Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
Levi Savage, Jr.
by Brian A. Warburton
Levi Savage Jr. was born 23 March 1820 in Greenfield, Huron County, Ohio, to Levi Savage Sr. and Polly Haynes. He grew up in Southern Michigan where his parents moved the family a few years after Levi’s birth. His father associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and was later baptized in 1843. Not all the family joined the church immediately; Levi’s mother never was baptized, though she lived and suffered with the members through many afflictions during the westward migration. Levi was baptized June 1846, and with his family joined the exiled saints in Council Bluffs, Iowa. While at Council Bluffs, Levi enlisted, for one year, with the Mormon Battalion as a private in Company “D” and marched with them all the way to California. After his discharge from the army he traveled to the Salt Lake Valley and arrived there 16 October 1847. When he arrived he found all of his family there except his mother, who had died during the journey westward.1 In Salt Lake, Levi met Jane Mathers and they were married 23 January 1848. Levi and Jane had one son together. The baby, named Levi Mathers Savage was born 11 January 1851. Unfortunately Jane died within the year, on 29 December 1851.
At October conference 1852, Levi was called to go on a mission to Siam. He left his new son in the care of his sister Hannah and her husband, Ira Eldredge, and he prepared to leave on his mission. On 16 October 1852, Levi along with Elam Ludington, Chauncey W. West, and Benjamin F. Dewey were set apart to serve as missionaries to Siam. It was agreed that Levi would start traveling with Ludington to California. “We were both destitute of a team and wagon, hence with much exertion, we settled our business, purchased our team, and got ready for a long and tedious journey.”2 The men left on their journey 21 October 1852 and traveled by wagon to Los Angeles then took a boat to San Francisco.
A large group of missionaries, headed for India and Siam all boarded the ship Monsoon, bound for Calcutta, India. Savage expressed his feelings upon leaving his native land. “…each sought his own place for meditation, and there reflected upon the comforts of his home, the affections of his beloved wife and children or friends…But now he was called to take up his abode in the remote parts of the earth, and for what? For the sake of heaping up gold and silver, or to secure for himself the honors, pomp and splendor of this world? No, verily no! But in obedience to the commands of the Lord…”3 A few days after leaving San Francisco, Savage and his roommate Brother Ballentyne both came down with smallpox and were isolated from the rest of the ship. Both men fully recovered within a few weeks and no one else on the ship was affected. The missionaries arrived in Calcutta 25 April 1853.
Levi and the others assigned to Siam found that they could not obtain passage from Calcutta to Siam. Ludington and Savage decided to travel to Burma and then go by land to Siam. They sailed for Burma on 20 June 1853 and soon ran into serious problems. They were caught in a storm and the ship was nearly sunk. They had to bail and pump water night and day and barely made it back to Calcutta.4 Ludington and Savage were able to go to Rangoon, and started preaching the gospel to British soldiers, assisted by a recent convert to the church, Sergeant McCune. The missionaries had little success with the European populations and tried preaching to the native populations, but that failed as well.
Savage decided to try and start preaching on his own, and he moved to Maulmain, Burma, 28 September 1853. But he found persecution here as well. Some officials tried to keep him from preaching. “I called on Colonel Jonston to get permission to preach in the cancantonments. He asked who I was. I said I belonged to the Latter Day Saints. “Latter Day Saints,” said he “no, not a bit of it and if I catch you in here, by God I will report you to the guard.”5 Levi tried to learn the Burmese language and teach the native people, but still found little success. He never made it to Siam, in fact only Elder Ludington made it to Siam and his stay was short. After two and a half years in India and Burma, Savage began, what would become an extremely perilous trip home.
The return trip began 13 October 1855 on board the ship Herbert. After a long treacherous journey, in which the ship almost ran out of rations, Savage arrived in Boston 28 February 1856. From Boston he traveled to New York and spent some time there with some members of the LDS church. He resumed his trip home 18 June 1856. “This morning I commenced to prepare to start for home in company with about 500 Saints who are in the charge of Elders Willey (sic) and Atwood.”6 Levi took a short detour to visit family in Ohio, and then rejoined the saints at Iowa City, Iowa, where he was made a captain “over the second hundred in Elder Willey’s company.”7
Levi Savage experienced first hand the terrible tragedies that plagued the Martin and Willie handcart companies. He related in his journal that he questioned the company leaving so late in the season and was reprimanded for doing so.8 The company began running out of food and the people became weak. “The people are getting weak and failing very fast. A great many are sick. Our teams are also failing fast, and it requires great exertion to make any progress.”9 Rations were continually cut in an effort to make them last longer. Winter arrived early to the Wyoming plains and the people, in their weakened state were not well prepared for the extreme elements. Levi recorded many deaths in his journal during October 1856. “It was certainly heartrendering to hear children crying for mothers and mothers crying for children.”10 After this terrible journey, Levi finally arrived in the Salt Lake Valley 9 November 1856.
Once in Salt Lake, Savage started teaching school and was also a member of the second Quorum of Seventy. He struggled financially, because most people could not afford to pay for his teaching. He was ordained as one of the presidents of the 57 quorums of Seventies 1 February 1858. He took part in defending Salt Lake City during the Utah War in the fall of 1858, when the United States army sent soldiers to stop what they perceived as treason on the part of the Mormons.
Levi Savage married Ann Brummel Cooper in October 1858, a widow he had met in the Willie handcart company. Ann had two daughters from a previous marriage, Mary Ann and Adelaide. After marrying Ann, they moved to Lehi and earned money selling lumber to the U.S. soldiers at Camp Floyd. The family moved from Lehi to Kanab, Utah, in the early 1860’s and in 1865 moved to Toquerville, Utah. Savage later took Ann’s two daughters, Mary Ann and Adelaide, as plural wives. He married Adelaide 17 October 1868 and Mary Ann one week later on 24 October 1868. He had three children with Mary Ann: William, Riley, and Clara.
He was arrested 24 August 1885 by a United States Marshal for violating the Edmunds’s Act, which prohibited plural marriage. The trial was held in 1887 and he was fined $300 and imprisoned for six months. While in prison Savage started writing a biography. He also passed his time writing letters and attending church services. He was released from prison 29 March 1888. Levi returned to Toquerville where on 10 August 1892 he was again arrested for cohabitation, however the following month the case was dismissed. He lived the rest of his life in Toquerville, raising fruit as a living. He died 13 December 1910 in Toquerville, Washington County, Utah.
1 Kate B. Carter. Our Pioneer Heritage (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958), 313.
2 Levi Savage Jr. “Diaries, 1852-1903,” October 16, 1852, MSS 417, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
3 Ibid., January 29, 1853.
4 R. Lanier Britsch, From the East: The History of the Latter-day Saints in Asia,1851-1996. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1998), 19.
5 Savage., October 4, 1853.
6 Ibid., June 18, 1856.
7 Ibid., July 12, 1856.
8 Ibid., September 13, 1856
9 Ibid., October 15, 1856.
10 Ibid., October 23, 1856
Britsch, R. Lanier. From the East: The History of the Latter-day Saints in Asia, 1851-1996. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1998.
Carter, Kate B. Our Pioneer Heritage. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958, 313.
Hilton, Lynn M, ed. Levi Savage Jr. Journal. Salt Lake City: John Savage Family Organization, 1966.
Larsen, Wesley P. A History of Toquerville. Cedar City, Utah: by the author, 1985.
Savage, Levi. “Diaries, 1852-1903” MSS 417, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.