WASHINGTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY (Washington County, Utah)
LEWIS & SARAH CHAFFIN
(miller, original settlers of St. George)
BIOGRAPHYLewis Rice Chaffin was born December 3, 1806 in Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts.
Sarah Maria Cossett was born June 2, 1815 in Mercher, Mercer County, Pennsylvania. Her father was a doctor.
Lewis was a fairly wealthy man; he owned five city lots, a good home, a farm, and a grist mill in LaHarp, Illinois when he married Sarah on December 3, 1837. Sarah was a widow, with one son, William O. Mayfield, who was adopted by Lewis.
Lewis & Sarah joined the "Mormon" Church soon after its origination and remained true and faithful to the Gospel for the remainder of their lives. They received their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple.
Lewis, Sarah, and their seven children arrived in Salt Lake in 1852. They traveled with the Henry W. Miller Company. In 1853 they had a son, Joseph Lewis, who passed away in 1854. Their last child, Sarah Maria, was born in Salt Lake on February 11, 1855.
In the fall of 1861, the Chaffins were called to go help settle St. George. They arrived on December 3, 1861 with three of their children after a 5-6 week wagon trip. The Chaffin wagon was the third wagon to move onto the campground in St. George.
They camped in tents and wagons the remainder of the winter. They made circles of rabbit brush for meetings and recreation. In the Spring, the settlers left the camp for the city lots and began building homes and tilling the soil. The homes were log and willow cabins. One log cabin was made for a schoolroom. Worn books that they had brought with them served as texts for the school. Cottonwood trees were cut to be used as seats in the school. Broken slates were used to write on, and pieces of slate to write with. Life there was hard, as floods persisted in washing out the dams and ditches, thus destroying the crops. The climate seemed to be very unhealthy for many of the people. For amusement, there were plays, dances, molasses candy pulls, rag bees and sugar cane husking parties. The kids would loan their shoes to each other at the dances. Some would sit with their feet under the bench, and let others take their shoes to dance.
In 1863, William Jennings wrote Lewis, saying that he would give him eleven hundred dollars for his business place on Main Street in Salt Lake. Lewis wrote back to Jennings saying that when he doubled it, he could have it. The next mail brought him twenty-two hundred dollars.
Apostle Erastus Snow told Lewis that a grist mill was needed in Cedar City and suggested they might move there. So about 1867 or 1868, the family relocated to Cedar City, where Lewis set about starting up the first grist mill in that area. Once the mill was under way, Lewis' son, Henry, took over running the mill, so Lewis could go to St. Joseph in the Muddy Mission to start up another needed mill. Lewis took George and Laura with him, to be cooks. St. Joseph was a fort town. The houses were all covered with rushes, and culinary water had to be hauled in from two miles away. Laura returned to Cedar City in May, and in July of that year the fort caught fire and was destroyed. Apostle Erastus Snow said "Brother Chaffin, you have lost all you have. I would advise you to settle at Cedar City where you have a grist mill.
Lewis returned to Cedar City, where he served as justice of the peace, notary public, and held many positions of trust.
Lewis died March 5, 1891 in Cedar City and is buried in Plot A-US-08-06 of the Cedar City Cemetery.
Sarah died August 2, 1891 in Cedar City and is buried in Plot A-US-08-07 of the Cedar City Cemetery.
REFERENCESA sketch of the life of Lewis Rice Chaffin: Utah pioneer of 1852
Federal Writer's Project (Work Projects Administration), 1935
3 pages; 22 x 36 cm
Sarah Maria Chaffin Leigh
by Susan Clegg Biesele (a great-great granddaughter)
May 2004, Revised August 8, 2016
Find-A-Grave entry for Lewis Rice Chaffin
Find-A-Grave entry for Sarah Maria Cossett Chaffin