek called Peteetneet, he would join him in the spring. In the spring of 1851 we met him at Peteetneet or Payson as it is now called.”

“The first summer was spent in farming. Father and a few others went to the canyon to build a mill. They had difficulties because the Indians were on the warpath. Two Indians came to our house and acted unfriendly so Father showed them a gun he had. It was old and rusty, but had the desired effect as they left us unmolested. However, they came early the next morning and said they were going to kill all the Mormons. We got out of bed and without waiting to dress crept through the brush up the canyon. The Indians were shooting in our direction all the time. We found refuge in a log house. After the firing had ceased and all was quiet, the men in the vicinity got together and went up the hill to see what had become of the Indians. They saw them coming up the hill and beckoning for our men to come to them. We soon saw the reason for this. They had met a posse from Payson coming to our aid. The posse reported that Alexander Keele had been shot while standing guard in Payson.”

“In August 1851, B. F. Stewart was elected Justice of the Peace, being the first to hold this office. The first city council was organized April 1853, with B. F. Stewart being one of the Aldermen. He was later elected Mayor and served two terms.”

“The first theatrical performance was given in 1856 in his home. Cotton cloth without paint was used for scenery. About three years after this, a reading club was organized, and he was one of the officers.”

“He and others started a nail factory. This was the first nail factory in the territory. Their fixed capital came from a thousand wagons with four chains and yokes for each wagon, which he and his brother had brought from Camp Floyd. The factory was started to use up the iron. In course of time this factory was abandoned as they could not compete in price with the Eastern factories.”

“Now that the Indians were not causing so much trouble and fear among the settlers, they were encouraged to take up land on the outskirts of the community. The little settlement was being enlarged by the arrival of pioneers looking for a place to locate, and there was need for expansion.”

“At this time B. F. Stewart, for whom the town of Benjamin is named, laid out the town and built an adobe house. He was appointed to preside as Bishop of the town and held the office many years.”

Almeda lived in this home until her marriage. On December 28, 1856, she married to Samuel Wilburn McClellan and moved to Payson. Notwithstanding the fact that she was barely sixteen years of age when married, she performed her duties as a typical pioneer wife and mother, making her candles and soap, drying fruit and corn for winter.

She was the mother of thirteen children; four of them died when they were small. She made all the clothing for her large family, and due to her many duties during the daytime, the sewing had to be done at night. Having to spend many hours sewing by the light of a candle, her eyesight was impaired to the extent that she could not distinguish faces clearly. She waited to hear the voice to know what person had entered the room. But this handicap did not stop her from keeping up with many activities. She traded work with others and had them do the things for her that she could not see to do. She made a large picture by using the photographs of her family. Under each photograph was a flower made from their hair. The background of the picture was made of hair flowers. My long blond locks were thinned out to make some of them. When she was not doing the more artistic work, she made rag carpets and braided rugs. I was often called in from play to thread a long row of needles for her to use in sewing the rags. When a dozen or more needles had been used, I was called again.

She was very fond of ground cherry preserves and used to pay the grandchildren to gather them for her. I always looked forward to the ground cherry season as it meant spending money for me.

She enjoyed having her family come to visit and had large family gatherings. Besides having many good things to eat, she always had a program and tried to encourage the family to develop their talents. Each one was asked to his bit with the entertaining; she sometimes gave readings.

As Payson grew in numbers, the need was seen for a larger place in which to have dance and dramatic presentations. A company to build an opera house was formed. She encouraged her husband to take part in this project, and this he did. He was one of the committee, and his brother, John J. McClellan, was president. Samuel W. McClellan, being a fine carpenter, worked on the building, and it was built in one year. Local talent put on a play at the opening of the new building June 22, 1883.

Almeda McClellan lived a busy life, always ready to help her family and neighbors when there was sickness or trouble in the home. No need of calling a doctor when Grandma was there, she knew just what to do.

She was one of the first to join the parent’s class when it was organized in Sunday school and attended regularly.

She spent her declining years in the fine home her husband had built…The life of a real pioneer came to a close February 7, 1912.

Pearl Hand

Owner/SourceChristie Smith -
Linked toSTEWART Almeda

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