Benjamin Lewis and Joannah Ryan

See Story of William Crawford Lewis & Martha Kingsbury

Among the faithful ones yielding their lives to the bitter enemies of the Mormon people in the early days of the church was Benjamin Lewis. He was born in Pendleton District, South Carolina, 23 April1803.

In 1809 the family moved to Simpson County, Kentucky. This same year Leonard Ryan, with his wife, Frances Adams Ryan and baby daughter, Joannah moved there from Clark County, Kentucky. Joannah was born 6 April 1808 and about 1826 she married Benjamin Lewis.

Benjamin joined the Church in 1835 and was baptized by James Emmett, also ordained and Elder by Peter Dustin in the spring of the year, and made President of the Branch in Simpson County, when the Branch was organized. He stood faithfully by through all the early day trials and hardships.

In the spring of 1836 Benjamin and his family moved to Macoupin County, Illinois, and by summertime made their way to Caldwell County, Missouri, in 1837 where they made their home. They lived at Haun’s Mill on Shoal Creek, about 20 miles below Far West, and were there in October 1838.

A number of people who were living at Haun’s Mill, and a number of immigrants who had stopped there, made an agreement with the mob in the vicinity that neither party should molest the other, but dwell in peace. Shortly after this agreement was made, a mob party of 2-3 hundred, came upon the people there, whose number was about 40 men, at a time when they little expected any such thing, and without any ceremony, not withstanding they begged for mercy, shot them down—just as they would shoot down a lion or a tiger. Some few made their escape by fleeing to the timber but 18 were killed and a number wounded.

This tragedy was conducted in the most brutal and savage manner. An old man after the tragedy and massacre was partially over, threw himself into their hands and begged for mercy, when he was instantly shot down. That not killing him, they took an old corn cutter and literally mangled him to pieces. A lad, of ten years old, after being shot down, also begged to be spared, when one of the mob, placed the muzzle of his gun to the boy’s head and blew out the boy’s brains. The slaughter of these didn’t satisfy the mob, they proceeded to rob and plunder. The scene that presented itself after the massacre, to the widows and the orphans of the killed is beyond description. (History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 221)

When the mob began shooting, many of the women took their children and ran into the woods. Among them was Joannah Lewis with her six children. They remained there all night and when Joannah returned to her home at dawn, she found Benjamin at the side of the house badly wounded. He had received a bullet in his breast while in the blacksmith shop. (The men and some boys had tried to take shelter there and were slain and wounded) Despite his terrible condition, Benjamin managed to reach his home, a distance of 100 yards. He was gently assisted into the house and they family did all they could for him. The bullet, which had lodged in his body, was emitted from his mouth. He died bearing a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, and asked his wife to remain with the body of the Church. He died 31 October 1838.

The women and children threw the bodies of the dead men into an old well for burial, fearing the mob would come back and molest them further. Benjamin was not thrown in the well, however, as the following evening his brother, Tarlton, and Malinda went out and dug his grave. Tarlton was badly wounded, and was unable to do much digging, so the work fell to the hands of Malinda. Wrapping his body in an old coat, they tenderly buried the beloved husband, father, brother.

With courage beyond understanding, Joannah picked up the threads of life, determined to remain with the body of the Church, so that she might raise her children under the influence of the saints, for which their father had given his life. Word of Benjamin’s death had been sent to Joannah’s parents in Kentucky, and her sister, who had married Benjamin’s brother, was sent to take the bereaved family back to the Ryan home, where she could live in prosperity. In order to ease the pressure she knew would be brought to bear by her people, she moved from place to place so that they might not overtake her. A few months after the death of her husband, her youngest child died.

There seems to be no details of her life for sometime, but it is known that she later settled in Nauvoo with her children, and found peace in serving others, helping the sick and those otherwise in need.

During the last years of Joannah’s life she was afflicted by a paralytic stroke, and was tenderly cared for by her young daughter, Martha Ann. She died 6 February 1846, at the age of 38, just as the saints were being driven from Nauvoo. Thus ended the life of a noble wife, mother, and friend, who endured hardships for her faith, and preferred the Gospel to worldly wealth and comforts.

United in death before the journey of the Saints was ended, we are sure that with Benjamin Lewis and Joannah Ryan, ALL IS WELL.

Here is a paragraph taken from the life story of Beason Lewis:

"Benjamin Lewis was killed in Haun’s Mill and his family was left without protection." It was Beason and Elizabeth, his wife, who came to take them back to their former home, family and friends. However, Benjamin had asked Joannah to stay with the Church, which she did, but when she died in Nauvoo this couple took the orphan children into their home and gave them the love, care, and protection they needed. Beason and this family were the first or among the first company to leave for Salt Lake Valley after Brigham Young’s company. Beason and his wife were not baptized at that time, as they had only come out here to get the orphan children to take them home, but were later converted in Utah. Beason must have been a grand old man.



Martha Kingsbury

Sarah Jane Veach
Personal History of
Martha Ann Lewis Bingham

William Crawford Lewis, pioneer of 1847 was born at Franklin, Simpson County, Kentucky, November 24, 1830. He was the son of Benjamin Lewis, who was born in Pendleton District, South Carolina, April 23, 1803, and Joannah Ryan, daughter of Leonard and Frances Adams Ryan; who was born in Clark County, Kentucky, April 6, 1808.

William Crawford Lewis was named in honor William Crawford ( a very dear friend of his mother's family) who was burned at the stake by the Indians.

William was but five years of age when his parents joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the Spring of 1836, the family moved to Macaupin County, Illinois and in the summer of 1837 they moved to Caldwell County, Missouri.

When he was eight years of age, a greet tragedy came into his life. His father was shot at Haun's Mill on October 30, 1838 and died the next day. A few months later a little sister died and when he was only sixteen years old his mother passed away. After his mother's death he went to live with his Uncle Beason and Aunt Elizabeth Lewis.

William had been taught to be honest and industrious and had spent his boyhood days helping to support the family and doing whatever fell his lot to do. This had been wonderful training to fit him for the life before him.

The years 1845 and 1846 were busy times for the saints making preparations for the journey westward. Among the throng were William and his Uncle Beason Lewis. At Council Bluffs, Mt. Pisgah they were doing their part and when the Mormon Battalion was mustered in, William offered his services but he was rejected because of his size.

In his own words he gives the following account of his trip across the plains in 1847. "During the winter of 1846-7, I was camped at a place called Puncan, about 150 miles up the Missouri River from Winter Quarters in time to join the emigration that followed the first company of Pioneers that started in April. The gathering place for the organization into companies was on the west bank of the Elkhorn, about fifty Miles out of Winter Quarters. My recollection is that we broke camp on the Elkhorn, June 11. There were 684 wagons divided into companies of tens, fifties, and hundreds. We traveled eleven miles and reached the Platte River the first day. Elijah Bingham was the Captain of our ten, Ira Eldredge of the fifty and Daniel Spencer of our hundred. Captain Eldredge was a rustler so we gradually got in advance of the large moving mass of teams. I think it was at Fort Bridger that Captain Eldredge thought it best to divide his fifty into two companies, in order to make better time through the mountains. Bingham’s division was in advance. Captain Eldredge with the remainder of his fifty followed us, and this advance portion of Eldredge's company arrived in Salt Lake valley, September 19, 1847.

"This advance portion of the Eldredge company was the lead of the entire emigration from Winter Quarters that followed President Young's company which arrived on July 24. We came into the valley in the following order. If my memory serves me correctly, Sanford Bingham and his wife (my sister) and Thomas Bingham on horseback, my Uncle Beason Lewis and his wife, with a horse team and led all the teams, including Captain Bingham's ox team. This is as far as I remember the order of teams. The remainder of Eldredge's Company arrived two or three days later. Well, I had the proverbial short-cake, sago roots and thistles."

In the fall of 1847 William, with his Uncle Beason and Aunt Elizabeth Lewis returned to Winter Quarters and worked on the Mill that Brother Kestler was building there for President Young. William returned to Utah in 1849.

The winter of 1849 he spent in Provo to help protect the people against the Indians. He said there was two feet of snow on the ground and a man didn't have to pinch himself to know whether he was there or not.

On May 7, 1850, William with another man, was called by Brigham Young to drive a team and wagon to California gold mines with a missionary who was going to the Society Islands. President Young counseled them before their departure, that under no condition were they to shoot or shed blood of an Indian, and if they were obedient to his instructions he promised them a safe return trip. William was driving the team when his companion noticed a cloud of dust in the distance behind them. As it drew nearer, they could see that it was caused by a band of Indians coming toward them. The Indians were all arrayed in war paint and feathers. William's companion drew his gun ready to shoot the approaching Indians, but was persuaded not to use it. He said they should put their trust in the promise made to them by President Young. The warriors surrounded the team and wagon and after a great deal of persuasion on the part of William and gift of flour and other provisions, the Indians allowed them to go on their way unharmed.

William returned from this trip with Apostles C. C. Rich and Amasa Lyman, when they came back to Utah for the ceremonies incident to the breaking of ground for the Salt Lake Temple, February 14, 1853.

On February 23, 1853, William Crawford Lewis married Sarah J. Veach who had arrived in Salt Lake City in the fall of 1852. The marriage ceremony was performed by Apostle C. C. Rich. The couple later went to San Bernardino, California. He helped to fortify that place and then enlisted in the State's service to fight the Indians. Three children were born to them while they resided in san Bernardino. The family came back to Utah when Johnston's army came in 1857.

They settled in Richmond, Cache County in the Spring of 1860 where William built bridges, made roads and stood guard lest the Indians caused trouble. He was captain of the minute men of Cache County. He helped bring in the wounded soldiers from the Battle Creek Indian Massacre and acted as body guard when C. C. Rich went to Bear Lake.

He had a saw mill in the canyon and did a great deal in providing lumber and materials to help in the building up of the community.

He was a student and sought knowledge wherever it was to be found, he studied astronomy and history. His memory of dates events and places was marvelous. He read much and supplied his children with many good books.

He was a great lover of the out-of-door life, and at one time when he was camping out, he was stricken with pneumonia. He had his companions make a wild sage tea which he drank in abundance until he was cured of his illness. He sought out the beauty spots of our beloved land, and knew of Yellowstone Park and the ice caves long before they became known to the general public. He was a good genealogist and used to say, "If you will tell me who your grandfather was, I will tell you to what line you belong."

During the latter years of his life he had very poor health, but spent many days in the Temple doing work for his kindred dead: Let us say that when he passed away May 24, 1908, he had come to the end of a "Well Spent Life."

He was a kind and loving husband and father and spared no effort to bring joy and happiness into the lives of the members of his family. No man can receive a greater tribute than to have his children praise him and lovingly remember him for the joys he brought them. This is the tribute paid William Crawford Lewis by his children

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