Monday, September 1, 2014

Justus Azel Seelye and Mehittabil Bennet Seelye ~ Pioneers of the Month ~ September 2014

Justus Azel Seelye

Mehittabil Bennet Seeley

Justus Azel Seelye was born November 17, 1779 in Litchfield, Connecticut.  He was the son of Jusus and Sarah Seelye. He married Mehittabil Bennet on April 8, 1800 in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.  They were the parents of ten children.  Principal places of residence; Luzerne Co, Pennsylvania, Markham, Pickering and Whitby, Ontario, Upper Canada; Nashville Iowa; Salt Lake City Utah; Battle Creek (Pleasant Grove), Utah.

Justus grew up from a child to a young man while the family was living at Seelye's Cove in New Brunswick, Canada.  Even though Justus A. was born in the New England Colonies, he unofficially became a citizen of British North America.

His father Justus had been a carpenter back in New Milford before the war.  He also had owned a sawmill.  It is also speculated  that he owned some kind of fishing boat and was a part-time fisherman.  So it is natural to assume that Justus A. by the time he was the age of 16, was schooled in these same pursuits.

Mehittabil was born November 17, 1779 , the daughter of Amos Bennet and Anna Duncan.  Several records show that her birth date was the same as her husbands,  however church records show  her birthday as October 12, 1780.

About 1799, Justus A. Seeley met Mehittabil Bennet and they had a whirlwind courtship and were married April 9, 1800.  They started their marriage off with a bang....twins, Rachael and Mehittabil who were born September 2, 1801.  The joy of the occasion was marred by the death of the baby named Mehittabil. However Rachael lived, grew to womanhood and married William Parnell Webb.

Another baby arrived on July 4, 1803 and they named her Rebecca.  She later married David Young.

The next baby was a boy born June 8, 1805, and they named him John.  He later married Elizabeth Mallory.

The next baby was a girl, born July 29, 1807.  They named her Elizabeth Seelye. She grew to womanhood and married James Young.

The next child was born on January 24, 1810.  Her name was Mary and later married John Hemingway.

 The next baby girl is said to have been born January 24, 1820.  They named her Mary.  However other records show that she was born in 1810 or 1813.

 Mehittabil gave birth to another boy child in 1812, and they named him William Stewart.

On January 30, 1815 Mehittable gave birth to another boy and they named him Justus Wellington.

On August 27, 1817 Mehittabil gave birth to  another child, a girl they named Sarah Ann.  She grew to womanhood and married Asa McGahen  in 1832.  

Their tenth child, a boy who they called David was born October 12, 1819.
While living in Canada Justus Azel and Mehittabil were converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and were baptized February 15, 1838, in addition to many of their children by Anthon Babbitt. 
Seeley's Cove

courtesy of  Seeley's Cove
After being baptized, it was their desire to gather with the Saints in Missouri.
They traveled from Toronto, Canada to DeWitt, Missouri and arrived sometime in late 1838. They had traveled approximately 1000 miles in about three months, possibly stopping at various points to rest. 

Mobs in DeWitt 
DeWitt is located in the southeast corner of Carroll County, Missouri and about 50 miles southeast of Far West. After arriving at their destination, they were faced with mob action because of the influx of Mormons to that area.  From October 6 to October 10 the mob increased in numbers and tightened the grip on the settlement until it was impossible for anyone to go out and get provisions and the Mormon people were entirely destitute of food. 

The entire Mormon settlement had to leave that area.  The mobs agreed to leave them alone if they were willing to leave . So the Seelye family were in Missouri for a short while; but seen much mob action while there.  Governor Boggs put out a declaration that Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the State. 

The Seelye family finally made their way to Calhoun County, Illinois. And from Calhoun to Burlington Iowa and then to Nashville, Iowa.  
In Nashville they farmed and three of the boys were kept busy working lighters, which were vessels used on the Mississippi to take freight from steamships and lighten them over the DesMoines Rapids.  

The following story has been handed down through family legend.  Justus Azel came down with some type of ailment which made him so he couldn't walk.  The legend does not say what the ailment was but sounded like some kind of acute arthritis.  It is told that he was an invalid for about a year and a half.  He was carried to the Nauvoo Temple, then placed on a sheet, and then lowered into the water and baptized as a health measure for a restoration of health.
original painting by Roland Lee 
Following that baptism, he was healed and he rose up and walked out of the Temple. The date of this event is not given.  In 1846 he walked across the territory of Iowa driving his team of oxen and again in 1847 he walked across the plains to Utah, driving a team of oxen.  Surely the Seelye family were people of great faith.  

The year 1844 brought the event that rocked the foundation of the L.D.S.
File:Carthage jail monument.jpg
Joseph and Hyrum Statue at Carthage Jail
Church, The  Martyrdom.  of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith.  The date of that tragic event was June 27, 1844. Mobbers from Illinois as well as apostates of the church eventually caused the Mormon community around Nauvoo, Illinois; Burlington and Nashville, Iowa to leave and travel further west.

Justus Azel and Mehittabil were getting along in years.  They had buried a baby in Pennsylvania, and the had buried a son, John in Canada.  They had said goodbye to a daughter, Rachael in Canada---not knowing if they would ever see her again.  

On the 16th day of June,1846, they were saying goodbye to three daughters, never to see them again.  The compelling force and motivation behind that memorable and possibly traumatic move was a firm and unshakeable testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The belief  that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, that Joseph had seen a vision and saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and from the power of God, he translated the Book of Mormon; and they believed the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God.

The Saints were conveying their entire culture, a whole society, a people with one mind and one heart and one goal, with a single purpose.  This was a total transplant.  The Seelye folks and many other adults had recently participated in sacred religious rites in the Nauvoo Temple.  There they had made sacred oaths of obedience and sacrifice, they had covenanted to give their all to the Church if necessary, they had promised, with a raised hand to be totally morally clean.

Brigham Young was then the Prophet of God, and as such, his motives were pure. He was a great leader.  

The Seeleys were in the Edward Hunter's hundred, Jacob Foutz's fifty and John Lowry's ten.  In order to qualify to go with the Emigration Company three hundred pounds of bread stuff was required for each person.  Every man had to have a gun and one hundred rounds of ammunition.  And each family had to carry its own proportion of seed grain and agricultural implements.  Only those who could thus outfit themselves were permitted to go that year, 1847. The Edward Hunter Emigration Company reached the Salt Lake Valley September 29, 1847.  In 1848, Justus Azel was then 69 years old and Mehittabil was 68. Their new battle was against the crickets.

Justus Azel and Mehittabil   eventually settled at Battle Creek (Pleasant Grove).  Justus, at the age of 80 completed his mission here on earth, having experienced a long and eventful life, experienced the early persecution of the Saints in various places and raised a righteous family, that eventually multiplied and became some of the earliest leaders of the Sanpete, Carbon, and Emery Counties.

Justus died April 5, 1859 at Battle Creek (Pleasant Grove) and is buried there. 

Shortly after their father's death, William Stewart and his brother Justus Wellington and many of their sons, along with several other men traveled to Moroni for the purpose of locating there, but they were not satisfied with the lay of the land, and so they investigated conditions at Mt. Pleasant.  The leaders at Mt. Pleasant made the Seely brothers feel welcome, and so they decided to stay.  Each family was given a city lot and and twenty acres of land. The date was about April 28, 1859.  After they secured their land, they went back to Pleasant Grove to get their wives, their children and aged mother Mehittabil.  

They immediately "put their shoulders to the wheel" and began to clear the land, til the soil and plant their crops and help build the now thriving community of Mt. Pleasant.

Two years later Mehittabil Bennet Seeley finished her mission and passed away at Mt. Pleasant.        She is buried in the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.  There were not many graves at the cemetery when she was buried there.  Her gravestone is is made of oolite sandstone obtained from a local quarry             


1. Seeley Rachel, b. 2 Sep 1801, Luzerne, Luzerne, Pennsylvania , d. 25 Mar 1887 (Age 85 years)
2. Seeley Mehitable, b. 2 Sep 1801, Luzerne, Luzerne, Pennsylvania , d. 2 Sep 1801, Luzerne, Luzerne, Pennsylvania (Age 0 years)

3. Seelye Rebecca, b. 4 Jul 1803, Luzerne, Luzerne, Pennsylvania , d. , Hancock, Illinois

4. Seeley John, b. 8 Jun 1805, Luzerene, Luzerne, Pennsylvania , d. 22 Aug 1826 (Age 21 years)

5. Seeley Elizabeth, b. 29 Jun 1807, Stubenville, Steuben, New York , d. 30 Mar 1900, Mount Pleasant, Sanpete, Utah (Age 92 years)

 6. Seelye Mary, b. 24 Jan 1810, Lucerne, Lucerne, Pennsylvania , d. 7 Apr 1881, Galland, Lee, Iowa (Age 71 years)

7. Seeley William Stewart, b. 18 May 1812, Whitby, Ontario, Canada , d. 16 Sep 1895, Mount Pleasant, Sanpete, Utah (Age 83 years)

 8. Seeley Justus Wellington, b. 30 Jan 1815, Pickering, Home, Upper Canada , d. 28 Apr 1894, Mount Pleasant, Sanpete, Utah (Age 79 years)

 9. Seeley Sarah Ann, b. 27 Aug 1817, Pickering Home, Home Dist., Upper Canada , d. 17 May 1885, Near Carthage, Hancock, Illinois (Age 67 years)

10. Seely David, b. 12 Oct 1819, Port Whitby, Pickering Home, Canada , d. 24 May 1892, San Bernadino, San Bernadino, California (Age 72 years)

The above is taken from the JASFO (Justus Azel Seelye Family Organization) Website