Seeing what I have: unsourced biography of Levi Savage

I was looking through some files someone gave me and came across this un-sourced biography of Levi written by an unknown source. Without sources I can double-check, I can’t accept anything here as truth, but it does give me some things that I can start checking against other sources. As a genealogist, nothing can be accepted as truth until we have some evidence. Evidence includes information from official documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates, journal entries, and newspaper articles. Since any of these can contain mistakes, we usually want to find multiple sources of evidence for a given event, such as a birth.

Biography quoted in its entirety without any changes:

“Levi Savage Jr. was born 23 March 1823 in Greenfield, Huron County, Ohio, son of Levi Savage Sr. and Polly Haynes.  He was the second of fifteen children.  He grew up in southern Michigan having moved there from Ohio.

Levi was a farm boy with some schooling, he became a teamster, soldier, teacher, pioneer, missionary to the Far East, India and Burma.  He finished his life as a farmer in southern Utah.

In the early 1840’s his farther and mother became affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) generally called Mormon.  The family moved from Michigan to Nauvoo, Illinois and later moved with the Mormons to Salt Lake City, Utah in 1847.

During the move from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City Levi Jr. enlisted in to the U.S Army as a part of the Mormon battalion.  Levi’s enlistment was for one year July 1846 – January 1847 in Company D of the battalion.  The battalion marched 1,400 miles from Council Bluff, Iowa to San Diego, California.

Levi’s family was a part of the Abraham O. Smoot/George B. Wallace wagon train company 1847.  Levi’s mother Polly Haynes Savage died on the wagon trek to Utah.  Levi did not find this out until after he finished his enlistment with the Mormon battalion.  Levi arrived in Salt Lake City via San Diego on 16 October 1847, just three weeks after the family had arrived in Utah.  Levi’s father had brought Miss Jane Mathers on the wagon trek to cook for the family.  Levi had formed an acquaintance with Jane before his Mormon battalion experience.  When Levi connected back with the family he and Jane renewed their acquaintance and were married 23 January 1848.

Levi and Jane had their first and only child on 11 January 1851 named Levi Mathers Savage.  Jane died 29 December 1851 leaving Levi Jr to raise their infant.  In October 1852 Levi Jr. was called on Mormon mission to the Far East country of Siam.  This required Levi Jr. to leave his 21 month old son with his sister Hanna Maria Savage Eldridge while he served a four year mission in the Far East.

Levi left for Siam 21 October 1852 by traveling through Las Vegas, Nevada to Los Angeles, California and then by boat to San Fransisco, California.  30 January 1853 Levi left San Fransisco headed for Siam.  After the boat left Levi was struck with small pox, but survived the outbreak.  Levi arrived in Calcutta, India 25 April 1853 and then went on to Rangoon but spent most of his time in Calcutta.  Siam was experiencing a civil war and thus Levi never reached Siam.  Levi served 21/2 years in the Far East mission and started home for Utah on 12 October 1855.   He travel from Calcutta, India to Boston, Massachusetts by going around the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.  Levi arrived in Boston 28 February 1856 and went on to Ohio and Michigan to visit family.  From his journal Levi writes on 19 June 1856, “I have circled the globe.”

On 10 July 1856 Levi was in Iowa City, Iowa and joined the ill-fated Willy hand-cart company that was planning to travel to Salt Lake City.   Levi was one of the “sub captains” of the group.  On 13 August 1856 Levi is quoted as telling the group that going so late in the season was dangerous.  According to the narrative of this fatal journey given by John Chislett, when Elder Savage was overruled he said: “What I have said I know to be true; but seeing your to go forward, I will go with you, will help all I can, will work with you, will rest with you, and if necessary, will die with you.  May god in his mercy bless and preserve us.”  Over one fifth of the group died of freezing and starvation before they arrived in Salt Lake City on 9 November 1856.

Levi had now return Salt Lake City some four years and one month of an around the world trip.  His son Levi Mathers Savage was now close to five years old.

After all of Levi’s world experience he moved to Lehi, Utah for seven years and then to Toquerville, Utah where he lived the last 45 years of his life with his three wives and three children.  Levi and his family lived in a little adobe house sharing all the common illnesses, ordinary difficulties, deaths of children, grandchildren, sacrifices to send boys on missions and children to school, weddings, special family dinners and being helpful to their neighbors.

Levi keep a very lengthy journal starting 6 October 1852 to 16 March 1903 and one of his last entries February 1903, Saturday, “This date shows that I have neglected to note daily occurrences in my journal for some time past; however, it is better late than never.”

Levi Savage Jr. passed away on 13 December 1910 in Toquerville, Washington County, Utah and is buried in the same place.”

This is the first mention I have seen of Levi being a teacher and I would love to track down where and what he taught (if he did). I’m also curious what he did as a teamster.

There are some inconsistencies. I think he was born in 1820 rather than 1823, and I think that his mother died in Winter Quarters, before the trek to Utah. While family lore says that Jane traveled with his family to Utah as their cook, I only have evidence that she was in the same wagon train as Levi’s father and brother.

This biography raises one question that I am interested in further checking out. Did Levi and Jane know each other during or prior to being in Nauvoo? Levi’s diary mentions that he had a slight acquaintance with Jane prior to his enlistment in the Mormon Battalion. Does that go back to Michigan? Both Jane and Levi were from Michigan and both had ties to Kalamazoo.

I have some documents that can prove some aspects of this biography.

1) The marriage record of Levi Savage & Polly Haynes.

I found this in Huron County, Ohio about 15 years ago when I was just starting out as a genealogist and didn’t know the importance of appropriate citation and documentation. Now I don’t even remember if I was at a courthouse or in the town government building. Thus, at the moment, I have no citation for this, but will track it down.

marriage record of levi savage and polly cropped

2) His pension record which shows that he served in the Mormon Battalion

Page 2

3) His diary, which states that he was called to Siam and records his travels and experiences.

4) His death certificate

death certificate from familysearch.org

Death certificate: “Utah Death Certificates, 1904-1956,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XZGS-63J : accessed 12 Jan 2013), Levi Savage, 13 Dec 1910.

His gravestone might also be of interest:

levi jr gravestone

This was accessed on findagrave.com on January, 12, 2013 and is from Levi’s page (memorial # 145926)

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3 Responses to Seeing what I have: unsourced biography of Levi Savage

  1. Rayna Larson says:

    I don’t know if you are still searching for information on Levi Savage and Jane Mathers, but I am a descendant and have some information that may be helpful to you. My e-mail address is rayna342002@yahoo.com. Some of the information can be found in Levi Mathers Savage journals that he kept. As a young adult he went back to Michigan and visited with all of his Mathers relatives and wrote down what they told him about Jane. I know a lot more and will try and sources for you if you are interested.

    • Hi Rayna. I have some info on Jane but have not seen any documentation about Jane’s marriage, and subsequent annulment. Do you have any documenation about that? I’ll be sending you an email so we can chat via email. Thanks for stopping by and leaving comments. I always love learning about new cousins

  2. Rayna Larson says:

    I know the story of how Jane happened to be on that trek alone as a 17 year old. Her parents were packed and ready to go join the other Mormons and their neighbor came and talked to the parents that night and they decided not to go. Jane said she was going anyway and her little sister tells that she walked away from the family and the little sister ran after her and hugged her and that was the last time she saw her. It seems that there was another girl who was friends with Jane and so the two of them joined the trek. Somewhere along the way Jane was married into a polygamist family and the first wife was not happy with this at all. Jane was not happy with the situation either. I always was told that she was assigned to ride with this family, but records show that she was in fact married to the man. When Levi’s mother died in childbirth, this was a when Jane came to help out with the new baby and to cook for the Savages. I had always imagined a romance between Jane and Levi before he joined the Mormon Battalion, but it seems that they did not really know each other. Since they were in the same company, they had probably met. I haven’t researched what happened to Jane’s girl friend and if she was also married to someone in the same company. But after helping with the Savage family they knew her well and it did not take Levi long to get to know her. There was some questions about her marriage to the other man and this was taken to Brigham Young who said that it was not a valid marriage or some such thing. And she and Levi were married a few months after he returned to Salt Lake City. She only lived 11 months after her son, Levi Mathers Savage was born and died of a hemorrhage that may have been a result of something that went wrong at the birth.

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