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James Bevan

Question: How many children did James Bevan have after he served in the Mormon Battalion as a young man in 1846?

Answer: James Bevan was christened October 19, 1821, in Kings Caple, Herefordshire, England, the son of John Bevan and Ann Burford. When James was 18 years old, he was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on October 29, 1841, perhaps by Wilford Woodruff or one of the elders serving with him at that time in Herefordshire.

James immigrated to America in 1842, crossing the Atlantic in the ship “Hope,” and arrived at Nauvoo, Illinois, May 14, 1846. After having to leave Nauvoo due to the persecution, the Saints moved on to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Here, in the spring of 1846, Brigham Young mustered 500 men to join the Mormon Battalion.

James Bevan, age 25, joined the Mormon Battalion on July 16, 1846, serving as a private in Company A, and marched with them as far as Hot Springs on the Rio Grande River, some 240 miles south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. James left the main body of the Battalion on November 10, 1846, with Lieutenant William Willis’s sick detachment. They returned to Santa Fe, crossed the mountains and arrived in Pueblo, Colorado, on December 20, where three sick detachments from the Battalion and a group of Saints from Mississippi spent the winter. The sick detachment and some of the Mississippi Saints left Pueblo on May 24, 1847, and arrived in Salt Lake City July 29, five days after Brigham Young had entered the valley.

James Bevan then went back to Council Bluffs to aid other Saints to move on to Utah. When he arrived there, he became acquainted with the Shields family. In 1850, a year after Mary Shields sailed from Scotland, she and James Bevan were married in Council Bluffs on the 9th of May. They lived there until after their first child, John Alexander, was born on February 4, 1851.

Mary Shields was born October 29, 1827, in Glasgow, Lanark, Scotland. She was the daughter of John and Primrose Cunningham Shields. The family heard the Gospel while in Scotland, and Mary was baptized October 29, 1841, at the age of fourteen. The Shields family sailed February 15, 1849, on the ship “Hartley,” for America and arrived at New Orleans where they sailed again, this time on a river vessel called “Lightfoot.” They arrived in Nauvoo at the time when people were assembling from all over the world, and where plans were being made for more Saints to make the journey across the plains. In Nauvoo, James worked as a Sawyer and his father-in-law as a Wagon Maker.

In the summer of 1852, James and Mary with their one-year-old son, Mary’s parents, and other family members, traveled to Utah in the Thomas C.D. Howell Company. James and Mary arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in September. They settled in Tooele, Utah, that same year. In 1859 James married a second wife, Isabell McPherson, a friend of Mary’s also from Scotland. When Isabella McPherson came from Scotland, Mary was overjoyed, as they had been friends there, having lived in the same tenement house, across the hall from each other. As James had been advised to take another wife, Mary told Isabella that she would be very happy to have her marry James, so that they might all be happy together.

James was the father of 23 children and helped raise two others. He farmed, and later in life hauled ore to Salt Lake City. Like all early pioneers, James’ chief occupation was farming.

Sometimes James would earn extra money by hauling logs from the hills to build new homes in the village. One time while he was in the canyon loading logs in his wagon, he paused in his work to fry some pancakes for his lunch. It was necessary in those days to carry some flour, a frying pan and other provisions with them.

This time James had made the fire and had a pancake cooking when he was startled to hear a noise behind him. He turned quickly to investigate the noise and came face to face with Weiber Tom, a very large and fearsome Indian who was feared by all the settlers in the area. The Indian looked very mean, raised his tomahawk and said, “I kill you.’ James Bevan was not a coward, but he feared the Indian, because he was unarmed and no match physically for such a large Indian. He offered a silent prayer to God, and then he reached over to the fire and handed the cooked pancake to the Indian, saying, “You eat.” To his relief, Weiber Tom took the offered cake and said, “Me eat.” James baked more pancakes for the Indian until he was well fed. Then, to his surprise, Weiber Tom walked to the wagon that he had been loading with logs and helped him load them. When the load was completed, he climbed on the load with James and rode out of the hills to James’ home where he met the family. He was given more food, and from that time on, he was a friend of the Bevan family.

James’ first wife, Mary, died in 1874 when she was 46. James lived 20 years longer. He was the senior president of the 43rd Quorum of Seventy for many years. He died October 26, 1894, in Tooele, Utah, and was buried in the Tooele City Cemetery. His second wife, Isabella, lived until 1909 and was buried in Tooele.

Sources: Excerpts from “History of Mary Shields Bevan,’ written by her granddaughter, Dora L. Bevan Wright on June 5, 1947; “History of James Bevan,’ written by Alice Bates Herron, granddaughter, with comments by June Bevan Garrard and J. Alex Bevan,;

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