Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Harris Shannon Stephenson Biography


by one of his children

Copied 17 Jul 1991 by Vaun E. Harrison

Harris Shannon Stephenson, son of Isaac Henderson Stephenson and Mary Pugh was born October 13, 1838, at Knox, Tennessee. He was the third son in a family of nine. His mother died in his early manhood. After the mother's death, an aunt assumed the responsibility of the family. She was good to the children in her way, but she was a very superstitious person. Everything that happened was an omen of disaster. One day Harris brought his hoe in the house after hoeing in the field and she became furious, and said, "You little devil, don't you know that is the sign of a death and I hope it's you." Harris Shannon soon left this abode and went out to learn carpentering, and became very efficient in that line. After finishing his course he went to Salt Lake City. there he was chosen as on of the teamsters who met the pioneers and brought them into the valley. It was while he was thus employed that he met his future wife, Isabella Sproul. While bringing her company into the valley, he raised his whip to urge the horse on, and hit her in the face. The company teased Isabella about it, and told her she would marry that boy. He wooed and wed Isabella on October 4, 1862, and brought her as his bride to Richmond, Utah. At this time the Indians were very hostile, and father was chosen as a minute man to stand guard over the white settlers, receiving little or no pay. He was in the saddle for days at a time. He looked very fine in the saddle with his proud erect carriage and military bearing.

Eight children were born to them at Richmond. He was one of the first settlers in Lewiston, Utah. They would plant their crops, then a sand storm would come and blow them out, making it necessary for the men to obtain work elsewhere to support their families. This work usually was for the Railroad Company in Idaho and Montana. Lewiston, at this time, was known as Poverty Flats. The farmers worked hard to subdue the elements and set water to their farms. They made a canal and took the water out of the CubRiver. It was a long trying ordeal, but they were rewarded for their labor and lived to possess some of the best land in the country. Masonry work that Harris Shannon did on the canal stands as a monument to his memory. After the water was available on the farms at Lewiston, the family settled there, where their last child was born June 7, 1880.

The family owned a large band of sheep, also cattle and horses. It was very interesting when the roundup came in the fall, when all the cattle and sheep were brought in for the winter. Harris Shannon had a son, also named Harris Shannon, and this son always remembered an animal once he saw it. His service with the cattlemen was indispensable.

It was now, when Harris' trade was valuable to him, that he did much carpentry work. He did a lot of work for missionaries' wives while they were away, and would say that nothing was due when they wanted to pay him. As there were no undertakers in those days, he made all of the caskets, coffins as they were called, for all of Cache Valley. It seemed there was always a casket in the making, and his daughter Susie, did all the trimming. The inside was a beautiful, all white material, padded with cotton batting. This was covered with a white material with raised figures and flowers and dainty white lace. The caskets were covered with black velvet on the outside. The handles and the breastplate were made of a metal resembling silver with a verse inscribed in it. The children were afraid when the casket was on the table. Death was a terrible thing to children in those days. Harris Shannon would laugh and tell Isabella that little Clair would sit and play with the shavings while he was planing the lumber, but as soon as he began to shape the casket, out she went. Clair was so afraid, she loved to be in his shop and smell the new lumber, but she could never bear to be there after the casket was shaped.

In the year 1888 or 89, Harris was called on a mission to the Southern States. His companion was James Anderson. It was just after the martyrdom of Elders Gibbs and Barry. The mob spirit at that time was terrible in those states. The worst enemies were the ministers, who were working for money. The missionaries were in danger of their lives all the time. Their mail was withheld and read. For a while, his enemies opened his mail. In one letter from Isabella, she told of our bountiful harvest, and how we all missed and loved him. She said, if those people could understand the sacrifice the Elders were making to bring the gospel to them, they would at least be kind to them. In this letter, she told him how little Clara prayed for him and she enclosed the following poem she had learned:

In her white gown kneeling there, here she is, poor little Clair.

Little Clair, her father's pet, is she likely to forget?

No, each night she seems to miss, more and more, his living kiss.

And each night, she kneels to pray, please, God, bring him back some day.

When Harris came for his mail, the postman told him his letters had been opened by mistake, and that he was sorry. It never happened again, and he was always treated with respect after that. Many nights, they were in the woods in a rainstorm, because the mobs were hunting them. On one occasion, at the home where the Elders were staying, the mobs surrounded the house, and after praying for protection, the lady let them out the back way, leading into the woods. It seemed but a few minutes until the mob burst open the door and demanded the old people turn the Elders over to them. They searched the house, and ran bayonets through the bed where the Elders had slept. After two and one half years, the missionaries were honorably released to come home. He returned home in March, 1890. His health was badly impaired from exposure lying out in the woods in storms, and going without proper nourishment. He was never well again, and on August 30, 1896, he passed away, a martyr to the cause of truth. He was 57.

Some of his character traits were being honest to a fault, truthful and dependable, sound judgment, never letting his left hand knowwhat his right hand did for the widows and orphans. One lady told of when they were children gleaning wheat after the thresher, and Harris took them to dinner, then loaded three sacks of good grain into their wagon, and told them to feed that which they had gleaned to their chickens. The children's father was on a mission, and their mother could not speak English.

Some of his favorite poems were:

Know this, that every man is free, to choose his life, and what he'll be.

For this eternal truth is given, God will force no man to heaven.

He'll call, persuade, direct aright, fill him with wisdom, love and light

In numerous ways, is good and kind, but never force the human mind.

Our trials, though they seem severe, are oft in mercy sent.

Vice is a monster of so frightful mein, as to be hated, needs but to be seen.

Yet, seen too often, familiar with its face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, thanks for sharing this. I'm a descendant of Isaac Henderson Stephenson through Archibald Benjamin Stephenson. I'm looking for any additional information you might have on the Stephenson family including Isaac's parents Robert and Jane in Tennessee. Please let me know. Thanks! Guy glstephenson60@gmail.com