By Lorah Jerusha Whitaker Newbold Beeks
He was born 15 January 1844 in Nauvoo, Hancock, Illinois, he was the third child and second son of James Whitaker and Nancy Woodland. At the time the Saints were being persecuted and driven by the mobs in Illinois and Missouri, so it happened this dreadful night his parents were camped on the banks of the Mississippi River when my father came into this world. On the 23 January 1844 he was blessed at the hands of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Soon after in the month of June the Prophet was murdered in cold blood.
When seven years of age his parents left Nauvoo, coming to Utah in Captain Williams Snow Company. Many was the mile he tramped on foot across that thousand mile track of unbroken prairies, landing in Salt Lake City, in October 1850. He worked on his father's farm, herding cattle on the hills and low lands, helping fight the crickets and grasshopper wars, and all the hardships of an early pioneer.
Leander was baptized in June of 1853 by Elder Lish and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
During the suffering for food caused by the grasshopper and cricket wars he was one of many who helped' to gather tame Siago Lilies that sprang up on the red barren land where nothing had ever grown before or since. Saving the lives of many though he and his father's household were blessed with plenty.
He and his brothers were the first to construct a mill for making molasses in Box Elder County, Utah. Making many trips to Cache Valley selling their products. On one of these trips he met my mother, Ann Eliza Mitchell.
One other time his mother accompanied him. They persuaded Miss Mitchell to return with them to their home in Willard to attend school, as her stepfather was not so kind as he might have been. In the following spring the 12th day of June, Miss Mitchell became the wife of Leander Jefferson Whitaker. She being 15 years and he being 21, they were just two happy youngsters.
The following spring (1865) with a company of young men he left for California. Six weeks later they reached San Bernardino, which had been settled on 1 Sept. 1851 by one hundred Mormon families. (This place has lately, 25 June 1932, erected a large monument dedicated to their honor and name, it being the 81st year anniversary.) The travelers remained there sometime, and then traveled on to San Francisco, where some more Mormons were building up that city. That company had left the eastern shores and sailed around South America and landed on the western lands in the San Francisco waters near the Golden Gate sometime after Brigham Young reached Salt Lake Valley. My father and his company thought this city was marvelous. After a short stay they took the trail to Sacramento Section, pushing on into the hills to Hangmans Town, now known as Placerville. This trip was all made on horseback.
They headed for the gold fields, staking out a mine for each of them. My father began winding his way homeward, taking about four months.
The desert was dry and very hot, no water for many miles, only what was caught in the cavities of rocks and holes in the ground and that was scarce. Can you imagine four months to make the trip, one way! Now in 22 hours you can make almost the same trip. In your car at least 48 hours will complete the trip from Ogden to San Bernardino and on to San Francisco.
As he reached home full of eager life and great hope for the future expecting to persuade Mother to return to his claim, bringing with him all the gold nuggets and dust he could carry on the pack mules to convince her of his lucky find. Yet none of this glittering gold tempted her. She had experienced already too much pioneering to be led any further west. Moreover her parents had suffered too much for the Gospel and in order to reach Utah and the Saints, to leave it now in search of gold. She was young and looking forward to the time when she would be a mother and as it was contrary to the council of Brigham Young, she refused to leave and nothing could persuade her from the main body of the Church. This must be a choice between love of his young wife and gold. He decided and remained with her and they fought the battles of life together. His pals got his claim he learned some years later.
So together they made a home, heretofore they had lived with his parents. So in the spring of 1866, Father in the company of 5 other men journeyed to Marsh Valley, Bannock, Idaho. Names as follows: his father, James Whitaker, two brothers James and David, and two uncles, William and Henry Woodland, and a cousin, Henry Wakely. This area is now known as Woodland Ward, 8 miles west of Downey, Bannock, Idaho. Each staked out his land along Marsh Creek, building a log hut of 3 to 5 rooms. They were the first to bring a saw mill into the valley and perhaps into Idaho. He remained there one year and then sold out to said cousin, Henry Wakely.
Returning to Cache Valley, where all their children were born except one daughter, Rebecca, she being born in Box Elder County.
Spending most of his time away from home as he took up the work of railroading and saw mill along with cutting timber. He was an excellent woodsman, but he never recovered from he blow of losing his mine. He never prospered, oft times he would be cheated out of a whole years work. Other times he would receive $40 to $50 for one years work. Oft times he would dream and mention his failure, but never complained.
In later life he did some surveying and worked on other people's farms. In 1890 he left Cache Valley and returned with his family to Willard where his father was growing old. There he contracted his father's farm on shares. Two years after the death of his father he left his mother's farm as it had all fallen into her hands at his father's death in 1892.
So with his elder son, Tillery, they returned to Idaho, settling at Downey, 8 miles east of the first home he made there. My brother, Tillery being married by this time; having two children.
So it was in 1894 that I with my mother and three brothers, Saul, Parley, and Henry, in company with my father first reach Idaho. I was at this time 12 years old. He had staked out the land the fall before. Now it was the task to build a home, this they did with logs hewn smooth on two sides and soon completed two rooms. He accumulated but little at farming. In 1905 he went to Utah to work in the beets. There he contracted an infection in his eyes from the alkali in the water. Later he was operated on and the eye removed. Soon after the sight of the other eye failed him, so for six years he suffered blindness and ill health, yet he never murmured.
At last on the 6th of January 1912 we laid him to rest. He had been a kind and loving father and good husband. Misjudged, as many thousands are, no riches, but brave and forward to the end. They were man and wife; he was an Elder in the Church and a faithful member. He was at the celebration at the Promontory Point, west of Brigham City, when the gold and silver spikes were driven in1849 or 1850 where the east and west was joined together by rail. Also when the gold and silver spikes were driven at Monida on the line between Montana and Idaho, as he was one who helped lay the tracks. This last one joined Great Falls, Montana and Salt Lake City. He also assisted at the Great Beaver Dam one of the first in the west. He was a pioneer.
Much of the story I can remember and bear record is true, the other part was often told to me by my mother and father round the firesides. Father was always proud of Mother and thought she was the " Belle of the Ball" and beautiful. I can see him now with that funny little smile, as I never remember him laughing. He was handsome with black curly hair and black snappy eyes, high forehead and white clear complexion. He stood 5'8", weighed 148 pounds, well built, strong and sturdy to the end.
Lorah Jerusha Whitaker Newbold Beeks
12 July 1932 - Downey, Idaho