A sketch of the life of Levi Wheeler
Levi Wheeler was born July 5, 1812, at Greene, Maine. Very little is
known about his father, Simon Wheeler. We first learn of Simon as working
for his father-in-law, Simon Stevens, at a saw mill in Augusta and Lewiston
Maine. Simon married Sarah Stevens and moved to Green, Maine, where he
bought a home. Several of Simon and Sarah's children were born at Greene
and Leeds, which are three miles apart. Simon and Sarah moved about considerably
and at present we do not know the birthplace of all the children -- 12
Levi told his family that his father was in the lumber business and
that as a boy he helped cut the trees and take the logs down to Kennebec
and Penebscot Rivers and that the summer even at 16 years he went barefooted.
Levi became a man of six feet and weighed over 200 pounds. His eyes
were blue and his hair was gray at an early age, but it was thick and was
never slickly combed for he had a habit of running his fingers through
At 21 years he married Maryann Wilder Arnold, the daughter of Jonathan
and Mary W. Arnold. They lived in Maine and Massachusetts where 4 of their
children were born, Levi Lincoln, George Walton, Calvin and Almyra. The
story is told that his wife first heard the Elders preach and when Levi
came home from the logging she told him about them and induced him to go
and hear them preach, and that one of the Elders was George Walton. They
were converted and baptized in 1846, and they named their next son George
Walton, after the elder who had brought them the gospel. Before their last
child, Melissa, was born they moved to Nauvoo, Illinois along with some
of Levi's brothers and mother, and then moved to Paw Paw, Illinois, where
his wife Maryann died with tuberculosis in 1850. Baby Melissa was then
3 years old.
The Wheelers seemed to have the foot-itch, and so Jacob, Levi and probably
others of the family went to the California Gold Rush of 1849. From this
Levi amassed quite a little fortune. In 1855 he packed up his belongings
with his young family and came out West and settled at Ogden, Utah. He
built a home on the lot where Weber College now stands. Then he built a
saw mill up the canyon which became known as Wheeler Basin. At this mill
many of his relatives were employed, which included his brother Simon,
his sister Martha's son, Levi Smith, and some of the Perrys. It is said
that he and President John Taylor were good friends and they went together
and bought a threshing machine.
In 1861 Levi married Mrs. Jeanette Sinclair Gillispie and Margaret McAlpine
Miller. Margaret had heard of the gospel in Scotland and tried to get her
husband to join the Church. He would not join, so Margaret came to America
alone. She was an old lady when she married Levi and a room was given her
in the home where she was taken care of and where she kept house for herself.
Mrs. Gillispie had two children, William and Annie, at the time she married
Levi. Jeanette and Levi had one child, Lorin, then she died. In 1865 Levi
married again and this time to a young girl, Phebe Roxy Perry, at the Salt
Lake Endowment House. The Perry's were poor people and Levi looked after
his young wife's family also. He prospered in his business and Phebe had
everything that could be given in a Pioneer home, and she was among the
women who wore silk dresses in those days. Levi was very good to his wife
and she said of him that he was a "gentleman".
Levi was getting to be an old man before his new family were all born.
By his wife Phebe, he had the following children: Maryann, Josiah, LeRay,
Sarah, Almeda, Ida, Survina, and Bertha. The last three children were born
in Lewiston, Utah, while the others were born at Ogden, Utah. Here he made
his home for the ten years before his death in 1866. He had a saw mill
in Sugar Creek Canyon, near Franklin, Idaho.
Levi made several trips East, and one was when his mother died at Paw
Paw, Illinois, in 1865. Several of his people came out West to see him,
and always there managed to be a close tie to his brothers and sisters
and their children. But all the Wheelers seemed to have the foot-itch and
have scattered about in the United States until we find them in Maine,
California, Minnesota, Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma and Illinois. Levi often talked
about his relatives to his family.
Levi was a kind, gentle man, generous and loving and a hard worker.
He was to everyone a friend. He was tactful, and often called upon to settle
problems because of his understanding way. His wife Phebe said that never
in his life did he ever speak and unkind word to her or to anyone she knew.
He even took time in his busy pioneer life to teach her to read and write.
Today, June 1950, he had two children living, Bertha McGavin and Survina
Henderson. They live in California. He would be pleased to know that his
descendants were meeting at Lava in his honor and to keep up the strong
family tie which he always felt.