(Told by Lewis Richard Neeley to his son Lewis H. Neeley)
Lewis Neeley (son of Louis Neeley and Elizabeth Miller) was born 1
August 1841 at Vermillion County, Illinois. His parents later moved to
Nauvoo, where he lived until the age of six. He did not remember many
events that took place at this young age, but often spoke about the special
meeting called on 8 August 1844 for the purpose of choosing a new leader
after Joseph Smith was martyred. Lewis did not attend the meeting, but his
father went, and upon returning home his father told the family the
astonishing story of the transfiguration of Brigham Young.
Grandfather did not talk very much about his journey over the plains,
but he lived at Winter Quarters for some time and it was here that his mother
died. Her death was due to the exposure and hardships they had to endure,
according to record. His mother, Elizabeth Neeley, died on Tuesday, 2
February 1847 at the age of 38 years. She was born 4 April 1808 in
Coloraine County, New York. Her daughter, Elizabeth Ann was born 25 Jan
1847 at Council Bluffs, Iowa. Elizabeth died on 3 August 1847, at age six
months, and was buried next to her mother.
Grandfather was about nine years of age when he crossed the plains
with his family. He and his brother Armenius walked all the way, driving
sheep with them. They came with Captain Wall's company, arriving in the
Salt Lake Valley in 1850. This family settled in the First Ward, and
grandfather was baptized in 1851. Grandfather obtained employment herding
cows for some of their neighbors. When Salt Lake City was first settled, many
of the families kept a few cows for their own use, thus giving work to some of
the boys. They would call in the mornings for the cows and take them to the
foothills on the east side of the city, to feed all day. In the evenings they were
driven back to the city and returned to their rightful owners. While herding
cows, he and the other boys spent their time digging Sego Lily roots to eat.
The boys found a helpful supply of food in the bulbous roots of this handsome
flower during those trying times when food was not very plentiful.
Grandfather told of an incident that happened when he was a boy, soon
after they came to the valley. His father used to help gather salt out by Great
Salt Lake. One day he was at the lake with his father and was playing in the
water with a large wooden tub. He got inside and began paddling out on the
lake. His father began to worry when he saw him going so far away from the
shore and he began to shout for Lewis to come back. After shouting at the top
of his voice for some time and realizing Lewis could not hear him, he decided
to try an old Indian trick. He lay down the ground by the edge of the water
and began to shout. This time his voice carried much better over the surface
of the water. Lewis heard him, and began to paddle the tub back to the shore.
For the next few years after coming to Utah, Grandfather worked at
odd jobs in Salt Lake City. He spent much of his time in association with
Heber C. Kimball's boys, having lived with the family for some time. He and
the Kimball boys grew up together like brothers and were the best of friends
the rest of their lives. Later, Solomon F. Kimball gave Lewis a little book he
had written, entitled, "Thrilling Experiences." The following note is written
inside, "Presented to Louis Neeley by his Old Time Friend Solomon F.
Kimball, Salt Lake City, Utah. August 8, 1913." The book gives an
interesting account of the life of Solomon F. Kimball. The articles are not
only of a thrilling nature, but are filled with the testimonies of Mormonism.
The last chapter in the book entitled, "Bear Lake Years,” is of special interest
because it gives an account of the early settlers going to Bear Lake Valley to
make their homes. One hundred young and middle-aged men were called
from Salt Lake City to go there and assist in the building up of this valley.
Grandfather and his wife were among those called to go to Bear Lake. While
a young man he went to Brigham City and lived with his sister Mary and her
husband, Jonathan Wright. Here he spent a few years working on their farm.
When he went to Brigham City, he had a riding horse, and during the summer
months he turned the horse loose down on the Bear River bottom lands where
the horse kept very fat. He had this horse until he went back to Salt Lake
About this time the Church received word that Johnston's army was on
its way to Utah. When this news was received, Brigham Young sent word to
all the Saints to get ready and move to Provo. From there they would go
farther south if necessary. This was while the army was camping at Fort
Bridger for the winter, before coming to the Salt Lake Valley. The Saints
busied themselves, preparing foods and supplies for the exodus south.
Grandfather was given a job of curing pork by rubbing lots of salt into the
meat and then packing it into barrels.
Lewis was one of those chosen to remain in Salt Lake City when the
army went through the city. He was to help set fire to the houses if the Army
made an attempt to take the city. He also had a pile of wood ready to ignite
in his own home.
When Lewis was about nineteen, he got his first job of freighting. His
first trip was to the Missouri River, in 1860. Several young men accompanied
him as passengers to Missouri. From there they intended to enlist in one of
the Northern army camps and train as soldiers to fight in the Civil War. They
tried to talk Lewis into giving up his freighting job and join the army with
them. They said the war was just starting and they did not believe it would
last very long. He never saw any of these men after that, and believed they
were killed in the war.
The next year he got a job driving a stage for Ben Holladay. Later he
followed freighting to different parts of the country. He went to Missouri and
Colorado in 1863, then to Los Angeles, California and Helena, Montana in
1864. He also made some trips to Austin, Nevada, an active little mining
town at this time. He did not talk very much about his freighting days but
said he took supplies to Helena, Montana during the gold strike in that
section, and traveled from Salt Lake City through the Malad Valley and on
north to Helena. He liked this trip on account of the large amount of feed
and water along the road for the horses. He made three different trips to Los
Angeles. He told about the long trip across the desert through southern
Nevada and south of Death Valley to Los Angeles. He said one time they
overtook a train of freight wagons near Death Valley. The men and horses
were almost dead because they failed to bring sufficient water with them on
the trip. Lewis said they shared their water and the group was able to
continue their journey.
Grandfather assisted in "The Black Hawk War" from 1865 to 1867,
when President Lincoln sent to Salt Lake City for men to go to Wyoming and
guard the stages against Indian attacks. The stages traveled the cut-off from
Wyoming to Oregon. Lewis volunteered to go, and was given a job riding a
horse and carrying a rifle along side the stages for a distance of about fifty
miles between two stations. They were once attacked by a band of Indians
who stood off at a distance and shot a storm of arrows at the stage. The
Indians then went away, doing very little damage.
He returned to Salt Lake City in 1868 when the Union Pacific railroad
was being built through Utah. He got a job on the grade with a team of mules
and scraper. When he stopped working for the Union Pacific, he made a trip
to Los Angeles with a load of freight. On his return trip, he brought home
some oranges and gave them to Miss Maud M. Treseder, whom he was
courting at this time, and later married. She often spoke of this and said that
she spoiled one of her best silk dresses when she dropped some orange juice
on it. One day she was out riding with Lewis in his wagon with a spring seat
and team of mules. When she observed his well groomed and fast trotting
mules, she made the remark, "You have a fine span of mules, Lewis." He
answered in a blunt manner, "Yes, and you can have 'em if you'll have me!"
Maud Mary Treseder (early records have her as Mary Maud) was born 20 June
1849 in St. Helier, Isle of Jersey, Channel Islands, England. She emigrated
to America in 1855 with her family, and arrived in Utah in 1862.
They were married 3 August 1869 in the Endowment House in Salt
Lake City. Soon after their marriage they received a call from President
Brigham Young to go and live in Bear Lake Valley to help settle that place, so
they rigged up the wagon with a canvas cover and packed in all the food and
supplies they could take and then started for Bear Lake Valley. They were
accompanied on the trip by other families traveling by team and wagon. They
stopped at Round Valley at the south end of Bear Lake. After they selected
a good piece of land, they set up a camp and commenced work of clearing the
land of trees and brush to make it ready for farming. He obtained logs ready
to build a cabin. They did not have time to do much work before winter set
in, as they did not locate until late in the summer. The trip was mainly for
locating a good piece of land. They intended to go back to Salt Lake City to
spend the winter, returning the following Spring with the necessary supplies
to start work on their home.
During the few months they lived in Bear Lake Valley, they were
sometimes visited by Indians who asked for food. Grandmother always gave
it to them in order to keep on good terms. One time Lewis was away from
camp working and she was alone in the camp wagon. She was suddenly
frightened when the wagon cover parted and there stood a big, savage looking
Indian. He asked for food, grandmother complied with his request, then he
went away. Grandfather said he knew this Indian and he could not be trusted.
There were not only Indians, but sometimes bears would wander into
their camp and snoop around. The coyotes and other wild animals made the
nights hideous with their yells. Although it seemed like a lonely place to live,
there were many other settlers scattered over this part of the valley. At this
time they would often meet together to hold church and socials. Before winter
set in, they returned to Salt Lake City.
When spring came, they did not return to Bear Lake, The mines were
"booming" in Alta. Men were being offered high wages to work in the mines
and even higher wages were paid to men with teams and wagons to take the
ore from the mines, down to the smelter. They moved from Salt Lake City
out to Granite in the spring of 1871, and Lewis got a job with his team and
wagon, from the Emma mine in Alta down to the smelter in Sandy. He
worked at this job for about five years or until a railroad was completed in the
year 1877. The railroad went from Alta down to the smelter, thus throwing
the teamsters out of work.
Grandfather was later given a contract to cut timbers for the snow-shed
that was being built over part of the railroad track in the canyon, to keep the
deep snow off the track in the winter. The summer he had this job, he built
a small log cabin up in Little Cottonwood Canyon and they lived here so he
would be close to his work. The place where they lived in the canyon is still
called, "Neeley's Flat."
During the summer they lived here, Grandfather's niece from Salt Lake
City, Miss Mary Strong, lived with them to keep Grandmother company.
There is a story about Lewis getting into a fight when one of the men from the
saw mill, who was called "Red Cloud,” insulted Mary Strong. When she told
Grandfather, he at once went down to the bunk house and when he found Red
Cloud, he knocked him down with his fist. The crowd then gathered around
and stopped the fight, but Grandfather threatened to give him some more if
he did not get out of the canyon and stay out. The crowd also advised him to
leave if he wanted to prevent further trouble. Red Cloud said he would leave
the next day. Grandfather felt like he wanted to give him a good thrashing.
The next day he waited for him by the side of the road. When Red Cloud
came down the canyon road on his horse, Grandfather ran out and tried to
grab his leg to pull him from his horse, but Red Cloud was a little too fast. He
whipped his horse and left Grandfather standing in a cloud of dust!
It was during the summer they were living in Little Cottonwood Canyon
that Brigham Young died. This was on 29 August 1877. Grandmother said
on this day both she and Mary were at home. When a traveler on his way to
Alta stopped at their house and told them the news of Brigham Young's death,
she did not wait for her husband to come home, but got on a riding horse and
went up into the timber where he was working to tell him the news. When
winter began to set in, they moved back to Granite and lived in one of the
rooms of the smelter office. It was a large structure and was no longer
occupied with offices. During the winter they lived there, Grandfather took
up 160 acres of land in Granite and moved his old house on it. The house
was one they had previously built when they first went out to Granite.
In the year of 1878 they moved to the farm. They got a few cows, and
Louis cleared and plowed part of the land and planted it into alfalfa and grain.
A large portion of the land was too rocky for cultivation. They also had some
trouble with a few acres of land by the house. It was loose sand and when it
was plowed, it drifted in the wind like snow.
Grandfather did a little farming for a few years, and living close to the
canyon, he was able to get work carrying ore from some of the miners back in
the hills above Alta. He used a pack train of about eight or ten head of horses,
mules and donkeys, carrying supplies up to the mines and then ore from the
mines down to the railroad in the canyon. During his spare time he planted
about ten acres of his sandy land by the house into fruit trees of several
varieties. He also planted a patch of blackberries and grapevines. His orchard
thrived well in this sandy land. He placed fertilizer around the trees and had
a good stream of water from the canyon for irrigation.
In the year 1883 he was appointed as deputy sheriff of Salt Lake
County. Most of his duties were up in Alta. During this time Alta was a large
town of several thousand people, made up of a rough class of people, mostly
miners. It was about the time he was appointed a deputy that the Liberal
Party got control of the municipal election in Salt Lake City through fraud,
when they had the Rio Grand Railroad Company ship hundreds of their
workmen into the city to vote for the Liberal Party. When they began coming
into the city, the Church authorities became concerned over the possibility
that they might organize a mob and try to destroy the Church property. Word
was immediately sent out to all the surrounding towns for men to come to Salt
Lake City and help guard the Church property. Grandfather said he received
an urgent call to go into town, and to ride a good horse. He went and spent
the day on the Tabernacle grounds, but nothing happened. The railroad men
spent their time around the saloons all day.
When he was a deputy sheriff, there was much prejudice against the
Mormons in Alta, but he was well liked and received contracts from several
different miners to freight and carry ore down to the railroad. He purchased
more donkeys for his pack train and also used two ore wagons with four head
of horses on each wagon. The wagons used for carrying ore were large and
sturdy with double steel tires on each wheel, able to stand the hardiest abuse
over rocks and unbroken roads down the steep mountain side with about five
or six tons of ore a load. When doing this, the rear wheels were dragged by
chaining them to the wagon box. This was to hold the wagon back so it would
not crowd the horses too fast and cause an accident. The pack train,
consisting mostly of donkeys, carried about 200 pounds of ore each, one
hundred pounds on each side of their backs. The pack train was used for
carrying ore from mines that were up in steep, rocky sections where it was
impossible to use a wagon. Sometimes some of the donkeys would get into
the habit of stopping at a certain place on the trail and get so stubborn they
refused to move without a lot of persuasion. But this was not half as much
work as when one took a notion to lie down and would not get up again until
you removed the bags of ore from its back!
While he was a deputy sheriff, Grandfather did not work steadily with
his ore wagons and pack train, but hired a few men to take charge of this work
while he tended to his sheriff's duties. Later when he was released from being
sheriff, he worked quite steady with his pack train and wagons during the
summer months, except when he stayed home to work with his fruit trees. He
only kept a few men working for him. He started his oldest son, Lewis, to
driving an ore wagon when he was about 15 years old. He had contracts to
freight and carry ore over a period of about 15 years, from about the year
1880 to 1895. During this time he worked for the Flagstaff, Valleo, Victoria,
Richmond, and other mines in Alta, all of which produced silver, lead and
In the year 1882, Grandfather obtained a contract from the government
to carry mail from Sandy to Alta during the winter months when the railroad
was not being used. He held this job about sixteen years. He always rode a
horse until the snow became too deep and then he had to walk on skis. The
trip was dangerous through the canyon when the snow was deep and he was
always fearful of being caught in a snow slide as they were quite frequent.
One time he started to Alta on his horse with the mail. He rode as far as he
could, got off and tied the horse to a tree and started out to make the rest of
the trip on his skis. He had only gone a short distance from the horse when
he heard a roar up on the side of the mountain. It looked as though part of
the mountain side was coming down at a terrific speed. The snow ran down
in the direction of his horse. The horse was only caught in the edge of the
slide and carried some distance, when it was thrown out of the way, leaving it
unhurt. There have been many men and horses killed in snow slides on the
Little Cottonwood Canyon road to Alta. During the winter months,
Grandfather had often helped rescue parties searching for men buried in the
Grandfather received a little schooling in Salt Lake City when he was
a boy, but he obtained most of his education through his own efforts. He
always spent much time reading, especially the Bible. He was well informed
on the contents of the Bible and gospel doctrine.
We are told that he was a habitual user of tobacco in his younger days,
but sometime in middle life he had the willpower to stop the habit. There is
a story about him showing faith in the Lord in his early days when he made
frequent trips to Alta. On this occasion he was traveling alone through the
mountains up by Alta when he was caught in a blizzard of flying snow. While
trying to hurry to the place he was going, he lost his directions and found he
was traveling in a wide circle, and realized that he was lost in the storm that
raged without showing signs of ceasing. He became worried and decided to
kneel and ask the Lord for help. After his words were offered up to the Lord,
he said a strange thing happened. He seemed to hear the tinkling of bells off
some distance in a certain direction. He decided to follow the direction of the
bells. After traveling for some time he came to a land mark he had seen
previously and was able to get his directions right, and was able to continue
on his journey.
He gave up his contracting days when he was about 60 years old. He
had always been a strong, healthy man but his many years of service as mail
carrier began to break down his health through the strenuous work of trudging
through the deep snow every winter. When he gave up his job as mail carrier,
he settled down on his farm and worked with his fruit trees which required
more attention now because they were old enough to bear fruit. He and some
of his boys found a market for the fruit in Salt Lake City and made a fairly
good living selling fruit for several years. During this time they built a fiveroom
house using granite rock in its construction. The rock was obtained and
cut on his own land.
As time went by he was unable to take care of the orchard on account
of poor health, so he decided to move to Salt Lake City and retire. He sold
the farm and moved to the city in the year 1912. He received enough money
from the farm to buy a comfortable home in the city and provide a living for
the rest of their days. He died 26 March 1917 at the age of 76 years in Salt
Lake City, Utah.
Edited by Barbara Winward Seager July 1997