(Scanned May 1997 by S. L. Rawlins from a copy provided by Julia Rawlins.)



(Written 13 July 1964)

By: Orilla Leavitt Harmon and Valeda Leavitt Thompson (daughters of James and Pennina)

(Information for this History was obtained from Eulalia Taggart, Ella Stocks, History of Lewiston First Ward Primary, and from family records.)

James' Childhood and Youth:

James Brinkerhoff Leavitt was born in Centerville, Davis County, Utah, on 31 August 1858. He was the second son and the fourth child of George Leavitt and Janette Brinkerhoff who were the parents of 14 children––8 boys and 6 girls. James was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints on 23 May 1879.

In 1868 James (Jim) Brinkerhoff Leavitt and his half–brother, Joseph (Joe), drove their father's cattle on foot, down the Virgin River, 550 Miles to Dixie. Many times they had to wade the river and they would hang onto a cows tail until they got across.

Their father had been called by the LDS Church to go to the "muddy" or West Point, Nevada. When James was ten years old and Joseph was nine, they were down on the "Muddy". At this time they used to go out and get wood with a yoke of oxen. They would pull the wood out of the ground. When their father was not at home, the oxen would have to carry the yoke all of the time as the boys were too small to take it off. One time while their father was after flour about 250 miles away, they ran out of flour and had to live on bran and molasses.

In 1869 the boys herded cattle about three miles from their home. They had no horses to ride and always walked. One day while herding the cattle, They saw a camel coming down off the hills. They had never seen a camel before but knew it to be one by the pictures they had seen in books. When the camel came to drink, they caught it with a rope. They told it to lay down and they got on it and rode home. The cattle were frightened of it.

One day while James and Joseph were herding the cattle they found a cave and found three dead Indians and a white man. They went home and told their parents what they had seen. The next day their father and some more men went to the cave but the bodies were so decayed and smelled so badly that they could not touch them.

The white boys and Indian boys used to play together. One of their favorite games was mud dob. They would put a dob of mud on the end of a stick and throw the mud at each other. When the mud hit a bare spot it sometimes left a welt. When a boy was hit with the mud he had to sit down. All of the clothing the Indian boys had on was breech clouts. This was on of the sports they had when James was a boy.

Their father raised cotton and the boys had to pick it. The boys hired the Indians to pick the cotton for them and paid them by giving them melons. The squaws would pick the cotton and the Indian men would lay in the shade. The Indians would steal the melons so James and Joseph set a shotgun in the melon patch. They fixed a string to the gun and when the gun went off it shot one of the Indians in the leg. About six months later the Indian came back on crutches and they never bothered the melons again.

At Beaver their mother picked small pieces of wool from the fences, bushes and sagebrush. She made cloth from which she made suits for her boys.

They went to Lewiston, Utah, in the spring of 1872. In the winter of 1874, James and Joseph stayed down on Bear River with a small herd of sheep. They always got up at day break no matter what the weather was. They slept in a wagon box with the snow two and a half feet deep.

James had blue eyes, red hair, and wore a full mustache in his earlier life, but in later years he was clean–shaven. James was of medium stature and agile. Most of his life he could walk on his hands or stand on his head. He sometimes step–danced for his family and friends. James has a real sense of humor and had nicknames for nearly everyone. He loved to make up little rhymes and nearly always put a tune to them. He had a way of telling the truth without hurting peoples feelings and everyone loved him for his humor. One very tall boy passed his home every morning on his way to school. James always called him "high–pockets". One day a boyfriend of his son, Clawson , came to dinner. His hands were dirty and James looked at him and said, "Bobby, would you like to take off your kid gloves before you eat?" On another occasion when his grandson, Darwin Thompson, was about five years old he burned his foot on some hot ashes. James immediately said, "Dar–winkle, Dar–winkle, Dar–wire, Stuck his foot in the fire, A red hot coal got in his shoe, And Oh, Lawsy–Masses how the ashes flew."James' family still find amusement in recalling his unique sense of humor.


Pennina Jane Rawlins was born on 6 April 1859 in Draper, Salt Lake County, Utah. She was the daughter of Harvey McGalyard and Margaret Elzirah Frost.

Pennina (Nine) and her sister Mary Eveline (Eve) were always together and their childhoods were so much alike that it is difficult to mention one without the other. They even married brothers.

In 1865 when Pennina was six years old and Eveline was four years old and their brother Joseph (Jode) William was a baby, they Moved from Draper, Utah, to Richmond, Utah. They spent most of their young lives in Richmond where they lived in two or three different homes.

On both the Rawlins and Frost lines there were many uncles, aunts, and cousins. Pennina's and Eveline's cousins were always dear to them. On Easter they would go to the mountains south of Richmond which was east of their Uncle Dave Carson's place. The family who now live in Richmond look at the mountains and have many fond memories of their loved ones.

One time President Brigham Young came to Richmond. All of the Sunday School children were dressed in their best clothing–– the girls wore their best white dresses. The children marched through the streets to the meeting house to the music of the Marshall Band. Their oldest brother, Harvey M. played in the band for a long time.

Their school teachers were Mary Van Orden (Bair), Sarah Angus Karren, Julia Rogers, Samuel Allen, Jim Bramberge and Jeff Huff. Mr. Huff Brought his violin to school and at noon taught the children to dance the varsouvienne and the polkas. The children all learned to dance and enjoyed it greatly. When the girls went to the dances as young ladies, they went first with their older brothers.

In April 1864, Pennina's father, Harvey M. Rawlins, was called to help settle Indian disputes. They sold out in Draper and moved to Spring City. In October 1865 they returned to Draper and learned that her sister, Margaret Elzirah Kerr, had passed away on 16 September 1865, after giving birth to her second son on 11 September 1865. Her first baby had died at birth. This was a great shock to the family. Margaret Elzirah Rawlins had married Marion Kerr and lived in Richmond, Utah. In November 1865, Pennina's family moved to Richmond and found their motherless grandson. Pennina's mother, Margaret Elzirah Frost Rawlins, weaned her own baby, Joseph (Jode) William, and nursed her grandson, James William Kerr. He lived with them until he was a grown boy and always called her "mother". When he was a man he was working in a gravel pit above the Richmond Cemetery where he and another man were killed in the wintertime.

They moved to Lewiston, Cache County, Utah, in April of 1871. The parents left the two "big girls" in Richmond to finish School. Pennina stayed with Martha Karren and Eveline with Nancy Jane Kerr. The girls were very homesick by the time their parents came for them.

They didn't have to dig very deep for water. On wash day, Pennina and Eveline had to carry the water and see that it was hot and ready. When there was to be a family bath there was more water to heat so everyone could bathe.

Pennina and Eveline had to iron their brothers white shirts which had stiffly starched fronts, collar, and cuffs. The ironing was hard to do each week with the irons heated on the stove. There was much housework for them to do besides the ironing. Both girls helped good as long as they were at home.

The snow was deep and the young people loved to go sleigh riding. Nearly everyone had good horses and sleigh bells on them. Everyone could tell whose team was coming as the bells all sounded differently.Pennina and Eveline worked out for various women on "the flat" and they had to work hard. When they cleaned house it meant to take everything out of the house and whitewash the room and them put everything back in its right place. They never received much pay when they were through.

They often went to take care of a woman and her baby. Not only did they take care of the mother and baby, but they did all of the housework and whatever else needed doing.

When they first came to "the flat" it was covered with wild flowers and was very beautiful. They enjoyed gathering the flowers. In the spring and summer the grass grew so high that they had to keep the younger children out of it. If the children got in the grass they could not be seen and would become lost. They also had to watch the young calves out of the grass. The girls had to learn the cows. Many times they had to milk the cows where they worked.


James Brinkerhoff Leavitt and Pennina Jane Rawlins were married on 5 May 1881 and Joseph Leavitt and Mary Eveline Rawlins were married in May a year later. Both couples were endowed and married in Salt Lake city, Utah, in the Endowment House.

It took James and Pennina more than two weeks to go home to Salt Lake City to be married and back again. They went in a big lumber wagon which was filled with enough hay to feed the horses most of the time they were gone. They had many relatives along the way and they visited many of them.

When they were first married, they lived in Lewiston, Utah. The Lewiston First Ward Primary was organized on 23 June 1881 with Janette Brinkerhoff Leavitt as President, Pennina Jane Rawlins Leavitt was first counselor, Louisa Waddoups as second counselor, Sarah A. Orchard as secretary, Eda E. Lewis as assistant secretary, and Elizabeth Van Orden as treasurer. Pennina was sustained on 23 June 1881 and released on 15 July 1886 from this position.

Their first child, James Roy, was born on 14 January 1882 at Lewiston, Cache County, Utah. In the summer of 1882 (after Joseph and Eveline were married) both couples moved to Bear River where they all lived together in a tent. James and Joseph's father, George Leavitt, had given each of them a 40 acre tract of land adjoining each other which they were to homestead. The men got out logs for their houses. James' house was made of sawed logs and Joseph's house of round logs. They built their houses on their own land but they were only a few rods apart so they would be near to each other. There were lots of coyotes and the neighbors were a long ways from them.

When James and Joseph went to meetings alone they rode horses. when Pennina and Eveline went, they took a team and wagon as it was six miles to the meeting house.

On 20 March 1883, Pennina gave birth to her second child, a baby daughter, Florina Arminta, at Lewiston, Utah. When the baby was a few weeks old, she was exposed to whooping cough. In a short time Florina Arminta took sick and died on 4 May 1883 of whooping cough. They had five more boys before they had another girl. While they still lived at Bear River their third child, George Rawlins, was born on 24 February 1884 at Lewiston, Utah.

One time James and Pennina's oldest son, James Roy, got lost in a wheat field. They smashed nearly all of the wheat down before they found him.

Both families had ten children––seven boys and three girls each. Most of the children had red hair.

They lived at Bear River for a few years. James and Pennina sold their place and moved to Auburn, Lincoln county , Wyoming, which is in Star Valley. The couples were never privileged to live near to each other again.

While they were living at Star Valley, four more children were born to them. They were Alva Francis born on 21 November 1886 in Auburn, Lincoln county, Wyoming; Vernal Lesell born on 8 September 1889 in Lewiston, Cache County, Utah; Harvey Mareo born on 20 October 1890 in Auburn, Lincoln County, Wyoming, and died on 24 February 1891; and Zeddie Lee born on 3 September 1892 in Lewiston, Cache County, Utah, and died 27 January 1897. When Harvey Mareo died the snow was very deep. His parents certainly had great courage as Pennina washed and laid out her own son and James made a coffin from pine boards. They dug his grave through six feet of snow.

From Star Valley they went to Alberta, Canada, with Pennina's brother, Samuel L. Rawlins. They drove 100 head of cattle. Their son George Rawlins Leavitt, was 10 Years old at this time. They left in June and got to Canada in October 1894. They had to stop at the Montana and Canadian line. The cattle were quarantined for 60 days. They left the cattle there and went up Fish Creek to Mountain View. James and Samuel's families moved to this small town. The families lived there about a year and it was winter all of the time they were there with heavy snow. They got disgusted and moved back to Lewiston, Utah. Pennina knitted all of the way up and back from Canada.

When they got back to Lewiston, their daughter, Orilla, was born on 6 February 1896. They stayed in Lewiston for the winter and then moved to Iona, Idaho. From there they moved to Ora, Fremont county, Idaho, where another daughter, Valeda, was born on 2 July 1989. From there they moved to Centennial Valley in Montana where they worked for a sawmill in the winter for Vick Lynn. They put up wild hay for Wood–tick Jones and stayed in Montana about four years. From there they moved to Jamestown, Bonneville County, Idaho, which is nine families southeast of Idaho Falls, where their last child, Clawson Rawlins, was born on 4 June 1903. From Jamestown they moved to Moreland, Idaho, and bought a place and James built a new house. They lived in Moreland for the rest of their lives except for about two years which they spent dry–farming at Hamer, Idaho. While at Hamer during a sudden electrical storm the lightning struck the corral fence as James was putting the cows in for the night. He was struck down and was unconscious for hours and for two or three weeks he didn't recognize anyone or know where he was. This caused considerable anguish to his family but he finally recovered completely with no apparent defects.

James and Pennina were good parents. Their children remember many happy times in their childhoods, One of the outstanding events was the annual trip to the Ringling Brother's Circus. before the circus there would be a big parade down the Main street of Idaho Falls. It was a large circus and had every animal imaginable with clowns and beautiful ladies riding on the elephants. One time a female elephant, whose name was Malm, got loose and swam the Snake river which caused a great deal of excitement. She was caught and they saw her with the circus for many summers. They went to the circus in a white–top buggy. James took enough hay and grain in the back for the horses. Pennina packed a big lunch as the family stayed all day.

James was a good farmer. He had a large apple orchard and also raised a large herd of swine on his diversified farm. James had a love for horses and always had a good pulling team. He kept them in shape and would often challenge his friends and neighbors to a pulling match. When each of his sons were married he gave them a team of horses and a wagon as a wedding gift.

James always arose early in the morning and while he sang and whistled he made a pan of biscuits to have fresh and hot on the oven door when the family arose. Any son or daughter who had been out late the night before had to cover up their head with a pillow to drown out the music if they wished to sleep late.

Pennina had dark brown hair and blue eyes. She was a short, plump, energetic woman who was quiet and reserved. She was a good manager, hard worker, good housekeeper and home–maker. Her home was always pretty inside and outside with a well kept yard. She raised a lovely garden and lots of roses. She also had hollyhocks all around the fence. When her flowers were in bloom, she brought bouquets inside to beautify her home.

James and Pennina provided well for their family. They bought groceries in large quantities and had plenty on hand at all times. They had a comfortable life and were not in need for the necessities.

Following is a list of the children of James Brinkerhoff Leavitt and Pennina Jane Rawlins Leavitt:

  1. James Roy Leavitt b.14 January 1882 at Lewiston, Cache County, Utah d.25 December 1934
  2. Florina Arminta Leavitt b.20 March 1883 d.4 May 1883
  3. George Rawlins Leavitt b.24 February 1884 Lewiston, Cache County, Utah d.24 July 1954
  4. Alva Francis Leavitt b.21 November 1886 at Auburn, Lincoln County, Wyoming d.11 November 1928
  5. Vernal Lesell Leavitt b.9 September 1889 at Lewiston, Cache County, Utah d.15 November 1959
  6. Harvey Mareo Leavitt b.20 October, 1890 at Auburn, Lincoln County, Wyoming d.2 February 1891
  7. Zeddie Lee Leavitt.b.3 September 1892 at Lewiston, Cache County, Utah d.27 January 1897
  8. Orilla Leavitt b.6 February 1896 at Lewiston, Cache County, Utah
  9. Valeda Leavitt b. 2 July 1898 at Ora, Fremont County Idaho
  10. Clawson Rawlins Leavitt b.4 June 1903 at Jamestown, Bonneville County, Idaho d. 9 January 1929

James Brinkerhoff Leavitt died of a stroke in Idaho Falls, Idaho, at the home of his oldest son, James Roy, on 8 January 1933.

Pennina Jane Rawlins Leavitt died of a heart ailment in the Idaho Falls LDS Hospital on 26 October 1926.

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