The Westovers from Ohio to Utah
Part I of a series featuring our 19th Century families
Part I of a series featuring our 19th Century families
The westward migration of the Westovers of Ohio is quite the epic tale. This is the first in a series of posts where we share the story via a chronological timeline.
On the timeline we use images, maps, documents, brief snippets of history and links to bring it all together. All of this contains more detailed information than what we have shared before. In fact, some of this is new. Our goal is to provide as much information as we possibly can about our family as people: what they thought, who they were, etc.
We are also working on similar timelines for the Snows, Smiths, Riggs, and other family lines as well.
This is a long read with links to Family Search and other features we have shared in the past right here on Westover Family History.
There are a lot of opinions and some difficulty that many have about Family Search. We believe all family members need to know and understand that resource and why we work so much with it. We want to help you with it.
We also quote from several known histories and published works such as A Legacy of Faith, a comprehensive work by Paul Lewis Westover. (Found here in our archives).
This is a big story. These are real people and they are our people.
There is a great deal more to their story than the points of interest we see on the map:
How and Why They Left
Our 19th Century story begins with Alexander and Electa Westover in Goshen, Ohio.
Alexander had sought out his own land after the passing of his parents in 1822. In getting land of his own he also married – and a new generation of Westovers came from this union.
Over the years we have shared a great deal of information about Edwin Ruthven Westover. He was a significant individual in the course of the Westover family, especially in the 19th century west.
This time we present a new perspective on his experience by sharing information about him and his little brothers, Charles and Oscar. Our focus here is mainly on Edwin and Charles. But that is only because we have more information about them and because they had both parallel and shared experiences. Edwin and Charles joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their story become embedded within the Mormon pioneer legend.
Oscar chose another path. Caught up in the gold fever of 1849 Oscar continued on to California. His experience was different than that of his brothers. We also focus on Edwin and Charles because their families then, as now, are linked. We almost cannot tell the story of one without telling the story of the other.
Edwin and Charles were only three years apart in age. Yet their early experiences were considerably different and unique.
Edwin, who was not quite ten years of age when their father, Alexander, died was of more of a working age when Electa was forced to send her children away.
Charles was six years old. His experience with other families was not good and in fact in some cases may have been abusive.
This difference in time and treatment would affect the coming years of conversion, travel and re-settlement in the west. Here is a timeline of the early years of these Westover brothers:
Alexander Westover was likely born in Canada, while his parents, Amos and Ruth Loomis Westover, were working the land obtained their via a grant from the King.
Electa Beal, the 5th of six children of Obadiah and Rebecca Beal, is born in Vermont.
The following video was produced a few years ago. It tells more of Electa’s story.
After trying several times to secure his own land in Canada, Amos Westover moved his family back to Vermont, and then back to Sheffield, MA where he claimed an inheritance from his father. After failing to secure land in Massachusetts, the Westover family set out for the western frontier. In the 1820 census we find them in Ohio.
That same census found the Obadiah Beal family likewise had moved and were located very close by the Westovers in Goshen, Ohio.
Alexander Westover was married to Electa Beal after the deaths of his parents. Electa’s father, Obadiah, passed away as well in 1822. But her mother survived for many years and played an important role as grandmother to the children of Alexander and Electa.
The first born to Alexander and Electa was Edwin Ruthven Westover.
Click here to learn where the name Edwin Ruthven comes from.
More details of Edwin’s life can be seen in this video:
Albert Westover, second son to Edwin and Electa, was born and then passed away at a very young age.
Charles Westover is born on the Ohio farm of Alexander and Electa Westover. Charles would have a connection to his brothers for most of his life. His history contributes a lot to the Westover family story during the 19th century.
Oscar Fitzland Westover, youngest child of Alexander and Electa is born. Oscar would go beyond Utah and forge his own path.
Alexander Westover passed away due to some kind of unknown or undisclosed illness. He was 36 years old. Electa was 32, Edwin was nine, Charles was six and Oscar only four.
Charles later in life recorded his personal history and claimed to have pleasant memories of his father. It is history that gives us a glimpse into the personality of Alexander, a man whose circumstance in growing up and in pioneering Ohio is difficult to document.
“I well remember Father. He was kind to us three little boys. He would amuse us in many ways, especially Oscar and myself. Edwin was always Mother’s pet.”
The early death of any parent is devastating. For the three young sons of Alexander Westover, it would be life changing.
Before he passed, Alexander reported to his family a dream he did not understand. But it would later prove very significant for his family. In it he described seeing people being baptized by immersion in something described as a “tan vat”, which was a large tub.
Electa did all she could to keep the farm and the family together but the work proved too much and the boys just too young. The formative early years for Edwin, Charles and Oscar would be a time of separation and work.
Edwin was sent to work with a family in a neighboring town. Oscar, the youngest, was sent to live with Electa’s sister, Aunt Hannah. Charles for a time lived with Grandma Beal. But one day a man came for him and took him nearly ten miles away.
Charles later wrote, “When I went with that man my troubles began. He had a wife but no children. Their name was Osborne. They worked me early and late. He and his wife seemed to take delight in thrashing me. They would send me upstairs to bed without supper. I would look down through a crack and watch them eating which made me feel very hungry.”
He was there for a year before Electa learned of the abuse.
She would not allow him to stay there another night. Within days she was able to place Charles with another family who lived close to her sister, Hannah. This allowed Charles to at least see his little brother Oscar more often.
The family Charles was with was named Savage. Of the man, Charles had good things to say and reported not only kind treatment but he was also taught valuable work skills.
But of Mrs. Savage Charles did not have much nice to say. In his months there Charles said Mrs. Savage “…was cross and unkind to me –this made me worse that I otherwise would have been.”
Charles admitted his teen years were difficult for him and he had issues just about everywhere he lived. His history reports periods of poverty and poor hygiene.
He would periodically be sent home to his mother to get cleaned up and perhaps even re-clothed.
In due time Charles came to work for a Mr. Lapham, who dealt with Charles a bit more fairly. Charles stayed with them for five years.
It was during this period that nearly everything changed for the Westover family during the decade of the 1840s:
Edwin, at the age 20, married a girl who was only 18. Her name was Sarah Sophia Darrow
Aunt Hannah Beal, sister to Electa, widowed for at least four years by this point and living with her daughter Adeline who was also widowed, was baptized by Mormon missionaries named Jackson Goodale and Wakefield Howe. Knowing their message was powerful, Hannah referred them to her family members, specificially to Electa.
Electa’s sisters would play a large part in her family story.
Rebecca Moody Beal was the last surviving grandparent for Electa’s children. She served the family for the 20+ years that she remained. When Electa lost her husband, it was her mother who offered help. Rebecca would be the model for family service that Electa would render in the years ahead.
Edwin’s first born was Edwin Lycurgus Westover.
Baby Edwin lost his mother when he was an infant but would grow up with many women who would love and nurture him. As the eldest son, it fell to Edwin Lycurgus to be an assistant to his father in their many rough circumstances.
As a young man, “Kurg”, as he was called, left southern Utah to Aunt Hannah’s place in Grantsville, where he was asked to run the farm while Aaron Sceva served a mission.
While back in Grantsville, he met and married the love of his life, Johanna Matilda Erickson, who had come to Utah with her parents from Sweden many years before.
Within a few years Brigham Young came calling to find families who could help settle Arizona and this young Westover family answered the call. From Arizona another large branch of the family flourished. Much of the history we have of the Westovers in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona comes from this clan of Westovers who cherish their heritage so much.
Edwin Lycurgus was not the most robust of men due to a chronic problem with asthma. Because of this he feared an early death and an inability to “raise seed” unto his name.
Taking advantage of the doctrine of adoption observed during these years Kurg asked his good friend Henry Despain to raise more children in his name should he pass.
This leaves Edwin Lycurgus was a large and complicated posterity that went on to faithful service in Arizona that has continued for generations. (We have others in the family with similar family arrangements).
We do not know what happened with Edwin’s young first wife, Sarah Sophia Darrow. We know she was just 19. We know that she survived Edwin Lycugus’ birth. And we know that she was gone just a few months later.
Her death was devastating for young Edwin Ruthven and he turned first to his mother, Electa, for not only the physical needs of the baby but also for emotional and spiritual support throughout the trial.
Edwin’s brief history only mentions that Sarah Sophia had auburn hair and blue eyes.
Some histories make it sound as if Electa embraced the Gospel right away. It should be noted however that Electa did not choose baptism for more than a year after first hearing the missionaries.
Charles describes the scene where on the last day of school in the spring of 1844 a decision was made to host the missionaries instead of the traditional last-day-of-school spelling bee. Charles himself, at age 17, chopped the wood and made the fire for the event.
That this event would make the journal of Charles Westover is significant.
It was a turning point in his conversion story. Previously he had fallen into an anti-Mormon crowd. “I was terribly prejudiced at this time because of the stories about the church,” he wrote. “I was sorry my aunt and cousin had joined them.”
But the Elders came prepared with the Spirit – and Charles Westover was moved.
“Such a sermon as we heard that night I never heard before. That night with all my prejudices I was converted to the truth of Mormonism, I tell you all who read the sketch said that Elder was most powerful and that he was filled full of the Holy Spirit…”
Electa’s record does not share her impressions of that event. It would be another eventful year in her life before she took to the waters of baptism.
Edwin’s life quickly fell apart in 1845. The birth of his son brought joy that was tempered just weeks later with the sudden passing of his young bride. All of a sudden, Edwin found he had much in common with his mother, Electa.
He was left alone with a child to raise – and without the means to care for him. All records state that Electa was there to help with the baby. But clearly she was also there to counsel her son through a crisis she was familiar with. Just weeks after Electa embraced baptism, so did Edwin.
Church membership would give direction for Edwin and Electa over the next few crucial years. It would also radically change the course of the family’s history as they all looked west.
The period from the family baptisms of 1845 until the Westovers headed to Utah in 1848 is absent of a lot of detail. What was their connection to the main body of the Church? Was there a local congregation? How did the Westovers know where to go and when in their desires to join in the trek to Zion?
The answers may come from the sudden marriage of Aunt Hannah to a man named John Kempton.
Kempton, along with his previous wife, also named Hannah, had joined the Church in 1834.
They lived in Ohio from 1838 to 1843, then moved to Nauvoo. Voting records of 1845 shows that Kempton was there.
Records are scant, but there is some indication Kempton served in leadership capacities with the Church and was highly respected. Later Church historical records show that on October 6, 1848 “The general conference in Great Salt lake City met in the Bowery. The forenoon meeting was addressed by Elders John Kempton Charles C. Rich, Parley P. Pratt, Heber C. Kimball and Pres. Brigham Young and others.”
Also, later “At the public meeting held in the Bowery in Great Salt Lake City, Sunday 5 Nov. 1848, Elders Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor, Erastus Snow, John Kempton, and Pres. Brigham Young presided.”
After enduring some persecution in Nauvoo, and then the passing of his wife, Kempton moved to Ohio to be closer to some of his adult children.
It was there that he met Hannah Beal and married her just 10 months or so after losing his wife.
Kempton’s connections were obviously useful for preparing the Westover sisters and their families to move west.
However, once arriving in Salt Lake City, it appears that John and Hannah separated. Hannah was listed in 1850 in Salt Lake City as a school teacher — unattached to anyone. John was listed as married to and living with his fourth wife.
Perhaps there was an issue of age. Fourteen years separated them and when they met in 1846 John was 69 years old and Hannah was 54. Or maybe it was a marriage where John was intended to provide for Hannah’s welfare. Or perhaps they just were not compatible.
We just know that before the trek they were together and soon after arriving in Salt Lake they were not.
Several individuals played important roles in helping the Westovers to leave Ohio. Certainly John Kempton deserves some credit for helping to make it happen.
Sarah Jane Burwell was born in January of 1833.
Her father, Joseph Burwell, would tragically die just nine months later, in September of 1833 at the age of 36 – nearly the same age and around the same time that Edwin Westover lost his father, Alexander.
Sarah Jane was named after her mother – Sarah Jane Bleeks. She was the youngest child and the last of six girls born to Joseph and Sarah Jane Burwell.
In 1842 Sarah Jane Bleeks met William Amos Morse, a man who had recently lost his wife.
Together they blended their families and a year after they married they found the Mormon Church and were baptized. Morse was a physician and his age and experience were enough to be named a Captain of Ten on the trek west.
Exactly how Sarah Jane Burwell became acquainted with Edwin Westover is lost to history.
We only know that at the age of 15 in 1848, months before leaving Ohio, Edwin and Sarah Jane were wed.
In fact, it was from proceeds of the sale of property passed down from her father, Joseph, that outfitted the Westover family for their trip west.
It is interesting to note that this party included Hannah and her new husband John Kempton along with her adult daughter Adeline and her children, Electa with her two youngest sons Charles and Oscar, Edwin and his bride Sarah Jane with the young Edwin Lycurgus, Sarah Jane Bleeks Burwell Morse with her husband William and his two oldest children, plus James Bay (<-- remember this name), a cousin of Edwin’s first wife, Sarah.
All of these people were converts. Each had suffered significant loss.
All wanted to be with the body of Saints heading to Zion. Each brought their story, their talents and their resources to bear in making it all happen.
But the story of Sarah Jane Burwell is unique among them.
In an instant her life changed and she became a mother – a role she would carry from that time forward until her passing.
Over the course of her 27 years with Edwin she would bear 14 children. It all began as she embraced Edwin Lycurgus and mothered him across the plains and through pioneer living.
The histories of both Edwin and Charles details the journey from their Ohio homes to Council Bluffs, which was across the river from Winter Quarters.
Earlier towards the end of 1847, Brigham Young put the word out for the Saints to gather in Winter Quarters and to move across the plains together. The Westovers of Ohio answered that call along with thousands of others.
Unlike the handcart companies of later years the large companies assembled for the 1848 trip across the plains were filled with wagons laden with food, tools, farm implements and the stuff of life required on the frontier.
The movement of thousands of people plus all they could carry in wagons pulled by their livestock was no small undertaking. The Westover clan was typical – they had young and old, beasts of burden, and wagons stuffed with all they could take.
Before they could leave the civilized world they had just a few short weeks to gather those things they may have forgotten. From that point forward, civilization would have to come to them.
Charles Westover was now 21-years old and still finding his way in the world, uncertain still of where he belonged.
At Winter Quarters he heard word that Erastus Snow was looking for a driver of his team, someone to lead his family across the plains.
Charles sought him out and thus began a life-long relationship. The paths of Apostle Erastus Snow would cross many times with the Westovers in the decades ahead.
Charles had made his decision regarding baptism and since he could not find the original Elder who spoke so powerfully way back before his mother joined the Church he sought out baptism from Erastus Snow.
It would be the first of several spiritual experiences for the young Charles Westover in the early going of their trek west.
Twenty-three miles west of Winter Quarters, the wagon train arrived at the bank of the Elkhorn River where a ferry was located. This became the place of rendezvous and a staging area where the Saints could be organized and receive final instructions. By May 30, there were 457 wagons camped there, and still more were on their way.
Two more individuals of consequence entered the life of Charles Westover while at the Elkhorn. The first was Isaac Morley, a patriarch who played important roles in the early history of the Church and another individual who would settle Manti, Utah and become known to the Smith and Snow families of our lineage who had settled there as well. From “Father Morley”, Charles received a Patriarchal blessing.
In this blessing Charles was promised with his choice of a companion — an event that did not take long to be fulfilled. In fact, it was while at the Elkhorn Charles found and met his future bride, Eliza Ann Haven.
Charles wrote: “While there at the camp I saw a young lady who just took my fancy. I thought she was a married woman, not withstanding I watched her at every opportunity.”
The arrival in Zion did not guarantee a thing. People forget that the pioneers of 1847 were a very small group — maybe about 1200 people in all. The pioneers of 1848 pushed the population of Salt Lake beyond 5000 people.
The Westovers, with scores of others, set to work helping to harvest the meager crops planted the year before. There just was not enough.
So food was a major problem. This was the year the Sego Lily became a symbol of sustenance. It was plainly needed for survival.
The Westovers took to what was called the Old Fort — adobe walls with flat sod roofs that leaked in any kind of weather. It was infested with rats, bugs and even snakes. The time from their September arrival to the Spring of 1849 would prove to be a long, dark, and hungry winter.
The Saints gathered on the temple block under a temporary cover called The Bowery, similar to what is pictured below.
The primitive setting for their gathering was much like their homes – it could only get better in time. Brigham Young gathered the Saints and assigned them two plots of land — one was a city plot large enough for a home and a garden and the other was a 10-acre farm plot further away from the city, near where Liberty Park now stands today.
In the city they were in the Ninth Ward, where a ward building was constructed at the corner of 5th East and 4th South.
There were a number of faith-building practices among the early Latter-day Saints that are no longer in use today. One of these is the ordinance of re-baptism. It was used as a means of re-commitment and also as a means of repentance.
Electa Westover felt the need for re-baptism in 1849. It would be one of many steps she would take over the years to demonstrate her faith.
Electa and Alexander’s youngest child, Oscar Fitzland Westover, never embraced Mormonism.
During Charles’ investigation of the Church and his brush with anti-Mormon forces Oscar was there. Both were teenagers.
Oscar is on record as coming with his family as part of Brigham Young’s company in 1848.
But at 21 years of age Oscar had no intention of staying with the Mormons and he soon took off for California. As the record below shows, Oscar had the help of his mother, Electa, a couple of times during the course of the ensuing years.
But Oscar ultimately stayed in California, when he had a successful fruit farm in Petaluma, and then in Fort Bragg, where he died in 1905.
Another faith-promoting ordinance common to Latter-day Saints is a patriarchal blessing. Such a priesthood blessing is given by a patriarch – a special priesthood office specific to this function. In the blessing one can learn their ancient lineage through the Abrahamic covenant and receive personal spiritual insight and direction for their lives.
As noted previously, Charles Westover had received such a blessing from Isaac Morley while at the Elkhorn river in Nebraska. But that blessing was never recorded. At this time in the fall of 1849 great changes were in store for Charles and he sought out another blessing from the Church patriarch, Father John Smith, uncle to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The curious language in this blessing is similar to language used in a patriarchal blessing that his brother, Edwin, would later receive. In it Charles is told “the Lord hath called thee to a mighty work…”
What was that mighty work?
It the work of “gathering the remnants of Joseph” — a work that would include all of his posterity.
Edwin and Charles were about to build their families. The future blessings they would receive would speak specifically of and specifically to those people – to us.
On October 14, 1849 Charles married Eliza Ann Haven in the home of Erastus Snow by President Brigham Young. Charles was still working for Erastus Snow who would be leaving soon on a mission to Denmark. The newly wed Westovers would stay with the Snow family in the 13th ward of Salt Lake City for the first several years of their married life.
Eliza Ann Haven came from another pioneer family that came west in 1848. Previously the Havens had lived in Nauvoo. Eliza would record her memories of life there as a teenager. She was fifteen when the prophet Joseph Smith was murdered. Eliza is known in Church history circles for a letter she wrote to a son about witnessing the “transfiguration” of Brigham Young while living in Nauvoo.
Eliza was another woman of tremendous example as a pioneer. She was faithful. She served her family. She supported her husband’s many activities. She raised 11 children.
Charles and Eliza were referred in the local paper as the first couple married in Utah. That’s likely not true. But both Charles and Eliza survived well into the 20th century and left an incredible legacy.
In establishing colonies in the Mountain West Brigham Young felt it was his duty to advise the Saints to care for the widows and the elderly. As more and more immigrants made their way to Utah he would ask prominent and capable men to support these women as plural wives.
In that spirit, Electa Westover was sealed to Eleazar Miller, a man who actually played a part in the conversion of Brigham Young in the 1830s.
Miller had several wives and it is doubtful that Electa knew him well at all. In fact, there is nothing in the record to suggest that she joined Miller’s family or ever lived with him. There is, however, a record on file of Brigham Young inquiring after Electa by asking Miller, “How is the new Mrs. Miller?”
We’re all related – eventually.
The experience of Charles Westover at Winter Quarters introduced Erastus Snow to the family. Over the course of the next decades the name of Snow would become embedded into our family history. So too would be the names of Smith, Riggs, Rowe, Humble, Barnhurst and others.
Fortunately, our first brush with Mormon fame, Erastus Snow, is actually related. How are we related?
Grandpa Riggs married Muriel Snow, a daughter of Joseph Homer Snow, who was a son of James Chauncey Snow, who was a son of Gardner Snow. Gardner Snow’s father and Erastus Snow’s father were brothers.
All of this is important to remember because as our timeline unfolds below the name of Erastus Snow comes up again and again.
It is also important to remember as we publish timelines like this one for the Smiths, Snows, Riggs and other lines from which we are descended.
You see, the world was much smaller in Utah during these generations. Erastus Snow would have interactions and know other members of our family.
Of course, you cannot mention the name Snow in the context of Church history without also talking of Lorenzo Snow and his sister, Eliza R. Snow. How are we related to them?
That’s a bit more complicated. We are not actually connected to Lorenzo and Eliza R. through the Snow line at all. Our relation comes through the mother of Alexander Westover – Ruth Loomis — and it’s a distant relationship at best. One of Lorenzo’s wives – Sarah Ann Pritchard – was the 4th great granddaughter of Phillip Loomis. Phillip Loomis was Ruth Loomis’ grandfather. So technically we’re cousins – but distantly so.
Despite the shared name of Snow the relationship between Erastus and Lorenzo Snow is even more vague and distant than our connection.
The thing to remember about famous individuals like Erastus Snow, Brigham Young, Daniel H. Wells, and other leading individuals in Utah during the 19th century is that our family members were bound to have interaction with them because the world was much smaller and these were hands-on leaders.
The more interesting thing to focus on is that as the descendants of our first generation Westovers would work side-by-side their counterparts in the Snow, Smith and Riggs families without knowing their descendants would marry.
For example, long before Westovers married Snows and Smiths both Gardner Snow and Albert Smith served in a Sunday School Presidency together in Manti – they were in the same stake and in the same ward. But the Snows and the Smiths would not marry into the Westover lines for another 50 years.
The other thing of note is that not only were names associated but so were places.
The Westovers down in Southern Utah didn’t have any kind of association with the Smiths in Manti. And yet we have active participation of the Smiths in the dedication of the St. George Temple. Could they have run into each other?
There are other coincidences as we dig into the details of lives.
For example, when Charles married Mary Shumway in 1856 we learn that Mary is the daughter of Charles Shumway. Where have we heard that name before?
Well, it was in Manti, where Charles Shumway was a founding father in the 1850s. He had to know Gardner Snow and Albert Smith. There were only about 100 people originally sent to Manti when it was first settled.
Charles Shumway surfaced again in Mendon, years later. We will tell the story of how Charles and Mary Shumway got together as we go through the timeline. Yet it is interesting to note that Charles Shumway was a leader nearly everywhere he went. Therefore he had intimate contact with the Smiths in Manti and also the Westovers and Findleys in Mendon.
These kind of coincidences come up over and over and over.
As you plow through the details it is quite easy to mix history, lines and relationships because all of these people were all over the map, literally, as they settled various areas and served in different capacities.
We know now how they are all related to us. But they didn’t know then that they would have family connections down the road. It makes us grateful for the details of their lives that we can find and share. The more information we locate the more we are able to understand how it all happened.