Walter Stevens



Silas L. Cheney (Grand son-in-law)


Walter Stevens was born January 17, 1829, in Gore District, near Mount Pleasant, Upper Canada. He was the second son of William Stevens and Marinda Thomas Stevens.

The William Stevens family first heard the gospel preached at Mount Pleasant in October, 1833, by the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. Some of the family were baptized the same year, others, the year following, but William deferred his baptism until June, 1837.

 The Stevenses emigrated from Canada to the United States in the year 1838. Their intentions were to settle in Missouri, but hearing of the troubles the Saints were experiencing in that state, they wintered in Illinois and joined the Saints the following year at their gathering place in Commerce (Nauvoo), Hancock County, Illinois. It was here that Walter Stevens, then but a boy, became personally acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith.

During the exodus of the Saints from Illinois in 1846, the Stevens family journeyed west to Council Bluffs on the Missouri River. Here with seventy-five other families, they made a temporary settlement and became members of a large branch of the church which was organized at that place with James Allred as Bishop. While residing here in 1847, Walter Stevens became a baptized member of the church.

During the summer of 1850, the Stevens family made the laborious trek west, traveling in William Snow's company. They arrived in Salt Lake City, October 1, and three days later moved south and settled near a spring, now known as "Stevens Spring", located between American Fork and Pleasant Grove.

On April 27, 1854, Walter Stevens married Abigail E. Holman. Four years later they were called to help settle Cedar Springs, now Holden, Millard County. Brother and Sister Stevens willingly accepted the call because they had implicit faith in the wisdom of the general authorities of the church. And their faith was justified since, due to their industry and thrift, they prospered and were held in high esteem by almost everyone who knew them. Brother Stevens was selected and set apart as the first Presiding Elder of the Cedar Springs Branch of the Church. 

While at Holden, Brother Stevens became a modestly successful cattleman. He also owned and operated a small butcher shop, and served as a sales agent for the highly valued Bain wagon.

These activities established him as one of the most prosperous men in the community.

He was ordained a Seventy by Albert P. Rockwood in 1858. Later he served as the Presiding Elder of the Holden Branch of the Church from 1861 to 1871. He was then called to do missionary work in the United States. 

Meantime, in 1869-- with the encouragement of Church officials and the approval of his loyal and devoted wife, Abigail - Walter married a second wife, Marietta Mace. In the fall of 1880, Walter moved his first family to Northwestern New Mexico where they became the first permanent LDS settlers at a place known as Fruitland. One of the reasons for the Steven's choice of this location was that their two eldest sons, Joshua and Alma, had accompanied the "Hole-in-the-Rock" colonizers to Bluff, Utah, the previous year; and, not liking the location, had gone up the river about a hundred miles and established squatter's rights on a tract of land at Fruitland. This land could not be obtained in any other way until it was made available to homesteaders following a government survey. The soil was rich and the Stevens boys had raised a fine crop of grain. 

Brother Stevens acquired a farm land near the San Juan River which had a one room log cabin upon it. Having arrived in Fruitland late in the fall, November 26, the family spent the winter in this cabin, supplemented by tents and wagons. They had brought with them from Utah an exceptionally good outfit consisting of five Bain wagons, a carriage, several fine horses, cattle, and two yoke of oxen. 

Brother Stevens established a small but prosperous Indian trading post where he bought wool, sheep pelts, and blankets from the Indians, as well as the silver and turquoise ornaments they were skilled in making; and in exchange, sold them the food, clothing, and other goods they needed. 

Later, when other Mormon settlers were called to help settle Fruitland, Brother Stevens was counseled by the Bishop to allow his store to become a cooperative institution. This he did, but not without misgivings; and his feeling in the matter was justified by subsequent events. The new manager lacked his business acumen so the store soon failed and he received nothing for the stock of goods he had allowed to be taken over by the community. 

In the fall of 1881, he moved his second family from Holden to Fruitland. Due to polygamous persecution, however, in 1885, he was advised to move Marietta and her family to Bluff, Utah. 

In January, 1889, Brother Stevens was ordained a High Priest by Apostle John Henry Smith and became a member of the High Council of the San Juan Stake for a number of years. In 1893, he was sustained as first counselor to Bishop Luther G. Burnham of the newly created Burnham Ward.

Due to the loyal service he rendered the Church, and his unquestioned honesty, thrift, sound judgment and good-neighbor policies, Brother Stevens won the confidence, respect, and high esteem of the people who knew him best, whether they were Mormons or Gentiles, white men or Navajo Indians. The Indians liked and trusted him and the members of his family. They called him "Husteen Ez", meaning "tall, old man". 

He was a powerfully built man, standing six feet two inches in his sock feet, and having a heavy head of white hair - which he wore in pompadour fashion - keen blue eyes, and a full white beard.

To the day of his death, he was neat and clean in his personal habits, never missing his bath and change of clothing, and always washing his hands and face before sitting down at the table for his meals. He was very friendly and hospitable to all. Even the Navajo Indians who came from a distance to trade at his store were given supper and breakfast at his table and invited to roll up in their blankets on his kitchen floor for the night. 

During his lifetime, Brother Stevens manifested keen interest in a wide variety of things; but from the time he joined the Church, his religious callings and duties were of primary importance to him and his devoted wife, Abigail. He was humble, and capable, who did not covet high positions in Church or State, nor did he refuse to accept a call to office; and when accepted, he earnestly endeavored to perform the duties devolving upon him. Certainly he possessed rare ability, humility, resourcefulness, and instinctive know-how. 

During the latter years of his life, he was afflicted with sciatic rheumatism which in particular affected one of his hips. As a result, it was difficult and painful for him to move about, but he refused to be defeated by this handicap. With the aid of a cane, he persisted in going places and doing things. If the distance involved was too far to walk, he would hitch his big bay pacer Prince, to a single buggy and be on his way. 

In 1905, Brother Stevens and his wife, Abigail, went to Manti, Utah, for the purpose of doing temple work. In the fourteen months they were there, they performed ordinance work for 3,000 of their ancestors. They returned to Fruitland and sold their home, farm, cattle, and horses, and most of their personal possessions, then returned to Manti in 1908. They there continued to do temple work until Sister Stevens' failing health in the latter part of 1911 made it advisable for her to forego any unnecessary exertion. Because of this, they sold their home in Manti and went to Nephi, where they stayed with their daughter, Mary S. Bigler, for a few weeks. They then returned to Fruitland, New Mexico, and lived with their youngest daughter, Abbie S. Young. It was here on March 5, 1912, that Sister Stevens passed away. 

This history was scanned by Deniane Kartchner on 3-10-09 from a typewritten copy obtained from the personal files of Fern Laws Palmer, daughter-in-law to Rebecca Stevens, grand daughter of Walter Stevens. 

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