Our Family Legacy
As your writer searched for authentic material to write this history my first thought was, "Oh, dear! How awful! Poor little Sarah Jane to marry her stepfather when she was barely fifteen years old and he was forty-five."
Then I reasoned the thing out this way. Maybe he wasn't lying in such a "bed of roses" himself. Maybe he was doing Sarah Jane a favor by marrying her. He was responsible for the care of three stepchildren whom he had acquired when he married a widow, Dorcas Willis Witt, in 1838. They became the parents of one son, William Averett. Maybe before Dorcas died in 1843 she exacted a promise from her husband to take care of her children, come what may.
From what I can glean, Elisha Averett was a good and conscientious man, not one to shirk his responsibilities. Then, too, they were all Mormons, and these were trying times for the Saints. They were just about to be driven out of Nauvoo. Brigham Young could well have been the one who advised Elisha Averett to marry his stepdaughter, Sarah Jane Witt, in the Nauvoo Temple before they left. Now let's go back to the first of Sarah Jane's life story.
Sarah Jane Witt was born 1 February 1831, in McLeansboro, Hamilton County, Illinois. She was the third child born to Robert Witt and Dorcas Willis. Her paternal grandparents were John and Kizzie Ann Witt and her maternal grandparents were John and Jean Kirkpatrick Willis. Her oldest sister was Kizzie Ann, born in 1827. She later married Mr. Hamilton. Her brother, John Wesley, was born in 1829. He married Lovina Bigelow. Her brothers, William (born in 1833) and Mills (born in 1834) both died in infancy.
Her parents, Robert and Dorcas Willis Witt, became identified with the Mormon Church soon after it was organized in 1830. Then her father (Robert) died in 1834, leaving her mother with three small children to support. Sarah Jane was only three years old at the time.
After struggling along for four years, Dorcas Witt married Elisha Averett, of Maury County, Tennessee. He now lived in Hamilton County, Illinois, a few miles from the Witts. He was also a member of the L.D.S. Church having been baptized on 6 June 1835. They could have known each other in Tennessee because Dorcas was born February 1810 in Gallatin, Sumner Co., Tennessee. They both moved to Missouri near Far West, Caldwell County. Dorcas and Elisha were married here in 1838. They moved to Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois with the other Mormons. Soon after their son William was born on 31 July 1839, in Quincy, Adams, Illinois and an infant daughter, who died at birth.
What a sad day for twelve-year-old Sarah Jane and the rest of the family when her mother died on the 6th of February 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois. One can only imagine the trials of Sarah Jane's life. To make matters worse, the Mormons were being persecuted terribly and they knew sooner-or-later they would be driven out of their homes.
Her stepfather, Elisha Averett, a stalwart churchman was working diligently with the rest to complete the Nauvoo temple, so that the sacred ordinances could be performed therein.
Let us follow the family group sheet, searched by Mrs. Chai, to see what transpired at this time. Elisha Averett received his endowments on the 13th of December 1945. Sarah Jane was baptized on the 19th of December 1845. No doubt this had been neglected because of the death of her mother. Also that same day, 19th of December 1845, she received her endowments, and was married and sealed to Elisha Averett. Then on the 19th of January 1846, Elisha was sealed to his wife Dorcas Willis Witt, with Sarah Jane standing as proxy. (According to the original Nauvoo Temple Records, p. 149, Sarah Jane and Elisha Averett were married and sealed at 6:25 p.m., and Dorcas and Elisha Averett were sealed, with Sarah Jane as proxy at 6:30 p.m., 19th January 1846.)
Elisha and Sarah Jane were among the many saints who were forced to cross the Mississippi River on the ice, during the cold winter of 1845-1846. These homeless refugees made temporary headquarters in Iowa. We are not prepared to say whether Kizzie Ann was with her sister and stepfather or not. From page 502 of the Wasatch County Book we find that her brother, John Wesley, was driven out of Nauvoo in 1846. He spent the next four years working on river steamers up and down the Mississippi River. He crossed the plains to Utah in 1850. Elisha having been discharged from the Mormon Battalion, Sarah Jane and children arrived about the same time. John Wesley married Lovina Bigelow in 1851. He moved to Heber Valley in 1859 and died in 1907.
Also in the Wasatch County Book we note that William Averett, Sarah Jane's half-brother and stepson, was reared in early youth by his uncle and aunt, John and Eliza Harvey. He crossed the plains with them, then lived with his father and Sarah Jane in Salt Lake. He then went to Heber with his half-brother, John Wesley Witt, and lived the rest of his life there.
In Iowa, at Council Bluffs, Sarah Jane gave birth to her first child, Dorcas, born December 14, 1846. Elisha Averett was a member of the Mormon Battalion and marched away as a soldier in the war with Mexico. Captain James Allen came into the Mormon camp in Council Bluffs, Iowa in June of 1846, asking for 500 men. Brigham Young was pleased because the pay they would receive would help their poor families get to Utah. The Essentials in Church History says the Battalion men were discharged by July 1847. Some joined their families in Utah, and others went back to Council Bluffs.
By 1849 they were ready to make the trip to Utah. Volume 10, Heart Throbs of the West, lists Elisha Averett as crossing the plains with the George A. Smith Company. They left Council Bluffs July 4, 1849 and arrived in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake on October 27th. There were forty-seven souls and one hundred twenty wagons in the company.
From here on out we will follow the doings of the Averett family by the places that Sarah Jane gave birth to her children. Little Sarah Jane was born October 1, 2850; Kizzie Ann on September 11, 1852; John Harvey on March 8, 1854; and Elijah on January 2, 1856 all in Salt Lake City. Elijah died in 1868. They spent two or three years in Manti, Sanpete County, Utah. Emily was born in Manti in 1858. April 16, 1859 finds them back in Salt Lake City where George was born. That summer or fall they moved to Heber City, Utah where William Averett and John Wesley Witt, were living.
They were not there long when a call came in 1862 for Elisha and Sarah Jane to go to St. George, as a part of the Dixie Mission. Ever obedient to the call of the church leaders, the Averetts were willing to go where they were asked, even though it meant a great sacrifice. Sarah Jane gave birth to her tenth child, James Lafayette, on 10 April 1863. They moved to the little town of Washington, a few miles east of St. George, Utah.. It was a difficult place to make a living for such a large family, but Sarah Jane did not shirk her privilege and duty of motherhood. On the 16th of April 1866, Lucy Lavina was born. Jennette Eliza was added to the family on the 25th of June 1868, and Byron on the 2nd of April 1871, all born in Washington.
Along in the early 1870ís, the Averetts moved to Provo, Utah then back to Heber City, Utah located in the upper Provo Valley. In Heber when Sarah Jane was just a month short of her forty-fourth birthday she gave birth to her fourteenth child. But things didn't go right with this confinement and the baby, David, born December 30th, 1875, died at birth. The next day on the 31st of December 1875, Sarah Jane, the mother died. She was lovingly and tearfully laid to rest in the Heber City cemetery on January 2, 1876. (Actually according to records Sarah Jane died in childbirth, 31 December 1875. Little David died later on January 4, 1876.)
By this time Dorcas, the oldest child had married James Madison Clark; Elisha Jr. had married Anne Catherine Sedarville; Sarah Jane had married John Smith Adams; and Kizzie Ann was married to David William Campbell. However there were still eight children at home unmarried when their mother died. John Harvey later married Susan Oliphant (Allphin); Emily married Mr. Hatfield; George married Edith M. Leithead; Robert Wesley married Leanna (Leaner) Oliphant (Allphin); James Lafayette married Laura Maxwell; Lucy Lavina married Samuel Griffith (Richard); Jennette married George William Smith; and Byron married Sonora Elizabeth Averett (his cousin).
Elisha Averett remained in Heber City for quite a few years where he worked at his trade as stone mason helping to build many of the early homes. He also was stone mason on the Heber City Tabernacle. He was a good musician and entertainer, which made him good company where ever he went. Some of his children were living in Glendale, Kane County, Utah, when Elisha was old and needed care. They took their father there and cared for him until he died on 22nd of October 1890. He was buried there.
Even though Sarah Jane Witt Averett's sojourn on this earth was not too long she accomplished much. Her large posterity can well be proud of their pioneer heritage.
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