Written 13 July 1964
by Orilla Leavitt Farnsworth and Valeda Leavitt Thompson
(daughters of James and Pennina)
(Information for this history was obtained from Eulalla Taggert, Ellen Stocks, history of
Lewiston, Utah First Ward Primary and family records)
The childhood and youth of James
James Brinkerhoff Leavitt was born in Centerville, Davis County, Utah on 31 August
1858. He was the second son and the forth child of George Leavitt and Janette
Brinkerhoff who were the parents of 14 children, 8 boys and 6 girls. James was baptized
a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on 23 May 1879.
In 1868, James and his half brother Joseph drove their father's
cattle on foot down to the
Virgin River 550 miles to Dixie. Many times they had to wade the river and they would
hang onto a cow's tail until they got across.
Their father had been called by the LDS Church to go to the (Muddy)
or West Point,
Nevada. When James was ten years old and Joseph was nine, they were down on the
"Muddy". At this time they used to go out and get wood with a yoke of oxen. They
would pull the wood out of the ground. When their father was not at home, the oxen
would have to carry the yoke all of the time as the boys were too small to take it off. One
time while their father was after flour about 250 miles away, they ran out of flour and had
to live on bran and molasses.
In 1869, the boys herded cattle about three miles from their home.
They had no horses to
ride and always walked. One day while herding the cattle, they saw a camel coming down
off the hills. They had never seen a camel before but knew it to be one by the pictures
they had seen in books. When the camel came to drink, they caught it with a rope. They
told it to lay down and they got on it and rode it home. The cattle were frightened of it.
One day whiles James and Joseph were herding the cattle, they found a cave and found
three dead Indians and a white man. They went home and told their parents what they had
seen. The next day their father and some more men went to the cave but the bodies were
so decayed and smelled so badly that they could not touch them.
The white boys and Indian boys used to play together. One of their
favorite games was
mud dob. They would put a dob of mud on the stick and throw the mud at each other.
When the mud hit a bare spot it sometimes left a welt. When a boy was hit with the mud,
he had to sit down. All of the clothing the Indian boys had on was a breech cloth. This
was one of the sports they had when James was a boy.
Their father raised cotton and the boys had to pick it. The boys
hired the Indians to pick
the cotton for them and paid them by giving them melons. The squaws would pick the
cotton and the Indian men would lay in the shade. The Indians would steal the melons so
James and Joseph set a shotgun in the melon patch. They fixed a string to the gun and
when the gun went off, it shot one of the Indians in the leg. About six months later, the
Indian came back on crutches and they never bothered the melons again.
At Beaver, their mother picked small pieces of wood from the fences
and bunches from
sagebrush. She made cloth from which she made suits for her boys.
They went to Lewiston, Utah in the spring of 1872. In the winter
of 1874, James and
Joseph stayed down on Bear River with a small band of sheep. They always got up a
daybreak no matter what the weather was. They slept in a wagon box with the snow two
and half feet deep.
James had blue eyes and red hair and wore a full mustache in his earlier
life, but in later
years he was clean shaven. James was of medium stature and agile most of his life. He
could walk on his hands or stand on his head. He sometimes step danced for family and
friends. James had a real sense of humor and had nicknames for nearly everyone. He
loved to make up little rhymes and nearly always put a tune to them. He had a way of
telling without hurting people's feelings and everyone loved him for his humor. A very tall
boy passed his home every morning on his way to school. James called him "high
pockets". One day a friend of his son Clawson came to dinner. His hands were dirty and
James looked at him and said, "Bobby, would you like take off your kid gloves before you
eat?" On another occasion when his grandson, Darwin Thompson, was about five years
old, he burnt his foot on some hot ashes. James immediately said, "Dar-Winkle, Dar-
Winkle, Dar-Wire stuck his foot on some hot ashes. A red hot coal got in his shoe and Oh
lawsy masses how the ashes flew." James' family still finds amusement in recalling his
unique sense of humor.
The childhood and youth of Pennina
Pennina Jane Rawlins was born on 6 April 1859 in Draper, Salt Lake County, Utah. She
was the daughter of Harvey McGalyard and Margaret Elzirah Frost. Pennina (Nine) and
here sister Mary Eveline (Eve) were always together and their childhood's were so much
alike that it is difficult to mention one without the other. They even married brothers.
In 1865 when Pennina was six years old, Eveline was four years old and
Joseph (Jode) William was a baby, they moved from Draper, Utah to Richmond, Utah.
They spent most of their young lives in Richmond where they lived in two or three
On both Rawlins and Frost lines there were many uncles, aunts and cousins.
Eveline's cousins were always dear to them. On Easter they would go to the mountains
south of Richmond which was east of Uncle Dave Carson's place. The family who now
live in Richmond, look at the mountains and have many fond memories of their loved
One time President Brigham Young came to Richmond. All of the
children were dressed in their best clothing. The girls wore their best white dresses. The
children marched through the streets to the meeting house to the music of the Marshall
Band. Their oldest brother, Harvey M. played in the band for a long time.
Their school teachers were Mary VanOrden (Bair), Sarah Angus Karren,
Samuel Allen, Jim Bramberge and Jeff Huff. Mr. Huff brought his violin to school and at
noon taught the children to dance the varsouvionne and the polkas. The children all
learned to dance and enjoyed it greatly. When the girls went to the dances as young
ladies, they went first with their older brothers.
In April 1864, Pennina's father, Harvey M. Rawlins was called to help
disputes. They sold out in Draper and moved to Spring City. In October 1865 they
returned to Draper and learned that her sister, Margaret Elzirah Rawlins had married
Marion Kerr and lived in Richmond, Utah. In November 1865, Pennina's family moved to
Richmond and found their motherless grandson. Pennina's mother, Margaret Elzirah Frost
Rawlins, weaned her own baby Joseph (Jode) William and nursed her grandson James
William Kerr. He lived with them until he was a grown boy and always called her mother.
When he was a man, he was working in a gravel pit above Richmond cemetery where he
and another man were killed in the winter time.
They moved to Lewiston, Utah in April 1871. The parents left the
two (big) girls in
Richmond to finish school. Pennina stayed with Martha Karren and Eveline with Nancy
Jane Kerr. The girls were very homesick by the time their parents came for them.
They didn't have to dig very deep for water. On wash day, Pennina
and Eveline had to
carry the water and see that it was hot and ready. When there was to be a family bathe,
there was more water to heat so everyone could bathe.
Pennina and Eveline had to iron their brothers white shirts which had
fronts, collars and cuffs. The ironing was had to do each week, with irons heated on the
stove. There was much house work for them to do besides the ironing. Both girls helped
good as long as they were at home.
The snow was deep and the young people loved to go sleigh riding.
Nearly everyone had
good horses and sleigh bells on them. Every one could tell whose team was coming as the
bells all sounded differently.
Pennina and Eveline worked out for various women on the flat and they
had to work hard.
When they cleaned house it meant to take everything out of the house and whitewash the
room and then put everything back in it's right place. They never received much pay when
they were through.
They often went to take care of a woman and her baby. Not only
did they take care of the
mother and baby, but they did all the housework and whatever also needed doing.
When they came to the flat it was covered with wild flowers and was
very beautiful. They
enjoyed gathering the flowers. In the spring and summer the grass grew so high that they
had to keep the younger children out of it. If the children got in the grass, they could not
be seen and would become lost. They also had to watch the young calves out in the grass.
The girls had to learn the cows. Many times they had to milk them where they worked.
James Brinkerhoff Leavitt and Pennina Jane Rawlins were married on 5 May 1888 and
Joseph Leavitt and Mary Eveline Rawlins were married a year later in May. Both couple
were endowed and married in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City.
It took James and Pennina more than two weeks to go down to Salt Lake
City to be
married and back again. They went in a big lumber wagon which was filled with enough
hay to feed the horses most of the time they were gone. They had many relatives along
the way and they visited many of them.
When they were first married, they lived in Lewiston First Ward.
The Primary was
organized on 23 June 1888 with Janette Brinkerhoff Leavitt (James' mother) as president,
Pennina Jane Rawlins Leavitt as first counselor, Louisa Waddoups as second counselor
Sarah Archard as secretary and Elizabeth VanOrden as treasurer. Pennina was sustained
on 23 June 1881 and released on 14 July 1886 from this position.
Their first child, James Roy, was born on 14 January 1882 at Lewiston,
Utah. In the summer of 1882 (after Joseph and Eveline were married) both couples
moved to the Bear River where they all lived together in a tent. James and Joseph's father,
George Leavitt had given each of them a 40 acre tract of land adjoining each other which
they were to homestead. The men got out logs for their houses. James' house was made
of sawed logs and Joseph's house of round logs. They built their houses on their own land
but they were only a few rods apart so they would be near each other. There were lots of
coyotes and the neighbors were a long ways from them. When James and Joseph went to
meetings alone, they rode horses. When Pennina and Eveline went, they took a team and
wagon as it was six miles to the meeting house.
On March 1883, Pennina gave birth to her second child, a baby daughter,
at Lewiston, Utah. When the baby was a few weeks old she was exposed to whooping
cough. In a short time, Florina Arminta took sick and died on 4 May 1883 of whooping
cough. They had five more boys before they had another girl. While they lived next to the
Bear River, their third child, George Rawlins, was born on 24 February 1884 at Lewiston,
One time James and Pennina's oldest son, James Roy got lost in a wheat
smashed nearly all of the wheat down before they found him. Both families had ten
children - seven boys and three girls each. Most of the children had red hair.
They lived at the Bear River for a few years. James and Pennina
sold their place and
moved to Auburn, Lincoln County, Wyoming, which is in Star Valley. The couples were
never privileged to live near each other again.
While they were living at Star Valley, four more children were born
to them. They were
Alva Francis born 21 November 1886 in Auburn, Lincoln, Wyoming; Vernal Lesell born
on 9 September 1889 in Lewiston, Cache, Utah; Harvey Mareo born on 20 October 1890
in Auburn, Lincoln, Wyoming and died on 24 February 1891; Zeddie Lee born on 3
September 1892 in Lewiston, Cache, Utah and died 27 January 1897. When Harvey
Mareo died, the snow was very deep. His parents certainly had great courage as Pennina
washed and laid out her own son and James made a coffin from pine boards. They dug his
grave through six feet of snow.
From Star Valley they went to Alberta, Canada with Pennina's brother,
Rawlins. They drove 100 head of cattle. Their son George Rawlins Leavitt was 10 years
old at this time. They left in June and arrived in Canada in October 1894. They had to
stop at the Montana and Canadian line. The cattle were quarantined for 60 days. They
left the cattle there and went up Fish Creek to Mountain View. James and Samuel's
families moved to this small town. The families lived there about a year and it was winter
all of the time they were there with heavy snow. They got disgusted and moved back to
Lewiston, Utah. Pennina knitted all the way up and back from Canada.
When they got back to Lewiston, their daughter, Orilla was born on 6
They stayed in Lewiston for the winter and then moved to Iona, Idaho. From there they
moved to Ora, Fremont County, Idaho where another daughter, Valeda was born on 2
July 1898. From there they moved to Centennial Valley in Montana where they worked
for a sawmill in the winter for Vick Lynn. They put up wild hay for Wood Tick Jones and
they stayed in Montana about four years. From there moved to Jamestown, Bonneville
County, Idaho, which is nine miles southeast of Idaho Falls where their last child Clawson
Rawlins Leavitt was born on 4 June 1903. From Jamestown they moved to Moreland,
Idaho and bought a place and James built a new house.
They lived in Moreland for the rest of their lives, except about two
years which they spent
dry farming a Hamer, Idaho. While at Hamer, during a sudden electrical storm, the
lightning struck the corral fence as James was putting the cows in for the night. He was
struck down and was unconscious for hours and for two or three weeks he didn't
recognize anyone or know where he was. This caused considerable anguish to his family,
but he finally recovered completely with no apparent defects.
James and Pennina were good parents. Their children remember many
happy times in
their childhood. One of the outstanding events was the annual trip to the Ringling
Brother's Circus. Before the circus, there would be a big parade down the main street of
Idaho Falls. It was a large circus and had every animal imaginable with clowns and
beautiful ladies riding on the elephants. One time a female elephant, whose name was
Malm, got loose and swam the Snake River which caused a treat deal of excitement. She
was caught and they saw her with the circus for many summers. They went to the circus
in a whitetop buggy. James took enough hay and grain in the back for the horses.
Pennina packed a big lunch as the family stayed all day.
James was a good farmer. He had a large apple orchard and also
raised a large herd of
swine on his diversified farm. James had a love for horses and always had a good pulling
team. He kept them in shape and would often challenge his friends and neighbors to a
pulling match. When each of his sons were married he gave them a team of horses and a
wagon as a wedding gift.
James always arose early in the morning and while he sang and whistled
he made a pan of
biscuits to have fresh and hot on the oven door when the family arose. Any son or
daughter who had been out late the night before, had to cover up their head with a pillow
to drown out the music, if they wished to sleep late.
Pennina had dark brown hair and blue eyes. She was a short, plump,
who was quiet and reserved. She was a good manager, hard worker, good housekeeper
and homemaker. Her home was always pretty inside and outside with a well kept yard.
She raised a lovely garden and lots of roses. She also had hollyhocks all around the fence.
When her flowers were in bloom, she brought bouquets inside to beautify her home.
James and Pennina provided well for their family. They bought
groceries in large
quantities and had plenty on hand at all times. They had a comfortable life and were not in
need for the necessities.
James Brinkerhoff Leavitt died of a stroke in Idaho Falls, Idaho at
the home of this oldest
son, James Roy on 8 January 1933. Pennina Jane Rawlins Leavitt died of a heart ailment
in the Idaho Falls LDS Hospital on 26 October 1926.