ESTHER LEWIS GUNNELL
ESTHER LEWIS GUNNELL
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,
The passenger list
reads as follows: Father: Thomas
Lewis, age 32
Mary Ann Griffis 36
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
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.
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
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
18 June 1865
16 July 1867
Zina Gunnell twin
Lionel Gunnell twin
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
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
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
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
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.
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
she is all the nobleness that motherhood can mean.
She is a bit of
heaven on a cold and cruel earth
all too often human life is deemed of little worth.
Her child belongs to
her not by the grace of nature’s art
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.