Submitted by Cheryl Harmon Bills
Alfred Stevens, son of Aaron and Louisa Betts Stevens, was born 9 Jan 1815, in London, England. When his parents married, Aaron was 18 and Louisa was 16. They resided in London and also owned a country home in Essex. They helped supply milk for the poor. His mother, left a widow at the age of 19 with two small children, placed Alfred and his sister, Louisa who was about eight months old, in the care of a governess while she took care of the business. The children were later put in a boarding school and soon after the mother married Mr. Greenfield, the Queen’s footman, which at that time was quite an honor.
When Alfred was 15, he ran away from the boarding school and joined the Navy. He loved the Sea, and in due time became Captain of a sailing vessel. He followed this vocation until he left England.
Alfred was of a religious nature and loved to read the Bible, which he knew and loved. On his voyages, the Bible was his constant companion. On 21 Jun 1837 he married Miss Christina Lynd and from this union there were 11 children born. However, his twin sons, Charles Lynd and Aaron Bethel both named after their grandfathers had died as babies, one at age 14 months and the other 5 months later. These deaths were followed by two daughters, Elizabeth and Christina dying within 6 months of their births, the latter death being in 1850.
About 1850, when Alfred was 35 years old and the father of 4 living and 4 deceased children, some Mormon missionaries were on board his ship. He was drawn into their conversation, asking many questions and comparing their answers to the Bible. He was so comforted by the Plan of Salvation and knowing that this doctrine agreed with the Bible, Alfred was converted to their religion and baptized 12 April 1851. He did not tell his wife for two years, knowing that she was very opposed to this unpopular new doctrine. During this two year period, Alfred’s oldest daughter, Hannah Louisa secretly joined the Church without any of her family knowing. She was baptized 6 Mar 1852. Hannah and her father met at a Church meeting, much to the surprise [and JOY!] of both! Alfred broke the news first to his mother-in-law [Hannah Tomlinson Lynd] while she was on her deathbed. She was a very staunch Methodist, but he explained baptism for the dead to her, and she said she felt it was right and expressed her wish to have her work done. Once again, the cruel hand of death softened a heart. Alfred’s wife, Christina was baptized 20 Mar 1854 shortly after her mother passed away.
The Stevens family was very earnest in their belief and always welcomed the missionaries into their home the remainder of the time they were in England. Death of loved ones brought with it a balm of healing for this family as they placed their faith in their Savior and his plan that none were lost to him and that all would have an opportunity for the gospel to be taught to them.
Some time later, Alfred’s wealthy mother became very ill. She called her son to her bedside and told him she was going to die and asked him to handle her vast estate. He preached the gospel to her and told her if she would believe in it she would be healed. She was healed through administration of the Priesthood and her son’s faith, though she thought it would be impossible. Because of her high society life style, she said she could not accept the gospel for it would mean giving up too much. This displeased Alfred who said if she thought more of her society than she did of her soul, he wanted nothing more to do with her or her money. She lived for some years after, too proud and too involved in her high- society to enjoy the blessings of the gospel. Life was not easy for Alfred and Christina Stevens, who had been used to a life of considerable luxury, but gave up Alfred’s inheritance for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was indeed tested in every way but was never tempted to give up his testimony of the truth in exchange for ease of living in this world. When his mother died, however, she appeared to Alfred to let him know that she had been mistaken and asked him to do her temple work for her.
Alfred, Christina and family seemed to have no other thought than to come to America to be with the Saints. Their oldest daughter, Hannah, had married Joseph Matthews and had one son, Samuel born in 1852. She was separated from her husband because of her testimony of the gospel. It was decided by the family that she should go to America first, with her sister, Jane and earn the money for the rest of the family to come later. Sorrow and misfortune were their lot, however. Hannah’s baby, about 8 months old, contracted measles on board ship and died. On the journey through the Wasatch mountains, her sister Jane passed away in Aug. 1863. Hannah went on to Zion alone. On 11 Aug 1865, she married Lot Darney.
Alfred, Christina and three other children: Christina, age 13, Robert age 11, and Ellen, age 3, left Liverpool England for America on 6 May 1866 on the packet ship, Saint Mark. Concerning this voyage, is a paragraph taken from THE MASTERFUL DISCOURSES AND WRITINGS OF ORSON PRATT:
“On the 6th inst. the fine packet ship Saint Mark cleared from Liverpool for New York, carrying several hundred emigrants. The second cabin was occupied by 95 American adult passengers, members of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Elder Alfred Stevens, an English Sea Captain, was appointed president and unanimously sustained by the vote of the Saints. The Saints were suitably instructed in relation to the voyage and were promised a safe passage on condition of due diligence to all their duties.”
The Stevens family arrived in Utah in Oct. 1860, after suffering all the trials of the Saints at that time in crossing the plains. They made many sacrifices for the gospel of Jesus Christ, including leaving their homeland, family and friends, and more especially leaving a son and daughter, Alfred Jr. and Ann Agnes, never to see them again.
Arriving in Utah, they made their home in Slaterville, Weber County, where they engaged in farming. Alfred taught school in the winter, receiving produce for pay. Christina was a good wife and mother and a useful member of the church. She often went out to care for the sick in her community. In 1870, Alfred married in polygamy, a widow, Mary Slater Reed, with three children and together they had three more children: Louisa Jane, Joseph and Merilda.
His son, Alfred Jr. and wife, Annie McFarland and their five children intended to come to Zion and be with the rest of the family. Everything seemed to prevent their coming. They sold all their household goods three different times in readiness. Like his father, Alfred Jr. was also a sea captain and while on one voyage, he was to have received sufficient wages to come. The ship, however,was struck with lightning and they were on board the burning ship for two days before being picked up. While down in the hold of the ship, trying to do something to help, the boiler exploded and Alfred Jr. was seriously injured causing hemorrhages from his lungs thereafter. He lost both his money and clothes and had to use what money he received in New York for his hospital bill. He was away from home for 9 months–his wife receiving no news or money from him. She had to leave four small children alone in a tenement house and go out washing to earn enough money to feed her family. When Alfred returned home without any money, she was very disappointed. Work was hard to get and wages very small. The least cold weather would start her husband coughing and spitting blood. A baby, Robert Templeton, was born and was very sickly, requiring lots of care. Alfred Jr. continued to sail, but things went from bad to worse. On returning home from a voyage one day, he found his wife very ill. She was 7 months along with her 6th baby, but it was born early and died. They buried it that night. Alfred had to return to work, and thinking his wife would soon be well, he left on another voyage. Instead she became worse and passed away while he was at sea on 24 Dec 1873, leaving the children to the mercy of the neighbors. The mother lay in her casket at home over Christmas day and was buried the following day. The neighbors would not allow the children to go to the funeral because they did not have black dresses. When Alfred arrived home, he did what he could to keep the family together, but was robbed by his housekeeper who took the money he sent and left the children destitute. Not knowing what to do, he put them in the Union House, a place kept by the Catholics for homeless children while he tried to work, but the shock of his wife’s death and the injuries he had sustained were too much for him. He passed away 9 Aug 1874. The children were then left alone. When their Grandfather, Alfred Stevens Sr. received the news of his son’s death, he set at once to find the family, knowing they were alone and friendless. He knew a missionary, Archie McFarland, who was laboring near South Shields and asked him to locate the children and make arrangements for their voyage to America which he did. At this time, the eldest child was 10 and the baby had brain fever. In Sept 1875, they started from Liverpool, England and arrived at their grandparents home in Slaterville on 3 July 1875. The oldest boy, William James was taken to live with his father’s sister, Ellen in Salt Lake City, but he contracted diphtheria and died in Jan 1876. The other children, when they were old enough, hired out to different places to earn their board and clothes. Christina married in polygamy at the age of 18 to her Uncle by marriage, her Aunt Hannah Darney’s husband, Lot, and had five children. Isabel married Joseph John Oborn and had 8 children. Alfred married Edith Norton and they had 8 children. Robert married Rose Heshler and had five children, four of whom died when very young babies. Alfred’s daughter, Ann Agnes, who stayed in England, married Thomas Tin and had nine children. She died in 1879 and Thomas died soon after. Much to the sorrow of their grandparents, the children were not located. They remain unknown to the family.
Alfred Stevens died 31 Aug 1881 in Slaterville, Weber, Utah. His wife Christina died 12 Aug 1888. His polygamous wife, Mary Ann died 18 Jan 1929.