Roswell Stevens Jr.

Derik’s 3rd great-grandfather

FamilySearch ID: KWJ4-LWG
WikiTree ID: Stevens-7686
Find A Grave ID: 65978

Hole in the Rock Foundation
Joseph Smith Bond to Roswell Stevens, 1 April 1840
Find A Grave
Members of the First Brigham Young Company of 1847
The Settlements of Morgan County

Mormon Redress Petitions, 1839-1845, A Register of the Collection, MS 2703

Was your ancestor really a bodyguard for the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith?

Born:  17 November, 1808: Mt. Pleasant, Ontario Canada
Died:  4 May, 1880: Bluff Utah
Married: Vallie Mariah Doyle, 1827, Canada. Divorced 1852.
Married: Mary Ann Peterson, 1854, Utah
Father:  Jesse N. Smith
Mother: Emma Seraphine

This sketch of the life of Roswell Stevens, Jr. in it’s final form, was prepared by Irwin W. Stevens. Because our editor, Inez Cooper, was engaged in a move to Cedar City and her assistant, Ruth Stevens, was leaving for an extended vacation trip, it was necessary to enlist the aid of many others to assemble the material. Among them were my ever helpful sister, Melissa S. Wilson, our cousins, Gladys Knight and Clara Cheney, and others. The material was drawn from a little sketch written by Sarah Derrick Stevens Dudley, a sister of Roswell, and copied in 1917 by his niece Abbie Stevens Young; a biographical Encyclopedia Vol. 4 by Jensen; the Journal of John W. Hess by Harold Lundstrom and the life story of Daniel Heiner.

Roswell Stevens Jr. was the third in a family of nine children born to Roswell Stevens Sr. and Sybil Spencer. The family moved from Herkimer County , New York, to Grand River, Mount Pleasant, Upper Canada about 1800. Eight of the nine children were born at Mt. Pleasant. William, the oldest child, was born in Herkimer County, New York 1st Oct., 1799. Roswell was born October 17, 1809. He spent his youth, as most boys in the area, working on the farm. He was a good worker, had an inquisitive mind, was aggressive, daring and restless; a combination that made him prominent later in church movements to the west. In 1827 he married Maria Doyle and five children were born to this union. He first heard the gospel taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in the fall of 1833, and was baptized by Elder John Greene in the spring of 1834.

He was a farmer but was very handy with tools, and very often worked with his father at the bench. His father was a carpenter and a millwright by trade. He sold his farm, settled up business and started for the state of Missouri on the 25 May, 1836. He traveled with ox team all the way from Mt. Pleasant, Upper Canada to Missouri, a distance of nearly two thousand miles. When he got to the Crooked River, he found the Saints camped there, waiting to be told where to go and what to do. He went to Caldwell County and settled on Log Creek. He and his family went through the troubles and suffering of the people of that county at that time, and were forced to leave. In the midst of the winter, about the middle of February, they left Missouri, returning to Illinois. He was one of the first settlers in Nauvoo, where he served as a police officer for some time before Joseph Smith was slain. After the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Saints were harassed and driven by their enemies, resulting finally in their trip across the plains.

Roswell was a man of energy and initiative. He was always willing to accept an assignment, regardless of the danger involved. He was a volunteer member of the Mormon Battalion, and traveled with his company as far as Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he, John D.Lee and Howard Egan 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, Roswell Stevens was selected as one of the pioneer company and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley with the first company in July, 1847. He returned to Winter Quarters later that same year with Brigham Young, and was especially appointed to care for the families of the Mormon Battalion men until they could be sent on to the Salt Lake Valley. In due time, he too came to join the Saints in Salt Lake Valley.* Two of the least known of the six other 1847 pioneer companies are the “Sick Detachment Company” (of the Mormon Battalion) and the “Mississippi Company”. The two companies had spent the winter of 1846-47 at Pueblo, Colorado.

Early in the spring of 1847 they traveled 250 miles north to Fort Laramie, where some of them joined with Brigham Young’s company. The others followed a few days later. When President Young’s company arrived in Fort Laramie, it was met by Robert Crow and George Therlkill of the Mississippi Company. Part of this company [included] seven wagons and seventeen people, chiefly the Crow and Therlkill families [that] had been at Fort Laramie for two weeks, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the first company of Saints from Winter Quarters, with whom they expected to cross the mountains. These 17 persons came into Salt Lake Valley with the first company. The balance of the Mississippi Company was with the Sick Detachment of the Mormon Battalion at Pueblo. Four men: Amasa M. Lyman, Thomas Woolsey, Roswell Stevens and J. H. Tippets were dispatched by Brigham Young from Fort Laramie to meet the Sick Detachment and the other members of the Mississippi Company. How this second large group of 180 members was met and brought into the Salt Lake Valley on July 29, only five days after Brigham Young arrived on July 24, is recounted by John W. Hess, a member of the Mormon Battalion in his Journal.** Daniel Heiner, in his “Short Story of My Life”, page 7, writes: “My wife, Martha, was the daughter of Roswell Stevens and Mary Ann Peterson Stevens“. Speaking of Martha’s father Roswell, I found an item in the Stevens record down in Holden, Utah, where two of his brothers lived, stating that during the Echo Canyon War, one night word came to camp that the United States soldiers were coming down Echo. The commander asked for volunteers to go up the canyon about a mile on a high peak to see what they could learn. Roswell Stevens said he would go, and another man agreed to go with him. The night was very dark and the roads rugged, but when they were ready to start, a light appeared about ten steps ahead of them and led them all the way to where they were told to go. I was glad to learn that he had such favor with God. The burdens of caring for herself and family in Roswell‘s absence, the loneliness and privation suffered by his wife, Maria Doyle, while he was serving his country in the Mormon Battalion and filling the other important assignments given him by Brigham Young, were more than she could bear. She needed a husband to care for herself and her family. During these difficult and lonely times, she met Morris Phelps. He gave her the attention and help she needed. She became attached to him and finally married him. Back in Salt Lake Valley with things a little more peaceful, Roswell met, and later married fifteen year old Mary Ann Peterson on 4 Aug., 1854. In 1855, they and her father’s family moved to Weber Valley, and in about 1860, we find them in Centerville, Utah. On the 18th of Oct., 1866, the record has them living in a dugout at Echo, Utah., where the sixth of their eleven children was born. These several moves and some later ones were probably made in a desperate effort to improve the family’s condition. A little farming and tending a few sheep produced little more than enough to keep body and soul together. When a diphtheria epidemic broke out in Summit County and many people died, Roswell, being the only carpenter in the district, made the coffins. His wife, Mary Ann, covered them with black calico and padded them inside with cotton, lined them with bleach and trimmed them with lace. Roswell spent the last years of his life in southern Utah. Abbie Stevens Young, a daughter of Walter Stevens, had vivid recollections of her father’s Uncle Roswell, who spent considerable time with his nephews at Holden, after the death of his brother, William Stevens, in 1877. To the seven year old child, Abbie, as to her older brothers and sisters, Uncle Roswell Stevens was a great hero. His stories of experiences along the way from Canada to Nauvoo; his personal acquaintance with the Prophet Joseph Smith; and the Exodus from Nauvoo after the prophet was slain; his adventures with the Mormon Battalion; crossing the plains; with the Utah War; the Echo Canyon episode connected with the coming of Johnston’s Army; and many of his faith promoting tales could hold his eager listeners spellbound. Then, his skill with saw, plane and hammer, with which he made sleds, skates, cradles, and such highly prized articles, rated him with Santa Claus among the youngsters of his nephew, Walter Stevens, of Holden. When the leaders of the Church, under President John Taylor, reached a decision to plant colonies in the area of the :Four Corners”, where Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico come together, Roswell Stevens was at Holden, residing with the family of his nephew, Walter Stevens. He was past seventy years of age, but still full of faith and eager for adventure. He joined the volunteer company from Holden, Millard County, along with the two oldest sons of his nephew, Walter, whose names are found among the company who made up the famous expedition to the San Juan country by way of Hole in the Rock. The three of them: Walter Joshua and David Alma, sons of Walter Stevens, and the latter’s uncle, Roswell, joined the group from Cedar City, under Platte D. Lyman, at Escalante on 20 Nov.,1879. They reached the place across the Colorado River , on the San Juan River in April, 1880, where the first settlement was located, known as Bluff City, Utah. An entry in the Journal of Platte DeAlton Lyman, under the date of April 6, 1880, states that a meeting was held on that day, and committees appointed, one to make a survey for a ditch to carry water from the San Juan River out onto the land, another to lay out the town lots and the fields. Roswell Stevens had endured the exposure, the hazards and privations of that long perilous journey in the dead of winter. Less than a month later, he succumbed to the effects of that rigorous experience. He died on May 4, 1880, and was buried at the newly settled town of Bluff City and laid to rest in a coffin made from his own wagon box. * Taken from the Latter Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia Vol. 4 by Jensen ** By Harold Lundstrom

Roswell Stevens Homestead – Echo Canyon
Source: familysearch

“My great-grandfather, Roswell Stevens, was the father of 22 children, 12 boys and 10 girls. What a posterity he must have – someday I intend to find the number of his descendants.

Source: FamilySearch

The Specific Authority
Alternate Names: SA, The Temple, The Brethren
Status: Official Deseret intelligence agency
Operations: Deseret and elsewhere

Established in 1865 during the Second Utah War, the Specific Authority gets its name from President Young’s executive letter ordering the creation of a Mormon intelligence apparatus, or a “specific authority” in charge of overseeing state security. More aligned in spirit with the Agency than the RSP, the SA largely works in the daylight, and lacks the punitive associations that makes the RSP so feared by its own citizenry. They do not have authority over the Nauvoo Legion, and must report directly to the Mormon General Authorities. Located in a brand-new building close to the Temple, the SA is headed by Apostle Roswell Stevens, Jr., a trusted, longtime associate of President Brigham Young. Unlike NOUS or the RSP, the Specific Authority has a distinctly religious character, and does not balk at accepting the supernatural. Among Mormons the Specific Authority is generally referred to as “The Temple,” while Gentiles call its agents “The Brethren,” a term more properly applied to the Saint’s ruling body of twelve apostles.

Sarah D. Stevens (Roswell’s sister) wrote a short history of her brother:

“Roswell was a farmer, but was very handy with tools and often worked with his father at the bench, his father being a carpenter and wheelwright by trade. After his conversion he settled up his business, sold his farm and started for the State of Missouri, on the 25th of May, 1836. His family consisted of a wife and four children and myself, his sister, for I went with him.

We traveled with an ox team from Mount Pleasant, Canada, a distance of nearly two thousand miles. When we got to Crooked River (Ray County, Missouri) we found some Saints encamped there. After waiting to be told where to go and what to do we went on to Caldwell County, Mo., and settled on Log Creek, went through the troubles in that county and left about the middle of February, 1839, for Illinois and was one of the first settlers of Nauvoo.

Roswell served as a policeman in Nauvoo for some time before the Prophet was slain. Roswell left Nauvoo with his family in May, 1846, and was one of those who went in the Mormon Battalion. He had many ups and downs in life and has gone to meet a just reward, for he died firm in the Gospel. He told those around him that he would die at such a time and if they did not watch him closely, he would go when they did not know it. He lay watching the clock and went at the very minute he said he would at Bluff City, San Juan County, Utah, May 4, 1880.”

– written by his sister, Aug. 3, 1893

Early Life and Conversion

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.ii

Mormon Battalion Member

See Also:

Time Line: Mormon Battalion, 1846–1848


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. Lees bodyguard. This trek proved providential as it quickly boosted Roswell’s health, in preparation for future travels.iii

Company E Muster Roll:

ROSWELL STEPHENS (Tyler’s list, ROSWELL STEVENS) Private. On detached service since Oct. 17, 1846, by order of Colonel Doniphan, Commanding Army of the West. Mustered out with detachment, to date July 16, 1847. It appears in Tyler’s History that, on Oct. 19, 1846, ROSWELL STEVENS started for Council Bluffs, in company with Lieutenant SAMUEL L. GULLEY, JOHN D. LEE, and HOWARD EGAN, who carried the checks the brethren were sending home to their families. He returned the following summer with JOHN H. TIPPETTS and others. (See JOHN H. TIPPETTS, Company D). He thus appears registered among the ‘Pioneers’ of 1847. (‘Mormon Battalion’ Historical record, Vol VIII, pages 916, 920, 939)

BYU – Library – Digital Collections – Mormon Battalion Company E return list

Emigration and Utah Settlement 

Upon his return to Council Bluffs in 1857, 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.iv

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.v

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

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.vii

Hole-In-The-Rock Pioneer

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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 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 Rowswell’s grave was moved atop the cobblestone hill on the north edge of the town.viii

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: FindaGrave

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

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.

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.


Alexander L. Baugh, “From High Hopes to Despair – The Missouri Period 1831-39”, pgs. 44-55, Ensign Magazine, Jul. 2001.
     “As early as 1834, Latter-day Saint families began to settle north and east of Clay County in the more sparsely populated Ray County.  By March 1836, Missouri Church leaders began searching for a permanent site for settlement in the even less inhabited regions north of Ray County.  After extensive explorations, the Church purchased a one-mile square plot situated near Shoal Creek on 8 August 1836.  The site was subsequently named Far West.
     As Latter-day Saint numbers began to increase in this new region, some believed that the Mormon problem might be solved if a county was created exclusively for them.  Alexander Doniphan, Clay County’s representative to the state legislature and a friend to the Latter-day Saints, spearheaded a bill to create the new county, Caldwell County.  Passage of Doniphan’s bill came on 29 December 1836 and actually called for the establishment of two counties.  The first, 18 by 24 miles, was created in behalf of the Latter-day Saints and was named in honor of Matthew Caldwell of Kentucky, a friend, Indian scout, and fellow soldier of Joseph Doniphan, father of Alexander Doniphan.  Far West was designated as the county seat.  The second, Daviess County, situated to the north of Caldwell was nearly 24 miles square and named after Colonel Joseph H. Daviess, another friend of Doniphan’s father and a commander killed at the battle of Tippecanoe in Indiana in 1811.  Gallatin was selected as the county seat, and anyone was allowed to settle there, although Church members were expected to confine themselves to Caldwell County.  While Far West was the largest community in Caldwell County, additional settlements were established on or near Shoal, Log, Bush, Mill, Panther, Mud, and Plum Creeks, and Crooked River.  Many of these settlements were named after their founders or other prominent inhabitants, including the Allred settlement (William, William M., and Wiley Allred); the Curtis settlement (Jeremiah Curtis); the Carter settlement (Simeon and Orlando Carter); the Durfey settlement (James and Perry Durfey); the Free settlement (Absalom and Joseph Free), the Lyon settlement, also called Salem (Aaron C. Lyon); the Myers settlement (Jacob Myers); the Plumb settlement (Merlin Plumb); the Stevens settlement (Roswell Stevens); and the Haun’s Mill settlement (Jacob Haun).  These sites were all later abandoned when Latter-day Saints were expelled from the state in 1839.