Mapping the Extent of Plural Marriage in St. George, 1861–1880



For a century and a half, both faithful Saints and federal officials have asked how many Mormons practiced polygamy—or polygyny1—in the nineteenth century. Most of the manifold answers to the question have been given not as the absolute number one might expect, but as a percentage of the population. To know what proportion of the Mormons engaged in plural marriage, one must ask the question more specifically, as Davis Bitton wisely advised me in the 1970s.2 “What percent of which population?” was his succinct way of phrasing the query, indicating that one must decide which populations to count as numerator and denominator and, equally important, for which point in time and space within Mormon Country. For this study, we chose to look at St. George and its Dixie environs in the years for which the federal census and LDS Church records provide reliable sources: 1862, 1870, and 1880. Other methodologies would likely produce different answers to the oft-asked question.

Most students of the subject forget that many nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints who embraced the “Principle” of plurality sooner or later became monogamists due to the death or divorce of a spouse. Moreover, once Mormons reached the Salt Lake Valley, they often moved elsewhere, so the incidence of plural marriage kept changing from place to place as well as from year to year. To cite just one example: John Mathis, one of the few Swiss who settled in St. George, added a plural wife to his family just before leaving Salt Lake late in 1861, but she died within six months. After attending the October 1874 conference in Salt Lake, at Brigham Young’s urging and without his first wife’s knowledge, John married a newly arrived Swiss convert, who after trying to live the “doctrine in plurality” filed for divorce, making Mathis a monogamist once again.3 Thus, in our study, Mathis is counted as a monogamist in both the 1870 and 1880 censuses.

Once we had selected our sources for a specific time and area, we could attempt to calculate a percentage. For the numerator, we have included not only the husbands but also the wives, children, and close relatives who lived in a plural household when the census was taken—1862, 1870, and 1880 in the case of St. George.4 We have left out anyone no longer living in plurality at the time of the census and anyone who may have entered the practice after the population count in question.5 For the denominator, we have depended on the census enumerator’s count of total population, even if he missed certain families or plural wives, as happened in both 1870 and 1880. The procedure may sound straightforward, but it often proves challenging, given the problems of deciphering handwriting and of determining each person’s relationship to the head of household before the federal census first asked for it in 1880.6

As the Bitton-Lambson article reminds us, close to 30 percent of St. George’s husbands had more than one wife in 1870 and again in 1880.7 Even in August 1862, when the infant town took its first census, almost as high a percentage of married men had two or more wives.8 According to James G. Bleak, the Southern Utah Mission’s meticulous historian (fig. 1), a census taken in 1867 identified 69 of St. George’s 172 husbands as polygamists, for an even higher incidence of 40 percent.9 A decade later, when Brigham Young reorganized the stakes of Zion and clerks began to submit quarterly reports, Bleak went so far as to add three extra columns to the standard form and recorded for each of St. George’s four wards the number of plural husbands (77), wives (175), and children (494).10 Polygamists headed just over 30 percent of the town’s families, and their wives accounted for 65 percent of the married women. Together with their children they composed 50 percent of St. George’s population in 1877—an unusually high level for so large a town (about 1,500) at such a late date.11

A map based on Bleak’s data (fig. 2) shows that even within the city itself the incidence of plural marriage varied from ward to ward. As might be expected, the highest concentration occurred in the most populous 4th Ward. With 35 percent of the town’s total population, it accounted for more than 45 percent of those in plurality. Not surprisingly, many of St. George’s leading families resided in the area centered on Main and Tabernacle streets—symbolized on the map by Apostle Erastus Snow’s “Big House.”12 On average, the 4th Ward’s polygamists probably had more wives and children than the plural households in the other wards.

Changing Percents and Perceptions of Polygamy’s Incidence

Bleak’s 1877 count of St. George residents living in polygamous households adds up to a higher percent of the total population (50 percent) than our figures for 1870 (44 percent) and 1880 (41 percent), although we used as a numerator the number of family members in plurality and as a denominator the town’s total population (virtually all LDS). His records were presumably more accurate than the census enumerator’s, who in 1870 somehow missed William G. Perkins and Luther S. Hemenway and their two wives13 (and possibly a few monogamists) and listed only one wife for several other polygamists14 (see appendix A, St. George’s Plural Population, 1870). It also seems possible that in 1877 Bleak counted plural family members living outside of St. George. As already emphasized, the ongoing changes in every family’s size due to births, deaths, divorces, and frequent in- and out-migration make the mapping of polygamy’s incidence for any point in time approximate at best.15 Despite these shifting demographics, Bleak tried to keep track of how many Mormons practiced the Principle of Patriarchal Marriage, possibly at the behest of Apostle Erastus Snow, president of the Southern Utah Mission from 1861 until his death in 1888.16

Two leading Washington County historians, depending on census data alone to estimate plurality’s prevalence in St. George, concluded that “about 23 percent of the people in 1870 were involved . . . , [and] 20 percent in 1880.”17 By scanning only the census schedules, the same method used by sociologist Nels Anderson in the 1930s,18 they arrived at figures significantly lower than ours. Anderson, a teenage hobo from the Midwest who was befriended by two Dixie families, identified seventy-one plural families in Washington County as of 1880, about the same number we counted for St. George alone in that year.19 In 1988, historian Larry Logue combined all available genealogical sources with census records to create a database that allowed him to specify “an entry and exit date for each person who lived in the town from 1861 to 1880” and then “divide each individual’s time in the town” into a monogamous or polygamous category. He found that for husbands 31.4 percent, for wives 62.0 percent, and for children 49.2 percent of their “Person-Years Lived in St. George” fit the “Polygamous” class.20 Logue’s analysis strongly supports the high prevalence of polygamy recorded by Bleak and the figures Professor Daynes and I have calculated for 1862, 1870, and 1880.21

Given these results, imagine my reaction when I read what Martha Cragun remembered about her decision in 1869 to become Isaiah Cox’s third wife in spite of strong opposition from family and friends in St. George. “When in my mind I took a survey of our little town, I could locate but a very few men, not one of fifty of the whole city, who had entered it [polygamy] at all.”22 Either Martha was unaware of most men’s marital status, unlikely for an eighteen-year-old bride-to-be with several polygamous neighbors, or else when she compiled her “Reminiscences” some sixty years later, she accepted the LDS First Presidency’s 1885 estimate that Mormon men “who practice plural marriage” do not exceed “but little, if any, two percent, of the entire membership of the Church.”23 Martha must have forgotten (or never heard) what Erastus Snow’s first wife, Artimesia Beaman, observed in 1878: “It looks very odd to me nowadays to see a man living alone with one wife, especially a middle aged man. It does very well for new beginners, just starting out on the journey of life to begin with one, and then add to [her]. But to see a man in the decline of life [with only one wife], I say it looks odd.”24

Why, in contrast to Martha Cox’s recollection, was plurality as prevalent in St. George as Sister Snow implied? And how widespread was the practice elsewhere in Utah’s Deep South when compared to regions farther north? When a few BYU scholars decided to produce a new atlas of Mormon history, they asked me to contribute a thousand-word map-essay on plural marriage.25 Since I had already begun to map its extent in the twelve towns where Colonel Thomas and Elizabeth Kane stayed after leaving Salt Lake for St. George in late 1872,26 I accepted their invitation. To make the map more representative of Utah Territory, I added a few dozen towns, albeit favoring places close to the Kanes’ southern route. Except for hamlets such as John D. Lee’s New Harmony or Dudley Leavitt’s Hebron, where one large polygamous family could increase the incidence greatly, St. George stands out on the map—with about 45 percent of its 1,150 residents in a plural household as of 1870.27 Why, I wondered, did Brigham Young’s winter residence rank higher than other towns of comparable size? And why did plurality persist there for so long when in older places like Sanpete County’s Manti, it declined after 1860?28

One woman told Elizabeth Kane, “The brethren who were sent to St. George were the very best people in the Territory.”29 Her informant, “Anna I—,” might have added that five of the nearly 350 men called to settle “Utah’s Dixie” in October 1861 were General Authorities of the Church who already had multiple wives and were expected “to become permanent citizens of the sunny south.”30 Allowing for any built-in bias on Anna I’s part, why would LDS leaders have sent St. George at least some of “the very best people in the Territory,” when Apostles residing elsewhere in Utah simultaneously sought colonists for their newly settled regions?31 In spite of its colder climate, northern Utah, unlike Dixie, never needed “mission” status to attract newcomers. Beginning in 1861, Church leaders repeatedly issued pleas for Dixie “volunteers,” usually in vain because of the region’s distance (350 miles) from Salt Lake and its negative desert image. Not until called as missionaries to Utah’s Cotton Country did sizable numbers of Saints respond.32

Bitton and Lambson suggest that “those willing to accept an assignment to settle in St. George were very committed Mormons, and that those who remained in St. George after having experienced such conditions firsthand were more committed still. Very committed Mormons were much more likely to practice polygyny than were others.”33 Their suggestion raises key questions pertinent to this paper. Were polygamists more likely than monogamists to receive and then accept a mission call to Dixie? And were they more disposed to remain there despite having to cope with drought and frequent floods along the often dirty Virgin (originally spelled “Virgen”) River and its tributaries? Certainly acceptance of plurality reflected commitment on the part of Latter-day Saints, especially during the Mormon Reformation of 1856–57, when it was so strongly encouraged.34 According to a new biography of Brigham Young, a sure “sign of lukewarm commitment was the hesitancy of many church members to enter into plural marriage.”35 But did one’s marital status per se increase his chances of being called to the Southern Mission during the 1860s? If not, why then did St. George attract so many polygamous families? If polygamy was at least in part “a political expedient for speeding the rapid growth of Zion,” as Nels Anderson averred,36 did Church leaders consciously favor plural families (and their monogamous relatives) in recruiting settlers for southern Utah?

Marital Status and Familial Ties

These questions have proven difficult to answer, if only because for practical reasons I have focused primarily on St. George—already the largest town and seat of Washington County by 1863—and on its first group of settlers. Many of those who accepted the Church’s call to southern Utah beginning in October 1861 did not make their home in St. George. A majority of them either chose or were asked to locate in the smaller settlements scattered across and beyond the Virgin River watershed, from Kanab, Utah, to Panaca, Nevada.37 Moreover, the 1860 census, taken the year before the founding of St. George, counted almost 650 persons already living in Washington County.38 From 1861 on, formal requests to settle in the region that was increasingly referred to as “Cotton Country” often came from the office of the Church Historian, Apostle George A. Smith. He had headed an earlier Iron County Mission, which made him southern Utah’s “patron saint” and St. George’s namesake (fig. 3).39 His letters,40 along with October conference reports and family histories, offer a few clues as to possible criteria considered by Brigham Young and the other General Authorities in selecting settlers for Utah’s Dixie.

The difficulty in determining Church leaders’ motives becomes evident even from a cursory examination of the backgrounds of the 350 men called to southern Utah in October 1861 or just the 150 counted in St. George the following summer. Farmers made up the majority, but the occupations recorded varied from distiller to sailor to silk weaver. The first residents ranged in age from seventeen to seventy, most of the very youngest being bachelors who sometimes served as teamsters on the southward trek. Nearly half (45 percent) of the newcomers were foreign-born, mainly from the British Isles but also from Scandinavia and Switzerland. As already noted, nearly 30 percent of the married men were polygamists, the majority of whom became such either in the Reformation years of 1856 and 1857, when the number of such marriages probably peaked, or else during the preceding decade.

However, since the eight cases in which a second marriage in 1861 or 1862 coincided with the invitation to move south, one might wonder if taking that step influenced the Church’s selection of someone like Brother Bleak.41 Or did Brigham Young encourage such men to add another wife after being called but before moving to southern Utah? The case of blacksmith Benjamin F. Pendleton, who reached the Salt Lake Valley in 1848, illustrates the latter possibility. His wife Lavina gave birth to the last of their eleven children about six months before the October 1861 call came. Her age and poor health made her unwilling to make the move, so Young reportedly advised him to marry a “young, able-bodied woman” to accompany him to St. George, where he could and did start a second family. Together, he and Lavina chose their “hired girl” Alice Jeffery as a new spouse. A year later Alice’s brother, Thomas, and his wife, Mary Ann, followed the Pendletons after adding a second wife to their family, but perhaps for a different reason, since Mary Ann was childless. Lavina and her youngest children stayed in Salt Lake, where Ben visited them annually while attending general conference and buying supplies for his blacksmith shop.42

Three young men, sons of Brigham Young’s brother Lorenzo Dow, received not only one but two letters in the form of an “unexpected” mission call—a week after the October 1861 general conference ended. Both notices were addressed to Franklin W. Young, Payson, Utah’s new bishop. The first came from Apostle Albert Carrington “to learn whether you [and ‘your brother John’] would like to join the missionary company now being made up for the southern portion of our Territory.” Before they could respond, a letter signed by Apostle George A. Smith arrived, advising the brothers, both young monogamists, that they were “appointed on missions to the Cotton Country.” Joined by their bachelor brother Lorenzo S., they started out by buggy to see the president. Two weeks later, the three of them left for Dixie.43

The marital status of three Woodbury brothers, all in their thirties when called from the Salt Lake area to the Cotton Mission in 1861, also implies that plurality had little, if any, direct bearing upon their selection. In fact, they were sons of a polygamist named Jeremiah, who at age seventy-one may have been considered too old or otherwise unfit for such a mission. Thomas H., the oldest son and a polygamist since 1851, took his two families to start a nursery along the Upper Virgin. John S., a bachelor at age thirty-six, still lived with his parents (and his father’s second wife) when called but already had served two missions in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). After living in St. George for three years, he finally married a woman from Beaver, twenty years younger, but remained a monogamist. Orin N., the youngest son, became a polygamist two years after moving south with his first wife, Ann Cannon. John and Orin remained in St. George while severe flooding in the Grafton-Rockville region and serious health problems forced Thomas and his families to return to Salt Lake by 1866.44

Orin Woodbury’s connection with the Cannons hints at the role Bekannte und Verwandte (German for “friends and relatives”) may have played in deciding whom to invite to southern Utah. Ann C. Woodbury’s two younger brothers—Angus M. (with two wives) and David H. (still single) Cannon—were called at the same time as the Woodbury brothers, and their youngest (and still single) sister, Leonora, joined them on the journey. Within two years she became the fourth wife of Robert Gardner, St. George’s first presiding bishop.45 George A. Smith was undoubtedly well acquainted with the Cannons, since their oldest brother, George Q., also served in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. Moreover, Apostle Erastus Snow’s sister Mary had married Jacob Gates, of the First Council of Seventy, and Dixie’s Ashbys and Stringhams were related to Snow’s third wife, Elizabeth Ashby. Of the five General Authorities first called south, brothers-in-law Snow and Gates were the only two who stayed in St. George. Both of them, along with a few of their friends and relatives, came from Salt Lake’s 13th Ward, where, as of 1860, Elder Snow presided over a household filled with four wives, twelve children, and a few servants (fig. 4). Little wonder each wife had a house of her own when the Kanes reached St. George in 1872–73!

Several surnames of related families appear thrice in the 1862 St. George census—namely, Atchison, Brown, Bryner, Perkins, and Pulsipher—each trio differing as to married status. The Atchisons consisted of a widowed father and two monogamous sons; father James P. Brown and his two sons were polygamists when called from Sanpete County; the three Swiss-born Bryners were monogamists, as was Ute Perkins, but Wm. G. and Wm. J. Perkins each had two wives; of the three Pulsipher brothers, only Charles was a polygamist. Taken together, six of these fifteen men were polygamists when chosen. However, a year later the Pulsiphers’ polygamist father Zerah (age seventy-one), two of their sisters (married to Thomas S. Terry), and a few relatives named Burgess followed them to Dixie. Perhaps their familial ties rather than their marital status affected the selection of these related families.46

Sometimes George A. Smith issued calls to a father and any bachelor sons old enough to work as “laborers.” Martha Cragun Cox kept the notice her father, James, and her two oldest brothers received (fig. 5) when living in the Mill Creek Ward of Salt Lake County in October 1862. They were among the additional 250 men selected that year because so many of those named in 1861 never left or, more likely, decided to return north after a winter of unprecedented heavy rains and floods. By 1862, ten years after bringing his family from Indiana to Utah, monogamist James Cragun had become a well-to-do farmer. His holdings approximated in value those of William Park, a Scottish neighbor with a family twice the size, thanks to three wives, but whose name never appeared on the 1861 and 1862 lists of those called to the Southern Utah Mission.47

The 1860 Mill Creek census (fig. 6) shows the much poorer and younger family of James McCarty living between the Craguns and Parks. James had married Martha Cox’s oldest sister and was among the few who “volunteered” for St. George in 1861, a year ahead of his in-laws. Poor but “zealous” Saint that he was, in Martha’s eyes, three years after moving south he added another wife. Finding farming in Dixie much more difficult than in Mill Creek, he relocated to the much higher settlement of Summit in Iron County, where the 1870 census listed him as a teacher with a plural family of ten and real and personal property together valued at a paltry $150.48 Apparently one’s financial status, whether poor or rich, mattered little more than marital status to Church authorities responsible for calling colonists. George A. Smith informed Jacob Hamblin, the head of southern Utah’s Indian Mission, that the names of those read in the latest (October 1861) conference “is producing no small excitement in this city [Salt Lake] as the call embraces the rich as well as the poor. A few rich men who have been named feel to struggle with their possessions and will probably leave their hearts here while their bodies are there.”49

One of the rich men Smith may have had in mind was a high priest from the Salt Lake 1st Ward named Hugh S. Moon. As one of St. George’s forty polygamists in 1862, he had a family as large as Erastus Snow’s, even without his first wife, who refused to accompany him. When called, Hugh’s two (and much younger) plural wives were close to confinement, one giving birth four days before the Moon party’s departure, the other ten days later in Buttermilk Fort (renamed Holden) “on the road to cotton country.” He had hired a girl to help care for his wives and children, and a few of the younger men bound for Dixie helped him handle his livestock and five loaded wagons. Hugh was St. George’s only “Head of Family” listed as a “Distiller,” an occupation valued in Dixie’s semisubtropical climate but increasingly frowned upon in Salt Lake, judging by a letter Brother Moon had received from Brigham Young in 1858. “I write to request you not to sell any more whiskey or alcohol, or any description of spirituous liquor, no matter who may call upon you to purchase [it]. And in case the plea is made that some one will die, unless the liquor can be had, be pleased to tell them to first call upon me and get an order for the coffin. . . . We have seen as much drunkenness about our streets as we care about seeing, and they all acknowledge that they get their liquor at ‘Moons still.’”50

Although the Salt Lake 1860 census identified Hugh Moon as a distiller, in response to Young’s request, he soon began to “manufacture all kinds of rope,” build “a water wheel thirty foot high” to make cane molasses, and start a mill to grind old bones into manure. Given such skills, the Church must have viewed him as an exceptionally fine prospect for the Southern Mission. Besides being a prosperous entrepreneur as well as a polygamist, at the time “Brother Thomas Bullock came and showed me a written notice of my appointment to go three hundred and fifty miles south,”51 Hugh also served as a counselor to Bishop Henry Moon, a brother-in-law with the same surname. Unfortunately, in 1865 Elder Snow had to notify President Young that “Hugh is sick here with a large and almost helpless family and unable to do much for himself or anybody else in this place; would it not be as well for us to release him and send him back by our teams in the Spring?” Young’s sympathetic response: “Bro. Hugh Moon had better return north to his farm [in Davis County] and have his mill put to running . . . where it will do good business and afford him help in sustaining his family.”52

In 1861, George Baddley, a Salt Lake distiller in the 10th Ward, went to Rockville on the Upper Virgin, leaving his first wife in Salt Lake to manage his mill but taking a newlywed plural wife, Charlotte DeGrey, with him. Baddley fared no better than Hugh Moon and Joseph Woodbury, the horticulturist, in coping with Dixie’s “chills and fever” climate, floods, and alkaline soil.53 All three of these well-to-do yet ailing polygamists had to return to northern Utah just a few years later but did so with the Church’s permission. Their departure raises anew the question asked earlier: how many of St. George’s 1862 polygamists still lived there at the time of the first federal census taken in 1870?

Persistence of 1862 Polygamists in St. George

A comparison of the heads of plural households for those two years (see appendix A) shows that only twenty-four of forty stayed in St. George; however, excluding two pioneers who had died in the interim, all but three of the others lived elsewhere in Dixie. Like Bishop Robert Gardner, they had moved their families to strengthen outlying settlements such as Pine Valley, a primary source of timber as its name implies. Even if existing evidence fails to support the notion that calls to southern Utah favored polygamists over monogamists, the former’s persistence seems to confirm Bitton and Lambson’s assumption that polygamists demonstrated a stronger commitment than monogamists to stay in place. However, more often than not, so-called Dixie “back-outs” were younger men with only one (or no) wife, but a fair number of St. George’s 1862 monogamists (at least forty of them) still lived there in 1870—surely no less committed than polygamists. Regardless of their marital status, most of the men who persevered had already proven their willingness to accept Church mission calls as members of Zion’s Camp (1834), the Mormon Battalion (1846–47), the Las Vegas or Fort Limhi Missions (1856–58), as missionaries abroad, or as leaders of local wards and branches. Perhaps their age as loyal veteran members mattered as much as their marital status as to whether they stayed in St. George.

Pragmatic Considerations in Calling Colonists

Shortly after the October 1861 conference ended, Brigham Young asked Apostle Orson Hyde, based in Sanpete County, to recruit thirty to fifty families from his region for southern Utah. He instructed Hyde to “send good and judicious men, having reference in your selection to the necessities of a new colony, and including a sufficient number of mechanics such as coopers, blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, plasterers, joiners, etc., if you have them that you can spare without robbing your [own] settlements.”54 By “good and judicious,” Young probably meant dependable, a desire seconded a year later by his counselor Heber C. Kimball when meeting with the second batch of “Cotton Missionaries.” None of them were “required to go unless they could go as well as not—[Church leaders] had selected good men—not one [was] sent to get rid of him—[we] want a settlement down there of men who can be relied on.”55 Kimball’s statement implies that a few men may have felt “required to go.”

Among those selected in October 1862 was a reluctant George A. Hicks, who thought some of the Brethren wanted “to get rid of him” and the other men called from the still sparsely settled area south of Spanish Fork in Utah Valley. Hicks’s father-in-law, H. B. M. Jolley, became bishop of Pondtown (now Salem) in 1859, and when a Brother Durfee accused him of failing to reimburse his family for certain loans, Bishop Jolley appealed to Apostle Hyde, who held a hearing on his way from Sanpete to Salt Lake for the October 1862 conference. Hyde, according to Hicks’s account, sided with the aggrieved party, and a week later the Church’s call for Dixie colonists included an unusually large number of persons (forty-eight altogether) from such a small place—all of them related to polygamist Jolley.56 The Durfee-Jolley feud may have been part of a larger Pondtown conflict pitting farmers like the Durfees against ranchers like the Jolleys, who, as Southerners, could also raise cotton. Whatever the reasons for his selection, faithful Bishop Jolley heeded the call, located close to St. George but soon regrouped much of his extended family in New Harmony some fifty miles to the north, and then in 1871 moved most of them to what he considered the superior grazing lands of Long Valley (centered on Orderville). There he presided as bishop of Mount Carmel (1877–1892), where his clan comprised more than half the tiny town’s population by 1880, although he was the only head of a plural household.57

After President Young decided the St. George site should serve as the center of the Southern Utah Mission, the first settlers soon started a series of public works projects that required increasing numbers of skilled “mechanics.”58 David Milne, an early Scottish convert, finally reached Salt Lake via San Francisco in 1866 after operating an interior decoration business in New Zealand for seven years. Young knew in advance of his coming and of his skills and soon recruited him as the leading painter for the St. George Tabernacle, and had his name “Millen” (so pronounced) added to the list of some 150 settlers called south in 1867. He also promised David’s wife, Susan, terribly ill with tuberculosis, her health would improve in Dixie, which it did due partly to the Milnes’ decision to hire Anna Catherine Jarvis as a housekeeper. Two years after their arrival, David became bishop of St. George’s 1st Ward, and six months later, with an ailing Susan’s encouragement, he married Miss Jarvis as a second wife. A third marriage in 1871, sans Susan’s and Ann’s sanction, did not work nearly as well, since the two plural wives proved incompatible, especially after Susan, the family mediator, died in 1881 and David’s health worsened (after his 1877–79 mission to Scotland) due to his longtime exposure to paint leads and his increasing consumption of alcohol (as a cure) (fig. 7).59

Such pragmatic concerns as occupation and finding a satisfactory place for newly arrived immigrants also played an important role in the selection of colonists. The original October 8, 1861, list of men called to settle in southern Utah omitted the names of Orson Hyde’s thirty or more Sanpete families and the fifty or so recruited by Apostle John Taylor in Utah Valley. The largest single group of late calls went to about thirty recently arrived Swiss families, most of which located in Santa Clara, a few miles west of St. George.60 While presumably aware of the plural order of matrimony when they arrived, most of them had had little, if any, chance to embrace it before heading south. More importantly, to Church leaders they seemed ideally suited to the cultivation of grapes even in an environment so different from their native Switzerland. Similarly, as early as 1858, most of the first settlers chosen to determine the feasibility of raising cotton in Dixie were Southerners, handpicked because of their familiarity with the crop. Their settlement, known as Washington, later became the site of the county’s only cotton factory.

In a letter to Orson Hyde, Brigham Young expressed concern about not “robbing” existing towns of people they could not spare. A week after the October 1862 calls to “Cotton Country” were announced, Bishop Reuben Miller of the Mill Creek Ward sent a “humble petition” to “Brother Geo. and the Presidency,” requesting that one of the many brethren selected from Mill Creek “may remain with us.” “Brother [Henry] Bowden has long been established [in] this ward. And is knowen [sic] as a good faithfull [sic] man, very attentive to business, the only blacksmith . . . we can rely upon to have our horses & oxen shod,” despite his fondness for an occasional “drop” from polygamist William Howard’s Distillery near his place. “True there is another [blacksmith], a gentile about to establish himself, but of him we know nothing.” Bishop Miller admitted it was not his prerogative to ask why the Church selected whom they did, but still he felt compelled to make the plea for “the prosperity & welfare” of those over whom he presided.61 Judging from census and family records, the Church honored Bishop Miller’s request and allowed polygamist Bowden to continue his business in Mill Creek.

Perhaps we, too, have no business asking why “Brother Geo.” and other Church leaders chose Henry Bowden, James Cragun, or James McCarty instead of William Park or William Howard, all five from Mill Creek. By the fall of 1862, Erastus Snow, in a letter to “Bro. George,” seemed much less concerned about whom they called as long as such men could help construct meetinghouses and roads. He did ask for one particular artisan, a “Nelson Beebe of Provo [who] has had two or three year’s [sic] experience in sinking artesian wells in California. . . . We have understood that he is quite willing to come if appointed on this mission.” Snow said he would “be glad to receive a list of your new appointments for ‘Dixie’, but still better pleased to see their faces, especially if they are working men, for we have few remaining here, the majority [mainly monogamists or bachelors] having gone north.”62

As of 1870, polygamists in St. George numbered nearly sixty, just under 40 percent of them holdovers from 1862. The rest either received their Southern Mission calls after the first city census (August 1862) or, in the case of young men like David Cannon, Orin Woodbury, and David Milne, decided for whatever reasons to join the plural-minded ranks before the 1870 census. While the numbers of men in plurality did not increase as fast as the total population, the proportion in plural households rose a bit faster. This rise reflected not only the growth of the original plural families but also the fact that by 1870 a dozen of the town’s polygamists claimed three wives, one shy of Elder Snow’s and Bishop Gardner’s number.

However, the 1870 census (see appendix A) reveals that more than twelve plural families had at least one spouse (and children) living outside of St. George. Unwittingly perhaps, nine husbands were counted twice (and Samuel Worthen thrice!) as heads of households by census takers that year. Except for the first wives of Josiah Hardy, Luther Hemenway, and B. F. Pendleton, who opted to stay in Salt Lake, most of the other scattered spouses resided within St. George’s hinterland, lowering the city’s plural population but raising that of others, most notably little Pinto’s. This partial dispersal of polygamous families prompted my decision to map the extent of plurality everywhere in the Washington, Kane, and Rio Virgen [original spelling] counties as of 1870.

Polygamy’s Prevalence Elsewhere in Dixie (1870) and in Salt Lake County (1860)

How did polygamy’s prevalence elsewhere in Dixie compare with that of St. George? As expected, the percentages varied greatly, from 25 percent in the largely Swiss town of Santa Clara to almost 70 in tiny Bellevue (renamed Pintura) (fig. 8). The overall average among the settlements outside of St. George fell just under 40 percent, about the same figure calculated for the 450 Saints still surviving in the desolate Muddy River Valley (now in Nevada), where the Church in the mid-1860s sought to extend its Southern Mission even farther south and west. “The settlers there were mostly substitutes”—men hired by those originally called to take their place. Erastus Snow applauded Brigham Young’s 1867 decision to send “young men who have small families or who are about to get them” to replace the already worn-out “substitutes” or “destitutes,” as another leader labeled them.63 In effect, the high level of plurality throughout Dixie, due in part to the scattering of a dozen of St. George’s plural families, makes the city itself look like less of an anomaly.

Why then did Dixie in general, not just St. George in particular, receive and retain a sizable number of plural settlers? The pattern appears all the more puzzling when one views a population pyramid of Utah based on the 1870 census (fig. 9).64 Virtually none of the age-groups above nineteen had a surplus of females; if anything, men slightly outnumbered women. Such a strikingly even balance masks the fact that by then Utah Territory had a fair number of mostly male, unmarried “Gentiles” engaged in freighting, railroading, merchandizing, and mining. Non-Mormon Utahns, of course, had little part in creating the unusually bottom-heavy aspect of the pyramid, with nearly 60 percent of the population under age twenty. The unknown number of polygamists who were counted twice would also increase the actual surplus of marriage-age Mormon females. In most of the plural families listed in appendix A, the latest wife was at least ten to twenty years younger than the first, a trend that supports the importance of the teenage female population in making the high prevalence of Mormon polygamy possible, as Bitton and Lambson have already demonstrated.65

While trying to locate St. George’s first 150 families before they moved there in 1861–62, I noticed numerous plural households elsewhere in Utah, especially in both the “city” and “country” wards of Salt Lake County—the leading source region for settlers called to Dixie. Polygamy’s prevalence in and around Salt Lake did not surprise me, since earlier studies had shown a plenitude of plural wives in four of the wards.66 Given the large number of polygamous marriages during the Mormon Reformation of 1856–57, shortly before the territory’s first fairly reliable federal census of 1860, the chance of choosing plural families from the Salt Lake area for southern Utah must have been high. Assuming their commitment to the principle of plurality was not a primary criterion for calling Dixie colonists, even if Church leaders had picked names randomly they would have selected a fair number of polygamous families. In many places, by 1860 the Mormon population already may have approached the “demographic limits” of “sustainable polygyny” for a stable society. Perhaps Utah’s still unstable state at that early date contributed to a higher than expected level of polygamy in the wake of the Reformation.

As a place-minded geographer, I decided to test this hunch by mapping the extent of plurality as of 1860 in six Salt Lake County wards—three inside and three outside the city. I began with the 17th Ward, whose eight blocks (not counting Temple Square) contained a fair number of plural households, some of them belonging to Church authorities, among them Elder Orson Hyde, who already had moved to Spring City to preside over the Sanpete County Saints.67 Even after leaving out the many boarders and servants living in the 17th Ward’s polygamous homes, the proportion of the population belonging to such families approximated the same figure estimated for St. George in 1862 (38 percent). By contrast, in the smaller 7th Ward, where polygamist Thomas Woodbury and his parents resided, not quite 20 percent of the population lived in plural households as of 1860.

As evident from the 1860 Salt Lake plat map (fig. 10), drafted by Thomas Bullock for the world-famous explorer Sir Richard F. Burton, the 7th and 17th Wards bordered the more populous 14th Ward with its nearly 950 inhabitants. Thanks to its large number of General Authorities, in 1860 it matched St. George’s 1870 level with 45 percent of its population in plurality. Significantly, the plural population of the rural West Jordan Precinct in Salt Lake County also approximated 45 percent, with no high-ranking Church officials residing there, not even the ward’s new bishop—Archibald Gardner (brother of Robert, mentioned earlier) and six of his wives—whom the census taker counted as part of the Mill Creek Precinct on the east side of the Jordan River.68 At the southeastern end of the Salt Lake Valley, in Draper and the Union Precinct69—where the related Pulsipher and Terry families resided when called to Dixie—I found significantly lower levels of plural marriage, 22 and 35 percent, respectively. Thus, in Salt Lake County as well as in Dixie, the incidence of polygamy varied considerably from place to place but overall at relatively high levels, judging by the average for our sample of six wards and the large number of plural wives Marie Cornwall and her coauthors found in three other Salt Lake wards in 1860.70

Polygamy’s prevalence in St. George during the 1870s lagged slightly behind the city’s population growth from roughly 1,150 to 1,450, based on census totals. About 20 percent of St. George’s polygamists in 1880 lived there as monogamists in 1870; almost 40 percent had moved into the city after the 1870 census—among them men like skilled carpenter John D. T. McAllister, who at Brother Brigham’s bidding went to St. George with three of his seven wives but was soon asked to serve as president of the stake when it was reorganized in April 1877.71 Thus, some 40 percent of the polygamists in 1880 were “holdovers” from 1862, further proof of their continuing commitment to the Southern Utah Mission in spite of its constant challenges.

One may wonder why some of the men who reached St. George in the early 1860s waited until the 1870s or later to enter what was often termed “Celestial Marriage.” As Artimesia Snow implied, it was all right, and actually common, for a young man to wait ten years or more before taking a second wife. Moreover, the “demographic limits” of the area’s population or perhaps limited means may have prevented some from taking another wife. Martha Cragun considered her husband, Isaiah Cox, a “poor man,” but half of St. George’s polygamists had real and personal property valued at less than his as of 1870. David Milne, as already mentioned, decided to marry again for the sake of his ailing wife six months after being called as bishop of the 1st Ward. Possibly his new assignment also had some bearing upon his decision, but the other three men called as bishops in 1869—Nathaniel Ashby, Henry Eyring, and Walter Granger—waited longer than Milne before adding a second wife to their families.

Heinrich [Henry] Eyring, a young German emigrant who joined the Church in St. Louis, soon served a four-year mission in Cherokee Territory (now part of Oklahoma) before making his way to Salt Lake without an official release in 1860. By then the Native American whom he had married as a missionary had left him, “having no disposition to be subject to good teachings.” Soon after reaching Salt Lake in 1860, he married a Swiss woman whom he met on the trek to Zion. The October 1862 roster of those called to Dixie lists him as “Henry Harring,” a “Newcomer” with no occupation. His own records indicate that he initially farmed and taught school in Ogden before becoming one of the few who actually “volunteered” to settle in St. George.72 Once there, his numerous church and civic assignments may account for the ten years it took him to complete his house and contemplate plural marriage in spite of his calling as bishop and the prodding of one of his ward counselors. Charles Smith, St. George’s only watchmaker and a polygamist since 1855, often spent a few months in Salt Lake each year “to procure nessacaries [sic] of life by which to sustain my family.” While there, Smith once wrote Eyring, “I wish you were a polyomist [sic] there is Something immensely Godlike in it.”73

An English convert who also believed in the “Godlike” powers of polygamy waited even longer than Eyring. Charles L. Walker emigrated from England with his parents in the mid-1850s but did not marry Abigail Middlemass until 1861, at age twenty-eight, a year before his call to Cotton Country. As a bachelor, Charlie often visited Salt Lake neighbors after church on Sundays and discussed among other topics celestial marriage. Once while visiting Sister Maria DeGrey, a fifty-five-year-old 7th Ward widow with two of five daughters still at home,74 he “defended the principle of Polygamy against a Sister that was running it down and speaking lightly of it.”75 He became so committed to the plural order that he, like many other Mormon men, did not need to be “called” into polygamy but instead requested the privilege on his own. At a St. George social in 1864, “I asked Bro. Brigham if I could take another wife. He said I have no objection if it is all right with your Bishop and President.”76 Undoubtedly his local leaders would have consented, but faithful Charlie had to wait until 1877 before receiving an answer to his frequent prayer for a second wife in the person of twenty-year-old Sarah Smith, a daughter of watchmaker Charles Smith and his first wife Sarah.77 Was Charlie too selective while competing with other would-be polygamists for a large yet limited supply of women? Perhaps unmarried women, in such high demand, could be very selective in a polygamous society, and some may have shied away from Walker because as a “Day Laborer” he invariably struggled to make ends meet in spite of his popularity as a poet.

Tentative Explanations for Polygamy’s Persistence in St. George

In general, as already indicated, the incidence of plural marriage in Utah probably declined after 1860, but in St. George it held surprisingly steady in spite of the continuing turnover of the town’s population. Several factors provide possible explanations for polygamy’s persistence, beginning with the example and encouragement of Erastus Snow, who presided over an expanding Dixie until his death in 1888.78 Judging by occasional entries in Charles Walker’s diary, Snow sometimes stressed the importance of polygamy in his sermons. For instance, in the spring of 1866, he gave at least three “interesting” or “excellent” discourses on plural marriage, in one of which he “cauitioned [sic] the sisters against speaking disrespectfully of the holy order of Celiestial Marraige [sic] .”79 And in 1882, after Congress passed the Edmunds Act, he defended plural marriage at length in discourses delivered in Salt Lake.80

Shortly before the dedication of the St. George Temple in 1877, Apostle Wilford Woodruff moved south, soon to preside over the striking white edifice erected on the southeastern edge of town (see fig. 2). A year later, he himself, at age seventy, wedded yet another plural wife (number five), a recently divorced but still young (twenty-five-year-old) daughter of Brigham and Lucy Bigelow Young (Lucy was Brigham’s only St. George wife).81 Frequent visits and admonitions by President Young himself must have helped sustain the city’s high level of plurality. Certainly Young encouraged plural marriage throughout the territory, but nowhere else outside of his Salt Lake Beehive and Lion Houses did he spend nearly as much time once the telegraph reached St. George in 1867. At the 1873 Annual Festival [of the] St. George Gardeners’ Club, Elizabeth Kane heard the President proclaim that “plural marriages were the order of the Lord,” and sisters, he said, should not dissuade “their daughters from entering into families where there was, or might be more than one wife.”82 Perhaps he also had in mind women who privately opposed their husbands taking a second spouse.

One such wife was Rachel Atkin, who moved to St. George with her husband, William, in 1869 and then later helped him establish a family village at Atkinville, some ten miles farther south. When at her home in the late 1880s she heard polygamists in hiding from U.S. marshals “urge her William to take another wife,” she let them know that “as soon as No. 2 stepped foot over her threshold, she . . . would step out and go back to England.”83 Again and again President Young encouraged young men not to postpone marriage, and if, as in Cedar City in 1866, he reportedly noticed “several eligible young women still unmarried,” he urged elders like John M. Macfarlane to take an extra wife. John and his first wife, Ann, soon complied with the prophet’s request and two years later joined other plural families called to St. George, where he served as choir director and chief surveyor.84

Bitton and Lambson recognize migration as a “possible determinant of polygyny prevalence” but could not examine its role closely because of “data limitations.”85 Not surprisingly, given the difficulty of keeping settlers in Dixie, one study indicates that from 1850 until 1900 the “Southern Region” of Utah was the least stable in terms of population retention when compared with Sanpete County, the Wasatch Front, and Cache Valley. The same source also ranks St. George as “the least stable of the [four] regional capitals” studied—the others being Manti, Provo, and Logan.86 This unstable ranking, based on decennial census data, does not include the frequent short-term influx of temporary workers for construction of the tabernacle (1863–75) and temple (1871–77). I have already tried to link migration into southern Utah with the prevalence of polygamy in Salt Lake County, where the majority of St. George’s 1862 residents lived prior to their mission call. Given the common practice of plurality throughout Utah by 1860, Church leaders easily could have called more plural families than they did. And in fact some of those selected for Utah’s Deep South declined to leave Salt Lake in spite of their commitment to the Principle.87

The level of commitment already displayed by the polygamous and monogamous Saints who did stay in Dixie may be one reason why Brigham Young chose St. George to launch a revival of Mormonism’s United Order in 1874. That same year his eldest son, Joseph A., who presided over the Sevier Valley Saints, perceptively observed, “The United Order will try men as plurality has tried women.”88 Southern Utah’s limited arable land and the damage done to it by frequent flooding made the new order challenging even for the desert Saints. By the time of the temple’s dedication in 1877, all but a few of the St. George Stake’s United Order members had abandoned Brother Brigham’s grand plan designed to make them economically more self-sufficient. By the end of the year, James G. Bleak had to acknowledge that “for months past there has been a decadence in United Order affairs.”89

In a speech John Taylor gave in St. George after replacing Brigham Young as Church President, he recounted George A. Smith’s unremitting efforts to recruit settlers for southern Utah. Those who came “thought the land was set up on edge and had never been finished . . . and by the time he [Smith] got here he would find that a good many of those he left had also gone. Finally, they became weeded out . . . , until he got a lot of folks who, if they had considered it a duty to go on to a barren rock and stay there until they should be instructed to leave, would have done it.”90

After probing the prevalence and persistence of plurality in St. George, I would conclude that such high levels resulted largely from the Church’s recruitment in the 1860s and 1870s in northern Utah of committed members, many of whom happened to be polygamists who had proven themselves loyal to their leaders in a variety of ways but who also had skills badly needed in southern Utah. These settlers in turn attracted friends and relatives who were often inclined to accept plural living as an integral part of early Mormon society.91 Professor Daynes’s analysis of St. George’s 1880 population, particularly the wives, explains more fully why plural marriage remained so prevalent there even as its incidence apparently declined in most Mormon towns.


Appendix A
St. George Precinct’s Plural Households as of 1870
(* = those in St. George Census, Aug. 1862)

Census # Name Family Members Occup. Prop. Values Born in Yr. of PM
172/144 ADAMS 37 Samuel Blacksmith $600/400 Eng. 1863
39 Emma (9 children) Eng.
173/145 35 Mary (2 ch.) Eng.
128/109 ALGER 48 John Saddlemaker $200/500 OH 10/26/61
29 Jane (3 ch.) NY
129/109 45 Sarah (8 ch.) NY
133/114 ANDREWS 33 James Stock Raiser $2000/7000 OH 1863
ANDRUS 32 Laura (5 ch.) MS
27 Manomas (1 ch.) MS
6/6 BARLOW 40 Oswald* Stone Mason $2000/500 Eng. 1856
42 Catherine Eng.
38 Mary (11 ch. total) Eng.
50/42 BARNEY 64 Edson* Carpenter $500/500 NY 1847
65 Lillis (1 ch.) NY
149/145 BARNEY 64 Edson (counted twice) Carpenter $50/100 ME
(Parowan) 45 Louisa (4 ch.) Keeps House OH
242/201 BIRCH 48 Joseph* Ctn Mill Supt $10000/4500 Eng. 11/15/61
44 Dorah (3 ch.) Eng.
Wf. Mary E. Sylvester “missing”
81/67 BLAIR 43 Tarlton Farmer $600/100 IL 1859
42 Lydia (sister of Eliza) NJ
29 Eliza (6 ch. total) IL
77/63 BLACK/BLEAK 40 James* County Clerk $3000/200 Eng. 1860 &
41 Elizabeth (12 ch) Eng. 10/26/61
Wives Caroline & Jane “missing”
103/87 BRINKERHOFF 54 Sally (5 ch.); 1st Wf. of . . . Keeps House $___/100 NY
5/5 (West Point) 52 James Farmer $100/600 NY 1852
34 Rebecca (7 ch.) IN
Wf. Eliza “missing” (Glendale?)
222/184 CALKIN 60 Asa* Farmer $5000/1000 NY 1851
60 Mary VT
40 Eliza Eng.
223/185 30 Agnes (3 ch.) Eng.
185/154 CANNON 33 David* Painter $1500/1000 Eng. 1867
29 Wilhelmina DE
21 Josephine (3 ch. total) Milliner DE
179/151 CARTER 49 William* Farmer $1500/800 Eng. 1853
44 Ellen (12 ch.) Eng.
Wives Harriet & Lufrena “missing”
140/119 CHURCH 51 Haden* Brick Mason $1500/700 TN 1857
46 Sarah AL
60 Catherine (6 ch. total)
62/53 CLARK 64 George = Lorenzo* Day Laborer $__/200 NH 1856
64 Beulah (4 ch. of “missing” wf. Mary Ann, 5th ch. b. 8/18/70) Keeps House VT
7/7 COX 31 Isaiah Carpenter $1500/600 MO 1865
34 Harriet CT
22 Elizabeth NE
18 Martha [Cragun] (8 ch. total) UT
11/11 DUNCAN 55 Homer Stock Raiser $2000/3000 VT 1863
31 Sarah (2 ch.) IA
11/9 DUNCAN 55 Homer (counted twice) _________ $200/5000 NH
(Iron City) 48 Asenath (4 ch.) NY
14/14 EMPEY 58 William Farmer $800/500 Can. 1856
32 Martha Eng.
15/15 51 Margaret (9 ch. total) Can.
164/140 GATES 59 Jacob* Minister $1200/800 VT 1853
56 Mary VT
39 Emma Milliner Eng.
26 Mary (6 ch. total) Eng.
234/193 HARDY 56 Josiah Stone Mason $___/200 MA 1857
32 Ann (6 ch.) Eng.
(SLC 12th)
55 Sarah (4 ch.) $3000/100 MA
241/200 HUNT 41 Isaac* Farmer $1000/250 Eng. 1866
43 Ann Eng.
20 Martha (7 ch. total) IA
239/198 IVINS 57 Israel* Co. Surveyor $1500/1200 NJ 1857
36 Julia (3 ch.) Eng.
1st wf. Anna “missing” NJ
188/156 JACKSON 60 Alde A. Store Clerk $2000/1500 NY unknown
45 Caroline (no ch.) NH
25 Augusta (no ch.) MA
44/36 JEFFREY 44 Thomas Farmer $1000/200 Eng. 1862
40 Mary A. (no ch.) Eng.
33 Elizabeth (4 ch. “missing”) Scot.
156/133 JOHNSON 53 Joseph E. Horticulturist $10000/2000 NY 1850
42 Hannah (4 ch.) PA
157/134 46 Harriet (5 ch.) Can.
158/135 30 Eliza (6 ch. + 2 servants) Eng.
174/146 KEATE 62 James* Shoemaker $450/150 Eng. 1/19/61
43 Susan MI
24 Jacobine (4 ch. total) Shoemaker! Den.
115/99 KELSEY 56 E.W.* Carpenter $150/1000 NY 1852
35 Janette (1 ch.) UT?
35 Mary (8 ch.) IN
1/1 KELSEY 56 Easton (counted twice) Farmer $300/1000 NY
(New Harmony) 47 Abagil (5 ch.) N. Scotia
71/58 KLEMMON = 55 Conrad* Farmer $100/400 Ger. 1857
KLEINMAN 52 Elizabeth (3 ch.) PA
5/5 KLEINMAN 55 Conrad (counted twice) Farmer $___/150 Bavaria
(Toquerville) 34 Ann Switz.
204/168 LANG 38 John* Farm Laborer $600/500 Eng. 3/30/61
28 Mary Den.
18 Elizabeth Eng.
205/169 26 Martha (5 ch. total) Den.
215/177 LANG 44 William* Farmer $2000/1000 Eng. 3/29/61
42 Mary Eng.
Plural Wf. Ann “missing”
59/50 LAUB 54 George Farmer $100/500 PA 1856
41 Mary (7 ch.) PA
60/51 30 Annie (4 ch.) Den.
137/116 LISTON 49 C.P. Farmer $1000/700 OH 1856
48 Elizabeth (no ch.) OH
54 Mary (no ch.) School Teacher Eng.
147/126 LUND 54 Wm. = Wilson Stone Mason $1200/800 Eng. 1858
44 Eliza (4 ch.) Eng.
21/17 LUND 34 Ellen (4 ch.) Den.
212/174 MANSFIELD 59 Mathew* Farmer $500/400 Eng. 1856
57 Isabelle (1 ch.) Scot.
28 Margaret (4 ch., 2 servants) Eng.
132/113 McARTHUR 50 Daniel* Farmer $2000/2000 NY 1857
50 Matilda NY
24 Elizabeth (6 ch. total) IL
83/69 McFARLANE 34 John Farmer $1000/300 Scot. 1866
33 Ann (4 ch.) Eng.
84/70 24 Agnes M. (2 ch.) Austrl.
240/199 MILLER 63 Henry W. Farmer $3000/3000 NY 10/25/62
59 Almeda (1 ch.) OH
30 Fannie (3 ch.) Eng.
192/159 MILNE 37 David Painter $1500/800 Scot. 1870
34 Susan Scot.
21 Annie (1 ch.) Eng.
16/16 MOODY 48 John Farmer $2000/600 AL 1856
42 Margaret IL
17/17 32 Matilda IL
28 Elizabeth (10 ch. total) Eng.
145/124 NELSON 46 Aaron Shoemaker $100/100 Eng. 1864
46 Mary Eng.
25 Salina (2 ch.) Eng.
107/191 PARRY 51 Edward Stone Mason $800/400 Wales 1857
52 Elizabeth Wales
35 Annie (7 ch. total) Wales
154/131 PENDLETON 52 B[enjamin]. F.* Blacksmith $200/175 NY 10/26/61
39 Allice (3 ch.) Eng.
(SLC 9th)
PENDLETON 49 Levina (5 ch. + son’s fam. of 3) Keeping House NY
163/135 RIDING 54 Christopher Tinplate Maker $500/100 Eng. 1857
54 Mary Eng.
34 Eliza (9 ch. total) Isle of Man
22/21 ROMNEY 27 Miles P. Carpenter $800/300 MO 1867
28 Hannah Can.
22 Carie (6 ch. total) Eng.
102/86 SMITH 50 Charles Watchmaker $300/400 Eng. 1855
48 Sarah Eng.
36 Eliza (6 ch. total) Milliner Eng.
217/179 SNOW 52 Erastus* Farmer $2000/3500 VT 1844
48 Minerva (4 ch.) MA
218/180 33 Julia J. (2 ch., 2 servants) NY
219/181 SNOW 51 Artemesia (6 ch.) NY
220/182 39 Elizabeth (7 ch.) MA
112/96 SPENCER 48 George Farmer $2500/500 CT 1855
35 Emily (4 ch.) NY
12/12 SPENCER 42 George (counted twice) Farmer $300/400 VT
(Washington) 29 Mary (7 ch.) Eng.
13/13 29 Marinda (3 ch) Cotton Mill Wrkr Eng.
224/186 SQUIRE 53 William Blacksmith $800/200 Eng. 1868
26 Isabelle Eng.
26 Sarah (3 ch. total, 1 servant) IA
12/12 STEWART 37 William Farm Laborer $600/500 AL 1869
29 Jane N. IL
13/13 19 Cynthia (6 ch. total) UT
5/5 TERRY 44 Charles* Farmer $300/300 NY 1866
38 Sarah NY
23 Emeline (7 ch. total) IA
28/25 THOMAS 55 Elijah Castor Oil Mfer $700/500 NC 1857
37 Hariett (6 ch.) Eng.
4/4 (Leeds) THOMAS 50 Ann (2 ch. counted twice) Keeps House $150/100 Eng.
74/61 WELLS 47 Stephen* Farmer $600/300 Eng. 1857
52 Mary A. Eng.
38 Annie (4 ch. total) Eng.
208/171 WESTOVER 43 Charles* Day Laborer $500/150 OH 1856
34 Mary (4 ch.) MA
2/2 WESTOVER 43 Charles (counted twice) Farmer $600/800 OH
(Pinto) 41 Elizabeth (7 ch.) MA
139/118 WHIPPLE 48 Eli* Runs Sawmill $1500/1000 MA[NY] 1868
36 Caroline (3 ch.) IL
66/57 WHIPPLE 50 Eli (counted twice) Milling $2000/1500 VT[NY]
(Pine Valley) 55 Patience (no ch.) NY
187/155 WOODBURY 41 Orin N.* Farmer $___/___ MA 1863
38 Annie Eng.
25 Francis (8 ch. total) Eng.
116/100 WOODWARD 53 George* Farmer $1000/600 NY 1857
55 Thunazin (no ch.) PA
29 Mary A. (no ch.) PA
58/49 WOOL[L]EY 35 Olive (widows of Franklin B.) Keeps House $2000/1200 ME 1868
21 Artimesia [Snow] (5 ch. total) UT
195/161 WORTHEN 43 Samuel Brick Mason $1000/250 Eng. 1856
43 Sarah (13 ch.) Eng.
32/29 44 Samuel (counted twice) Brick Mason $___/___ Eng.
(Minersville) 33 Mara L. (4 ch.) PA
43/43 44 Samuel (counted thrice) Eng.
(Harmony) 29 Jane (4 ch.) Eng.
155/131 YOUNG 41 Joseph W. [BY’s nephew] Minister $___/600 NY 1865
31 Lurana (6 ch.) IN
Wf. Julia T. “missing” (Glendale?) IA

Census Population of St. George in 1870: 1,142

Number in City’s Plural Families: 509 = 44.6% (not counting members “missing” and/or living elsewhere)

Census Polygamists as Percent of Married Men (including widowers): 55 of 180 = 30.6%

Census Polygamous Wives as Percent of Married Women (including widows): 104 of 235 = 44.3%

Principal sources:

1. U.S. Bureau of the Census, “Population Schedules of the Ninth Census of the United States, 1870,” St. George Precinct, Utah, prepared by the National Archives and Records Service (Washington, D.C., 196[?]).

2. Ancestry File Numbers available online at, especially valuable for marriage dates.

3. James G. Bleak, “Annals of the Southern Utah Mission, circa 1903–1906,” 1–10, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.

About the author(s)

Lowell C. “Ben” Bennion (who can be contacted via email at earned his MA and PhD degrees from Syracuse University, specializing in the study of German migration worldwide. Soon after moving as a geography professor from Indiana University to Humboldt State University in 1970, Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington offered him two summer fellowships for research in the Church Archives. Besides papers related to polygamy’s place in early Mormon society, Ben has published (with Gary B. Peterson) Sanpete Scenes: A Guide to Utah’s Heart (1987, 2d ed., 2003); “A Geographer’s Discovery of Great Basin Kingdom,” in Great Basin Kingdom Revisited: Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Thomas G. Alexander (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1991), ch. 7; (with Lawrence A. Young) “The Uncertain Dynamics of LDS Expansion, 1950–2020,” Dialogue 29, no. 1 (1996): 8–32; and “Mormondom’s Deseret Homeland,” in Homelands, ed. Richard L. Nostrand and Lawrence E. Estaville (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), ch. 12. Special thanks go to Eric Harker, graduate student in the College of Architecture-Planning, University of Utah, for drafting the map in figure 2 and for preparing all other graphics in this article.


1. Like Professors Bitton and Lambson, Brigham Young himself knew the difference between the popular term polygamy and the proper term polygyny. In Cedar City, Utah, a reporter from New York City, interviewing Young shortly after John D. Lee’s execution at Mountain Meadows (1877), asked him “about your present system of polygamy.” Young’s reply: “I do not believe in polygamy—the definition of which means a plurality of wives and husbands; but I do believe in polygenny, which means a plurality of wives.” I thank John A. Peterson, University of Utah, LDS Institute of Religion, for sharing with me an email transcript of this reporter’s account in the New York Herald, May 6, 1877, 7.

2. Dr. Bitton raised this question with me about the same time he published “Mormon Polygamy: A Review Article,” Journal of Mormon History 4 (1977): 101–18. Two years later, he and Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington authored The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), which included the chapter “Marriage and Family Patterns.” Both the article and chapter 10 (especially page 204) of the book seem to minimize plurality’s importance by “emphasizing how small was the percentage of Mormons [10 to 20 percent of families] who were directly involved in polygamy.” He wrote his review article at the same time I first scanned the manuscript schedules of the 1880 Utah census, found more plural households than I expected, and began to calculate the extent of polygyny with Professor Bitton’s question in mind.

3. Paul K. Savage, “From Switzerland to St. George: The John and Barbara Mathis Story” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1992), 114–15, 122.

4. We have excluded any hired hands or unrelated boarders, but we have counted plural widows and their family members if they were still living in St. George when the census was taken.

5. That also meant omitting polygamists’ numerous monogamous relatives—parents, siblings, children, in-laws, and others.

6. To illustrate, initially we counted “B. Wulffenstiger” and his wife Olina as monogamists, but we later located a “Betsy Wolfenstine” in distant Logan, who was listed as a “#2 wife.” Roberta Blake Barnum identifies her as Bengt Pehr Wulffenstein’s plural wife in Saint George, Utah, Original Pioneers: December 1, 1861–May 10, 1869 (St. George: n.p., 1999), 693–94, a valuable source of biographical sketches but one that should be used with care because of frequent errors and typos (hereafter cited as Barnum, St. George Pioneers).

7. Davis Bitton and Val Lambson, “Demographic Limits of Nineteenth-Century Mormon Polygyny,” BYU Studies Quarterly 51, no. 4 (2012): 12. See also Larry M. Logue, A Sermon in the Desert: Belief and Behavior in Early St. George, Utah (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988).

8. James G. Bleak, “Annals of the Southern Utah Mission, circa 1903–1906,” 1–10, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City. This handwritten copy of an August 1862 census not only lists those who “survived” their first year in the Southern Mission but also separates them by place of residence, namely, St. George, “Virgen City and places above,” Toquerville, Washington, and Santa Clara. I am indebted to Brandon J. Metcalf of the Church History Library staff, who is working on a biography of Bleak, for finding the census and the photo. For a fine account of Bleak’s ordeal in traveling to Zion as a member (and clerk) of the 1856 Martin Handcart Company, see Metcalf’s “James G. Bleak: From London to Dixie,” Journal of Mormon History 35, no. 1 (Winter 2009): 117–56.

9. Bleak, “Annals of the Southern Utah Mission [1896],” 261, Church History Library.

10. St. George Stake Report, Nov’r 1st to Dec’r 1st 1877, in Presiding Bishopric, Statistical Reports, Church History Library.

11. In Nephi, Juab County, for example, roughly the same size as St. George in 1870, less than one-fourth of the population belonged to a plural family. See Lowell C. “Ben” Bennion and Thomas R. Carter, “Touring Polygamous Utah with Elizabeth W. Kane, Winter 1872–1873,” in Colonel Thomas L. Kane and the Mormons, 1846–1883, ed. David J. Whittaker (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies; Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2010), 186.

12. By 1874, when the “Big House” became a boarding house for temple construction workers, Elder Snow had moved each of his four families into separate and much smaller homes not far from his mansion-office.

13. A Gentile Account of Life in Utah’s Dixie, 1872–73: Elizabeth Kane’s St. George Journal (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Tanner Trust Fund, 1995), 162–64, hereafter cited as Kane, Gentile Account. In this journal, Mrs. Kane recounts the visit she and her husband Thomas L. had with William G. Perkins, “the old Patriarch of St George” and his two elderly wives living in “a mite of an adobe house containing only two rooms.” Perkins gave blessings to both of the “Gentile” Kanes. In 1865, Brigham Young called Luther S. Hemenway to St. George “to experiment with grapes in making wine” but advised him “to maintain his [large] nursery in Salt Lake,” leaving his first wife there. That same year (Apr. and Nov.) he married two sisters, Harriet and Sarah Hoegson, and moved to St. George with them while still supervising his Salt Lake business. Compare the accounts of the Hemenways’ lives in David J. Whittaker and others, comp., “Luther S. Hemenway Collection” (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library), 1–2; and Hazel Hemenway Bertoch, “Luther S. Hemenway,” in Heart Throbs of the West, comp. Kate B. Carter, 12 vols. (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1939–51), 10:187–89.

14. Those with missing wives included Bleak himself, Joseph Birch, William Carter, Lorenzo Clark, Israel Ivins, Thomas Jeffery, William Lang, and Joseph W. Young, a nephew of Brigham Young then serving as the St. George stake president. The antipolygamy Cullom Bill passed by the House of Representatives in March 1870 may have prompted some of these polygamists to conceal a wife or two from the census taker.

15. Postmaster John Pymn, who appears on each of our three census rosters as a monogamist, became a polygamist in 1871 when he married a sister of his first wife, but the latter died in 1879. See Barnum, St. George Pioneers, 533. Polygamist Alexander F. Macdonald, called from Provo to St. George in 1871, accepted a new leadership position that took him (and two of his four wives) to Mesa, Arizona, in 1879. Brother Bleak’s 1877 plurality record undoubtedly included both of these families and probably other between-census residents of St. George. For a short biography of Macdonald’s first wife, Elizabeth Graham Macdonald, see Lowell C. “Ben” Bennion, “Pleasure in Waiting upon Others,” in Women of Faith in the Latter Days, ed. Richard E. Turley Jr. and Brittany A. Chapman, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011–12), 2: ch. 15.

16. I know of only two other Mormon clerks who tried to count the number of polygamists (males only) in their respective towns—William Luke Gallup of Springville in the 1860s and Jens Weibye of Manti in 1876. The latter’s daybook entry of June 1876 I quote in Gary B. Peterson and Lowell C. Bennion, Sanpete Scenes: A Guide to Utah’s Heart, 2d ed. (Eureka, Utah: Basin/Plateau Press, 2004), 26. Of Manti’s 253 married men, Weibye proudly reported “40 is Polygamist, half of them Scandinavisk.”

17. Douglas D. Alder and Karl F. Brooks, A History of Washington County: From Isolation to Destination, 2d ed. (Springdale, Utah: Zion Natural History Association, 2007), 81. Only in note 10 do the authors acknowledge Logue’s “higher percentage [34%] of those practicing polygamy” in St. George as of 1870/80.

18. Nels Anderson, Desert Saints: The Mormon Frontier in Utah (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1942), ch. 4.

19. For a fine synopsis of Anderson’s colorful career, see Charles S. Peterson, Hopeful Odyssey: Nels Anderson, Boy Hobo, Desert Saint, Wartime Diarist, Public Servant, Expatriate Sociologist, 29th Annual Juanita Brooks Lecture (St. George: Dixie State College, 2012). Anderson dedicated Desert Saints to the two families with whom he lived for several years—monogamist Lyman S. Woods (son of a polygamist) and polygamist Thomas S. Terry.

20. Logue, Sermon in the Desert, 50–51.

21. Lowell “Ben” Bennion, “The Incidence of Mormon Polygamy in 1880: ‘Dixie’ versus Davis Stake,” Journal of Mormon History 11 (1984): 27–42. This article was my first published attempt to assess the prevalence of polygamy; I focused on the 1880 federal census because it identified for the first time each individual’s marital status and his or her relationship to the household head. The article includes a table based on Bleak’s data.

22. Martha Cragun Cox, Face toward Zion: Pioneer Reminiscences and Journal of Marthat Cragun Cox (N.p.: Francis N. Bunker Family Organization, Isaiah Cox Family Organization, Martha Cragun Branch, 1985), 111.

23. John Taylor and George Q. Cannon, 1885, quoted in Bitton and Lambson, “Demographic Limits,” 7.

24. Quoted in Andrew Karl Larson, Erastus Snow: The Life of a Missionary and Pioneer for the Early Mormon Church (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1971), 747–48. Appendix B of Larson’s invaluable biography summarizes the lives of Snow’s wives.

25. The map and other polygamy-related graphics appear in Brandon S. Plewe, S. Kent Brown, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard H. Jackson, eds., Mapping Mormonism: An Atlas of Latter-day Saint History (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2012), 122–25.

27. That figure is considerably higher than the 25 to 30 percent average I calculated for the sixty towns on my 1870 polygamy map in the atlas Mapping Mormonism. For a broad recent treatment, see Matthew Bowman, The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith (New York: Random House, 2011), ch. 5, “The Rise and Fall of Plural Marriage, 1852–1896.”

28. Kathryn M. Daynes, More Wives Than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840–1910 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 101, table 3. In Manti, the percentage of the population in plural families dropped from 43.1 in 1860 to 36.0 in 1870 and 25.1 in 1880.

29. See Kane, Gentile Account, 44. The woman identified as “Anna I—” was most likely the first wife of Israel Ivins. The 1870 census taker failed to count her but did include Julia, the plural wife.

30. Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, October 13, 1861, 1, Church History Library (chronology of typed entries and newspaper clippings, 1830–present), microfilm copy in Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. Besides Elder Snow, they included Apostle Orson Pratt and three Presidents of the First Council of Seventies—Jacob Gates, Horace S. Eldredge, and Henry Harriman. In 1864, the Church called Elder Pratt to launch missionary work in Vienna, Austria; about the same time Eldredge returned to Salt Lake to take a new assignment.

31. Elder E. T. Benson, Cache Valley’s resident Apostle, did not wish “to interfere with the call of br. George A. Smith for brethren to go to the cotton district of our Territory,” but if any of “those who are not wanted to go south . . . feel like moving into the [Cache] country . . . we can promise you plenty of bread. . . . We want about a hundred good sturdy fellows . . . able to go to work to raise wheat and cattle.” See Journal History, October 8, 1862, 4.

32. Andrew Karl Larson’s I Was Called to Dixie (St. George: Dixie College, 1961) remains the most comprehensive account of the Mormon colonization of Utah’s Dixie. For a recent summary of the settlement process, see Wayne K. Hinton, “The Southern Utah Mission: New Views on Its Purpose and Accomplishments,” Juanita Brooks Lecture (Dixie State College, 2002), available at

33. Bitton and Lambson, “Demographic Limits,” 15.

34. Paul H. Peterson’s 1981 dissertation “The Mormon Reformation,” reprinted in 2002 by BYU Studies (Provo, Utah), is still the best treatment of this critical reform movement. A twenty-seven-question Reformation catechism used in interviews to test members’ worthiness did not stipulate support of plural marriage.

35. John G. Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012), 256. Throughout the book, Turner details President Young’s experience in both preaching and practicing the Principle.

36. Anderson, Desert Saints, 390.

37. According to Leonard J. Arrington’s Brigham Young: American Moses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), 295, the Church called about three thousand people in the early 1860s, and some three hundred “more families went in the late 1860s and early 1870s.” His figures unfortunately fail to distinguish between “people” and “families.”

38. U.S. Bureau of the Census, “Population Schedules of the Eighth Census of the United States, 1860,” Washington, Rio Vergen, and Kane Counties.

39. A decade ago, historian Dean L. May planned to write a biography of George A. Smith, but May’s untimely death in 2003 prevented him from doing so. He did, however, publish a preliminary assessment of Smith’s pivotal role in extending Zion southward: “St. George and the Dixieites: George A. Smith as ‘Father of the Southern Settlements,’” Juanita Brooks Lecture (Dixie State College, 2003), available at

40. The George A. Smith Papers form a voluminous collection in the Church History Library; I have scanned only his incoming and outgoing letters for the 1861–70 decade, available on a DVD, in the Church History Library.

41. The Church clearly selected Bleak, a silversmith by trade, because of his perceived ability to serve as clerk and historian of the Southern Mission. Poor as he was, he had married a fresh-from-England immigrant a year earlier; then shortly before the Bleaks set out for St. George, Brigham Young advised James “to marry fifteen-year-old Jane Thompson,” the daughter of London friends whom the Bleaks had agreed to care for until her parents could come to Utah. Metcalf, “James G. Bleak,” 150–52.

42. See Clay Pendleton, “The Life of Andrew Jackson Pendleton [brother of Benjamin F.], 1830–1908,” 18, unpublished family history, 2009, Church History Library.

43. See Franklin Wheeler Young, “Extracts from 1861 Journal, circa 1876,” Church History Library.

44. See Orson F. Whitney’s treatment “The Woodburys” in History of Utah, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon and Sons Co., 1892–1904), 4:128–30. For more detailed information, consult Angus Cannon Woodbury, History of the Jeremiah Woodbury Family (Burley, Idaho: Reminder Press, 1958); and Dallas Coleman, comp., Orin Nelson Woodbury and His Ancestors (Salt Lake City: n.p., 1983).

45. For informative but laudatory profiles of the seven Cannon siblings, see John Q. Cannon, George Cannon, the Immigrant: Isle of Man 1794—St. Louis, U. S. A., 1844. His Ancestry, His Life, His Native Land, His Posterity (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1927), particularly 163–69 and 188–92, for life sketches of Ann and Leonora, respectively; available at

46. Nora C. H. Lund, comp., History of Thomas Sirls Terry Family (n.p., 1963 reprint of 1954 publication).

47. Journal History, October 8, 1861, 2–9, and October 1862, 1–7. For a published list of the men named in 1861 (and those counted in St. George the next summer), see Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Under Dixie Sun: A History of Washington County Utah (St. George, Utah: Washington County Chapter, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1950), ch. 6.

48. “Population Schedules of the Ninth Census of the United States, 1870,” Summit, Utah. McCarty apparently lost his “zeal” by 1872, according to Polly Aird, Jeff Nichols, and Will Bagley, eds., Playing with Shadows: Voices of Dissent in the Mormon West (Norman, Okla.: Arthur H. Clark, 2011), 202–3.

49. George A. Smith to Jacob Hamblin, in Journal History, October 16, 1861, 1.

50. For a copy of Brigham Young’s letter to Hugh Moon, dated April 19, 1858, I thank Richard Nephi Moon, chief compiler of The Family of Henry Moon: Mormon Pioneer 1819–1894, 2d ed. (Provo, Utah: BYU Printing Press, 2007).

51. See Moon, Family of Henry Moon, “Appendix C—Hugh Moon Journal,” especially C243 and C251. Hugh’s short journal provides telling insights into his married life before he became terribly ill and had to leave St. George.

52. For a copy of the Erastus Snow–Brigham Young exchange of letters, I again thank Richard N. Moon.

53. International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Pioneer Women of Faith and Fortitude, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1998), 1:130–31. According to the sketch of Eliza Parker Baddley, the first wife, Brigham Young called George “to take a second wife [Charlotte DeGrey] and [help] settle the Dixie Country.” Perhaps both George and Eliza thought she should remain in Salt Lake to look after their business. A year later, in October 1862, Baddley’s new brother-in-law, a poor painter who had already married two of Charlotte’s sisters (see note 74), “volunteered” for the Cotton Mission, took both wives with him and stayed in the Rockville area on the Upper Virgin.

54. Journal History, October 13, 1861, 1.

55. Journal History, October 19, 1862, 7.

56. Hicks, incidentally, the composer of the well-known song “Once I Lived in Cottonwood,” actually lived in the Spanish Fork area with his wife Betsy’s family when he and the Jolleys made their frightening trek over the Black Ridge just below the Southern Rim of the Great Basin. See Andrew Karl Larson, The Red Hills of November: A Pioneer Biography of Utah’s Cotton Town (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1957), 66–74, for both the words and music of the song.

57. U.S. Bureau of the Census, “Population Schedules of the Tenth Census of the United States, 1880,” Mount Carmel Precinct, Kane County, Utah.

58. See Larson, I Was Called to Dixie, 101–2. For an understanding of what the first major public works project entailed, read Michael N. Landon, “‘A Shrine to the Whole Church’: The History of the St. George Tabernacle,” Mormon Historical Studies 12, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 125–46.

59. See Sean Paulsen, comp., David Milne: Early Mormon Painter, 2d ed. (Salt Lake City: By the author, 1996), 107–10. I am indebted to Deirdre Murray Paulsen of the Brigham Young University faculty for calling my attention to this source and granting me permission to use the photo of the David Milne family.

60. Journal History, October 8, 1861, 1–9, names the 309 men called at conference time but omits the names of the Swiss and dozens of others called later that month. Journal History of October 19, 1862, 1–7, identifies the names of the more than 200 men newly called to reinforce the Southern Utah settlements. Before issuing this second call, “Elders Geo. A. Smith and Franklin D. Richards read missionary list for cotton country to Pres. Young, who directed the same to be read on next Sabbath, and the missionaries called together and those whose circumstances forbade their going were to suggest others.” This insight into the selection process appears in Journal History, October 15, 1862, 1.

61. George A. Smith Papers, 1834–77, October 14, 1862, DVD in Church History Library.

62. George A. Smith Papers, 1834–77, November 4, 1862, DVD in Church History Library.

63. See Erastus Snow, in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (Liverpool: F. D. Richards, 1855–86), 12:178–79, October 8, 1867. The names of the more than 160 men who were called appear in Journal History, October 7, 1867, 1; October 8, 1867, 1; and October 9, 1867, 1.

64. Pamela S. Perlich, senior research economist in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of Utah, generously shared the data she compiled to help us create this 1870 population pyramid, so unlike that of any other state or territory (except New Mexico) in the United States at the time.

65. Bitton and Lambson, “Demographic Limits,” 9, figs. 1a and 1b.

66. Marie Cornwall, Camela Courtright, and Laga Van Beck, “How Common the Principle? Women as Plural Wives in 1860,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26, no. 2 (1993): 139–53; Carol H. Nielson, The Salt Lake City 14th Ward Album Quilt, 1857 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2004).

67. Because Hyde had families and houses in both Salt Lake and Springtown (Spring City), the 1860 Utah census counted him twice. James G. Bleak and his three wives also resided in the 17th Ward at the time of his call to St. George.

68. The Gardner compound, now known as Gardner Village and built around one of Archibald’s many mills, numbered six households and twenty-four members in 1860, each wife listed by her maiden name. The Spanish Fork census also recorded Archibald Gardner, living with two other wives and twelve children.

69. Together the two settlements had almost 200 more residents than West Jordan (722 compared to 532, respectively).

70. See note 66.

71. No polygamist’s life better illustrates the variety of wives one man might marry than John D. T. McAllister’s. In 1873, he married a spinster old enough to be his mother, and three years later he married a woman young enough to be a daughter. Wayne Hinton, “John D. T. McAllister: The Southern Utah Years, 1876–1910,” Journal of Mormon History 29, no. 2 (2003): 106–36, esp. 112–27, “McAllister as Polygamist.”

72. Henry Eyring, “Reminiscences,” 25–34, typescript, Church History Library.

73. As quoted by B. Carmon Hardy, “The Persistence of Mormon Plural Marriage,” Dialogue 44, no. 4 (2011): 49. A microfilm of a typescript copy of the same letter is at the Church History Library.

74. The two youngest DeGrey daughters, like their older sisters who married either George Baddley or John Hall, also became plural wives.

75. A. Karl Larson and Katharine Miles Larson, eds., Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, 2 vols. (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1980), 1:192. Walker often mentions the Principle in his diary, particularly when it was spoken of in church meetings or challenged by outsiders in the press.

76. Larson and Larson, Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, 1:250.

77. Larson and Larson, Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, 1:445.

78. Elder Snow’s distant cousin Lorenzo Snow, who presided over the Saints of Box Elder County for an even longer period than Erastus headed the Southern Utah Mission, also did his best to preach and encourage the Principle. As of 1870, the prevalence of plurality in Brigham City matched that of Professor Daynes’s Manti. See Lowell C. Bennion, Alan L. Morrell, and Thomas Carter, Polygamy in Lorenzo Snow’s Brigham City: An Architectural Tour (Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 2005), 17–44.

79. Larson and Larson, Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, March 18, May 6 and 20, 1866, 1:254, 258–59.

80. Erastus Snow, in Journal of Discourses, 23:224–34, February 26, 1882, and 23:294–302, October 7, 1882.

81. Thomas G. Alexander, Things in Heaven and Earth: The Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon Prophet (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991), 230. This was the second time Young had offered Woodruff one of his daughters as a wife, and this time he accepted. This marriage, like four others of Woodruff’s nine, did not last long.

82. Kane, Gentile Account, 109, 117–18. For a sample of insights from Mrs. Kane’s interviews with the women of St. George, see Lowell C. Bennion, “A Bird’s-eye View of Erastus Snow’s St. George,” Juanita Brooks Lecture (Dixie State College, 2006), 23–28, available at

83. Reid L. Neilson, “A Friendship Forged in Exile: Wilford Woodruff and the William and Rachel Atkin Family,” in In the Whirlpool: The Pre-Manifesto Letters of President Wilford Woodruff to the William Atkin Family, 1885–1890, ed. Reid L. Neilson (Norman, Okla.: Arthur H. Clark, 2011), 50–51.

84. L. W. Macfarlane, Yours Sincerely, John M. Macfarlane (Salt Lake City: By the author, 1980), 79–81. The author cites unspecified Priesthood Minutes, which I could not locate, as his source. The 1880 St. George census lists John as a surveyor with three wives, the third one married to him in 1878.

86. Dean L. May, Lee L. Bean, and Mark H. Skolnick, “The Stability Ratio: An Index of Community Cohesiveness in Nineteenth-Century Mormon Towns,” in Generations and Change: Genealogical Perspectives in Social History, ed. Robert M. Taylor Jr. and Ralph J. Crandall (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1986), ch. 8, quotation on p. 150.

87. The name of Enoch B. Tripp, for one, appears on the October 1862 list of Dixie missionaries, but he continued working his farm in Sugar House and making shoes in Salt Lake. Ironically, with President Young’s blessing, he spent the winter of 1867–68 in the Muddy Valley (at St. Thomas) to improve his health before returning to his new farm in South Cottonwood. Enoch B. Tripp, Journal, 5:22, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

88. Quoted by Ronald O. Barney, One Side by Himself: The Life and Times of Lewis Barney, 1808–1894 (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2001), 228.

89. Quoted by Leonard J. Arrington, Feramorz Y. Fox, and Dean L. May, eds., in Building the City of God: Community and Cooperation among the Mormons, 2d ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 174.

90. See John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 23:13, November 9, 1881.

91. In the mid-1880s, even as the Church’s First Presidency sought to minimize polygamy’s importance, a U.S.-created Utah Commission drew a different conclusion that in effect maximized its importance. “While all [Mormons] did not enter into polygamy, all believed it right as a divine revelation and upheld it in those who chose to enter into the relation. The system was united by ties of kindred with nearly every Mormon family in the Territory.” Quoted by Hardy, “The Persistence of Mormon Plural Marriage,” 82 n. 53. For a comprehensive documentary history, see B. Carmon Hardy, ed., Doing the Works of Abraham: Mormon Polygamy, Its Origin, Practice, and Demise (Norman, Okla.: Arthur H. Clark, 2007).


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