by Rebecca Bartholomew
Monogamous Lives in Zion
[p.187]We have followed one hundred British women from childhood to and early association with Mormonism to the American West. Most were welcomed in Utah by countrymen (most often a male host) having come before or by the families of elders who had baptized them. Beyond this happy beginning, how did they fare in Zion?
It is a delicate proposition determining if the women, at the end of their lives, looked upon their choice as a predominantly happy one. A woman’s original circumstances in Great Britain, her expectations of the new land and whether these arose from promises by missionaries and how realistic such promises were, her initial prospects in Utah territory and whether these improved over time, whether she reached Utah during a famine or an economic boom, and her manner of responding to hardships would all factor into her assessment of her choice. Mary Jane Ewer Palmer, the Lancashire weaver who sacrificed little by leaving England, probably adapted more readily to frontier life than Jean Rio Baker, the London shopowner who for the sake of duty gave up an established business, friends, and devotion to her queen.
Some women believed their lot to be one of sacrifice, this life not being a time of material and personal fulfillment at least for their generation. Other women expected the second coming of [p.188]Christ in their lifetimes, an attitude which minimized present hardships. Victorian Mormons—excluding, of course, the frenchified Fanny Stenhouse—would not seek or expect much fulfillment.
Significantly, two-thirds of our British women, along with nineteenth-century Mormon women generally, did not participate at all in the experiment with polygamy. One wonders why they remained monogamous and what their experience was compared to polygamous women and to non-British Mormon women.
Three Were Disillusioned
A perusal of the histories turns up only two monogamous women who expressed regret over their experience in Zion: Jean Rio Baker and my own ancestress, Eliza Worthington Horrocks. In addition, Elizabeth Clark Handley’s brief biography depicts the rare family who left Utah in a panic over miseries encountered there. A fourth case wants more evidence than one sentence in the British Mission manuscript history regarding the family’s return to England from Nauvoo. After vocalizing their disenchantment the couple was excommunicated.
Eliza Ann Clarke Worthington Horrocks
We start with my third great-grandmother, Eliza Ann Clarke Worthington Horrocks. She was born in 1824 in Macclesfield, Cheshire County, and at age seventeen was baptized by Edward Horrocks, president of the local mission and a Cheshire native. About 1849, at age twenty-five, she began to live with a nonmember, James Samuel Worthington, who by some accounts was a professional tailor.1 Eliza and James’s only child, Mary Worthington, was born 7 February 1850. James would not accept the Mormon gospel, and family tradition is that because of religious differences “they parted.”2
[p.189]Daughter Mary claimed that Eliza’s parents also turned against her. This is surprising since her father, Joseph Clark(e) of High Street, Macclesfield, was baptized when Eliza was an infant. However, a year after Mary was born, Joseph Clark(e) was “cut off” from the church for unnamed reasons, and even though this was a common occurrence (Eliza’s staunch second husband was also cut off a year before his appointment as branch president), her father was never rebaptized. This apparently left Eliza on her own.
Eliza married Edward Horrocks on 28 April 1856, a year before they emigrated. The marriage certificate identifies Edward as a “silk manufacturer” and Eliza as a “spinster.” Edwards’s daughter wrote that after Mother Horrocks’s death her father hired Eliza to work in the home and take care of his children, and that Eliza proved “a wonderful companion” so he married her. When the Horrockses emigrated, it was with six of his children and Eliza’s daughter Mary (Elizabeth H. J. Kingsford).
All records agree that their emigration was flawed. It began with a stormy crossing on the S. S. George Washington. They were seven weeks before reaching Boston. When they arrived at the starting-out point for the plains, the outfit they had ordered and paid for was not ready, causing another delay. They must have felt apprehension, since a year earlier Horrocks’s two older daughters had been trapped in the Rockies with the Martin handcart company. One daughter had lost her husband and the other had become temporarily deranged as a result of exposure, starvation, and exhaustion. Yet For Eliza and her party the plains phase of emigration was spotted only by normal hardships: quicksand, stampede, mountain fever, and for Mary too much walking which proved “hard on a seven-year-old girl.”
In Utah the Horrockses settled first in Ogden, thirty-five miles north of Salt Lake City, where they started a mercantile establishment “known throughout the area” as Horrocks Brothers. [p.190]Their first winter was meager, the family subsisting on bran bread, bran mush, and squash. Mary liked to tell how her mother once decided to vary this diet with an apple dumpling pudding. The trouble was she did not have any apples, so she used sweet onions instead. Mary remembered this steamed pudding as “very good.”
When three years later the little town of Huntsville was established in beautiful Pineview Valley in the mountains east of Ogden, Edward moved his family there and began a freighting operation between Huntsville and Ogden. They could not have been wealthy, as no settlers to that area were entirely comfortable. From age twelve, daughter Mary hired out as a domestic, doing housework, milking cows, making butter and cheese. She once worked all summer for a pair of shoes, two dresses, and yarn for stockings.
In 1865, eight years after arriving in Utah, Edward was hurled into a ravine by a snowslide which knocked his freight wagon off the road and killed him. He was fifty-nine and left Eliza with two small sons and a daughter besides Mary. His own children were by this time married or self-sufficient.
Not much is said in the family records about Eliza’s later life, a reverse of the tendency to be brief about the British years while detailed about emigration and life in Zion. She married again, to Thomas Sleater “for time”3 in the Logan temple, but this third marriage ended in divorce, possibly a casualty of trying to mix step-families. Eliza eventually moved to Mary’s home in Pleasant Green (now Magna) where she died.
It is the footnote to Eliza’s story that is of most interest. A strong tradition has passed from daughter to daughter that Eliza asked to be sealed for eternity to “her first husband” rather than to Edward Horrocks because Horrocks was mean to her and she [p.191]regretted marrying him. Eliza may well have been unhappy with a husband eighteen years her senior, and it is true that Mary, who was said to “remember her father well,” never adopted the Horrocks name.
This tradition is so strong that my grandmother badgered LDS authorities for over twenty years to have Eliza’s temple marriage to Horrocks revoked and another vicariously performed to Worthington. Because of this family experience, my father had a high tolerance for out-of-church weddings.
Thus of all the British women’s histories, my own ancestor’s turns out to be the exception to the rule that at first blush seems to proved the stereotype: she could well be the naive proselyte who listened too credulously to Mormon elders and lived to regret it. Yet Eliza did not spend her Utah years in bondage. Though simple, hers was not a life of want and abandonment. She was never a plural wife, although she might have become one had Horrocks lived long enough. She did not repudiate other tenets of her faith.
As for Eliza’s descendants, daughter Mary married a Mormon and raised sixteen children. Six generations of descendants have proven more-or-less faithful to Mormonism. As a great-great-great-granddaughter, I have to agree with my ancestress that it would have been the better thing to stick by her first husband. Yet where would I be, and my brothers, sisters, and cousins, had she not?
Jean Rio Griffiths Baker
A history sumptuous in emigration detail while tantalizingly terse about her life in Zion is that of Jean Rio Griffiths Baker Pearce. Open, vividly observant, always interested, Jean described her departure from friends and associates in the London hat business, her family’s voyage across the Atlantic and up the Mississippi, and the wagon trek across the plains.
Jean had obtained the name Rio (pronounced rye-oh) possibly from her mother’s French birth and Griffiths from her Scottish father. Her first husband, civil engineer Henry Baker, died in London. She converted to Mormonism in 1848 where she was a member of the Whitechapel Branch, and three years later emigrated with her six children, losing a small son at sea.
[p.192]Upon arriving in Salt Lake City Jean wrote, “I can hardly analyze my feelings, but I think my prevailing ones were joy and gratitude for the protecting care [who] had over me and mine, during our long perilous journey.” One of her early observations was “the singular fact (at least to us English folks)” of clean air “enabling us to see objects at a very great distance ever since the Missouri River.”
Within a week Jean purchased a small Salt Lake Valley house and one-acre garden that pleased her highly with its Indian corn, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, parsnips, beets, and tomatoes watered by a small stream. She bought a three-year-old heifer. The house had only four rooms, she noted, but “we can manage for the winter.”
Her life might have turned out differently had she remained in Salt Lake City. But Jean had larger agrarian ambitions. That winter she turned the house over to an aunt and uncle so she and her sons could “go farm” on twenty acres she had purchased in Ogden. It was a ruinous step for a London shopkeeper.
The diary tells this only in retrospect. It lapses for nearly two decades before entries resume in a far different tone from her happy scribblings upon first reaching the valley. On 29 September 1869, Jean wrote: “I have been 18 years this day an inhabitant of Utah Territory and I may say 18 years of hard toil and almost continual disappointment. My 20 acre farm turned out to be a mere salaratus patch … I am now in Ogden city living in a small log house and working at my trade, as a dressmaker.” Looking back to the famine of 1856 and the Utah War and move south of 1858, she said, “we passed them both, and a bitter experience it was.” She had buried her next-youngest boy in 1860. Her son William had been married since 1858, and Edward and John had left for California within two years of arriving in Ogden: “they could not stand poverty any longer so ran away from it.” As a last blow, after fifteen years a widow, she had married again only to see her new husband live but six months. Jean continued,
I have tried to do my best in the various circumstances in which I have been placed. I came here in obedience to what I believed to be a revelation of the Most High God, trusting in the assurance [p.193]of the missionaries, whom I believed to have the spirit of truth. I left my home, sacrificed my property, broke up every dear association, and what was and is yet dearer than all, left my beloved native land, and for what? A bubble that has burst in my grasp.
These words were not written in the immediate throes of grief. Her second husband Edward Pearce had been gone five years, so one can assume that such words reflected her dominant feelings. “It has been a severe lesson,” she continued, “but I can say, it has led me to lean more on my Heavenly Father, and less on men’s words.”
Eight weeks after writing this, Jean succumbed to Edward’s and John’s implorings and joined them in California. There she saw her boys for the first time in ten years and met John’s non-Mormon wife whom she called “my new daughter,” commenting, “I like her much and she seems a thorough, whole-souled young woman.” The following spring Jean wrote, “it has been a very pleasant winter … It is like being in a new world.” A few other relatives soon followed her from Utah, all settling on rented farm land on a place called Sherman Island.
California agreed with Jean. At age seventy she would write (as the last entry in her “Utah” diary) that she had good health and was “spending my time among my children, sometimes at one house and sometimes at another.” Although in California too the family suffered “many disappointments, many trials,” Jean now had “every temporal comfort my heart can desire … ”
Except for a twenty-one-month visit to Utah in 1876 to see family, Jean remained in California. During this visit she found her “remaining children and friends … As the members of one household of Faith, irrespective of creed … ” Her son William, after eleven years of married life in Ogden, had moved to Richfield in central Utah and taken his young Scandinavian housemaid as a plural wife. This girl’s fiance had died, so she married William for time only, being sealed for eternity to the dead fiance. But after bearing William twelve children, the earlier sealing was revoked and a new one performed with William. Jean’s only daughter [p.194]married in the church, later divorced the man, married an Episcopalian, and “left” the church.
Experience broadened Jean’s comprehension of the world and made her less sectarian. She learned to distinguish the Zion of the heart from real estate. Yet according to a descendant, even her family does not know if she died in the faith. Her California journals have been lost. Her funeral was a non-Mormon ceremony, although this may have been sons’ choice.
A statement which appears in quotation marks at the end of Jean’s diary leaves the strong possibility that she stayed loyal to Mormonism. It is dated 1880, after twelve happy years in California. “I have but one wish unfulfilled and that is that I may live to see every one of my children and grandchildren faithful members of the kingdom of God.” It seems that however muddied the trail became, Baker held to the path she chose at conversion in Whitechapel.
Elizabeth Clark Handley
The histories of Jean Rio Baker and others reveal an initial “honeymoon period” during an immigrant’s first weeks in Utah territory. We will see more of this tendency in the next section. But a biography which intimates nothing of the kind is Elizabeth Clark Handley’s, which belies a checkered existence in Utah from the beginning. Elizabeth was born in Chesterton, Cambridgeshire, in 1824. In 1844 or 1846 she married George Handley. Their first two children died in infancy. About 1852 most of Elizabeth’s family converted to Mormonism, and in 1853 her father, B. Thomas Clark, paid the emigration fares for the “whole family.”
These converts may have been overly-expectant, or perhaps they just ran into an unusually heavy share of bad luck. Certainly the timing of their arrival was inopportune. It was the middle of the famine of 1856. The family record states that “privations and sufferings caused [them] to leave Utah Territory and in 1857 they went to Council Bluffs” (Nebraska). There they lived and worked five years, after which time they returned to Utah where they now “found things more favorable.” Their story is a seldom-seen aspect of the settlement of Utah and sheds some realism on the romanticized stories of blissful happy-ever-afters and the sensationalist [p.195]claims that hordes of Saints crowded the Mormon Trail on their way out of Zion.
The genealogical record reveals some of the obstacles which caused the Handleys to become discouraged with Zion. George and Elizabeth emigrated with a two-year-old daughter. A son was born on the Wyoming plains but died the same day. In Salt Lake City the next spring they had stillborn twins. Sons born in 1855 and 1857 lived, but 1856 and 1857 were years of famine, drought, and grasshopper plagues.
Iowa treated them little better than had Utah. During their exile in “the States,” four more of the Handley children died, three in a single five-day period just before Christmas 1861. Perhaps the Handleys decided that God had cursed them for retreating from Zion, for in 1862 they returned to Great Salt Lake City.
If they were cursed, they brought it with them. A son born that winter died five weeks later. At this time Elizabeth and George must have feared they would leave no posterity at all, with only three of thirteen children surviving and these so young that their futures were uncertain. The couple could not have predicted that one son and a daughter, born in 1864 and 1867, would live to comfort Elizabeth’s old age.
Just before completing the book I came across a microfilm record on George Handley previously overlooked. It turns out that as Elizabeth’s childbearing years came to a close George took a second wife—an English girl, possibly a servant in their home, Sarah Ann Briggs. In marrying again, George, forty, robbed the cradle, for Sarah Ann was not yet fifteen. Here is one family among our histories which contributed to Utah’s relatively low marrying age.
Sarah Ann would bear George four children before his early death in 1874. (She was more fortunate than Elizabeth in that only one of her children died young, a daughter at age nine, five years after her father’s death.) It does not speak well for the institution of polygamy that at age twenty-three Sarah Ann Briggs was a widow with four dependents.
If only there were more information on what became of these two women. The record shows no remarriage by Elizabeth Clark [p.196]Handley, although she must have had opportunity. Sarah Ann remarried, this time to a man her own age: Arvis Scott Chapman. 4 Early marriage and widowhood may have disabused Sarah Ann of her teenage impressionability in matters of religion. Only two of her children were baptized and these late, one at age twelve, the other at age fifty-four. Sarah was buried in Salt Lake City’s Mt. Olivet Cemetery, a burial ground not commonly used by Mormon families, suggesting that Arvis was a gentile. 5
All three of this section’s stories suggest mixed feelings at leaving Great Britain, confirming in individual cases though not in cumulative totals the sterotype of the bitterly-disappointed Mormon dupe. The stories are tragic. Mormonism was no refuge from the solitary aspect of sainthood. The group did not supplant the individual, however much it may have wanted to. What the stereotype did not recognize was the dupe’s ability to learn from self-perceived mistakes.
Four Were Glad
Neither Eliza Worthington Horrocks nor Jean Rio Baker left a clue as to why she eluded polygamy. The case of Elizabeth Wilkins Steadman is important because in a letter she made direct reference to her marriage decision, an exciting find among our histories.
Elizabeth Wilkins Steadman
Elizabeth was born in 1835 in Buckebury Berks near Newport, England, the youngest daughter of a blacksmith. She was twenty when her entire family converted to Mormonism. They emigrated in stages, beginning with two brothers. Charles settled in South Cottonwood, Salt Lake Valley, where he married and produced five children. Christopher, while still in the east, was persuaded or waylaid into joining the Union Army. His family heard nothing from him for three years, whereupon they received a letter which [p.197]revealed, “I have been on the battlefield, and it is terrible to behold.” As a band musician he had not fired a shot or received a scratch.
The decision was made that the next to sail would be Elizabeth and her aging father, who sadly passed away two weeks out of New York harbor in 1862. Elizabeth’s letters to her mother (published in Our Pioneer Heritage) begin with her excited observations just before sailing and continue with her plaints about cows and babies several years after arriving in Utah. They reveal her to be mature and independent for twenty-seven, of a practical bent, observant, interested in her traveling companions, and prone to put a matter-of-fact, even optimistic, construction on most events. Her first letter from Zion reads:
SLC, Sept. 1862
Dear Mother, I was glad to have a letter from you, but almost afraid to look at it. I was sorry to hear Sophia is dead. It must be very dull for James and you too … I wish you could come next season … . I was very hearty at Florence, I got so that I could hardly get about. When I came along the plains I got thin enough. I had the diarrhea a month before I got here and a very bad appetite. I had five or six gatherings on my feet which made it worse. I have not the least desire to come back. If you could get a little cinnamon to bring you might get a little milk for that purpose [as a cure for diarrhea].
Elizabeth added that her brother Charles had a comfortable home and she liked his wife. This letter was written within days of arriving in Utah, yet Elizabeth was already making decisions about the future, for she concluded, “I can stay here as long as I like but I suppose that won’t be much longer. I have my choice to have a single man or a man with one wife and I don’t know what to do, nor anybody can’t tell me, for both are very good men … ”
Her mother must have waited eagerly for Elizabeth’s next letter, which was dated the next February:
I seldom go to sleep but I am dreaming about all of you and that I am back there but I am glad I am here … I should have more pleasure in writing to you if I had something cheering to tell you. That I would have some chance of sending for you but I don’t at [p.198]present … . I am glad Charles had not got to pay it [her Perpetual Emigration Fund debt]. My man pays that. I was married on my last birthday to a single man, four years older than myself. We live comfortable together so far …
Characteristically, Elizabeth stuck mostly to practical details about her situation. Her husband George Steadman, a Sussex convert, was sharecropping a South Cottonwood farm near Charles’s place. The newlyweds already had acquired two cows and hoped to get another that summer, and had traded one cow and a pig for oxen and a good new wagon. Elizabeth wrote of George, “He is a good fellow to work and to make things handy and comfortable indoors and out.”
Elizabeth tried to tease her mother into emigrating right away: “I expect to have a little boy the latter part of February and I want you for a nurse … I hope you will have strength and health and be able to keep up your spirits and live to come here.”
This letter and one written a year later show that soon enough the newlyweds were receiving a balance of luck and trouble. They had to move from South Cottonwood when the pregnant Elizabeth came near to dying due to diarrhea, a liver complaint, and a “canker.” “George had to be about so much nights he said he could not work days.” By moving they had to forgo harvest on the first property and they arrived too late in the season to prepare a crop on the new place, which meant living “hand to mouth all the long, cold winter.” In addition, their brand new wagon was conscripted by the church to be “sent back to the States to fetch the Saints. We bought another, an old one.” Finally, Elizabeth was bedridden nine weeks before childbirth. Her letters show that the first glow of arriving in Zion had been replaced by workaday cares. She commented, “If people come here for nic nacs and comfort they have to wait until they can make them and they that don’t pay tithing here, can hardly live.” She probably meant that people got by only through God’s help, although she may have also meant that only through assistance from the church—which non-tithe-payers did not enjoy—could a family survive.
Actually, George and Elizabeth were doing relatively well. They had a house, a good garden, peach and plum trees and [p.199]currant bushes, and a new baby daughter—”a poor little thing but very healthy and hungry … not a day’s sickness since she was born.” And they had no debts. The new wagon surely paid off her Perpetual Emigration Fund loan, and they had acquired the new house by trade using wheat and the South Cottonwood property.
Unfortunately, the letters end here. The rest of her story must be pieced from computerized genealogical data found at LDS church headquarters. These show that Elizabeth’s childbearing years were short compared to many nineteenth-century women, perhaps because she had married relatively late. Seven children were born between 1864 and 1876. It took George six years to obtain a son to help him on the farm. They were fortunate in not being torn from their second farm and sent to colonize an outlying valley but spent their entire married life in the Millcreek and Taylorsville areas of central Salt Lake Valley. In 1877 Elizabeth and the three children who qualified were rebaptized, probably in a gesture of recommitment to the church. Except for George Jr., who remained a bachelor until his death, all their children married and lived to old age, although not as old as their parents. Elizabeth died in 1918 at age 83, George a year later at 88.
In retrospect, Elizabeth had no reason to complain about her life in Zion. A spinster on arrival, she married within a few months to a man who treated her well and proved a compatible companion. They endured the predictable afflictions of a nineteenth-century family: the ups and downs of scraping a farm living, the sometimes-annoying demands of the local and central church, illnesses and diseases that were sometimes life-threatening but did not take the ultimate toll of either adults or children.
Elizabeth Ann Claridge McCune
A family which was not allowed the luxury of remaining on their early homestead was that of Charlotte Joy Claridge. Charlotte was born in Houghton, Huntingood, England, in 1819, the daughter of James Joy and Sarah Skinner. She married Samuel, nine years her junior, in 1849 and was baptized into the Mormon church in June 1851. It did not take them long to prepare to emigrate. The very next year she and Samuel carried their two infants, Samuel [p.200]and Elizabeth, to Utah. It is daughter Elizabeth Ann Claridge McCune who is the main subject of this story.
Elizabeth’s parents had another son just after arriving in Utah and a daughter was born in 1857 who would later marry one of Brigham Young’s more prominent sons. The family set down roots in Nephi, several days’ wagon ride south of Salt Lake City, where many of the family would be buried over the next seventy years.
The Claridges made several ties to Brigham Young’s family. Besides the daughter who married Brigham S. Young, the oldest daughter Elizabeth would become lifelong friends with Susa Young Gates, called “The Thirteenth Apostle” for her energetic involvement in church and Utah politics. Susa was a prolific writer, founder of the Young Women’s Journal and long-time editor of the Relief Society Magazine. She occasionally succeeded in getting her wealthy but very private friend Elizabeth to write articles for publication.
One such article tells of Elizabeth as a fifteen-year-old helping the little town of Nephi prepare for a visit from the First Presidency. Local bands practiced for weeks, girls prepared flowers to be strewn along the visitors’ path, and females made new hats to copy “the stylish city folks” who would accompany the Brethren. With this story Elizabeth meant to show the love and loyalty Nephi families offered the church authorities.
About the time Elizabeth’s parents might have settled into somewhat comfortable middle age, Samuel Claridge was called to help establish the ill-fated Muddy River mission in southeastern Nevada. Elizabeth later wrote that she sobbed at her father’s leaving but would have felt disgraced had he not accepted the call. In time her mother joined him. Elizabeth herself stayed behind to marry a young Nephi man, and she later had some exciting adventures of her own when, with her first baby, she traveled alone to visit her parents now ensconced on the Arizona frontier.
What Elizabeth did not say in the story is that her father was also called to take a second wife, Rebecca Hughes. No information beyond the marriage date—3 July 1865—has been found about this woman. But the marriage probably took place just before Claridge joined forty-five families on the Muddy River as part of an effort [p.201]to establish a cotton colony. Within a year only twenty-five families remained there, and by 1870 all remaining settlers voted to withdraw when given a choice by Brigham Young. It is not known if Samuel Claridge was one of the faithful twenty-five. 6
From Nevada the Claridges relocated to Thatcher, Arizona, and first wife Charlotte died there at age sixty-five. She lived long enough to recapture the prosperity she had lost in leaving Nephi and to know that her children prospered as well.
Elizabeth was twenty when she married twenty-three-year-old Alfred William McCune. Alfred was born in Calcutta, India, of an English doctor and wife who were converted and emigrated to Utah sometime before 1857.
Alfred and Elizabeth had nine children: six boys and three girls, all born in Utah between 1873 and 1891. Otherwise they were not a typical frontier couple. Against the trend established by church leaders who tried to develop an agricultural rather than mining economy in Utah, Alfred became a mining engineer and partner in ventures from Utah to South Africa which yielded fortune after fortune.
Elizabeth came from too dedicated religious stock to enjoy fully the cosmopolitan possibilities as wife of a mining magnate. When Alfred moved her into a lavish mansion above the temple in Salt Lake City she was embarrassed. During one of his many extended travels, she moved herself out of the ostentatious villa into a modest house across from Liberty Park on Ninth South. Later she willed the mansion to the church.
From a letter Susa Gates wrote to Alfred but never sent, it appears his preference for business over religion was a point of strain between himself and Elizabeth. Yet it was probably through Alfred’s financial prominence, as much as Elizabeth’s friendship with activist Susa and a sister’s marriage to an apostle, that Elizabeth enjoyed many opportunities to help women and serve her church. Over the years she acted as a trustee for the Utah Agricultural College in Logan, appointee to the National Council of Women, member of the general presidency of the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association, and member of the Relief Society General Board. She died in 1924 and was buried as she would have wished in Nephi. Extravagant wealth had not turned her from the faith of her parents. Alfred outlived her by three years and died at Cannes, France, but he too was buried in his boyhood home.
Mary Nixon Bate
Few Utah families proved as materially fortunate as the McCunes. Mary Nixon Bate was the London housewife and property owner whose power struggle with her husband over her religion culminated in the accidental smothering of their newborn. Mary was thirty-five, Richard Bate forty, and their other children thirteen, ten, eight, six, two, and four months when she joined the church. After three years of emotional abuse, Mary took what money she needed from the bank and stole away to Liverpool with the children, where Richard caught up with them.
That Mary was pregnant again shows marital relations continued despite their problems. The family went by train to Iowa City, then spent two years in St. Louis where Richard died in 1859, only forty-five years old. Mary was now widowed with seven children, having spent most of her money just getting to St. Louis.
Mary’s early years in Utah were as difficult as her emigration. Just after she arrived in Salt Lake City a man borrowed 100 pounds of flour plus a half bushel of white beans, never paying it back. This repeated a similar experience in St. Louis. Yet, while there were parties in church circles willing to relieve a widow of her surplus, others were honest. A man to whom she had loaned $13 in Iowa City looked her up in Salt Lake City to repay her in provisions. She also still had $50 and a team of oxen which together paid for a house with sixty acres.
Within a year of arriving in Utah, Mary married William Brewer, about whom nothing is known except that she and all her children were soon sealed to him. What became of Brewer, and why her name is given in the history as Mary Nixon Bate Buckley, can only be surmised. No record could be found of Buckley.
Apparently Mary stayed in the Salt Lake City house only five [p.203]years, for by 1866 she was in Provo forty miles south, finally settling in nearby Springville two years later. There her history ends, hopefully because her life had become comfortably mundane. Several of her descendants remain in Springville to this day.
In spite of troubles, Mary never regretted her decision to gather to Zion. In 1881 she left her testimony in the form of an account of her conversion and immigration, a handwritten document which was sealed with others in the cornerstone of the St. George temple until 1931. Before submitting the document, she devoted three months in St. George to working in the temple. “I never spend [sic] such a happy time in my life,” she wrote at age sixty-two. “I bear my testimony to the work of God that has been revealed in these latter days for the redemption of the Human Family.”
Did Mary ever reconsider the consequences of her early decisions? Apparently not. One line in her history mentions “the darkness of my Traditions,” but this refers to her not fully appreciating the dreams and visions she enjoyed during the warfare with her husband, “whisperings to my soul wich gave me joy and peace.” The family group sheet on Richard, Mary, and their seven children has this notation: “Do not seal to husband”—a final insult to Richard Bate who had already lost everything else to a faith he did not embrace. He may be one of the handful of real victims of Mormonism.
Hannah Tapfield King
Hannah Tapfield King was converted to Mormonism through readying dreams, prayer, and tears. Her journals indicate that she remained loyal to her death. Yet her story not only resembles but very well could be the prototype for Maria Ward’s image of the comfortable matron beguiled by initially charming, solicitous Mormon elders and as a result losing her happy British home, British honor, and earthly prosperity.
Hannah almost emigrated to Zion without her spouse. At virtually the last minute her husband decided to sell their property and follow Hannah and the children. This meant splitting up his ancestral home forever. Hannah herself had mixed feelings about this:
I felt a weight upon me I could not shake off, for I knew it was only the almighty love he had for his family that made him make this great sacrifice. Well it is a great sacrifice for me also. I have loved my home as much as he can have done … Now it will be broken up and disbursed … to the four winds. It is also a great, a very great sacrifice to my children. Yet, bless them, they are ready to make it.
But the sacrifice must have been harder for Thomas, a yeoman who loved rural English life and not Mormonism. Hannah admitted, “At present he is looked upon as a man victimized by his wife—an object of universal pity and commiseration. But God, not they will be my judge! … Poor dear man! How distressed he was all the afternoon.”
Here is a slight twist on the story of the gullible matron—Hannah was able to bring her adoring husband and cherubs along. She was made painfully aware that her “father and mother are wretched too about it.” During a last walk in the family garden she agonized: “Oh, nothing but the conviction that I am doing the will of God could urge me forward to make the stand I have done. And many trials are yet in store for me!”
The Kings’ trials were swift in coming. Before crossing the plains their oldest daughter, Georgiana, “the twin spirit of [Hannah’s] soul,” married the missionary who had converted the family, Claudius Spenser. It is clear that by the time of the trek Hannah had espoused polygamy in doctrine if not practice, for when another daughter, Louie, vowed “she would be the first wife or not be married,” Hannah wrote: “It seems to be incorporated into [Louie’s] system—the idea of being great according to her notions of greatness. Perhaps she will learn better in time.”
As noted in the previous chapter, travel by wagon train had frayed the devotion between mother and son-in-law Claudius. Then, less than a week after arriving in Salt Lake Valley, Georgiana died from mountain fever. It left Hannah “almost paralyzed with surprise, sorrow, and sadness. [She] was taken very ill 5 weeks.”
In a bizarre manifestation of the excesses of polygamy, only a few days after Georgie’s death Claudius began urging Hannah to give him younger daughter Louie to wife. He persisted even while [p.205]Hannah lay ill, causing her to see in a new light his behavior during the wagon trip. She now believed that he had been “always after [Louie] either by a `dumb expression’ or otherwise … As I now feel, I shall never give her to him.” Yet his implorings finally wore her down and “At last I said, `Cease … I give you a release … ‘” On 9 October 1853, less than three weeks after losing Georgie, Claudius took both Louie and another immigrant, Susannah Neslen, as plural wives.
One can only speculate on Thomas’s opinion of his daughters’ marriages. At least “Mr. King” (as Hannah referred to him) and Hannah made an effort to enjoy Mormon society. They donated $50 to the Perpetual Emigration Fund. It would be the last donation they would make for a long time. Next year, when a builder tried to collect what they owed for construction of their Salt Lake City house, the Kings were unable to pay him.
For the first time in their lives there were days with no breakfast to eat. They were even poorer than most Salt Lakers during the famine of 1856, for at April general conference that year, when Brigham Young asked the congregation for $100 in donations for the poor, Hannah found she had not a cent to give. “Felt rather sad at my poverty, for I would have loved to have given something as all the rest were doing.”
Louie and Bertha helped their parents by supplying flour, sugar and eggs, and Hannah asked President Young to find work in the church offices for sixteen-year-old Tom Owen King. Young obliged, and soon Tom was running errands for the Express Company, a freighting outfit organized by church leaders and merchants. In addition Hannah operated a school in her home, although her health ended this enterprise after two years. Hannah’s journal tells nothing of efforts by Mr. King to contribute to the family’s living.
In the midst of these difficulties, Hannah went to President Young again and donated to the church a piece of land in England—-a legacy from her father—while reserving some as an inheritance for her children. The prophet responded by sending the Kings sixty pounds of flour, a more valuable commodity in Utah that spring than English land or cash.
[p.206]In addition to money, Hannah found herself lacking friends in Zion. She had decided even while crossing the plains not to confide in her husband: “I dare not tell Mr. King many things that trouble me … It might injure the things of God, and do me no good.” When a young man who had become her confidante on the plains boarded at the King home, tongues set to wagging. “I feel I have a secret enemy somewhere,” Hannah wrote. And apparently Old World class differences still told in Utah territory, for after tea with several other Mormon matrons, Hannah confided: “Did not like the feeling of these women … they feel I am different and are rather in awe of me … we belong to different orbits.” After one Sunday meeting, she wrote: “Went to the Ward Room, enjoyed it pretty well. But the women seem spiritless, only three brethren present … I do not feel unhappy but there is a void. I feel alone.”
While kind most of the time, Mr. King tended to be “cross and fault finding” about some matters, occasionally causing Hannah to reassess whether she wished to remain yoked to an unbeliever. She wanted to be true “until death do us part,” yet she worried that she might thereby forego “a fullness of salvation,” consigning herself to the role of a “ministering spirit” in heaven by not seeing to it that she was “sealed” in the Endowment House to a worthy male. However, when one sister urged her to get herself sealed “to Joseph” (the prophet Joseph Smith), Hannah told her that in this case she preferred to walk by sight, not by faith.
Neither were Hannah’s children always a comfort. Bertha, who had caused such friction in England that the Kings once considered sending her to boarding school, would slip away evenings in Salt Lake with friends without permission. At age nineteen, to her mother’s grief, she married a Brother Candland. Less than a year later she divorced him, again against her parents’ counsel. Once again living at home, Bertha was described by her mother with these lines: “I cannot get her to assimilate with me, and this morning she showed such a spirit as I never saw exhibited in her before.” Finally Bertha left to live with an older female friend. Independence must have mollified her rebelliousness, for a year later she was helping to support her parents.
Louie, married in polygamy to Claudius Spenser, soon de-[p.207]lighted Hannah with a grandchild, and Hannah resumed a courteous relationship with Claudius but never again the trust and adulation as when he and his father were officials of the British Mission. No record is found of Louie’s children living to maturity. Bertha remarried but likewise left no offspring of record. Only the youngest child, Thomas, would live to old age and insure the Kings a posterity through his eight children. Eventually Hannah made a few friends “firm as the hills, and true as steel.” She may have been referring to her associates in the Polysophical Society, a debate/arts/social club formed in 1854 by and for the intellectually-starved. Hannah frequently gave readings at society meetings. But even this comfort was to be denied her. She was greatly disappointed when the club became “a stink in the nostrils” of Apostle Jedediah Grant, fiery promoter of the Mormon Reformation of 1856-57. When Heber C. Kimball jumped on Grant’s bandwagon and forced the society to disband, Hannah was deeply hurt.
The Reformation itself was another cross for Hannah. From youth she had resisted Calvinist religion, and she suffered acutely from the hell-fire-and-damnation tenor of Reformation sermons. Far into the 1870s she would recall, “Never shall I forget the darkness, desolation, and honor of those times!” Her journal describes her ward bishop and two teachers catechizing the members:
How well I remember them coming to our house. There was no one at home but Tom Owen and me. They asked if I desired to be questioned in a separate room. I said no, and smiling at Tom I asked him if he did. Poor boy, he was but 16, he looked as guileless as a child and said no. They then proceeded with me. It began, Have you committed murder, ditto, ditto—adultery? ditto-ditto—robbed? —Spoken slander of your neighbor?—Broken down your neighbor’s fences?—Brought your children up in principles of righteousness, etc. [The Catechism] was over a foot in length!! Blessed were those who could answer in innocence.
She claimed that many members were lightened into confessing sins they had not committed. Hannah could never bring herself to criticize President Young, whom she credited for ending the Re-[p.208]formation. “At last one Sunday Brigham rose up in the stand peaceful and benign. Told the people to stop their confessions … ” She would not outright state that the whole episode was misguided. “Only I know it was a fearful ordeal, and fear is a slavish passion and is not begotten by the spirit of God!”
A final misfortune curiously did not wring the usual tears and poetic effluence from Hannah: the death of her mother. Regarding this event she wrote with peculiar detachment: “She [Mary, Hannah’s only sister] says she died broken hearted! Poor thing! Well, I expect the time will come when she will bow all things, and then all will be right.” Hannah seems to have long before reconciled herself to the alienation from family that her religion had created.
On her fiftieth birthday Hannah sat at her writing desk to compare her life in Utah to her former life at Dernford Dale:
Formerly I had servants to keep my house clean and in order as I directed. I had children, and their governess who grew to be my friend, whose love to me was wonderful! “Passing the love of women.” I ruled in love, and we had a home of peace and order, and above all love. I maintained a dignity of manner and character that comforted me and returned blessings on my head, and I felt great and good.
Now she wrote (“I am not complaining, only stating facts”):
Now I am literally a servant in my own house, with not a human being under me. I am everything but my own mistress. I am poor even to often wanting the necessaries of life. [Once] I could comfort myself by comforting others … All this is past, and now those I would [do] good to receive my kindness with, at best apathy, and alas! often with repulse. Truly has the gospel brought not peace, but a sword in my family, and has cut almost every heart string I had under the old regime!
Her troubles were offset by her great love for Mormon leaders Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball. Upon first meeting the prophet she wrote, “He looked and spoke like a man! He is the very man I saw in my dream in England.” And Kimball made it a point to befriend her at balls and socials so that she always felt cheered by his attentions.
Hannah lived to be seventy-nine, contributing poems and [p.209]prose writings to the Women’s Exponent until shortly before her death. Thomas King, Sr., never converted to Mormonism but died in Salt Lake City at the age of seventy-five.
How does one assess Hannah King’s experience with Zion? There is the temptation to simply accept her own appraisal—an unshakable personal vision which translates as dogged Mormon orthodoxy. Two years after arriving in the territory she wrote, “I bear my testimony here in writing that I am rejoicing as ever in the work of the Lord. I feel … that He has been my Father … and never has the thought crossed my mind that I wish I had not given up my home and come here, or a regret that I have entered into covenant with Him … ” Twenty years later these were still her sentiments. Confiding only to her diary, with no one to impress or deceive, these were presumably her honest and predominant thoughts. Perhaps maturity buffered her from disillusionment over conditions and attitudes found in Zion. After all, her life in England had not been idyllic, either, with losses through death, estrangement, and depression. “We must have the evil and the good in about the same ratio,” she philosophized.
Yet there is an equal temptation to condemn her. It was she who dragged Thomas to Utah, obviously a bad move for them materially. She also bears major responsibility for her daughters’ embroilment in polygamy and her son’s forfeiture of his birthright at Dernford Dale. And Zion drew only a little closer to her Christian ideals than had the society of her English homeland. So one must look further in the attempt to understand Hannah King not only by her own measure nor by criticism but by the standards of distance and objectivity.
One of her diary entries reports a lecture given by a Dr. France in Salt Lake’s Social Hall. His subject was midwifery and diseases of women. Hannah wrote: “He spoke good. Says he means to teach the men a few things one day. That the world said it was good for the men to have license in these things, but he said `commend me to the man who can command his passions with only one wife, or no wife at all.’ This was what Paul taught.” To the doctor’s words Hannah added her own opinion: “Verily, such is the man for me!”
Then she appended: “I long for the time when the Celestial Law will be established. It will be a good day.” Did she refer to polygamy, which was then commonly referred to as the Celestial [p.210]Law? Or to virtue and mutual consideration in any marriage situation? Or to self-denial, even abstinence? For this third choice was soon implemented in her own marriage. A year later she would write, “Mr. King has been kind, and I sleep alone, which adds to my good feelings, for this has long been my desire.” Did Hannah harbor a biblical or Victorian ideal of manhood which her husband did not fulfill?
If so, one cannot help feeling a bit sorry for Thomas King. In England he forfeited his livelihood, inheritance, and the regard of his peers by following his Mormon wife. In Mormondom he was an object of condescension because he did not go through the official motions of “him who should stand in his lot and place, and be a father and husband in Israel!” Though he sacrificed as much for the Kingdom of God as Hannah, at his death he was not even honored with an obituary in the Mormon newspaper. Here the tenets of Hannah King’s pioneer religion seem unjust, even shallow, and one wonders what private ordeal Thomas endured because of them. Hannah did recognize the love which had motivated King to leave wealth and influence for obscurity and frustration. “That is something,” she admitted.
What further clues are to be found regarding Hannah, her choices, and the outcomes of those choices? On board the Golconda Hannah had written to her brother, “I will not complain, for we are in a school that will do us all good.” Later she noted in her journal about the emigration experience, “If I was proud, as my mother said, here came the humbling.” And a notation in her diary after four years in Zion indicates that she felt the “school” of Mormonism had indeed further matured her: “Am I as happy as I used to be four years ago? Yes, withal I am quite as happy. My views are far more extended. I seem to take a mightier range, in fact, `old things have passed away … All things have become new.’ The vacuum is filled which never was before in my happiest times.”
For Hannah the development of the immortal soul took precedence over material considerations. And she was not alone; many [p.211]Victorians viewed life as a school that would teach virtue in the kiln of experience. So in Hannah’s diary there are many entries like the following: “O! help me to improve, to gain ascendancy over myself, over my selfishness … Preserve me from the powers of darkness, from the weakness of my own imperfect nature.”
She herself probably did not fully recognize some of the refinements to her character brought about by her Utah experience. Zion indeed leveled and made her more democratic. Remember the governess who received such effuse praise as a bosom friend in Hannah’s later diaries? Actually, Hannah had earlier kept the girl firmly in her place out of concern for maintaining a position as lady of the household. Servant Ann, who had joined the church and emigrated with the family—doing chores while the King daughters giggled in the wagon—became more appreciated after Georgie’s death when Ann tended Hannah “like a daughter.” And Hannah’s Utah diaries contain fewer of the complacent early entries in which she contemplates her untiring wisdom in managing her household.
The less-privileged life of Mormondom also taught Hannah to be more self-sufficient. “Why is it that I do not journalize as I was want [sic] to do?” she had written a year after settling in Salt Lake City. “One thing is I haven’t time … . everything so different that I have not yet found my level, but I am rejoicing still in the work of the Lord.”
It appears that, for all Hannah’s aristocratic, self-absorbed delicacy, she produced strength and persistence in seeking her idea of God above self-interest. If this is not sainthood, it surely is an impressive attempt at sainthood. Perhaps it is impossible for twentieth-century readers, we being even more privileged than she, to comprehend this non-materialistic point of view or accept her (and Thomas’s) sacrifices as meaningful.
Two Are Unknown
Tracing two women has been especially difficult. Alicia Allsley Grist was the young matron who wrote to the Millennial Star urging women to broaden their sphere of influence. Bright and articulate beyond the average, Alicia’s fate in Zion is of interest.
Alicia Allsley Grist
Alicia appears in the Utah genealogical records as Elicia Allely Grist, born 1827 in Birmingham. Apparently Zionism tried her and husband John Knapp Grist from the start. They lost three of their five daughters before or while emigrating. A sixth was born in Salt Lake City in June 1866 but died that September.
John himself died the next year, only forty years old, the cause of his demise unknown. Elicia continued in the faith, having her youngest daughter baptized at eight years of age just as she had the older children. She remarried twice to gentlemen her own age, first a Mr. Surke, next Oliver Garthwaite, but nothing else about these marriages was found. Elicia herself died in McCammon, Idaho, at the premature age of fifty-eight.
One wonders if she went pleased or disappointed. We look further into the records to find meaning in her commitment to Mormonism. Since John and Elicia Grist had no sons who lived, the family name died with him. But Alice, Elicia’s oldest daughter, married at age eighteen and bore fourteen children. Evangeline, the second daughter, married at twenty, had seven children, was widowed, married again, and lived to be seventy-two. Elicia Knapp Grist, the youngest, married at twenty and lived to be 89, although she apparently left no descendants. If numbers count—and in Mormon values they do—Elicia and John left a significant posterity numbered among the Lord’s people. For now this is all we know of Alicia Grist.
Another woman about whom there is little information is Elizabeth Lewis, the immigrant who wrote such shining reports from Manti to her friends and relations back in Wales. Some facts about her life can be gleaned from her two letters. She left father, mother, sisters, and brothers in Wales. She was married but preceded her husband to Utah, surmounting many obstacles to do so. She considered Gathering a duty and worried that her friends back in Wales would postpone baptism irrevocably and forfeit salvation.
She bore testimony to the Mormon gospel in eloquent, musical phrases, describing its “great sweetness to me” and the power, [p.213]wisdom and love of God in the plan of salvation. She was certain Mormonism was “the religion of Jesus Christ.”
In her letters she expressed satisfaction with the pious, democratic tenor of life in Zion where the leaders were chosen “from among ourselves” and the “only thing fashionable” was religious demeanor. She perceived this devout society as granting its members rights, enjoyments, peace, freedom and beauty.
After her initial delight at the absence of swearing or ungodliness, did the hard work of survival dim her enthusiasm? We do not know. At least twenty Elizabeth Lewises appear in the LDS church’s genealogical records for the early 1800s. Our Elizabeth might have been born 1824 in Merioneth to Robert Lewis and an unknown mother, and married Edward Giles Roberts eight years her junior (which may fit the unsubmissive tone of the letters). This Elizabeth Lewis died in Malad, Idaho, but she had two daughters born in Wales after 1850, the date of the Manti letters.
Or she might have been born 1821 in Bedwelty, Wales, the youngest of seven children of Llewellyn Lewis and Mary Harry. This Elizabeth would have been a twenty-nine-year-old spinster in 1850, but there is no evidence she ever emigrated. Hopefully future research will identify Elizabeth Lewis, the Utah correspondent, and throw light on her destiny in Utah.
Perhaps British women were by and large a sour lot. As best they tried to fit in, their dissatisfaction seemed to persist. It was not Mormonism so much as Utah and the recurring insensitive husband that they found so difficuilt to embrace. Some gave up and returned to Britain. Some were too proud or poor or demoralized to admit defeat. Others adopted their new surroundings with resignation.
It is clear, however, that, among the odd libidinous maidens were mature, young-to-middle-aged women who, far from being coerced, brought their reluctant husbands across ocean and plains. Once here, what these women lost in cottage and garden, in happy families around a warm and plentiful hearth, they found in inner-growth and spiritual peace.
1. Birth registration for Mary Worthington (witnessed by the landlady), Eliza Ann Clarke, mother, father unidentified. There is no marriage certificate on record for Worthington and Clarke. Vital Records, Somerset House, London.
2. Worthington family papers in my possession, including a short biography of Eliza Clark Worthington Horrocks, an autobiography of Mary Worthington Coon, histories of these two women by Eliza’s granddaughter and great-granddaughter, copies of Eliza’s patriarchal blessing and Mary’s birth certificate, and research notes made by my grandmother from British census records, LDS Records of Members, and Macclesfield city records.
3. Both in pioneer and modern times, marriages of worthy Mormon couples may be performed in a temple “for time” rather than “for time and all eternity.” This is necessary when a woman has been sealed to a previous husband, for Mormons believe that in heaven men will be allowed any number of spouses (although on earth, at least for the present, only one living wife at a time), while women will be permitted only one husband. Thus Eliza could have married Thomas Sleater for eternity only if her eternal sealing to Horrocks had been set aside.