Levi’s parents were Sidney North & Mary Hawthorne. Sidney’s family was from the Hartford, Connecticut area, recently from Ohio County, Indiana, where he spent his youth and early adult life. Mary’s family was from the Carolinas with a period of time spent in Kentucky. Sometime in the 1820s Sidney moved his family to central Illinois, near Effingham. Here, Sidney and Mary would live there remaining years.
Levi met Arriminta Howard in Effingham, her family having moved there from Madison County, not far from East St. Louis, Illinois. The two were married in Effingham in November, 1837. Levi had joined the LDS Church (then called the Mormons) sometime before the spring of 1832. He had been baptized in the Presbyterian Church as a three year old and his father was upset at Levi’s choice of religions. There were some heated discussions between father and son on this. Arriminta had joined the Mormons with her mother and family before moving to Effingham. It was there that their first child, a son they named Charles Addison, was born.
Soon after his birth, Levi and Arriminta decided to join their church’s movement to gather to Nauvoo, Illinois, on the east bank of the Mississippi River. They, however, chose to settle in a smaller, Mormon community on the Iowa side of the river. This is where some of Arriminta’s family had settled. The tiny settlement was called Sugar Creek, named for the small river which ran through there.
This was not to be an easy period for this family, nor for the ever increasing members of their church, who were gathering from all over the earth. Within a year or two it was decided that the members living in Sugar Creek should move across the river into Nauvoo. There were several reasons for that. The Church was growing at a tremendous rate, bringing to the area several thousand people a month. This alarmed those who did not agree with the Mormon beliefs. There were incidents of violence which threatened to increase. But the more important reason for Levi moving his family into Nauvoo was his work on the construction of the Mormon Temple there. This had become a high priority for the church members. It was completed the first of 1846.
But the problems between the LDS and their neighbors had increased. A number of them had become serious enemies of the church which eventually led to the martyrdom of the church’s prophet Joseph Smith and his brother.
Brigham Young, the new church leader had saved a homesite for Levi’s family. It was just west of the fort where the Salt Lake City & County Building would later be built. The lot was located between 4th & 5th South between Main & State streets. It was a great place if you wanted to be right in the middle of everything. But that wasn’t at all what the Norths wanted. Levi quickly determined that they liked an area south-east of Salt Lake in what would later be called Millcreek. There he built a nice, comfortable home for Arriminta and the children which now numbered six. He acquired several acres of land on both sides of the country road which served as the main highway through the south-east part of the valley. He built barns, sheds and fences; he planted flower and vegetable gardens, crops and trees (both shade and fruit). He constructed a pond to hold fresh, cool water produced by a nearby spring and taught his children all he knew about the natural and spiritual realms that he loved and enjoyed.
Levi soon became involved in many of the construction projects, building roads, bridges, canals, mills, etc. He had the spacial ability to see how these things ought to be done and was respected for his work ethic and integrity. He served his community and his church in many capacities, never slacking on providing for his family’s needs.
The family did not record the events surrounding Levi’s & Arriminta’s decision to participate in their church’s principle of Polygamy. But on 2 March, 1865, thirteen years after arriving in Utah and 27 years after their marriage, Arriminta & Levi received into their home a second wife. Her name was Maren Kirstine Pedersen, a native convert from Denmark. She had immigrated to Utah to be with the Saints a few years earlier and had found employment and housing with Arriminta’s sister and family. Levi built her a home on the west side of the Country Road, across from Arriminta. There Levi and Maren would have the sweet joy of bringing nine children into the world (two would die in infancy, a third would die at age 3). Levi & Arriminta would also have nine children . Levi’s children would provide him with almost 100 grandchildren.
But the United States Government, at the insistence of some congressmen and many church enemies, did not look upon polygamy, even based on strong religious beliefs, as being morally or socially acceptable. The opposition did not start on the legislative level however. If fact, it would probably have been upheld by the laws of the land (however repulsive it is to many people) if the dissident, apostate ex-members of the LDS church had not continued to foment ill feelings among the neighboring communities. And that agitation continued, eventually spreading across the East, long after the Mormons left to settle in the Rocky Mountains, which at that time was far removed from the jurisdiction of the United States. Nevertheless, after almost 30 years of strong and bitter debate in congress and in the courts, and under the prejudicial governing of a few “anti-Mormon” governors and judges in the Utah Territory, it became law that polygamy, as practiced by the Utah Mormons, was illegal and it was ordered that all polygamous men either renounce the polygamous wives and the children of those marriages; or they would be arrested and remanded in the Territorial Prison. In 1887, under that law, Levi and his son, Hyrum, served six month sentences and were fined for their “crime”. A lot could be said about the justice system that imprisons someone who “righteously” lives a principle that has no detrimental effect on society and overlooks the actions of individuals who engage in adulterous and salacious activities which clearly cause health and social problems. At least one of the Territorial governors and several of the judges who were sent to Utah to prosecute the “lawbreakers. One of them even kept a mistress while serving in Utah, all the while having a wife and children back in the more “faithful law and church-going” East. Levi returned home after the prison term saying that it taught him a good lesson. . . in basket weaving and stitching; which is what the men did while serving their time.
He returned home just in time to be with Maren for the birth of their last child. They named him Levi Edward, but sadly the little boy lived a short three years, dying in the summer of 1990. Levi, himself lived only another three-and-a-half years, dying in February, 1894. Fortunately, he had lived a very healthy, active life all of those seventy-seven years. We have no record of the cause of his death. He left Maren with a ten year old boy, a fourteen and a seventeen year old girls. Otherwise, his other 14 surviving children were grown and most married; leaving his two wives in the capable and loving care of the children. Arriminta died in March, 1903, 9 years later, at the age of 84. Maren, who was much younger, died in September, 1939, a long 45 years after Levi. These three true “pioneers” had lived to witness the taming and the settling of the Western United States. They had begun their move to Utah in a day when Indians were the only permanent inhabitants of Utah.