Question: How old was Elijah Newman when he went with Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company to Utah in 1847?
Answer: Elijah Newman was born in Romney, Hampshire County, Virginia on September 17 1793. His parents were Solomon Newman and Jane James Newman. His parents died in 1802 when he was nine, and he was brought up by a trusted freed slave couple. Elijah fought in the War of 1812. The record stated Elijah joined the Army as a Rifleman in Company H on December 31, 1819 for a five year enlistment.
Elijah married Matilda Downing on July 26, 1826, in Mason County, Kentucky. Elijah and Matilda had one son, William, born on March 10, 1827 in Mason. Matilda died around 1829. Their son, William was left with Matilda’s family to be raised in Ripton, Ohio. After Matilda’s death Elijah moved to Ohio where he met and married Losana Bentley on September 9, 1832 in Hamilton County, Ohio. Losana was born in Spring Creek, Pennsylvania in 1813.
During 1832 Elijah heard about the Gospel at a sermon by the Prophet Joseph Smith in Cincinnati. Elijah joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints in June of 1832 and was possibly baptized by Lyman Wight. In the next few years Elijah and Losana move to Missouri to be with the Saints. They moved several times due to persecution. They lived in Far West for some of this period. Elijah made a claim against the State of Missouri for land and possessions lost there.
Records show Elijah was imprisoned with Joseph Smith and 42 other members of the Church in the Richmond, Missouri jail on November 13, 1838. Elijah was freed from the jail about two weeks later and left the state. After the Saints were expelled from Missouri, Elijah and Losana started their journey to Nauvoo, Illinois to be with the members of the Church there.
Before arriving in Nauvoo, a daughter, Virginia Lovina Newman, was born on June 4, 1839 in Alton, Illinois. While living in Nauvoo, Elijah received his first Patriarchal Blessing on August 4, 1840 by John Smith. They were members of the Nauvoo 2nd Ward. In the Time and Seasons of April 15, 1844 there was an article in which Elijah was called to serve a mission to Ohio along with several other Elders. Because the Prophet Joseph Smith was murdered in June of that year, he returned to Nauvoo. Elijah was a carpenter by trade while living in Nauvoo and helped build the Nauvoo Temple. He and Losana received their Endowments on December 17, 1845 in the Nauvoo Temple.
Again the Saints were forced from their homes in Nauvoo and fled to what was called Winter Quarters in Nebraska in early 1846. Here Elijah volunteered to go with Brigham Young and the first wagon train to the Salt Lake Valley. He was outfitted for the trip by Bishop Daniel Spencer. We read in a journal: “During the winter of 1846-47 Bishop Spencer fitted out three of the pioneers, Francis Boggs, Elijah Newman, and Levi Kendall, letting them have two yoke of oxen with wagon, provisions, farming tools, seed, grain, etc.’ Elijah was responsible for the plows when Brigham’s Company entered the Valley.
Brigham Young and the company left Winter Quarters in early April 1847. Elijah was 53 years old and was one of the older members of the wagon train. Elijah was assigned to the Eight Tens along with Levi and Francis. Heber C. Kimball writes in his journal on Sunday, April 25th “About 4 o clock P.M. Brother Elijah Newman was baptized in the lake by Elder Tarlton Lewis for the benefit of his health. He has been afflicted with the black scurvy in his legs, and confined to his bed for some time. When he went to the water to be baptized, it appeared difficult for him to walk even with two sticks, but after going through the ordinance and having hands laid on him, he walked back to his wagon without either staff or assistance of any kind, and seemed much better.’ In Albert Rockwood’s journal he lists the priesthood calling of the members of the wagon train. Elijah is listed as the President of the 3rd Quorum of Seventy.
In another journal we read that Heber C. Kimball selected certain men to form the advance company under the command of Pratt, aided by Stephen Markham. Elijah Newman is named as one of them. As they get closer to the Salt Lake Valley another journal entry states: “It was then voted that Charles A. Harper, Charles Shumway & Elijah Newman be a committee to Stock Plows & Drags & to call those men to their assistance that they wanted.’ Once in the Valley we have this report about several meetings from Sunday October 3 to Saturday, October 9, 1847 “The Saints met in a conference to sustain their leaders…On Thursday, Tarlton Lewis and Elijah Newman were appointed to make the gates for the fort. “
While he was gone with the Brigham Young’s Vanguard company, his wife, Losana Bentley, left him. In October 1850 Elijah married a widow, Letha Jane Killian, who had two children. In December 1850, shortly after his marriage to Letha Jane, Elijah volunteered to migrate to Iron County in southern Utah. A fort was built near the site of the present town of Parowan. The Deseret News published a list of the pioneers that were leaving for Iron County on December 21, 1850. Elijah was listed in this article.
On May 16, 1851, Brigham Young ordered a municipal government to be organized. Elijah became a city councilman in Parowan. He was also listed as a High Councilor in the Stake of Zion in Iron County on May 12, 1852. He also served as a Justice of the Peace for several years.
In May of 1851, President George A Smith reported: “Elisha H. Groves, Elijah Newman, Aaron Farr, Samuel Bringhurst, Burr Frost, Robert Green and Peter Shirts went on an exploring trip for three days. They found coal in Summit canyon. The next day George A. Smith sent Peter Shirts and Elijah Newman in search of salt. The others went to Iron Spring for iron ore. Brother Shirts and Brother Newman brought in several bushels of beautiful salt.”
Elijah and Letha were sealed in Brigham Young’s Office in Salt Lake on December 11, 1851. Several journals record that Elijah spoke in General Conference in 1852.
Parowan Old Stone Church
The family’s first home in Parowan was made of adobe, but later Elijah built a nice two-story log home. Eventually after a grand start with iron ore smelting, cotton mills, tanneries and other endeavors, the pioneers of Iron County settled into raising crops for local consumption and ranching.
Elijah and Letha Jane had seven children. Elijah was ordained a High Priest in 1861. By 1870, Elijah was very ill and it was necessary for Letha Jane to provide for the family. She was employed as a cook for men who worked in the mines at Peoche, Nevada. This was about 100 miles from Parowan.
Elijah died on December 12, 1873 at Parowan, and is buried in the Parowan City Cemetery. As we reflect on Elijah’s life, we are in awe of his courage and faithfulness to the Gospel. He lived a full life and died in his 80th year.