by Martha Sonntag Bradley
and Mary Brown Firmage Woodward
First Years in Utah, 1848-50s
“A new era of things a wates me.”
—Zina D. H. Young
[p.174] Although Zina had never seen a Utah landscape, her arrival in the Great Salt Lake Valley on Wednesday, 20 September 1848, was a genuine homecoming. Here she was reunited with brothers William D. and Dimick, their wives Olive and Fanny, sister Presendia, her distant husband Brigham Young, some of his forty-four wives and numerous children, and friends.1 By this time, upwards of 1,700 Mormons had gathered at the western base of the Wasatch Mountains. These were people who held a vision in common—of the desert blooming like a rose. Already irrigation ditches channeled water from the foothills to the valley floor. In the months since the first company had reached the shores of the Great Salt Lake in July 1847, they had plowed fields, platted the city from the point chosen for the corner of the temple block, and distributed land for individual family farmsteads. Brigham Young had selected the block east of the temple for his own family, as well as blocks in other locations throughout the city.2 He felt justified both in locating himself near the church’s administrative center and in establishing homes for his many families.
Although some land had been assigned in 1847, Young and his first [p.175] counselor Heber C. Kimball officially distributed lots during the fall of 1848 following a lottery. Family heads were entitled to city lots large enough for a small orchard and garden and as much farmland as they could manage on the periphery of town. Perhaps because of the presence of so many plural wives, adult women were included in the lottery and could also claim land.
Until 1849, most pioneers lived in an adobe fort built on a ten-acre public square, Block 48 in the original plat, at 200 West between 300 and 400 South.3 Women tucked up their skirts and joined barefooted men and children in stomping the grayish, lead-colored earth and straw into adobe. Stomped into forms and set out in the sun to dry, this method produced bricks larger than ordinary kiln-dried bricks. When complete, the walls of the fort reached nine feet high. For the first couple of days, Zina lived in her wagon box, lifted off its running gear near South Temple and State Road, where Brigham would a few years later build a schoolhouse. She shared the cramped space with her two sons and with Martha Bowker, a twenty-six-year-old convert who had been sealed to Young on 21 January 1846.4 Soon, however, Oliver arranged for Zina to move into a room in the fort where sixteen-foot-square living quarters had been built. The brush-and-mud roofs leaked “like sieves” when it rained. Presendia remembered they often had to hold umbrellas over their beds to protect them and their children from the water.5
When she first arrived, Zina may have wondered how they would survive. But she quietly learned she could make it on her own and, in fact, was strong beyond her imagination. Zina made do with what she had in her small cabin. Cooking on a simple stove, she shared with others what food she acquired. In late December 1849, Brigham replaced the small box stove with “a nice cooking stove” he had purchased for $50.6 Mostly, though, she fought off loneliness; her sons provided both care and company. The seasons of her life, the spirit, the babies, and her friends filled her time and mind.
Zina attended her first Sunday service only four days after arriving in the valley, and “truly enjoyed it.”7 Although conditions in the adobe fort were primitive, she found much to celebrate, usually the company of friends and a feast of the spirit. For Zina, the work of the Lord made privation seem insignificant, and she cheerfully turned her straitened cir-[p.176]cumstances into an adventure. “We ware near City creek,” she wrote that first Sunday. “How beautiful is the water pure cold right from the mountains … the Girls [Brigham’s young wives] ware most all situated some down in the fort. Emiline & Margret in there waggon on there lot whare there house will be built.”8
Zina Diantha’s diary for 1848-50 captures the shape of her first years in Utah in brief notations, and speaks volumes about her life in the fledgling settlement and as a member of Brigham Young’s extended family. It is here we see Zina striving to become a plural wife in a household that included many women and children, orbiting around the central male figure. It is also here that we become better acquainted with Zina as a woman of unmistakable warmth and compassion, unmatched devotion to God and family, tireless in the work of the Lord.
Zina began making daily entries immediately but kept the first page blank where, on 3 November 1848, she recorded her arrival in “The Vally of the great salt lake.” This first entry reads:
As I have filled my little book that I commenced in Nauvoo with daily occurrences and I am now safe in the vally through the merces of my heavenly Father & as we are to acknoledge his hand in all things so also do I in this. We arived in the vally about 12 oclock … to embrace our dear friends from whom we had ben so long seperated. And under the peculiar circumstasens as this People have ben placed, [it] filled each bosom with joy and as all countainances bespoke health and grattidue. Ah hapy day long to be remebered. We came in on wednes day. The time was mostly spent in visiting.9
Here Zina establishes the threads that weave through her daily entries: the heart-feeding contact with family and friends, the soul-nourishment of spiritual gatherings. Seeing her life as a journey, she positioned Kirtland, Far West, and Nauvoo as backdrops for her personal drama, each life-episode providing opportunities for growth, strengthening her character, and preparing her for Zion. Zina was able to sidestep much bitterness about persecution by seeing it as part of a larger design.
Eight years had passed since Zina fled from Missouri to Illinois. During those years she underwent a fundamental paradigm shift—from a monogamous world to one of plurality. As a young woman, she had set [p.177] up house as a wife and mother, she had sent her husband on repeated missions, and had given birth to two sons. That much-interrupted marriage was the only time she would have a full-time husband. That shift, begun in Nauvoo and intensified in Winter Quarters, would complete itself in Utah. She had to alter her thinking about family, assumptions about gender roles, and use of social networks, blending the elements of her life and thought into the new social framework of Brigham Young’s complicated households. To a great extent, she succeeded by becoming central in a female support network of sister wives that functioned like family in these unusual situations. In many ways, Zina’s world in Utah, structured by the demands of plurality, was a female world.
This should not, however, obscure the equally important fact that the core of Zina’s inner emotional life contracted back to the nuclear family of her youth. Because of Young’s frequent absences and his largely ceremonial appearances in her personal life, her relationships with her brothers and her sister became the chief source of emotional support and often physical sustenance. It was to Oliver she turned when she needed fuel for her fire, to Dimick for shelter, to Presendia for company. She, in turn, mended her brothers’ clothes or helped their wives with other chores, despite their involvement with their own families. In 1851 alone, Dimick married four plural wives—Susan Maria Cardin, Ellen Sophia Jacobs, Tesidge Uintah, and Harriet Augusta Hoagland.
Presendia, Dimick, Oliver, and William visited her—or she them— almost daily during this period. Her two brothers accepted without comment their role as de facto “men of the house.” Four days after reaching the valley, she recorded: “BY had spoken to me about my Brothers getting me a house. My Brother Dimick bought one with 2 rooms [these rooms were in the fort, one was for Zina, one for Presendia].”10 Oliver came to transport Zina and Presendia into this room on 20 October, but the previous lodgers had not yet moved out. Zina adds without comment, “BY had told me he was coming after me” but does not explain why Oliver came instead. Three days later she finally moved in and “white washed the room. Oliver assisted me. Took up the floor &c.”11 Zina used a piece of wooly sheepskin and clay from City Creek to wash the rough walls. Presendia, still ill in the sixth month of another pregnancy, apparently took a turn for the worse and came back to Zina’s. [p.178] Presendia remained with her until 11 December and, even then, was “scarcely able to walk.” Zina, however, had turned one of the rooms into a school: “The room smoked s[o] that it was almost unsuferable and the noise of the scool and the children in the joining room was more than [Presendia] could endure and her strength was daily wasting away.”12
Heber C. Kimball completed his adobe equivalent of Brigham’s log row house for his plural wives late in 1849, and in December Presendia relocated to quarters closer to Heber’s. (Late the previous year, Brigham had built a row of log houses for his plural wives. The building, known as Harmony House, was located on what would later be First Avenue.) Zina helped her sister move: “I came up with Presendia. She moved into a room joining Br Kimbles a good stove and things comfortable. Surely will she know how to prize them for she has not ben a stranger to cold and fateague and exposure. Her health is not very good. I assisted her what I could in moving.”13
Even though Presendia’s presence had increased Zina’s work, she had not complained. After her sister’s departure, she wrote, “How plesently have the hours and days pased since we ware bles with the privilege of enjoying each others society but again are we to be seperated. O God our heavenly Father wilt thou be mindeful of us continually. 7 years ago to day since Presendia was sealed to Joseph Smith (And how many ware our reflections this day).”14 On the nineteenth birthday of Presendia’s son George, still with his father, Zina, sensitive to Presendia’s longing, wrote hopefully that although he was “seperated from us amongst the gentiles. I trust he will soon be in our midst.”15
During her first months in the valley, Zina visited female friends and sister wives, frequently staying overnight, attended meetings of the Second Quorum of Seventy in her schoolroom, dipped candles, nursed the sick, laid out the dead, and sewed clothes for her children. She spent three days washing and a fourth day starching and ironing with a borrowed flat-iron.16 Washing was, in fact, such a taxing job that she records doing the laundry only two times between September and the following May, but almost certainly there was a constant succession of single pieces—shirts, undergarments, and children’s clothes—being scrubbed and wrung out all winter long.
Zina settled in over the next three weeks and recorded the experi-[p.179]ences most filled with meaning for her. “I had many good seasons & especially with sister Rockwood, Presendia & sister Bow[k]er came up.”17 The phrase “good seasons” refers to blessing meetings or gatherings in which spiritual gifts were exercised, and paints a picture of women whose exhaustion from the trail, illness from pregnancy, and physical labors in reestablishing homes were washed away by the joy that resulted from opening in company their conduit to heavenly bliss. In mid-October 1848, Zina recorded what may have been an attempt to recapture the emotional intensity of the female world of Winter Quarters: “Sister Rockwood & Ellen, Martha & myself fasted & Prayed that we might be blest and be guided by the trew speret and for the advancement of the work.” She concluded, “Spent the afternoon together very hapily.”18 Other entries mention meetings during which the spiritual gift of tongues was exercised. At one tender episode, Oliver, apparently eating supper in her house, spoke in tongues, an event that provided great comfort.19
As in Winter Quarters, Zina balanced the difficult life she was required to lead with prayer or blessing meetings that supplemented regular public preaching services. Between her arrival in the valley in September 1848 and her move into Brigham Young’s log row house on 16 April 1849, she mentions attending fourteen preaching services, three meetings of the seventy, and numerous private gatherings. She notes more than twenty different occasions when she visited sister wives or other friends for prayer meetings, blessing gatherings, or other informal occasions for the expression of their spiritual gifts. These rounds of visits created networks of community and family, redefining their sense of who they were as members of the church and fellow participants in a grand experiment. On Sunday evening, 17 December 1848, Zina attended a meeting at W. W. Phelps’s schoolroom. “He red the 5 chapter of Matthew from the original Greek as he had translated it. I borrowed the book & red it to the girls and Presendia. It was very interesting. (George Boid took supper here.) The 2 quorum [of the seventy] met here as usual. I enjoy the meetings much as there are many noble Ideahs advanced.” On another night she went to Dimick’s for “an excelent meeting. Peace union & Love ware felt and seen. After I returned home Br Boid prayed with us and we had a few words in tongs to Br Boid. It cheered [and] comforted our [p.180] hearts.”20 She was sometimes called upon to interpret as well. “Hirums widdo 2[too] [Mary Fielding Smith] spoke in tongs. It was put uppon me to interpret,” she recorded on 7 January 1849.
Her entry for Saturday, 13 January, typified her daily routine—a rich combination of various chores.
In the morning I washed some & charles Hide [Charles Walker Hyde] called in the afternoon. Oliver & I went to Sister Twists. BY [Brigham Young] & br Bullock took supper there. She lives in with Phines Cook [Phineas Wolcott Cook]. Sister Cobb [Augusta Adams Cobb] was there. We had the best supper I have eaten in the vally the mince pie & goosberry tarts in particular. In the evening Oliver & I went down to Adison Prats … Had some music singing and relating events of past life. Truly interesting. I felt it a duty as the speret rested uppon me in obedience there unto agreeable to my former covenants with God to obey him. I arose and sung some and spoke in tongs Leaving the event in the hands of him who bade me speak. Enjoyed the evening much.21
Zina and Dimick had a special reason for fervent prayers, for Presendia went into labor that Sunday night. By Monday evening, the baby still had not been born. Zina, who was teaching school, went to Presendia’s in the evening and joined Louisa Beaman. At 1 a.m., Presendia seemed “a little better.” Zina caught a few hours of sleep, conducted school the next day, and dismissed it quickly at 11:30, when Mother Mariah Veits Miles “came after me. At 15 minuts past 12 AM She [Presendia] had a fine daughter. The above named company was there. The babe came near perishing but survived. After supper Br Kimble came in, the Father of the child, and blest it calling it Presendia. Great ware the blessing sealed uppon the childs head.”22 Zina probably was given the honor of receiving this little niece into her hands as she was born. The roof on Presendia’s home leaked so badly that, during a rainy spell the next week, she had to huddle in bed with her baby, holding an umbrella over both of them.
Despite the grueling labor, Presendia recovered within the month, and on 18 February Zina recorded: “In the evening Presendia & I went to sister Lenards. Sister Vance was there. We bathed our selves and Prayed especially for sister [Ann Marsh] Abbot who is very sick, the cause [p.181] in general, our friends, our selves that we might always do right &c. We stayed all night. Had an a greeable time.”
Yet another chance for Zina to exercise her spiritual talents came on 16 June 1849. “I commenced singing in tongs,” she recorded that night.
and as I arose the speret said go and bless Clarry Decker or young. I done as the impression bid. After I had blest her I blest Lucy B[igelow] and elizabeth and Sall (the Lamanite that Charles Decker brought) was setting by. I lade my hands uppon her hed and my language changed in a moment and when I had finished she said she understood every word. I had talked in her mother tongue. The speret bore testimony but there was positive proof that could not be denied. I told her that her mother and sisters ware coming, and She must be a good girl. It was to her understanding it was a great cross but the Lord crowned it with joy for which I fee[l] to praise his name.23
Even her birthdays were occasions for meetings: “Wednesday 31t day of Jan. 1849. This day I am 28 years old. Have taught school all day. In the evening I attended meeting at Dimicks. Had an excellent time.” The next year she spent her birthday at Presendia’s. Brigham was conspicuously absent on both days. Five months later she hosted a party for all “of Joseph’s family together that could meet in the valley. … Praise the Lord that so many are continueing in well doing and striving to hold out faithful to the end.”
Zina seldom mentions her own children, but they seem to have accompanied her to meetings and gatherings so routinely that she rarely felt a need to note their presence. In one touching passage, however, she wrote: “What a blessing it is when the shades of night draw round to place our tender offsprings in a peaceful bed and place a fond Mothers kiss on there blooming cheeks and raise a fervent desire to the throne of Grace for there future well fare. O God my heavenly Father do bless my 2 little sons in coming life.”24
She often records staying up till midnight or later to do housework or entertain guests. Not surprisingly, she often mentions her fatigue at the end of the day. School must have been demanding, even though the season was short—from late October (she did not make diary entries between 25 October and 10 December) to early February.
[p.182] Zina displays no special interest in Brigham Young, a cordial but impersonal visitor during the winter of 1848-49: “BY called and gave me an invitation to come up to his house tomorrow,”25 she wrote in late October 1848, her second mention of him. (Brigham himself lived in the fort during 1848, the log row house between 1849-54, the Mansion House, 1854-56, and in the Beehive House after 1856.) Zina accepted and had “a very agreeable viset at his house.”26 He reappeared briefly on 22 December to instruct her to “dismiss school the coming week,” which she did. The day after Christmas she recorded a third visit with her husband:
Louisa [Beaman Young] and I walked up to see Lucy [Bigelow Young], Emiline [Free Young] & Margret [Pierce Young]. The snow was some what bad but a pleasant day. BY came down after me but I mist of him. Emiline was not well. Stayed all night with Lucy. L & I had our times at the supper table. … BY spent the evening with us very a greebly. Red in the book of covenants the vision &c. It was truly comforting. Spake of woman and the situation &c. It should have ben writen wombman. O Lord when will thou unvail thy self.
This entry stitches together two disparate tones, even though such an interpretation must remain speculative. On the one hand, Zina does not sound displeased that she was hard to find when Brigham came looking for her. Bound by both religious and marital vows to complete obedience to his wishes, perhaps she did not regret that he needed to hunt for her. But on the other hand, the single sentence that unquestionably expresses an emotion—that listening to the scriptures being read “was truly comforting”—seems to contradict even so slight an act of “rebellion” as not being present when Brigham called. In a way Brigham was courting Zina with the words of the gospel, spinning a millennial dream in which “woman” and “the situation” (presumably of polygamy)27 were trumpet calls to her highest idealism. These words brought her undeniable joy. Yet what then are we to make of the sentence immediately following? “It [“woman”] should have ben writen wombman.” Is this the flash of a bitter joke, a recognition that women were valued, even in the gospel, not as individuals but for their reproductive capacity? If so, in the next sentence she turns away from that flash of insight and the moral and intellectual precipice it reveals. There is longing but also perhaps a touch of [p.183] desperation in the prayer that concludes her entry: “O Lord when will thou unvail thy self.” Faced with a world-shattering paradox, she clings to her faith. It is also significant, perhaps poignant, that this important exchange which provided her with both comfort and insights into Brigham’s character was not a private, intimate exchange but instead was experienced with other of his plural wives. Zina stayed overnight with Lucy (either Lucy Ann Decker or Lucy Bigelow) and had the treat of being escorted home in “a fine slay” by Brigham Young with Porter Rockwell driving. If husband and wife enjoyed any private conversation, she does not mention it.
Two weeks later Brigham “came to my house and accompanied me over to Br. Mc Mullens and Spaldings. We had a nice supper and enjoyed it well. On our walk home we had a few words concerning Josephs kingdom.” The next night Oliver took Zina to “Sister [Namah] Twists” where Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball were taking supper, then went to a gathering at Addison and Louisa Pratt’s. After some music, Zina recorded almost defensively: “I felt it a duty as the speret rested uppon me in obedience there unto agreeable to my former covenants with God to obey him. I arose and sung some and spoke in tongs Leaving the event in the hands of him who bad me speak. Enjoyed the evening much (BY & HCK ware there).”
In early February 1849 Brigham stopped by—apparently unannounced—one Sunday evening, and the two “had a very agreeable veset.” An elderly gentleman was being nursed in Zina’s other room. Brigham blessed him, then preached the funeral sermon “in my room” when he died shortly thereafter.28 The next week, on 13 February, Zina for the first time invited Brigham to her home for supper.
Zina does not mention seeing her husband again for a month. Then on 15 March Brigham reappeared, and this time, she records briefly, he “stayed all night.” The next day Zina “prepared to move”—evidently as a result of Brigham’s instructions the previous night. That evening, she wrote with a touch of melancholy:
Presendia & Fanny & Dimick came to see me. O affection & gratitude Parental Kindeness how lovely how desirable. Now am I to be separated a gain. A new era of things a wates me. I have toiled through the winter. [p.184] The Lord hath given me strength for which I trust I shall ever be grateful to Him. 33 dollars have I pade for wood this winter. I earned it my self. My school bill amounted to 75 dollars and 86 cts. I feel truly thankful for evry blessing and mercy.29
Even though her distress at being separated from William, Oliver, and Presendia is real, there seems to be anticipation in the statement about “a new era of things.” Ironically, it was Benjamin Johnson, who had entertained tender feelings for her, who the next day loaded Zina’s belongings into a wagon to move her closer to Brigham’s home. The following evening, she wrote wistfully: “Many are the reflections of my minde. My Father & mother is not[;] Joseph is not[;] BY is very kinde indeed.”30 Why, on the eve of this public change in her marital status, twenty-four hours after what was probably the consummation of her marriage with Brigham Young, does she linger over the fact that her father, mother, and idolized prophet-husband Joseph Smith are dead before reminding herself that Brigham “is very kinde indeed”? Despite Brigham’s kindness, was she longing for a return to the relationships of the past? Conspicuous by his absence from this list of loved ones is the still-living Henry Jacobs who, by every indication, loved her passionately. Where were her memories of him?
Although she did not make any entries for the next few days, she was feeling so unwell the day after the move that “I was not able to get up until in the after noon.”31 It is unclear why Brigham thought the move was urgent. The weather was still cold—it snowed two weeks later—there was no home ready to receive her until 16 April, and consequently she was again forced to live in a tiny wagon with her two sons. Brigham’s instructions did not, apparently, stem from a desire to spend more time with her since he saw her only four times the next month. On 30 March she was one of a party of five that participated in supper and a ride. A few days later Brigham Young and Harriet Amelia Decker Little Hanks, probably a relative of Charles Decker, ate supper with Zina. On 10 April, Young, accompanied by Heber C. Kimball, took Zina in his carriage for a “Very agreeable ride.” They attended a double wedding between two brothers and sisters, and later “a family meeting” in Young’s home under construction, where Zina was one of “17 women” who “took supper” with him. “All first rate.”32
[p.185] On 3 May 1849, just two weeks after her move, Zina started a school for Brigham’s children in the log row house. That night, she prayed, “Let not hard labour shorten my days.” Along with teaching, which required a high level of patience, organization, and creativity to circumvent the limitations on teaching materials, she had to care for Zebulon and Chariton, mend, wash, iron, sweep, scrub, cook, and clean. Although she lived with Harriett Cook and her son, Zina ran her own household, but nevertheless often felt alone.
In the fort, Zina had been close to William, Dimick, and Presendia. Being able to see them more often might have consoled her more as she made her own transition to the log row house. As it was, she recorded far more intense and frequent emotions connected to her siblings than to her husband. Presendia moved in with the Jesse Bigelow Martin family “about a mile from me” on 29 March 1849. Dimick took his family to settle in Utah Valley on 31 March, returning briefly in early April. Oliver left on 14 April to return to New York where his wife, Mary Melissa, had spent the winter reconsidering her decision not to gather with the Saints. At that point, it sounds as if Oliver had decided to stay with her and their two children, two-year-old Mary Aseneth and George William Huntington born on 18 September 1848 in Oliver’s absence. Thus when he left her, Zina did not know if she would ever see him again. In fact, several of her diary entries during these two weeks deal with grief and loss:
Ah Transitory world. How oft do we halve to be sepereated from those that are so dear to us whose is trew friendship. How much to be prised in the affectionate bosom of a friend.33
… Had a refreshing in the gifts. … Ah how many are the scenes that this People have passed through. Ah how many hath slepet the sleep of death. Prepare me o Lord For all things that a wate me I humbly besech the[e] in the nam of Jesus the Son.
Oliver came in to my wagon. Converse upon his leaving. our hearts wore disolved in tenderness even of a brothrs & sisters love and affection yes trew friendship. How comforting the thought that one bosom beams with love joy & trew friendship. O my God how precous how dear how rare. We mingled our tears and sobs in a child like maner in joy and grief. Joy that we wore to[g] ether. In grief that we must be seperated & knew not for how long a period of time. O Father be mindeful. My dear little [p.186] Chariton sat by my side kept saying Mother do not weep and asked to wipe the tears from mine eyes. O gentleness and affection how dear. Zebulun was a sleep. I retired early.34
Dimick Presendia Oliver & I wore alone. P. combed our heds oiled them. Just as she was through the speret of the Lord rested uppon her. She blest Oliver with a mothers blessing. It was great & good. I also blest him and Dimick. Once more 4 of our dear Father’s Family ware to gether uppon earth. Truly a comfort to behold there faces in time. A joyful thought to behold each other but alas it was our parting blessing. O God I pray thee let us meet again in time in peace & joy. I humbly beseeck thee for thy son sak & thy name shall be prased.35
The day before he left, Oliver “ate a bole of milk” with Zina, handed her two dollars, accepted her farewell handshake, mounted, and rode toward the East.36
Two days later Zina sat alone in her small wagon, “with a hart tender as if berieved of a dear friend meditating. I was aroused by a knock on the wagon.” On 16 April Brigham told her a room was finally ready. “O did I not seek a lone retreat beside a murmering [stream] the water rolled over a fall about 3 feet whare the sound of my voice would not be herd there. I wept yes wept bitterness of Soul.” Her tears “rung from a heavy hart. Sadness for a while took her seat in my hart and reigned.”
Oliver had lingered in Utah nine months before returning to his family in New York. Zina’s journal is silent on the tension between Oliver and his wife. Along with ten other men, Oliver had left for the East on the morning of 14 April 1849, each carrying mail for Council Bluffs as well as “a considerable amount of gold dust.”37 By the 23rd, he had reached Kanesville where he stayed with brother William.38 Oliver was in Nauvoo by 6 July and “visited the family of Joseph Smith. None of them seemed to have any faith in the present organization and administration of the Church.” That night he preached to a group of Saints “secretly gathered in a private house.”39 Arriving in Cambria, New York, by 24 July, he was finally back with his family, seeing his new son for the first time.
By the next spring, Oliver had convinced his wife to travel to Utah with him. They left on 10 May 1850, traveling on steamboat and railroad part of the way. His diary hints at the growing difficulties between Mary and him, compounded by the inconveniences of traveling such a long [p.187] distance. “After a long tedious toilsome journey spotted with broils and family fences,” he wrote, “we arrived in Great Salt Lake City on the 2nd of October 1852.”40
Brother William had secured a house for Oliver’s family in the city. But within weeks Oliver decided to move into an empty house Dimick had found. Perhaps justifying his decision, Oliver determined to live by himself “for we had long disagreed, my wife always invariably siding against me and with her mother, who was the Goddess of perfection. She was also imbittered against the plurality of wives and very fearful I would want more.” Oliver describes an ugly confrontation as he attempted to pack for his move: “[Mary had] a hammer and threatened me with the first blow if I did not let them open the box. After a little struggle I took the hammer and threw it out the door, then Mary got a knife to fight with, but done nothing.”41
A month later Oliver married Hannah M. Sanders, daughter of Rachel and Ellis Sanders of Delaware, and was sealed in the Endowment house by Heber C. Kimball. He managed the U.S. Hotel in Salt Lake City for J. C. Little for a couple of years, then began trading in the “southern settlements,” eventually moving fifty miles south to Springville with his family.42
Zina entered the next stage of her life in this context of bereavement. Although much of her grief stemmed from the departure of both brothers and the distance of her sister, at least some must have been over that part of her past represented by Henry Jacobs and Joseph Smith. Moving into Brigham Young’s house meant moving away from them psychologically in a way that she had not yet confronted.
Zina does not record her impressions of Brigham’s personality or appearance, her expectations for their relationship, or any analysis of the marriage. He was forty-six, she twenty-eight. They had known each other for a decade, nearly always in the doubly hierarchical role of priesthood leader/member and older man/younger woman. It is also unclear if Young was systematically ordering his household in general according to seniority and thus consummating plural marriages with his youngest wives or if his attention to Zina was the exception.
Despite her tears, there is no evidence Zina found Young personally distasteful. She never spoke of him except with deep respect amounting [p.188] to reverence. Sharing a religious life with her husbands was the way she experienced their love, admiration, and respect. Religion cemented a bond with each of the three that ran deep. Yet her very respect signals that emotional intimacy did not often characterize her relationship with Young. On Saturday, 26 May 1849, she went to a party that Brigham also attended. “We had a very agreeable conversation,” she noted. “Spoke uppon the subject of wisdom in conversing with those that would make a wise use of what knolidge they ware in possession of. Also uppon Adams. … BY brought Chariton home in his arms as he had gone to sleep the evening being far spent.” It is as close to a tender scene as she ever records. Five years later, on 18 May 1854, she wrote: “In the evening I went over to see the President about the relief society I met him in the new room he greeted me with more kindness than he has for years I truly feel to acknolege the hand of God in all things and help me o Lord.”
By the appraisal of others, both those meeting him for the first time and other members of his household, Brigham was an attractive, forceful, persuasive man. French traveler Jules Remy, visiting in 1855 when Young was fifty-four, found him “fair, of moderate height, stout almost to obesity. He has regular features, a wide forehead, eyes which convey an idea of finesse, and a smiling expression of mouth. … Nothing in his manners indicates a man of the higher classes.”43 Daughter Susa Young Gates, born when Brigham was fifty-five, remembered him as a “powerfully built” man, whose “very presence conveyed an indescribable impression of physical and mental energy. He had it, as his performances of his gigantic life task of leadership showed.” He was “deliberate in speech and dignified of manner.” She continued:
His height was five feet ten. He was vigorous, handsome, and magnetic. His physical comeliness was severely adorned with a cleanliness which was, at times, radiant. His broad shoulders became bowed in his later years, and he took on too abundant flesh from the sedentary life which his duties finally forced upon him, but he never lost that exhaustless “drive” that enabled him when necessary to work ordinary persons to a standstill.44
Both descriptions stress a powerful male presence cast in terms of the forceful leadership considered most appropriate to manhood in the nine-[p.189]teenth century. In contrast, the following description of Zina, published nine years after her death, emphasized nurturing, motherly characteristics and personal refinement:
Her oval face with its fresh, girl-like complexion, her clear, round eyes with their child-like expression, made her beautiful to behold, while her motherly tenderness and sympathy instilled new faith and her very presence was like a ray of golden sunshine. No voice more gentle, no step more light, no touch more tender. How she cheered the sorrowful, lifted up the down-hearted, lightened the path of the weary, wiped away the bitter tears, strewed bright flowers of sunshine and of love all along life’s path.45
Zina stares quietly at us in her earliest photographs, taken in Nauvoo and in Utah in the 1840s. Priceless images of this small, gentle woman, her repose, calm, and open response to life seem evident in her visage.
Descriptions of Zina and Brigham epitomize gender differences in the socio/religious context of Mormon colonization and the growth of the church. Although they exercised considerable power in very different spheres, Brigham’s vigor and Zina’s tenderness benefitted those who looked to their lead. Both of them, if they had considered the question at all, would have found their complementarity not only desirable but inevitable.
Zina became pregnant for the third and last time about July 1849 and gave birth on 3 April 1850 to her only daughter. At this point, Brigham had married forty-two women, fathering children with ten of them. (Before his death in 1877, he had married fifty-four wives and sired fifty-six children.) Brigham named this baby Zina Presendia Young for her mother and for Aunt Presendia. Zina does not mention the child’s conception or her own pregnancy, which is not surprising given the indirection regarding sexual matters in the nineteenth century. What is unusual, however, is that she does not mention the baby’s birth in her journal, leaving only a blank page headed “April,” perhaps intending to record the special occasion later. She began making weekly entries again in July, but her first mention of baby Zina is a casual reference (“brought my babe”) on 7 August 1850. Nevertheless, this child became the center of her life, her closest friend during her latter years.
[p.190] Brigham Young has left no comments about his wives individually. While Zina may have desired an emotionally close relationship, she does not seem to have expected it. However, she could still be hurt by its absence. On New Year’s Day 1850, Young invited the Twelve and “there first wife” to a party. Zina, six months pregnant and not a first wife, wrote: “For my self I fasted and wept tears of bitterness. Poor health. Thought uppon the past realizing the present and wondering uppon the future yet trusting in God.”46
Beginning in 1849, Zina began occasionally accompanying Brigham on his tours throughout the church. Even though he traveled with a large entourage that sometimes numbered more than 100 people, such occasions still allowed Zina to spend time with him privately. During the first two weeks in May 1855, Zina, Brigham, and other church leaders and their wives visited the southern settlements. Although she does not comment on leaving her children (Zina Presendia was five years old at the time), she faithfully recorded the group’s activities, providing a rich picture of life in many of the fledgling communities of Mormon territory. At each new town, Saints lined the sides of the streets welcoming the visitors as if they were royalty.
Brigham’s party left Salt Lake City on 8 May by horse and carriage, and the next day he, Heber C. Kimball, and Newell K. Whitney preached in Provo as they would at each stop. Two days later in Payson, Zina greeted Benjamin F. Johnson, her longtime friend. In Nephi on the 11th, Martha Spence Heywood, plural wife of the presiding elder of the settlement, made them a “splended dinner” and sent them on their way with “butter cream cakes & pies” as an afternoon snack. Zina responded eloquently to the harsh Utah landscape, so different from the rolling green hills of Missouri and Illinois: “Winds high soon after we started the clouds darkened winds & rain but o what a lovely prarie pleasent hills flowers dales smooth fields and thousands of achors of pasterage.”47 East of Nephi, they “traviled through the most romantic kanjon that I ever saw such grandure in nature such a variety of colour.” This canyon led them into Sanpete County.
They were not always entertained by the Saints. Once Zina cooked “a fine trout,” caught by Wilford Woodruff, over a campfire, followed the next morning by broiled rabbit for breakfast. “A group in the eve-[p.191]ning discoursed uppon astronomy went to the fire sung & prayer Dimick talked about an hour to Canosh the indean chief I washed his [Chief Kanosh’s] feet,” she wrote on 19 May. Three days later Zina and another woman did some laundry and “then took a tub of water and washed each other with blessings. the Lord was with us a cheering time yes refreshing.”
Two years later in May 1857, Zina accompanied Brigham and a company of 142 in southeastern Idaho on a visit to Limhi. (Two years earlier, Young had called twenty-seven missionaries to found the settlement among the Shoshone and Bannock.) Zina was one of twenty- two women to take the 350-mile journey, and thoroughly enjoyed herself.
Young began these regional tours in 1850 and continued them as an almost-annual tradition throughout his life. Coupled with stake quarterly conferences, such tours by Brigham and other leaders were designed to unite the Saints, buoy their spirits, and teach the doctrines of the church. Zina enjoyed accompanying Brigham and camping in the Utah landscape. Thus the pattern was already established when she joined Eliza R. Snow in the 1860s in organizing Primaries and Relief Societies.
After Young’s death, Zina praised his community building and prophetic leadership, but her only personal comment was: “He was a kind Husband, an indulgent Father.”48 She apparently found contentment, not in this third marriage, but in successfully adjusting to life in a complicated, multi-womaned household, in being cooperative and undemanding with the other wives, and in being pleasant and loving to the children.
Zina met her needs for emotional and spiritual intimacy within the sisterly relationships that were not only permitted but approved of in nineteenth-century Mormonism. Carroll Smith-Rosenberg found that such networks “were institutionalized in social conventions or rituals which accompanied virtually every important event in a woman’s life, from birth to death.”49 This world satisfied the emotional needs of women and provided them with a new sense of kinship. “Most eighteenth- and nineteenth-century women lived within a world bounded by home, church, and the institution of visiting … It was a world inhabited by children and by other women.”50
[p.192] For example, when Presendia’s daughter Celestia turned one year old, Zina describes the birthday party as highly domestic. “I was at Presendes. Her little daughter is one year old is running all a bout the building. Children of the family all ware there and partook of some cakes celebrating her birth day. A pleasing sight.”51
Some time in May 1850, Heber C. Kimball dreamed he saw a “serpent carry off one of his children.”52 Taking the dream as a divine warning, he advised all of his wives to pay special attention to their children. That warning stayed with Presendia, and on 11 May when she knelt for her morning prayers she “asked God to protect my child from accidents seen and unseen through the day.”53 They were spending the day with Zina and other women at Young’s row-house. Zina had given birth only five weeks earlier to Zina Presendia. Presendia dressed baby Celestia in a special red dress. When she arrived with her children, they went to the main dining room where the family, seated at breakfast, admired the little girl, picking her up for hugs and kisses. Brigham was the last to kiss her. Then ten-year-old son Oliver carried sister Celestia off to play. The toddler “turned her head back with such a pleasant smile,” Presendia later recalled, “it was such a tender good-bye, and seemed to make an impression upon me at the time.”
Oliver crossed nearby City Creek with her, put her down, and showed her how to hunt for sticks to make whistles. “It was but a moment, a fatal moment too, he turned around to look and she was not to be found … [He] screamed and cried out ‘a red dress.’” Brigham’s family heard the commotion and came running to help search. Water that had been diverted to irrigate Kimball’s property had just been turned back into City Creek, and the fresh infusion “disturbed and roiled the water, so that the child could not be seen.”54 Brigham’s son John R. heard the screams. Though “confined to the house with a painful flesh wound in my left leg, … I surmised what had happened. Running to the slab, I dropped into the water and was carried by the swift current to Brother Well’s lot, where the fence had caught flood wood, and formed a dam and eddy. I dove under the drift, and finding the body, brought it to the surface, … the precious life was gone.”55
They took the baby into the house and laid her on a bed. Presendia was prostrate with grief. Vilate Kimball, Heber’s first wife, mourned: [p.193] “The flower of the flock has gone.”56 Zina, Lucy Ann Decker Young, and Clara Clarissa Decker Young laid the little girl out for burial. “She looked so beautiful, so lovely. I tried to smother my excessive grief,” Presendia later said, “but after dark I visited her grave day after day, and there on the sacred ground gave vent to my sorrow in tears.”57 Oliver was inconsolable. His was a double grief—not only for the death of his little sister, but because he felt responsible for the accident.
Over the next few months, Presendia struggled with depression. Despite Zina’s efforts to plan expeditions to friends’ homes or to the canyons, repeated blessings, and tender attentions, Presendia languished, until one night she had what she later described as a revelation. “My feet were cold, my tongue was stiff in my mouth, I could not speak, yet I was perfectly conscious; a candle in the room looked like the most distant star. It was a log house, and the walls had sunk so that the door could never be opened or closed tight without effort, yet the door opened by invisible hands in the middle of the night, and my father and Joseph Smith walked into the room.”58
Initially, Presendia thought that they had come to take her away from the trials of this life. But she remembered her son Oliver, “my only one now left to me, alone in the world, without father or mother, with the burden of his great sorrow upon him, for he mourned and could not be wholly comforted for the loss of his little sister.”59 Although she did not immediately recover, with time she learned to accept her loss. In the spring of 1851, she once again became pregnant and, at age forty-one, gave birth to Joseph Smith Kimball. “He was like an Isaac of old to me,” Presendia described, and a comfort to her in later years.
Zina and her children lived in the log row-house until 1851. At various times she described her room as “very open” letting the cold air rush through their home and “uncomfortable.” Later she and her children moved to a small adobe house at 239 East South Temple.60 They lived there for three years. According to Zebulon, that was a difficult year for their family:
Food at times was verry scarce staid there that fall and winter till the 1st April  then we moved into the 18th ward which afterwards became a portion of the 20th Ward. It was a beautiful situation on the side [p.194] hill we staid in that home 2 days and then moved a few rods to another house (the winter we lived in the 17th ward I went 6 blocks to school barefooted through the snow. shoe leather was that scarce it was impossible to obtain any).61
At age eleven, Zebulon was apprenticed out in 1853 to learn the hatting trade in Salt Lake City. “During the first year or two my feelings can better be imagined than described,” he wrote. Although he missed his mother, brother, and sister, he records, “The people were very kind to me and treeted me like their son.”62
Whatever the personal privations Zina and her children experienced, Salt Lake City quickly took on the appearance of a prosperous, industrious town. Sturdy adobe and brick houses lined streets that stretched in straight lines to the four cardinal directions. These residences had the solid, rectangular design of houses that might have been built in New England or the Midwest. Business buildings and boardwalks bespoke commercial prosperity.
Calvin Taylor, a traveler from the East on his way to California in 1850, commented on the regular grid plan:
The Great Salt Lake City is handsomely laid out—situated on the north side of the valley at the foot of a high bluff or bench of the Utah range of mountains, the ground falling gradually toward the river Jordan between one and two miles distant. The streets are of great breadth and cross each other at right angles, forming large squares which are cut at regular distances by streets of a smaller size, dividing the square into equal parts.
The city seemed to anticipate growth and frankly acknowledged the agricultural needs of its inhabitants. Taylor continued:
The city is not compactly built, being unlike all other cities in this respect. To each house is allowed one and a quarter acre of ground which is enclosed and sufficient to produce all the necessary garden vegetables in the greatest profusion, besides a considerable quantity of wheat and corn, quite adequate to the wants of each family. This arrangement of houses and lots gives to the city quite a pleasant and rural appearance, and might with propriety be called an agricultural city.
[p.195] Perhaps because Taylor had so recently traversed the Great Plains, he recognized the value of water available from nearby streams. “The city is watered from the mountains by means of ditches which convey the water through every part of the city; each principle street having a stream upon each side, from which are sluice ways to conduct the water into the gardens for irrigation and other purposes whenever required.”63
Many of the houses were built of adobe bricks, often covered with stucco. The houses were typically one, 1.5, or two stories high. Public buildings of this period included the Council House on the corner of South Temple and Main Street, a square two-storied structure in a classical style, a post office, a printing office, several stores and artisan shops, and numerous Mormon meetinghouses that did double duty as schoolhouses and houses of worship.
Brigham’s family compound centered around the Lion and Beehive houses built in the mid-1850s along South Temple. His own version of a temporal kingdom, the compound included a gristmill, barns and corrals, a family store, a schoolhouse, and even a private cemetery. When the Lion House was completed in 1856, Young had eleven connubial wives with whom he lived from time to time, thirty-five children, and numerous other wives and foster children for whom he took responsibility. The blacksmith and carpentry shops and various other entities sustained this large and sometimes unwieldy clan. Nevertheless, Brigham encouraged order in all family business.
Zina’s diary marks these efforts—Brigham moved in and out of her life at unpredicted moments, bringing her supplies, sharing religious insights and meals. Her connections to sister wives she forged herself through visits, shared deaths and births, and struggling with the same difficulties.
Zina generously acknowledged Brigham’s efforts to be kind to her and her children. She was touched by his choice of her own name for their daughter, saying later, “There had been 3 other wives that he had named their first daughter for there mothers, it is a pleasurable duty and is richly deserved. No man could be more careful of women while bearing there children, thoughtful, kind as far as means could be obtained.”64 Brigham stepped them through kingdom building in this “wilderness world,” as Zina described it, “creating from the elements the sustenance [p.196] of life, cheerful and kind to all.” She continued, “I do not know how many orphans he has reared to maturity. My two step sons of his I do not remember of his ever speaking sharp to them.”
Although she essentially had to fend for herself, and earned her own money by teaching school, sewing and tailoring, and trading among her neighbors, Zina felt genuinely blessed by her association with a good man. In her autobiography she recognized that plural marriage took sacrifice. “We had to learn each other peculiar ways and as non [sic] are perfect God gave us power to act uppon principal and love each other.”65 She expected to “enjoy the family relationship for eternity,” for she loved the little ones and their mothers.
Zina’s life as a plural wife was shaped by a need for hard work and a certain amount of financial self-sufficiency. Even with many women cooperating, maintaining the large Young household was labor intensive. Much of women’s literature of the day portrayed females as the weaker sex, but this certainly did not spare them any burden. Always, it seemed, there was work to do. Zina made soap, candles, starch, molasses, and other essential products. Her journal logs the variety of her daily chores —lace making, weaving and dying cloth, dipping candles, and the laborious process of laundering clothes. With neighbors and friends, she carded wool, spun, dyed, and prepared it for use, knitted, wove it into cloth, then sewed clothes for herself and her children. Putting three meals— even simple meals—onto the table was a lengthy process, even with many mothers to help. According to Susa Young Gates, the daughter of a sister wife, Zina was “an expert breadmaker, and her salt-rising would come up when all the others [loaves of bread] were dead and cold.”66 Sister Presendia characterized their work as “a rich experience, and taught us how to feel for each other, and to appreciate every effort for advancement in the direction of temporal progress.”67 Though life was hard, Zina continued to be feminine in her efforts—she did her housework in heavy dresses, patching and piecing her worn garments with fabric shipped in from the States. In some ways, her clothing formed a connection to her former life. According to women’s historian Nancy Wilson Ross, the West challenged women like Zina to become their most ingenious and resourceful selves, describing them as “that inventive and persistent creature who made civilization in the domestic sense possible.”68
[p.197] Church meetings remained a large part of the citizens’ recreation. Thursday fast meetings, prayer meetings on Wednesday nights, and Sunday meetings continued apace. Informal gatherings held to discuss theological questions or spiritual exercises were not uncommon. After 1851 Eliza became the first matron of the Salt Lake Endowment House and she and Zina performed hundreds of endowments for the dead. Later, Zina became the first matron of the Salt Lake temple.
Although Zina previously had known many of the women who now lived in Utah, she formed her strongest ties with those who had shared with her the milieu of spiritual meetings in Winter Quarters. Membership in the church’s female leadership hierarchy in the late 1840s and early 1850s fluctuated according to who was in Salt Lake City, whose husband apostatized or stayed loyal to the church, or who became widowed and married a man who took her away from the group. Zina was closest to those sister wives nearest her own age, who lived not far from her. Bathsheba Smith, Emmeline B. Wells, and Eliza R. Snow shared her history—the period of liminality of Nauvoo, the movement West, the experience of work and religion.69 All had learned to work together and socialize under trying conditions; were adept in spiritual gifts; and were devoted to the memory of Joseph Smith, usually because they had been secretly married to him.
Running like a dark undercurrent during the early 1850s was Zina’s unresolved relationship with Henry Jacobs. Henry had arrived in Utah Territory in September 1848, about the same time as Zina, with his pregnant wife, Aseneth Babcock, and Aseneth’s son Zebulon. Aseneth gave birth to George Theodore Jacobs a month later on 15 October 1848, but the baby died the following February.70 Henry and Aseneth then left Utah for California. LDS apostles Amasa Lyman and Charles C. Rich, traveling to California on a “gold mission” in 1850, “put up with H. Jacobs” from time to time in White Rock Springs, California.71 Henry was still considered a Mormon in good standing, for Amasa Lyman called him “Brother.” Henry’s letters to Zina—written between 1848 and 1852—continued to speak his belief in Mormonism. Nevertheless, on 26 January 1851, the president of the Third Quorum of Seventy disfellowshipped Henry in absentia without a formal hearing.72 We do not know what transpired between July and January or why Henry had apparently [p.198] incurred Brigham’s displeasure. Possibly, he was annoyed that Henry continued to write to Zina or that he continued to reside away from Zion.
Zina apparently wrote to Henry only once during this period. Whether she decided on her own not to encourage the relationship by responding or was obeying instructions from Brigham Young cannot be determined. Henry seems to think that his letters to Zina had been intercepted. Perhaps some were. In any case, she kept his letters all her life and passed them on for safekeeping to Zina Presendia, daughter of the man who had displaced Henry as her mother’s husband. The last extant letter from Henry was written a year and nine months after his disfellowshipping, a tragically eloquent pleading for a place in Zina’s memory:
Dear Zina and beloved Children it is with feelings of no small importance I will assure you that I take the Liberty of addressing you at this time I do not know how to begin I have writen So meny Letters to you and Children from first to last and got no Letters, that I feel allmost discouraged. I never have received but one from you cince I left the Lake. …
O how happy I should be if I only could see you and the little Children bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh I mean all I would like to see the litle babe; I Zina wish you to prospere I wish you new what I have to bar [bear] my feelings ar indiscribeable I am unhappy ther is now [no] peace for poor me my pleasure is you my Comfort has vanished the glory of day has flead like the fog before a plesant morning my youthful days are yet in my mind yes never to be bloted out I have had meny a good Dream about you and the little ones I have imagin myself at home with you and the Little Boys uppon my kneese a singing and playing with them what a comfort what a Joy to think uppon those days that are gone by O heaven Bless me even poor me shall I ever see them again.
I think of you often very often Zina ar you happy do you enjoy your life as pleasant as you did with me when I was at home with you and the Children when we could say our prayers together and speak together in toungs and Bless each other in the name of the Lord O I think of those happy days that ar past when I sleep the sleep of death then I will not for get you and my little lambs I love my Children. O Zina will I ever get you again answer the question please If you are at Liberty to answer the question write me soon as you get this my troubles her ar greate greatere then I can bar [bear] … I have heard that I was Cut off from the Church for [p.199] what was I [cut off] Oh how I do feel about it never did I do eny thing worthy of being cut off allways have I defended this cause it Belongs to God the Father I live in the city of Sacremento kiss all the Chilldren for me I would send something to them but it may be like the rest of my letters never get ther I have not forgaton my promis to my dear children.73
From this point on, accounts of Zina’s and Henry’s relationship start to veer in divergent directions. Stories handed down through Jacobs’s children to their offspring suggest that Henry was disfellowshipped because of his continued communication with Zina. (Zina’s descendants, however, insist that “Henry was not worthy of Zina Diantha.”) It would appear that Henry loved Zina passionately and deeply, long past the dissolution of their marriage. It is possibly the best monitor of what a woman she was that, regardless of the difficulties of their situation and the choices she had freely made, he continued to love her. He spent the greater part of his life bemoaning this loss. Nor was the loss of Zina his only deprivation connected with her annexation, first by Joseph Smith, then by Brigham Young. Henry also stopped living with his sons, suffered greatly in his health, and moved from being a missionary held in high esteem to the periphery of his leaders’ regard and, within only a few years, beyond it. Again it is unclear why. During his twenties Henry was a devoted member of the church, quick to respond to calls for missions, service, and sacrifice. Nevertheless, essentially because of his connection to Zina, he was cast off and pushed steadily further away from the heart of his faith although he continued to assert a deep belief. His letters are poignant reminders of the human cost of the doctrine of plurality, of the actual consecration and stewardship of one’s being, and of the complicated evolution of social relationships in the Mormon kingdom—a pattern of interrelationships oriented toward God.
It would be difficult not to be moved by Henry’s words of continued affection, and Zina must have been troubled by their intent. When he writes “O Zina can I ever, will I ever get you again, answer the questions please,” it is impossible not to sense the magnitude of his pain. Again, according to Jacobs family tradition, Henry’s letters took their toll on Zina and Brigham noticed, forbidding her after the mid-1850s to receive or answer them. For several decades, the two did not communicate, nor did Henry have anything other than minimal contact with his sons. [p.200] Brigham’s and Zina’s daughter, Zina Presendia, was also sympathetic in later telling of these events, willing to give Henry the benefit of the doubt.74
It would be easy to judge Brigham harshly in this difficult triangle. As community leader, he was virtually free to do as he chose. He had enormous power over his wives and children and acted toward them from a mixture of motives—possessiveness, at least some affection, and a pragmatic sense of what would work best, not necessarily from a consistent moral and ethical base. His harshness toward Henry may have been a sort of kindness, relieving Zina of the necessity of having divided sympathies and loyalties. But first and foremost, Brigham was discharging his commitment to Joseph Smith in keeping for him what he had chosen for himself.
In 1881 when Zina was sixty-one and had been married to Brigham for thirty-five years, she inexplicably chose to describe her marriage to Henry as “most unhappy and ill-sorted.”75 However, there is no evidence of anything but the most tender devotion between them from documents contemporary with their marriage.76 Certainly, Zina’s Nauvoo diary records her efforts to create a loving home for Henry and their son. Lonely in Henry’s absence, Zina spoke lovingly and loyally about him, praised his devotion to the Lord, and enjoyed his relationship with their son. As late as 1854, when she had probably not heard from him for two years, she recorded: “It is henry B Jacobs birth day he is 41.”77 However, except for these mentions, made without comment or evaluation, her diary is silent on the subject of Henry. At whatever private cost, she had broken with the past. All of the evidence indicates that she was ready to adapt to a new type of life in a polygamous household and to help build the kingdom through her work with Mormon women.
Henry’s life is another story. Although Zina never described him as such, Oliver’s British Mission journal portrays him as quick to anger, easily charmed by a pretty face, and generally sullen. Of course, Oliver was seeing Henry immediately after Brigham Young had exiled him from Zina, probably at Henry’s lowest point of depression, anger, and bitter grieving. He married three more times, and each wife divorced him. His second wife, Aseneth, left him in November 1852. Henry wrote simply, [p.201] “Aseneth is Sick weary we are a part the ole woman [Aseneth’s mother] is the cause of it no more at present. HB Jacobs.”78
Seven years later, sometime in 1859, Henry returned to Utah. It is not clear what he was doing or where he was living; but when Thomas H. Ferguson was hanged in Salt Lake City for a capital crime, he “requested to have some one pray.” The person who “ascended the scaffold, kneeled with him and offered a brief prayer” was Henry Jacobs.79 Five months later Henry was rebaptized into the church on 3 March 1860.80
Two days earlier Henry had married Sarah (“Sally”) Taylor Haven, with John Young, Brigham’s brother, officiating. Sally, plural wife of Jesse Haven, had divorced Haven on 22 August 1859. Ironically, Haven and Jacobs had been missionary companions during the Nauvoo period. Haven copied a letter to a friend, Joshua Reynolds, in his journal on 3 March 1860. He described Jacobs as “a man about 40, Sarah is his fourth wife though he is not now living with his former three. He truely has been a man of sorrow.” The identity of his third wife, who, according to Haven, also left Jacobs, is uncertain. She is not mentioned in any family account, nor do official records exist of the marriage.81
Although Haven regretted the divorce from Sally, he was resigned to the situation: “She is now gone and for the time being is the wife of another man. It is all right I will leave it in the hands of the Lord.”82 However, when Henry and Sally decided to move to California two months later, Haven was angry, tried to “persuade him [Henry] to stay with the Saints and redeem himself,” doubted the sincerity of Henry’s religious beliefs, and wrote Sally’s mother: “[If] you could have persuaded her to have stoped with you and with the Saints; and if Henry wished to go among the Gentiles and associate with the wicked and partake of their sins, let him go and receive their reward, but Sarah would have been justified by every good Saint if she had tarried with the people of God.”83 Although we have no direct evidence of Henry’s motives, it is possible that he felt too much pressure living in Brigham’s shadow and wanted to start his life away from the central church, Zina, and his sons.
Henry settled in Livermore, California, near Oakland. There he met with some financial success at chicken farming. Long separated from his sons, he welcomed a visit from Zebulon traveling through the area in 1877 with his own son, eleven-year-old Zebulon. Zebulon, now thirty-[p.202]five, had apparently seen his father at least once earlier. He recorded their reunion in his journal:
found father a little better … he had heard last night I was in the neighbourhood, and wanted to see me. I was glad to see the old man still alive, and he was pleased to see me. he burst into tears as he threw his arms around my neck and thanked God he had seen me again in the flesh. it made my heart ack[e] to […] of the disease. Sarah [Sally] is not so well today. her excitement yesterday was to much for her, seeing father, stretched out as he was his limbs stifened nails turning black, eyes set she thought he was gone.84
Henry had Bright’s disease, a kidney ailment, and his health steadily worsened over the next three years until Sally could no longer care for him. Zebulon and Chariton brought him to Utah where, according to Jacobs family tradition, Zina let Henry stay in her house where a hired nurse cared for him until his death on 1 August 1886. Sally apparently remained in California. It is not clear if Zina also lived in the house during Henry’s final six years or if she stayed with her sons or daughter. Henry’s death was mourned by his sons and remaining friends, and he was, at the time of his passing, reconciled with the church. He had outlived Brigham by nine years. There is no documentary record that Zina, the compassionate and tender-hearted healer, saw or spoke to him after 1846; she was keeping a diary in 1886, but does not mention his death or record her feelings. The entire episode represents one of the most heart-wrenching in the annals of Mormon polygamy.
When the Endowment House was finished in 1855, Zina and Presendia joined forces to perform sacred ordinances for their sister Saints and to assist the women coming to that sacred structure to be endowed, married, or to receive blessings for their health. “We loved the work and the Lord blest us with His Spirit,” Zina remembered. “We seemed to live above everything earthly or trivial while engaged in those spiritual duties, and we had many comforting dreams as well as other manifestations that the Lord approved of our ministrations.”
The next major change in Zina’s circumstances came on 31 September 1856 when she moved into the Lion House with six-year-old Zina Presendia and nine-year-old Chariton. Zebulon, now fourteen, was liv-[p.203]ing with Zina’s close friends, the Leonards, where he was apprenticing.85 Brigham Young had completed this three-story structure in 1855, ornamented with classical detailing—cornices and the distinctive pitch of the roof, and with a long row of third-floor gable windows, each illuminating a bedroom for one wife. Zina’s was “the 5th room on the third floor on the west side, a lovely room,” she wrote.86 One day Zina Presendia climbed out the window and scaled the stone lion guarding the house in the front.
The distinctive configuration of the Lion House’s exterior hints at the complex familial relationships which played out spatially within. Community rooms like the family eating area, kitchens, and storerooms, a school and recreation room, and other work rooms were on the ground (basement) level. The private sitting rooms of the wives were on the main (center) floor, as was a parlor, the scene of family prayer and meetings. Babies usually slept in their mothers’ rooms until they were about five, then joined an older sibling in the dormitory-type rooms on the upper level. Brigham slept in his private room located in the Beehive House next door. There he ate breakfast and conducted church business.
The daily routine at the Lion House was structured and orderly. Breakfast and lunch, school, and regular work continued due to the cooperation of family members. Brigham took dinner with his family in the dining hall. Beginning promptly at 5:30 p.m., he began with prayer— seated at the table head with Eliza R. Snow to his right and Namah Twiss to his left.
After dinner he led family members into the parlor, often carrying a tall candlestick in hand, to pray and receive instructions. Zina Presendia fondly remembered her childhood years in the Lion House: “Oh how joyous was our life. There were so many girls of nearly the same age and everything was so nice. Our mothers all occupied their apartments [sitting rooms] on the center [main] floor. The upper floor, we children had for bedrooms.” But the evening tradition of prayers, singing, and discussion was her favorite time spent with her father. “No scene is more vivid in my mind than the gathering of our mothers with their families around them. Our loved and honored father sitting by the round table in the center of the room.” He inspired in them restraint and respect. “We all controlled every childish display of temper or restlessness and a sweet [p.204] spirit of reverence pervaded all hearts.” Zina Presendia’s memory of her father is larger than life. “His presence was commanding and comforting, a peaceful control of his family that brought love and respect for him and each other. His prayers were the grandest and most impressive I have ever heard and the longest.”87
Zina Diantha, together with these other plural wives, cheerfully embarked on a communal way of life that represented Brigham’s ideas of cooperative family life. Susa Young Gates portrayed this “community” as economical for her father in “time, effort and money.” It allowed him to see most of his family members each day. But Brigham also acknowledged some disadvantages and later told Susa:
Every mother, … should have a home of her own, with a deed to it. She should have her own income. She could thus be independent and retain a degree of self-respect impossible where a wife is completely dependent on her husband. In a home owned by herself she can teach her children to better advantage. She can train them to pray alone and to pray with the rest of the family. She can teach each child to pay his or her own tithing, and to be independent in the use of time and means. If I had my life to live over I should give each wife a home of her own.88
This busy but orderly existence received a major interruption a year and a half later, when Zina, with the other families of Brigham Young, evacuated Salt Lake City and moved south, prepared to flee into the wilderness again. Even though the Mormons had achieved relative self-sufficiency, federal appointees, of widely varying competence and compassion, sent back sometimes exaggerated reports about the role of the Mormon hierarchy in local politics and the practice of plural marriage. The Republican Party, organized in the fall of 1854, had already dubbed polygamy one of the “twin relics of barbarism” (slavery being the other). These appointees were also alarmed, not without some cause, by the “Mormon Reformation” of 1856-57,89 a time of zealous rededication to the work of the Lord, heightened rhetoric about the imminent punishment of outsiders, and overall increased tension about the immediacy of the work at hand.90
As a result of the force of public opinion, limited knowledge of the situation, and his own bias against Mormons, U.S. president James Bu-[p.205]chanan appointed Alfred Cumming of Georgia to replace Young as territorial governor and designated William S. Harney as leader of Cumming’s military escort. On 28 May 1857, Secretary of War John B. Floyd, himself bitterly anti-Mormon, ordered the 2,500 troops gathered at Fort Leavenworth to march to Utah as soon as possible. When Harney was reassigned to Kansas, Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston was appointed as his replacement.
The Mormons received notice of the army’s approach in Cottonwood Canyon where they were celebrating the 24th of July with a picnic and patriotic orations. At that point, Johnston’s forces were somewhere between Fort Leavenworth and Fort Laramie. Brigham Young rose to the occasion with bellicose speeches that affirmed the Mormons’ determination to resist invasion. The next Sunday he delivered an even more impassioned sermon: “I swore in Nauvoo, when my enemies were looking me in the face, that I would send them across lots, if they meddled with me; and I ask no more odds of all hell today. If they kill me, it is all right; but they will not until the time comes, and I think that I shall die a natural death. At least I expect to. … Catching is always before hanging.”91
Within weeks after mustering the Nauvoo Legion (territorial militia), Brigham sent exploring parties to identify places where the Saints might relocate, recognizing that removal might be again necessary. The tension created by the impending crisis spread through the territory like a virus. The worst case scenario played out in southern Utah. A local militia in Mountain Meadows joined Native Americans on 11 September in a senseless slaughter of some 120 non-Mormon immigrants.92 Four days later Young declared a state of military emergency, recording in his diary, “Fixed my determination not to let any troops enter this territory, … and make every preparation to give the U.S. a Sound Drubbing. I do not feel to be imposed upon any more.”93
Well known for his colonizing efforts, Brigham proved to be equally effective at planning for war. The Nauvoo Legion had already begun gathering weapons and ammunition, and was determined to block the further advancement of the troops. More than 5,000 new recruits joined the legion. Besides this show of force, numerous small towns had their own militias, which mustered, gathered supplies, and expressed enthusiastic support of the church.
[p.206] As it turned out, the main battles of what quickly became known as the Utah War amounted to little more than raids creating havoc for Johnston’s troops. No deaths resulted. As negotiations proceeded between Mormons and government officials, eventually ending in an agreement for troops to proceed through the territory and establish a camp in Cedar Valley, plans were begun to move the Saints south of Salt Lake City. Brigham believed the move should be led by 500 families who had never before been driven from their homes and include the poorest and most destitute around, thus hopefully becoming an agent of renewed unity.
As was true of each massive movement of the Mormons, it was to be conducted in military order—families being organized into tens, fifties, and hundreds headed by captains. Families would bring with them food, clothing, and whatever personal possessions they did not want to lose. It was uncertain if they would ever return to their homes.
Beginning in June 1858, the Mormons abandoned their northern settlements and moved south to Utah Valley, leaving behind their homes, planted fields, and property. Zina was one of the first women to leave Salt Lake City for Provo. On 1 June 1858, she, Zebulon, who was driving her team, Chariton, and Zina Presendia were part of a caravan. Lucy Bigelow Young and her children were also in the group, which for the children seemed more like a prolonged picnic. Zebulon “worked round there a short time then went to teaming helping get the things from the city to Provo.”94 The refugees stayed for a while in temporary shelters or with friends in Utah County; some traveled as far south as Beaver City. Presendia later remembered how well the Saints in Utah County treated them. Serenity fed by personal convictions marked their fate.95 One account detailed the procession out of the Salt Lake Valley:
The people, including the inhabitants of this city [Salt Lake City], are moving from every settlement in the northern part of the Territory. The roads are everywhere filled with wagons loaded with provisions and household furniture, the women and children often without shoes or hats, driving their flocks they know not where. They seem not only resigned but cheerful. “It is the will of the Lord,” and they rejoice to exchange the comforts of home for the trials of the wilderness. Their ultimate destination is not, I presumed, definitely fixed upon. “Going South” seems suffi-[p.207]ciently definite for most of them, but many believe their ultimate destination is Sonora.96
Zina Presendia remembered the strains the move put on their family. “The resources of the family were very limited. We never had enough to eat and I remember I was always hungry. We lived on boiled wheat with sometimes a little fruit and less butter. But we were well and content with our lot.”97
On 7 June 1858, a peace commission arrived from Washington, D.C., with a proclamation of amnesty dated 6 April. For the next two weeks, the Mormons warily watched the troops as they moved from Fort Bridger toward Salt Lake City. According to the compromise solution effected by Cumming, Young, and the church, the army moved without stopping through the deserted Salt Lake City on 26 June and took up a position southwest of the city on the side of the Jordan River in Cedar Valley. There they established a permanent camp, Camp Floyd. On 7 June Brigham Young ordered the Saints to return home.
As Zina traveled north over the pass at Point of the Mountain that August, she felt that she had come home for good. Presendia, also traveling in August, recalled: “I had watched for the smoke of our lovely city, which we had so cheerfully resigned to its fate, for we were determined to lay it in ashes rather than leave our homes and the fruits of our toil to fall into the hands of our enemies, who, not content with driving us from the borders of civilization, had followed us into our mountain retreat.”98
In October, following her return, Brigham asked Zina to rear his four children by his plural wife Clarissa Ross Young, her friend for the past decade, who had died. Zina later wrote, “The duty in this instance proved to be a perfect pleasure and the children became to me as though they were indeed my own.”99 The children were ten-year-old Mary Young (Croxall), seven-year-old Maria Young (Dougall), five-year-old Willard Young, and three-year-old Phoebe Young (Beatie). Zina took her commission so seriously that she “exacted a secret promise” from seven-year-old Zina Presendia that very night “that she would never by word or deed indicate that they were other than the mother’s very own.” This was a promise Zina Presendia kept faithfully.100 However, she mused later, “As I review my life, I think that the night I had to relinquish [p.208] my place in mother’s bed to little Phoebe was the most painful experience of my life.”101
From the perspective of Mormon women’s history, perhaps the most important development during these years was the relationship that developed between Zina Diantha and sister wife Eliza R. Snow. They had known each other since Ohio and later Nauvoo’s Relief Society (where they had both been secretly married to Joseph Smith), although it is unclear if they visited with any frequency until the winter of 1847-48 in Winter Quarters. Zina was seventeen years younger than Eliza, a difference which never seemed to matter. They found themselves attuned to each other’s spiritual interests and developed a friendship focused on spiritual activities. To some extent, their close relationship must have equalled Zina’s life-long attachment to Presendia.
On 27 June 1859, Zina, Presendia, and Eliza walked to the summit of Ensign Peak, north of Temple Square, and knelt in prayer to commemorate the anniversary of Joseph Smith’s death. As Presendia remembered, “We … offered up our prayers to God and thanks that He had raised up a prophet in these last days and the Gospel had been restored to the earth, and that we had been of the few that had received the truth. We sang and blest each other.”102 Twenty-one years later, Zina and Eliza participated in ceremonies that linked their entire families to Joseph Smith.103 In mid-1886 Zina again turned to thoughts of Joseph, writing to another of his wives: “We remember this day, of all days to us. I went into Sister Elizas we talked over our past a little, then Sister E. spoke a few words in tounges to comfort and cheer us, and how the vale was thining as we advanced I cannot tel but you will feel the spirit of it.”104 These women were conscious of their connection to Joseph Smith; it was a status that set them apart among the Saints of Salt Lake City, and they maintained those differences with their observances.
For Zina, the 1850s fully matched the 1840s for turmoil, confusion, and heartache. During these years, she moved into three different homes and then prepared to abandon all of them, experienced both poverty and comfort, gave birth to her third child, acquired four more children for rearing, and negotiated her emotional disengagement from Henry Jacobs without leaving any kind of record of what it cost her psychologically. Yet the decade also brought emotional and spiritual stability. Zina inhab-[p.209]ited a tightly knit female world in which she raised her children, related in oblique and largely ceremonial ways to the husband she eventually would share with fifty-five other wives, and made her own way economically with the assistance of her brothers and the frequent, though not regular, maintenance of Brigham Young. Her primary source of satisfaction was rearing her children and foster children and in the intimate gatherings of women in which they affirmed each other’s spiritual power. From these roots would spring the relationships and motivations that would make her a leader among Mormon women.
27. It is possible that the “situation” was her being detached maritally from Henry Jacobs but not yet part of Brigham Young’s household or establishing a marital relationship with him. However, given the presence of other women and possibly other guests, it seems unlikely that Young would have chosen this setting for personal comments.
60. “Zina Presendia Young Williams Card, Diary of 1914,” Zina Young Williams Card Collection, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. The Zina Card Collection contains five personal histories with similar titles and content. They were most likely written by her daughter Zina Card Brown and include: (1) “A Life Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Card,” 6 pp., typescript; (2) Zina Young Card Brown, “A Biographical Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Williams Card,” 3 pp.; (3) “Zina Young Card,” 3 pp., typescript; (4) “A Biographical Sketch of Zina Y. Card, written for B.Y.U., Provo, Utah,” 12 pp., holograph; and (5) “Zina Y. Card,” 11 pp. typescript.
72. “Henry B. Jacobs (of the 15th Quorum) … [and others] … were disfellowshipped. There were fifteen names of dead Seventies and twenty-three disfellowshipped Seventies on the lists; the vacancies were soon to be filled.” Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (chronology of typed entries and newspaper clippings, 1830-present), 26 January 1851, LDS Church Archives.
81. Haven comments in this letter that one of Henry’s former wives was in California (Aseneth) and another in Ogden. Oa Jacobs Cannon writes in her short biography of Henry, “Short Sketch,” that Henry “began pestering Zina to come back to him” which led to his trouble with the church. “Then when my brother Smith Jacobs talked with Preston Nibley [he] said `Your grandfather was treated very shabbily by President Young,’” 15.
86. Zina D. H. Young, Journal, 31 September 1856. Readers may be confused by the fact that the three levels of the Lion House are sometimes known by different names. Thus the basement level may be called the “basement,” “ground floor,” or “first floor”; the main level the “center floor,” “first floor,” or “second level”; and the upstairs as the “upper level,” “second floor,” or “third level.” In other words, there were two stories above ground and one below.
89. On the Mormon reformation, see Gustive O. Larson, “The Mormon Reformation,” Utah Historical Quarterly 26 (January 1958): 45-63; Paul H. Peterson, “The Mormon Reformation of 1856-1857: The Rhetoric and the Reality,” The Journal of Mormon History 15 (1989): 59-87; Robert J. McCue, “Did the Word of Wisdom Become a Commandment in 1851?” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14 (Autumn 1981): 66-77; and Howard C. Searle, “The Mormon Reformation of 1856-1857” (M.S. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1956).
90. Thorough accounts of the Utah War include: Donald R. Moorman with Gene A. Sessions, Camp Floyd and the Mormons: The Utah War (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992); Norman F. Furniss, The Mormon Conflict, 1850-1859 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1960); LeRoy P. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen, eds., The Utah Expedition, 1857-58: A Documentary Account … (Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1958).