Question: How old was James Wesley Stewart when he was asked to join Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847?
Answer: James Wesley Stewart was born on May 19, 1825 at Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to George Stewart Jr. and Ruthinda Baker. George Stewart was a very prosperous farmer near Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He owned a cotton gin and a fine plantation. He also owned another plantation on Sipsey Bottoms, Alabama. George Stewart was naturally a very religious man, and he studied the Bible until he knew it almost by heart. He was always teaching the true principles to his many friends and family.
When Brother Benjamin L. Clapp, the first missionary from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came to Tuscaloosa in 1838 to preach, he was told by the people that George Stewart had been preaching that doctrine for years. So, he set out to find George Stewart and baptize him. He baptized James Wesley in 1838 (age 13), and his parents, George and Ruthinda, and other family members were baptized in 1842 and 1847.
After George joined the Church, he was soon persecuted and so he sold both plantations for what he could get, which was a great sacrifice, and moved to Missouri. He was a slave holder, and when he started to move, his slaves all wanted to go with him, but he told them that was impossible; but one slave, who had been Ruthinda’s greatest help and whom she thought so much of, went with them. They finally settled in Dallas County, Missouri. George took cold, and it turned to pneumonia, and he died on January 14, 1845. James Wesley was the oldest son and was nineteen years of age.
George left Ruthinda expecting their tenth child and nine children to care for. Their oldest daughter was twenty-two. Ruthinda and her family, including James Wesley , along with her daughter, Cynthia and her son-in-law George W. Hill joined the main body of Saints at Mt. Pisgah where they spent the winter. They then moved on to Winter Quarters.
In early 1847, James Wesley, now twenty-one years old, was asked to join Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company. He was in the 8th Company of Ten led by Seth Taft. He stopped to help operate the Platte River ferry and then, when his mother and other family members made it to where he was, he went on to the Salt Lake Valley with them in the Abraham O. Smoot Company in September 1847.
James Wesley went to California during the excitement attending the discovery of gold, going to that state in 1849. On July 29, 1850, James Wesley married Jane Grover in San Bernadino, California. They lived in California until 1858 and had their first four children there. James Wesley then decided to move back to Utah, and he settled his family in Farmington, Utah. Here James and Jane added seven more children to their family. However, just a few weeks after her last child was born, Jane passed away on September 4, 1873.
James Wesley then moved to Morgan county, Utah, where he bought land, carrying on its further development and improvement for a quarter of a century. James Wesley married Elzira Corbitt on March 9, 1874, in Salt Lake City, and they were blessed with twelve children, all born in Morgan, Utah. James Wesley then sold the property and became a resident of Fort Bridger, Wyoming, where he took up a homestead, giving his attention to the work of tilling the soil and cultivating his crops upon that place throughout his remaining days. The last two of their fourteen children were born there. Elzira died in Lyman, Wyoming on November 2, 1903, when their youngest child was three years of age, and she was buried in the Lyman City Cemetery.
James Wesley Stewart passed away on March 22, 1913 in Cokeville, Lincoln County, Wyoming. He was buried in the Farmington City Cemetery in Utah next to his wife, Jane Grover Stewart.