The East Phoenix Valley is replete with LDS pioneer heritage. The names of pioneer families adorn our streets, buildings and schools. We often casually pass by a geographic location without considering the history of the family for which the location was named, or why the family name was used. The inquiring minds of Arizona Beehive readers want to know! In each issue we now present the history of one “famous” Mormon family name. We hope you enjoy learning about these families, and encourage you to reach out to The Arizona Beehive with ideas for families to feature in the series.
The LeSueur Family
Early Arizona pioneers, the LeSueur family contributed much to the state’s business development and growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Their legacy began years before in Jersey, one of Europe’s Channel Islands. There, John and Caroline LeGresley LeSueur joined the Church, baptized by William C. Dunbar. Future Church President John Taylor, then an apostle, visited Jersey and dined in the LeSueur home. When they had a son on December 4, 1852, they named him John Taylor LeSueur.
In 1855, the LeSueurs, their four daughters and toddler son emigrated to America to join Church members in Utah. Their last child, William Francis, was born in Bountiful in 1856.
After her husband died in November 1862 aged 49, Caroline, their mother, moved the family to Montpelier, Idaho, near where her daughter, Jane, and husband, John Davis, were living. There, John T. and Will, at only 9 and 6, took on many of the duties of running the farm.
In 1876, John married Geneva Casto and, in 1878, William married Anner Mari Bingham. Encouraged by their sister, Caroline, and her husband, Charles Mallory, who moved to Arizona with the first group of pioneers, John T. and William, in a company of 11 families, left for Arizona October 3, 1878.
They arrived with the Second Mesa Company in January 1879, where they built Mesa’s first adobe house, a two-room dwelling on the comer of First Avenue and Sirrine Street.
In 1880, “somewhat discouraged with the prospects” in Mesa, John and William moved their families to St. Johns.
Will spent the rest his life in eastern Arizona, moving to Springerville in 1891 and Eagar in 1913, to open new Arizona Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ACMI) stores.
John stayed for 25 years, managing St. Johns Cooperative Mercantile, then investing in the sheep business, St. Johns Drug Store, St. Johns Herald, and other businesses. He served as Justice of the Peace, County Treasurer, County School Superintendent and in the legislature.
In 1905, when President Joseph F. Smith called him to preside over the Maricopa Stake, he moved back to Mesa. He continued as a successful businessman, running a dry goods store and grocery business. He served on Mesa High School’s building and finance committee, as the Arizona Temple building committee treasurer and was Mesa’s first Mayor from 1912-14.
John was released as Maricopa Stake President in 1912, and President Smith called his son, James Warren LeSueur, in his stead. James went on to serve 15 years. He had previously served a mission to Jersey, the land of his ancestors, where he traced his family line back several generations. Later, James served as a counselor to the first Mesa Temple president, David King Udall.
In the 1920s, the LeSueur family donated their home for the East Valley’s first hospital.
Descendants of John Taylor LeSueur still living in the Mesa area include Margaret Steverson, daughter of James LeSueur; Warren, owner of LeSueur Car Company, and David, who served as the first Gilbert Temple president; and descendants of William include, Don, owner of Benchmark Interiors and Carl; and many children and grandchildren.