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

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This article is one of a set on the practice of polygamy in St. George, Utah, from 1861 to 1880. It asks why polygamy rates in that Mormon settlement exceed the demographic limits produced by Bitton and Lambson in their article “Demographic Limits of Nineteenth-Century Mormon Polygyny.” Bitton and Lambson suggest that “those willing to accept an assignment to settle in St. George were very committed Mormons, and those who remained in St. George after having observed conditions firsthand were more committed still. Very committed Mormons were much more likely to practice polygamy than were others.”

Using case studies of polygamous families in Utah’s Dixie, Bennion supports this observation. After probing the prevalence and persistence of plurality in St. George, he concludes 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. Bennion’s article includes a list from the 1870 federal census of households participating in plural marriage.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 51:4
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