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Lewis, Esther - Biography 1





Annie Wyatt Gunnell Leishman



            Esther was born November 15, 1848, in Cardiganshire, South Wales. Her father was Thomas Lewis born 1823, Cardinganshire, South Wales. Her mother was Mary Ann Griffis and she was born at the same place.


            While their family was very young, the Lewises decided to immigrate to America. On the 4th day of February, 1854, the family left Liverpool, England on the ship named Golconda and arrived in New Orleans March 18, 1854.


            The passenger list reads as follows:          Father: Thomas Lewis,                     age 32

Mother: Mary Ann Griffis    36

M        David Griffis Lewis   9

F          Esther Griffis Lewis   6

F          Eleanor Griffis Lewis            4

M        Evan Griffis Lewis     3

F          Margaret Griffis Lewis         1 month


            This information has been received from microfilm records – Genealogy Offices, Salt Lake City. And also from General Services Admn., National Archives Record Service, Washington 25, D.C., 20408 (copy may be obtained for $1.50 – Name of ship – Golconda, 2 ports and passenger list).


            Their destination was Salt Lake City, Utah, but they never arrived there as a family. Esther’s records report disaster struck this ship. The cholera broke out and also bad weather took many lives. The mother, Mary Ann, and Eleanor died at sea.


            “I, Esther, saw them wrap my little sister in canvas and tie it tight with a rope and slide her overboard into the ocean.” (She told me this with tears running down her cheeks.)


            The grief stricken father, with his three remaining children, left New Orleans and came up the Mississippi River on a boat to S. Louis, Missouri. The baby, Margaret, died at New Orleans.


            Thomas secured work in St. Louis in a coal mine. He worked there until 1856. One sad day he was killed in a mine accident, leaving three small children orphans. As often the case, in those early Church History days, help came to these children.


            Catherine and Thomas Hughes, also immigrants from North Wales, were in St. Louis. Mr. Hughes ran a store in St. Louis before he died in 1854. Then Catherine continued with the business. She then married Dave Fayle. When she heard of the sad plight of the Lewis children, she went to their home and offered help. She already had 3 orphans, Mary Lloyd, John and Evan Owens. But she offered to take Esther and her little brother, Evan Lewis, with her. David, the eldest son, was taken possible by relatives, as there were other Lewises registered on the same microfilm. So David, at the age of 11, stayed in St. Louis, Missouri and died there in 1905. (Added – error. He died in 1901 in Jefferson County, Missouri.)


            The Fayles, with their 5 orphans, left St. Louis and started the long trek across the plain. Besides the team, they had a cow and riding pony. The cow kept them in milk, the cream was put in a crock and the jot of the wagon churned the milk into butter. They faired very well until they got to Winter Quarters, Nebraska.


            President Brigham Young sent word that no more immigrants were to come through as Johnson’s army was on their way. They stayed in Nebraska three years. Catherine bought a home at Winter Quarters. Then they had a burn out. The Fayles packed up and were on the move again Westward.


            This family arrived in Wellsville, September 8, 1861, coming through Echo Canyon. Esther was 13, Evan was 10. The Fayle family settled down to make a living and a home in this new land. They all worked hard as did all those valiant pioneers.


“The Indians were very troublesome at times. The family hardly dared move out of the house. One day Esther, Mary and Mother Fayle were alone. Six big warriors rode up and demanded dinner. They were very frightened but dared not refuse. Mary hid under the bed. Esther and Mother Fayle prepared dinner. After they had eaten the Indians told them to wash and bandage their feet because they were sore and dusty.”


            “The Indians wanted Esther as their papoose. Mother Fayle had a hard time pleading with them not to take her child. Finally they rode off. In a few days two of the Indians came back with a pair of moccasins decorated all over with beads, for Mother Fayle and Esther. Mary lost out as she had hidden under the bed. The Indians were troublesome all the time but Brigham Young advised the people to feed them.”


            Nora Brizzie writes, “Mother Catherine Fayle was a bit older than her husband. As she wasn’t privileged to bear children, she advised David Fayle to marry another younger girl and raise a family of his own. Some of the settlers thought he deserted Catherine, but by mutual consent, they separated. He married a girl by the name of Lizzie and moved to Debois, Idaho. David and Lizzie Fayle had 10 children.” Esther, Nora and Henry Brizzie visited the David Fayle family and in Nora’s words were treated royally.


            Esther Lewis was married to Francis Gunnell, July 2, 1864, in the Endowment House at Salt Lake City by Wilford Woodrull (sic). She was brother Gunnell’s 3rd wife. To this union were born 10 children:


Thomas Gunnell                    born

Mary Catherine Gunnell

18 June 1865

16 July 1867

Franklin Gunnell

Zina Gunnell  twin

Lionel Gunnell           twin

Laura Gunnell

Evan Gunnell

David Gunnell

Nora Gunnell

Maggie Gunnell

7 October 1869

20 April 1873

20 April 1873

11 March 1876

1 March 1878

7 April 1882

27 September 1884

18 April 1886 (died at birth)


Francis Gunnell built a log home in the center of town, now called Center Street. At one time 3 wives all lived together in this home. Esther – Center Street. At one time 3 wives all lived together in this home. Esther – (I quote), “We got along very well helping each other, often tending each other’s babies.” Later the wives were all furnished with a home of their own.


            “There were trying times as we were often poor.” Brother Gunnell presented to Relief Society with a piece of ground with no deed. This was where his log cabin stood. A nice Relief Society building stood there at one time for many years. It is now converted into a nice home and is presently owned by the Wellsville 2nd Ward Relief Society. The rent goes to keep it in good repair.


            Francis Gunnell died October 20, 1889, leaving Esther with 9 children to raise.


            A tragic thing happened on July 17, 1893. Several of the Gunnell boys were up on the old Gunnell ranch putting up hay. It was a hot July day. After work they swam their horses through cold water lake. The horses took cramps and started floundering around. It looked as if all the boys would be drowned, also the horses. When it was over they got out. Evan and Lionel were drowned.


Word came to town about trouble at the ranch. Esther said that just at sundown she saw the wagon and people coming down the lane. She ran through town. “The wagon stopped, I lifted the cover and saw my two boys dead. I thought I’d die. My hair actually turned white,.” She lived to see all her children buried except two daughters, Laura and Nora. They were a blessing and comfort to her in her later years.


Esther’s home had burned down in Wellsville so she made her home with her children. Her keynote was courage and endurance, for at the age of 60 years she went into the Raft River country and homesteaded a piece of land, living alone on it until she could get a clear title and sell it. Her son Franklin was her business manager. Uncle Frankie Gunnell and John Poppleton and their families were her close neighbors out west.


            Franklin’s wife Mary passed away May, 1914. Esther made his home a permanent one and was much comfort to him. January, 1915, he married Annie Wyatt. Mother Esther Gunnell still made her home with them. She could come and go at her pleasure. She was very proud of their new little son. Franklin. She would sing to him and rock him to sleep while Annie did her work.


            Franklin’s health was failing. In June, 1917, (age 48), he passed away leaving his young wife and little son.


            “Mother Esther Gunnell was a great comfort to me, helping me over many rough spots. I was very nervous of thunder storms. One night a bad one came up. She came to my room, got in bed beside me and told me not to be afraid. I loved her very much. She was always ready to help and give comfort where needed, and was helpful in sickness throughout her life. She carried with her a very sunny disposition always. To know her was to love her.” – Told by Annie Gunnell.


            “Mother Esther Gunnell loved animals and was a very good judge of them. When Franklin would go to look at a cow or horse he very often took his other along. I went one day with them. She got out of the car, put her hands on her hips, walked around and sized up the animal from all angles. When asked what she thought, she could point out all the good and bad points. If she didn’t like it Franklin didn’t buy it. I asked him one day his reasons why he bothered her about these things. He answered it was for two reasons. First, it pleased her and second, her judgment was always good. He took her advise (sic). Grandma Gunnell got her education by experience and hard knocks. She wasn’t a good reader so after the supper was over I would spend a special time in helping her read the Herold Journal. She liked that.” – Told by Annie Gunnell.


            Esther Gunnell was a member of the Daniel H. Wells Camp of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.


            Esther went to Burton Idaho to spend some time with Nora. She contracted the flu which turned into pneumonia. She died at Nora’s home, February 5, 1922. Her remains were shipped home and were buried in the Wellsville Cemetery beside her husband. This closes a chapter in the life of one of that faithful band of pioneers of which Utah will always be proud. She had a firm testimony of the Gospel and was a faithful Relief Society worker as a block teacher. She did all the good she could throughout her life. At this writing, (March 1, 1967), she has 401 posterity.


            This history wouldn’t be complete without a word about the noble mother, Catherine Fayle, and so I would like to dedicate my following poem to this noble woman.


Foster Mother


There is no Mother who is more deserving of our praise

Than she who takes another’s child to comfort and to raise.

Her name is Foster Mother but it should be Angel Queen

For she is all the nobleness that motherhood can mean.

She is a bit of heaven on a cold and cruel earth

Where all too often human life is deemed of little worth.

Her child belongs to her not by the grace of nature’s art

But by the choice made freely from the goodness of her heart.


Esther Gunnell and family took care of her foster mother in her later years. Catherin Fayle did a lot of Temple work for her kindred dead.


            Catherine Fayle was born April 12, 1812 in North Wales. She died July 21, 1895 in Wellsville and was buried in the Wellsville Cemetery.


Copy: mwg


Lewis, Esther Griffiths

Lewis, Thomas

Lewis, Evan Griffiths


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