Louis and Ann Stephens Deschamps
By Norma Yearsley
Shiffman, Mitchell Deschamps, Ray Deschamps, Erma Thomas Yearsley, and Rosalie
Louis and Ann Stephens Deschamps were among the first pioneers to settle in
St. John. Ann joined the church in Wales and was the first member of her family
to emigrate to America in 1863. She pushed a handcart across the plains. When
President Brigham Young learned that she was an expert seamstress, he hired her
to care for and mend linens in his home. She saved money to send to her family
that they might emigrate. Her brothers Tom and John worked in the mines and the
family pooled their resources together, and within six years the parents and
eight children were in Utah.
About the same time Ann left Wales, a young Frenchman named Louis Henault
Deschamps left his home in Canada and drifted south to St. Louis, Missouri,
with some fur traders. Louis was an expert woodcutter. There he joined the
pioneers, and traveled to Utah with them, where he was converted to the Mormon
There in Willard, Utah, Ann and Louis met. Louis spoke French and a little
of English, Ann spoke Welsh and English. In spite of the language barrier a
romance was kindled. They were married in the Endowment house on March 30,
1867. The first two years they lived at Willard, then they moved to Malad.
Their first home was a dug-out, located just west of town. The next move was to
St. John in 1873, where they homesteaded 160 acres along Devil Creek, receiving
the land patent March 5, 1880.
Eleven children were the off-spring of Louie and Ann: Rosalie and Mary Ann
born in Willard; Louis and Josephine in the dug-out in Malad; David, the twins
John and Thomas, Francis, Daniel, Rachel, and Nellie in St. John. Louis died
March 27, 1879, at age 7, Thomas died March 19, 1879 at age 2, and Daniel died
in 1882 at the age of 2.
In conjunction with their farming operation, they built a general
merchandise store near the St. John school and church, which was on the route
for the freighters going north into Idaho and Montana. Travelers stopped at the
store to replenish their supplies, and often sat at her bounteous table. Ann
was a good conversationalist and could talk intelligently on almost any
subject. Everyone who happened to be around the store at mealtime was invited
to eat with them.
On March 2, 1894, a license was issued to George Cole and company for
merchandising. He and his family moved from Malad to help his father-in-law in
the store. In about two years the Coles moved to Rexburg, Idaho.
Grandchildren have told things about the Deschamps store and home. Mitchell
Deschamps tells quote, "The store was built first and separately from the
house. The two-story house was erected adjacent to the store, which was on the
north. The picture of the store being torn down in 1912 verifies this. The
store was built of logs and the house of adobe. I tore these buildings down and
built my present home on the same spot. My grandparents home consisted of six
rooms downstairs, 4 rooms upstairs and a cellar for milk, cheese, and
perishables for the store. I can still smell the old vinegar barrel, cheese
cutter, harness leather, collar pads, and patent medicine."
Then Erma Thomas Yearsley tells it quote, "The Deschamps built a nice
two story home and two large (slopes) rooms on each of two sides that they made
into their country store. They had large barrels of candy, crackers, and other
staple foods. There were wooden boxes of dried apples, prunes, and plums that
came from their own 5-acre orchard. My mother Nellie used to tell how they
prepared the fruit and carried it up the ladder to the roof of the store and
set it out to dry in the sun, before packing it in the boxes.
On November 5, 1896, Louis and Ann deeded ½ acre of land for the
construction of a new St. John Ward building, which was built where our church
Louis was killed when he was run over by a wagonload of grain on September
20, 1902. Ann died at her home March 3, 1909.
(From St. John, Oneida County, Idaho: A collection of personal histories from
the time of the first settlers to the present day, pp. 92-93.)