Louis Neeley Sr.
Louis Neeley Sr., our pioneer ancestor, was one of the third generation
of Neeley's in America, so far as our knowledge goes at this time. He was born
at Ovid, Seneca Co., New York on October 4, 1805, the son of John and Jane
Louis was seven years old when his father met his death after but one
month's service in the War of 1812. So far no record has been found to show
when this Neeley family left the state of New York and moved westward, but
it was in Vermillion County, Illinois, on April 20, 1828, at the age of twenty three
that Louis Neeley and Elizabeth Miller were married. (Elizabeth was the
daughter of Oliver and Cynthia Nobles Miller.)
The first home of Louis and Betsey Neeley must have been in
Vermillion County, Illinois, for it was there in 1829 that their first child,
Alanson, was born. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Dane County,
Wisconsin. There were two children born here, William in 1830 and
Armenius in 1832. A history of Wisconsin informs us that the first settlers
in Dane county, and that vicinity, were driven out by the Indians in 1833.
Probably that would account for the fact that Louis and Betsey returned
to Vermillion, Illinois before the birth of Mary Jane in 1833. But the sad part
of the story is that they were forced to leave two of their children, Alanson,
three years and baby Armenius, three months, behind in the burial ground at
Blue Mound in Dane County, Wisconsin. Three children came to the Neeley
home in Vermillion County: Mary Jane in 1833, Armenius Miller in 1836,
and Lewis Arnold in 1838.
Just when the Neeley's became members of the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints is not known, but it was probably in 1839, for it was
generally the custom that new members were not satisfied until they had
joined the main body of the Church where they might be in closer contact with its leaders.
And so the Fall of 1839 found the Neeley family in Nauvoo. In proof
of this statement, we have the family record in which is recorded the birth of
a daughter, Harriet, at that place in September 1839. Three other children
came to the Neeley household while they lived in Nauvoo: Lewis Jr., born in
1841, John, born in 1853, and Hyrum Smith, born in 1844.
In June of 1844, the Prophet Joseph and his brother, Hyrum were
assassinated in the Carthage jail. We have the testimony of Aunt Mary Jane
Neeley Wright that the family lived in Nauvoo when that sad event occurred.
Mary Jane was not quite twelve years old when the dead prophet and his
brother were brought home, and never during her entire life was she able to
erase from her memory the scenes of sorrow and despair that shook the city
on that occasion. William Neeley, our grandfather, three years older than
Mary Jane, often recalled in his later years, the sad events of those days in
Nauvoo. I have heard both Grandfather Neeley and his sister, Mary Jane,
testify they knew the Prophet intimately, and revered and honored him.
On Thursday morning, August 8, 1844, about two months after the
martyrdom of the Prophet, a great congregation of Saints was assembled at
the Grove in Nauvoo. At this meeting a leader was to be appointed to assume
the head of the Church, and the anxiety of the people was at a high pitch.
Sidney Rigden was the first speaker (there were some who thought he
should take the Prophet's place.) He spoke at great length. Then Brigham
Young arose and when he spoke, the congregation could not have been more
startled had the Prophet risen from the dead, for it was not only the voice of
the Prophet that they heard, but it seemed in the eyes of the people that the
Prophet himself stood before them. Thus it was that the Lord gave to the
Saints a testimony that left no doubt in their minds that Brigham Young was
the man chosen to lead them.
We have every reason to believe that the Neeley's remained in or near
Nauvoo and assisted in finishing the temple, while preparing as best they
could for the exodus from that city. It came to the ears of Brigham Young
that a plan was afoot to have martial law declared in Hancock County to
prevent the Mormons from leaving the State. This news made it imperative
that no time be lost in starting on their journey. Winter though it was, they
must leave without delay.
The temple had been open for endowment work only two months, when
on February 2, 1846, President Young informed the Saints that there would
be no more ordinance work in the temple. This announcement was a terrible
blow to the people of the Church. It had been their plan to spend the long
winter months doing temple work. On the third of February, President
Young found the temple again filled with the Saints, who were anxiously
awaiting his coming, in hope that he might relent in his decision to close its
Looking upon the multitude, President Young's heart was touched by
the nature and sincerity of their devotion, knowing that the Saints were
hungering and thirsting for the work which might be done for them in this
House of the Lord. And so he permitted the ordinance work to be continued
for the remainder of the week. It was during this week, on the sixth day of
February that Louis and Elizabeth Neeley received their endowments in the
Nauvoo Temple. The following Sunday the Church leaders met in that then
sacred edifice, and offered the last prayer that was ever uttered in that house.
It was then that they knelt around the altar, and dedicated the building to the
Most High, giving it into His keeping to use as He saw fit.
The first covered wagon loaded with emigrants and their scant supplies,
crossed the Mississippi River on flat boats on February 4, 1846. Flat boats,
old lighters and old skiffs were all pressed into service, forming a considerable
fleet, working night and day to transport the exiles beyond the reach of their
The weather was extremely cold, this February of 1846. The
thermometer hovered below zero. By the twenty-fifth the river was completely
frozen over, and for a few days, long caravans formed a continuous procession
stretching from bank to bank, a distance of one mile, crossing on a floor of
We know that our Grandfather Hunsaker's camp was one of the
caravans which crossed on this floor of ice, and since he was but one day's
journey ahead of Louis Neeley, we presume that the Neeley family left Nauvoo
about the same time, and that they too, took advantage of the bridge of ice
which a kind Providence had provided to help those homeless wanderers.
In the Church section of the Deseret News for July 5, 1946, we read this
bit of information about those two ancestors. The article states that on the
morning of July 3, 1846, Brigham Young, riding in his carriage with Heber
C. Kimball and Willard Richards, started from Council Bluffs back over the
Mormon Trail toward Nauvoo, going to Mt. Pisgah, about 130 miles distant
to meet with the inhabitants of that settlement to encourage the young men
to enlist in the Mormon Battalion which was then being formed. On July
fourth, these Church leaders met a long caravan of wagons, among which was
the camp of Abraham Hunsaker. July fifth, as these men continued their
journey, during the day they met 242 wagons, including the camp of Louis
One year after leaving Nauvoo, misfortune overtook the Neeley family
while at Council Bluffs, Iowa. On February 2, 1847, Elizabeth, wife and
mother to the Neeley family, passed away. Along with her husband, she left
a family of eight children to endure the hardships, the privations and the
sufferings of those most destitute pioneers. The record of Lewis Neeley states
that his wife died of exposure, eight days after the birth of her last baby,
Elizabeth Ann. The little one soon followed her mother in death. On the
great monument which has been erected at Florence, Nebraska (Winter
Quarters) to the memory of the hundreds of pioneers whose lives were
sacrificed because of their loyalty to the Faith that they had espoused, are the
names of Elizabeth Neeley and her babe, Elizabeth Ann.
A few months after the death of his wife Elizabeth, Louis married
Sophronia Parsons Ketchum (daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth Phillips
Parsons, and the widow of Joseph E. Ketchum). Six children were born to
this union - Sophia E., Sarai, Maria, Orson, Austin and Parley.
In Church history it is recorded that Louis Neeley was in December
1847, made first counselor to Joseph L. Clark, President of the Elders of
Miller Hollow, Pottawattamie County, Iowa. (Miller's Hollow later became
Kanesville, named in honor of Col. Thomas L. Kane.) Also, on January 28,
1848, Louis Neeley was one of the petitioners for a Post Office in that county.
Louis and his family arrived in Utah with the pioneers of 1850, in
Captain Wall's ten and Warren Foote's hundred, the 7th company to arrive in
the valley. Harrison Speirs, a pioneer of 1848, who knew the Neeley family
well, stated that Louis owned two lots in Salt Lake City - one on the southwest
corner of Ninth East and Sixth South, where they built a one and one-half
story adobe house. Their first home was about one-half block south of the
Louis Neeley is described by those who knew him as a very fine looking
man, with curly black hair and a very clear and beautiful complexion. He was
a man of powerful build and great strength. Harrison Speirs told also of an
occasion in early days when one night at an old Tenth Ward dance that Louis
was managing, he took two undesirable guests by the collar (when they refused
to leave in a peaceful manner) and ejected them as though it were all in a day's
Louis Neeley died November 8, 1857 in Salt Lake City. His grave is in
the City Cemetery. He was a High Priest at the time of his death. If we may
judge the character of our ancestor, Louis Neeley, by the lives and deeds of the
children whom we knew best, we may say without fear of contradiction that
he was a man of great faith - faith in the principles and teachings of the
Gospel, and a supreme confidence in the presiding authorities of the Church.
To us it has been a source of considerable speculation as to
why our grandfathers should have required more than four months
to cover the same 400 miles between Nauvoo and Council Bluffs,
that their Church officials covered in two and one-half months.
The answer to this might be found in the following
statements gleaned from, One Hundred Years of Mormonism, p
420. When the advance company of Mormon emigrants had
passed beyond every settlement (after leaving Nauvoo) and had
reached a point on the Chariton River on April 24, 1846, it was
decided to make a settlement for those who should come later.
On the second day of their sojourn, three hundred fifty-nine
individuals, in response to a request from their leaders, reported
for labor. One hundred of the men were directed to cut down trees
for logs and rails; ten were to build bridges, and the rest were to
plow, clear and seed the land. During the seventeen days that they
remained there, a large flourishing town sprang up like magic.
Then the main body or company moved on, leaving only a few
persons to guard their new possessions. This place was called
Some "thirty-odd" miles from Garden Grove, the advance
company again was halted, and a similar activity took place. More
than one thousand acres of land were fenced and put under
cultivation, and a large collection of log cabins were erected. This
place was called Mt. Pisgah. (Mt. Pisgah was about 130 miles
from Council Bluffs and the Missouri River.) The advance
company continued their journey to the Missouri.
Of Miller's Hollow or Kanesville, One Hundred Years of
Mormonism has this to say: "When it was discovered that a
settlement would have to be continued for many years on the
banks of the Missouri River (because of the poverty of the Latterday
Saint people at that time, as well as the difficulties that would
be encountered on that long hazardous journey to the Great Salt
Lake Valley) it was decided to move from Winter Quarters (which
was on the west side of the Missouri) to Miller's Hollow or
Kanesville on the east side of the river." This was done in 1847,
after one company had pushed its way to the Great Basin.
By the year 1852, all those wayside stations, Garden Grove,
Mt. Pisgah and Kanesville, had been almost entirely abandoned by
the Mormon pioneers.
We feel quite sure that Louis Neeley was among the
volunteers who helped to build those wayside stations for the
benefit of the poor immigrants who should follow on the long,
hard trail. Perhaps that would account for some of the delay in
reaching Council Bluffs on the Missouri River.
Source: History of Louis Neeley and Elizabeth Miller Written by Meltrude Hunsaker, Stohl, 1948
Compiled by Barbara Winward Seager July 1997 -