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Lewis Barney

Question: After Lewis Barney joined the Church, what did he tell the mob who came to break up their meeting?

Answer: Lewis Barney was born on September 8, 1808, second child of seven born to Charles Barney and Mercy Yeoman in the state of New York in Cayuga County. When he was three years old, his parents moved to Ohio to a little town by the name of Clinton near Mount Vernon. There his father, Charles Barney, was a “volunteer in the United States Army in the War of 1812.’ His parents moved from New York to Ohio to Illinois.

Lewis’ mother died in October, 1825, when he was 17 years old. His father bought a soldier’s patent right to a quarter section of land in Illinois. He left the younger children with relatives, and Charles and two of his sons, Lucien and Lewis, started by horse and wagon to their land.

Lewis was elected Captain of a company of Infantry and served for several years. On April 11, 1832, he married Elizabeth Turner. He was 24 years old. They settled on his farm of 280 acres which was adjacent to his father’s farm. In 1838 Charles and Lewis sold their farms in Illinois, secured a government patent for land in Iowa.

“About this time there was heavy persecution in Missouri raised against the Mormons. All manner of evil reports were put in circulation about them…From their reports I in common with the rest of the people supposed they were the most outrageous and hardened set of criminals that ever graced the earth…At that time I cared nothing for religion as the Methodist and Cumberland Presbyterians had been trying to convert me to their faith…This set me to thinking. And I came to the conclusion that religion of every kind was a hoax, and that none was right. And that all preachers of religion were hypocrites. And were preaching for money and popularity.’

Lewis saw two Mormon elders coming down the road with their travel bags in their hands. He went to hear them out of curiosity. He searched the scriptures, carefully investigated for a year and a half. Upon finding them to be honest, industrious people and wickedly misrepresented, he asked to be baptized. Lewis was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Alva Tippits in May 1840, in the Mississippi River and was confirmed a member of the Church under the hands of the Prophet, Joseph Smith. His brother Luther had previously joined the Church. In a short time they had a branch of about 30 members, among whom were all of Charles Barney’s family. This was 60 miles from Nauvoo.

At one time when they were holding a meeting, a mob came to the home. Lewis sprang up on one of the benches and began speaking. He told the mob he was an American citizen, that they were enjoying the rights and privileges fought for during the Revolutionary War, that he had been a volunteer in the Blackhawk War and had helped clear Iowa for settlement. He said: “My father also was a volunteer in the war of 1812 and ventured his life for the protection of our liberties. My grandfather was a commodore on the seas and commanded a large fleet and fought one of the most decisive battles in the Revolutionary War. And we as American citizens are enjoying the fruits of their sufferings…We wish you to enjoy the privilege of living on your farms unmolested. We have not come here out of any evil motive. We believe the Bible. We believe in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost…Now I ask you kindly if you have any objections to our having a little prayer meeting this evening? And as far as the Mormons are concerned you will never be disturbed in the enjoyment of your homes and your rights and privileges. And after our meeting we will return to our homes.”

Charles and Lewis sold their farms for less than they were worth and moved to Nauvoo. In Nauvoo, Lewis became familiar with Joseph Smith the Prophet and the Smith family. He found them to be “an honest industrious family…and much respected by all that knew them.” Not being accustomed to city life, they each bought land about 12 miles from Nauvoo and spent part of their time in Nauvoo working on the temple and part of it on their farm.

“Brother Joseph was continually harassed…I became a witness of these things…I told [those in favor] that if Brother Joseph ever went to Carthage, he would never get away alive…That it was their intention to get him there and assassinate him…so he went and was murdered, also his brother Hyrum.”

“The mob supposed if Joseph was out of the way it would put an end to Mormonism as they called it. So things were more peaceable for about a year…but then the mob again commenced their depredations by driving the Saints that lived in settlements outside of Nauvoo from their houses and setting them on fire and destroying their crops and killing stock.” The mob gave Lewis until the next day to get away before they would come and burn his house. Lewis left an orchard of 100 apple trees, many peach trees, 35 well-fenced acres, and pork hogs, and hitched his horses to his wagon, loaded it with what things he could, and left for his house in Nauvoo.

The Saints were driven from Nauvoo in February 1846. Lewis let those who were destitute have the grain he had grown. He volunteered to assist the poor from Nauvoo with his two wagons and teams. Lewis then moved on to Winter Quarters.

At Winter Quarters, Lewis was asked to go west with Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company. Lewis had two weeks to get a load of provisions to leave with his family, before he left on April 8, 1847. When they reached the Valley in July 1847, Lewis continued on with Colonel Stephen Markham and their group and prepared the way for those following by cutting willows and making roads and bridges. When Brigham Young entered the Valley, he told them, “I have seen this place … and thousands of people gathered on this ground by vision many times…. The Latter-day Saints will dwell safely in the confines of these mighty mountains.”

      Marker at This is the Place State Park

The men started plowing and planting seeds they had brought with them. As provisions for the group were scarce, it was decided to send some of the advance party back for their families. Lewis was one of the hunters. The hunters were to provide the meat for the teams following them. Lewis gave the Lord the credit for helping them get safely back to Winter Quarters.

      Lewis Barney name on rock on Navajo Indian Reservation.

Lewis took Elizabeth Beard Trippets as his second wife. They were married on March 12, 1851 at Winter Quarters. He and his family headed west to the Salt Lake Valley with the Bryant/Jolley Company on June 15, 1852. His father, Charles Barney, and his family went with this group also. Brother Kimball advised Lewis to go to a settlement on the Provo River where his brother Walter had been sent. They arrived September 18. Lewis built a small adobe house on the lot and started a lumber mill. He later moved to Spanish Fork, then to Spring City, Sanpete County, and then to Monroe. He settled for a time in Grass Valley in Sevier County and then in New Mexico and Arizona. So went the life of Lewis Barney. He wrote that the Lord blessed him, and means came into his hands from many sources, so that many times he was astonished.

Lewis died on November 5, 1895, at the age of 87, in Mancos, Colorado, where his son David Barney lived. He was buried in the Old Mormon Cemetery, at Mancos, Montezuma, Colorado.

From his 1840 baptism in Illinois to his 1894 death in northwest Colorado, Barney wandered the western Mormon landscape struggling to establish an earthly patriarchal kingdom but failing to find the land and basic resources that would support his two wives and many children. The arid West refused to give place to such agrarian utopias. In spite of repeated failures, Lewis Barney never lost his vision of a family kingdom and his commitment to the religious beliefs on which it was based.

Sources: “The Life of Lewis Barney,’ as written by himself,;

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