James Bevan was born October 19, 1821, in Herefordshire, England, the son of John Bevan and Ann Bairfoot of Herefordshire, England. He was baptized a member of the Church on October 29, 1841, by Wilford Woodruff. He arrived in Nauvoo, Illinois, shortly before the Saints' expulsion. He joined the Mormon Battalion, serving as a private in Company A, and marched with them as far as Hot Springs on the Rio Grande River, some 240 miles south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. With Lieutenant William Willis's sick detachment, he left the main body of the Battalion November 10, 1846, returned to Santa Fe, crossed the mountains and arrived in Pueblo, Colorado, on December 20, where three sick detachments from the Battalion and a group of Saints from Mississippi spent the winter. The sick detachments and some of the Mississippi Saints left Pueblo on May 24, 1847, and arrived in Salt Lake City July 29, five days after Brigham Young had entered the valley. James was 25 years old.
James returned from Salt Lake City to Winter Quarters, where he married Mary Shields on May 9, 1850. They traveled to Utah in 1852 in the Thomas C.D. Howell Company with their one-year-old son John Alexander, arriving in Salt Lake City in September, and settled in Tooele that same year. In 1859 James married a second wife, Isabell McPhearson. He was the father of 23 children and helped to raise two others. He farmed and later in life hauled ore to Salt Lake City. He was the senior president of the 43rd Quorum of Seventy for many years. He died October 26, 1894.