Richard Price
J. Smith Fought Polygamy

(Independence, MO: Price Pub. Co., 2000)
  • Title   Copyright
  • Contents   Illustrations
  • Preface

  • Chapter 1   Chapter 2
  • Chapter 3   Chapter 4

  • Transcriber's comments

  • (cover © 2000 Price Publishing Co.)

    The Prices' on-line text   |   The Cochranite Delusion   |   1877 Samuel D. Greene letter

    Entire Contents © 2000 by Price Publishing Co. Only limited, "fair use" excerpts provided here.

    Joseph Smith
    Fought Polygamy

    How Men Nearest the Prophet Attached
    Polygamy to His Name in Order to Justify
    Their own Polygamous Crimes

    Richard and Pamela Price.

    Volume 1

    Price Publishing Company
    Independence, Missouri

    [ 2000 ]

    Entire Contents © 2000 by Price Publishing Co. Only limited, "fair use" excerpts provided here.

    Copyright © 2000
    Price Publishing Company
    915 E. 23rd Street
    Independence, MO 64055

    Phone (816) 461-5659
    FAX (816) 461-5565

    Printed in the United States of America

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Price, Richard, 1924-

    Joseph Smith fought polygamy: how men nearest the prophet attached polygamy to his name in order to justify their own polygamous crimes / by Richard and Pamela Price.
    p.     cm.

    Includes bibliographical references and index.
    ISBN 1-891353-06-3 hardcover (alk. paper)
    ISBN 1-891353-05-5 paperback (alk. paper)

    1. Polygamy -- Religious aspects -- Mormon Church -- History of doctrines. 2. Mormon Church -- Doctrines--History. 3. Smith, Joseph, 1805-1844 -- Contributions in doctrine of marriage. 4. Marriage -- Religious aspects -- Mormon Church -- History of doctrines.

    I. Price, Pamela, 1926-   .   II. Title.
    BX8641.P87   2000

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    [ vi-vii ]


    Maps, Illustrations, and Pictures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii
    Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix
    Chapter                                                                                                  Page
    1.   Cochranism: The Origin of Utah Mormon
                Polygamy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
    2.   Other Accounts of Cochranism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
    3.   Church Missionaries Converted Cochranites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
    4.   Brigham Young: The Father of Mormon
                Polygamy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
    5.   The Apostles Brought Polygamy into the
                Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
    6.   Early Efforts to Eradicate Polygamy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  49
    7.   Dr. Bennett Laid the Foundation of Polygamy
                at Nauvoo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  63
    8.   Dr. Bennett and Eliza R. Snow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  77
    9.   Eliza Snow Was Not Pushed down the Mansion
                House Stairs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
    10.   More Evidence Concerning Eliza Snow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
    11.   Bennett and Francis Higbee's Polygamous
                Activities Discovered in 1841 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  111
    12.   Chauncey L. Higbee Expelled for
                Polygamous Activities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133
    13.   Joseph Sued Chauncey L. Higbee in Court
                at Carthage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  143
    14.   Dr. Bennett Expelled from the Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161
    15.   Dr. Bennett Persecuted Joseph and the Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173
    16.   Bennett's Polygamy Charges and the Saints'
                Responses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  189
    17.   Isaac Sheen Was Not a Credible Witness
                Concerning Polygamy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207
    18. The Book of Mormon Condemns Polygamy
               (A Study of the "Righteous Seed" Theory) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  219
    19. Joseph's Sermon against Polygamy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  231
    Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239
    Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 247

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    [ viii ]

    Maps and Illustrations

    Map of Cochranite Area. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
    Map of Kirtland and Vicinity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
    Diagram of Mansion House Stairs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88
    Eight Color Pages. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  119-126
    Robinson's Transcript. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
    Joseph's Subpoena. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152
    Joseph and Emma Smith. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119 Portraits of Prominent Persons. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120-121 Nauvoo as Seen from Montrose. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122 Nauvoo as Painted by David H. Smith. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122 Joseph Smith's Red Brick Store. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123 Upper Room in Red Brick Store. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123 Homestead House. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124 Nauvoo Mansion House. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124 William Marks' Home. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125 Brigham Young's Home. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125 Mansion House Stairs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126

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    [ ix-x ]


    Our study of polygamy among the Mormons began in the early 1950s when we decided to make a serious effort to discover the roots of the doctrine of polygamy in the Church. Polygamy was a subject of natural interest to both of us because of our Church backgrounds. Pamela's great-grandfather, James Robert Dale, went to Utah during Brigham Young's lifetime. James was baptized in Salt Lake City in 1870, and was married and endowed in the Endowment House in the same year. Pamela often heard her grandmother, Mary Dale Sanders, tell how her father, James Dale, fled from Utah to escape polygamy and Brigham Young's tyranny....

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    Richard was reared in Idaho and Nevada where Mormonism was the dominant religion. His father died when Richard was two, and he had two Mormon stepfathers. The first stepfather joined the RLDS Church, but that marriage ended in divorce. His mother, a third-generation RLDS member, later married a staunch Mormon elder, a widower who had gone to the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City where he was endowed, married, and sealed to his first wife and their children for time and eternity.

    In our research on this subject, we were encouraged by letters to Pamela from the Prophet Israel A. Smith, president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Over the years our endeavors turned into an exhaustive research project as we gathered information by travel and correspondence from many libraries throughout the United States and England. In these studies it was discovered that polygamy as it is known among the Mormons did not begin with Joseph, but was brought into the Church by missionaries and their converts.

    This was particularly true of those who were converted from a sect called Cochranites, which was started by Jacob Cochran about 1816. When Cochran's church disintegrated, Latter Day Saint missionaries, including Brigham Young and Orson Hyde, converted some of its adherents, and these people brought their polygamous beliefs with them when they came into the Church. Later some of the Latter Day Saint apostles took plural wives, including women who had known of, or had been connected with, Jacob Cochran's church and its teachings. Cochran's polygamy was well-known throughout New England before the Church was organized. Some of the apostles and their close friends, who had ministered in Cochran's area, began secretly practicing polygamy at Nauvoo at least two years before Joseph's death.

    Joseph fought against this doctrine from the time he was married to Emma in 1827 (even before the Church was organized) until the time of his death. He did not practice polygamy nor teach it to others.

    Years later his sons went to Utah and proclaimed against polygamy. In order to counteract their efforts, the leaders of the Mormon Church, such as Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Heber C. Kimball, had some of their wives and other women make affidavits that stated they had been Joseph's wives in Nauvoo. The fact that Joseph and Hyrum had no children born of polygamous wives, and that the testimonies of the alleged wives can be proven false, is only a part of the vast amount of evidence which indicates that Joseph was innocent.

    It can be proven that men nearest the Prophet entered into a conspiracy against Joseph and Hyrum and attached polygamy to Joseph's name in order to justify their own crimes of practicing it. The polygamous doctrines promoted by this conspiracy are still the basis of the Mormon Church's theology.

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    [ 1 ]

    Chapter 1

    The Origin of Utah Mormon Polygamy

    For over a century and a half, the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, have claimed that the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., received a revelation in July 1843, which commanded the Saints to practice polygamy. The truth is, however, that polygamy in the Church had its beginnings, not with Joseph, but with a man named Jacob Cochran. About 1816 Cochran started a denomination in the area of Saco, Maine, in which he introduced polygamy. Some of his polygamous practices were later adopted by Apostles Brigham Young, John Taylor, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Hyde, and others. These Church leaders secretly practiced polygamy in Nauvoo before Joseph's death, without his approval.

    The astounding story of Jacob Cochran's polygamy is told by G. T. Ridlon, Sr., who was related to some of the "Cochranites," as they were called. He spent twenty-five years writing a book, published in 1895, entitled Saco Valley Settlements and Families. Excerpts from his book are printed below to acquaint the reader with polygamy as it was being practiced prior to the organization of the Church in 1830. Titles have been inserted in brackets into Ridlon's account in order to lay a foundation for later discussions of the various subjects in his book:

    -- The Cochran Delusion --

    He [Jacob Cochran] must have been a unique and very remarkable character. His intellectual, mesmeric, and physical powers were certainly extraordinary. Whatever view we

    [ 2 ]

    may entertain regarding the soundness of his doctrines, the methods employed by him, or the character of the man, we have no warrant for believing that he was an illiterate, impulsive ranter, who carried forward his work like a cloud driven by a tempest. On the other hand, he was cool, calculating, and deliberate....

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    In the towns bordering on the Saco [River] several hundred professed conversion under his preaching, and the influence of the "revival" extended from this locality into other towns in western Maine, until, within a year from the inauguration of the movement, about a thousand persons made a profession of religion. Many of these were sincere believers in the New Testament and were never involved in the ridiculous practices encouraged by the leader.

    When Cochran first began to preach in Scarborough and Saco, his commanding appearance, evident learning, matchless oratory, and the uncertainty existing regarding his creed opened to him the churches, and some of the settled pastors listened to him with amazement. . . . [Revelations to Practice "Spiritual Wifery"]

    When Cochran had secured a firm foot-hold in the community, his creed evolved a new and startling phase. He preached against the legal marriage bond, and in the ideal state pictured by him the inhabitants were neither married nor given in marriage; this should begin on earth, being God's standard for society, and be as nearly approximated as mortal conditions would admit of. The affinities were to be all spiritual and were infinitely superior to any relations formed by natural affection. He admonished all who had been united in the bonds of matrimony according to the laws of the land to hold themselves in readiness to dissolve such union and renounce their vows. All revelations to this end were to come through Cochran, of course, and in the allotment of the spoils the leader, by virtue of his rank, was sure to get the "lion's share." Tradition assumes that he received frequent consignments of spiritual consorts, and that such were invariably the most robust and attractive women in the community.

    [ 3 ]

    [ Cochran Taught the Exchanging of Wives ]

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    As we have intimated, he had a sort of permanent wife, locally known as "Mrs. Cochran"; but his loyalty to her was subject to such revelations as he might receive anent his duty (?) to others. Some who were conversant with these affairs, now living, relate that on one of Cochran's professional visitations he informed one of his male followers that he had, while at prayer in his house that morning, received a communication direct from Him who dwells above the stars that embodied, inter alia, a requirement of a peculiar character, namely, that he and the brother addressed should, for the time being, exchange wives (italics added). To this, as from the Lord, via Cochran, his medium, the layman consented, and leaving Cochran to assume the government of his family, he immediately went to pay his respects to Mrs. Cochran. Now this woman was somewhat skeptical in regard to her husband's doctrines and practices, and when she responded to the knock at her door and inquired about the nature of the man's errand; when he told her about her husband's new revelation, with clenched fist and flashing eyes she replied: "You go straight back and tell Jake Cochran his God is a liar." [The Origin of the Garden of Eden Temple Ceremony]

    In place of figure-drawings upon a black-board to illustrate scriptural incidents, he employed the more impressive mediums of flesh and blood. One of the favorite tableaux introduced by these fanatics was the personification of our first parents, as they were supposed to have appeared before fig-leaf aprons were in fashion. We have not found a description of the stage scenery used as accessory to this performance, but a part of the programme was for the disciples present, both male and female, to sit upon the floor in a circle while the ideal Adam, in the person of Cochran, and Eve, in the person of some chosen female, came into this extemporized "Garden of Eden". . . .

    But disintegrating elements were now beginning to disturb the system. The fact that the preaching of Cochran had the effect to destroy domestic peace, and ruined the home life of many who had become identified with the movement, produced

    [ 4 ]

    a more healthy reaction than the leader had anticipated. Married men embraced the doctrines promulgated, while their more virtuous or level-headed wives would have no part or lot in the matter. On the other hand, women who had hitherto lived consistent and respectable lives became infatuated with Cochran and his preaching, while their husbands were decidedly averse to both....

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    These conflicting elements in the home were stimulated rather than conciliated by the leader, and hatred was eventually engendered between heads of families which culminated in separation. . . .

    But as the people became acquainted with his style, and the prejudice that preceded his coming wore away, he would excite curiosity and stimulate sensation by introducing some novel ceremony or by making startling statements in his sermons. . . .

    At Limington, meetings were held at the dwelling of a native of Buxton, who once lived on Woodsum's hill, below Salmon Falls. Runners were sent down to Buxton and Hollis to advise Cochran's disciples that "Brother Jacob" would hold meetings on such a day and evening. To avoid suspicion, the Cochranites went from home at night and followed a circuitous route to Limington. One of these was a brother of the man at whose house Cochran was to preach. Sister Mercy [a beautiful young "medium"], the one who alternated between the terrestrial and celestial worlds, was there, ready to soar away or to remain in the body, as the leader of ceremonies might wish; if it was deemed best for the success of the service that Mercy depart, Cochran gave the signal and away she went—upon the floor. On this occasion, however, she did not go beyond recall, for when the services had closed and the time for rest came, the owner of the house placed a candle in Cochran's hand, opened a sleeping-room door, and with a significant gesture bade Brother Cochran and Sister Mercy "goodnight". . . .

    The matter embodied in this chapter was not culled from dim traditions, that had been handed down from generations enfeebled by age, but has been received from the lips of venerable persons, of unimpaired mental faculties, who had listened to the preaching and witnessed the peculiar practices of Jacob Cochran while he held such a mighty sway in the

    [ 5 ]

    towns on the Saco [River]. I could have supplemented these statements by quotations from a bundle of yellow documents that were formulated by a magistrate who lived in Buxton at the time these things occurred, but some of these affidavits would be of too sensational and personal a character for my purpose. I have not torn the veil asunder from the top to the bottom, by any means, and have left out enough of tradition and documentary evidence, relating to this remarkable delusion, to fill a volume....

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    The result of this wide-spread religious epidemic was far-reaching and ruinous. For nearly three-score years this corroding wave of influence has been creeping downward, keeping pace with the three generations of descendants of those who were involved in the original delusive excitement inaugurated by the villainous destroyer of homes and human happiness, who, though dead, speaks still through the instrumentality of his influence and by the soul-blight of their posterity, born out of wedlock.

    Some of the scenes witnessed in the domestic circles in the Saco river towns were heart-rending. Young wives who had refused to prostitute their principles of virtue, by submitting to the demoralizing practices of the Cochranites, were bereft of their children and forsaken. Such were left in sorrow and poverty, and all their remaining days refused to be comforted because those they had loved "were not." An aged and saintly woman was recently visited whose father, once an industrious farmer with a pleasant home, became a public advocate of the Cochran creed, and who, after long neglect of his farm and family to follow what, in his delusion, he called duty, visited foreign lands and eventually died, a stranger among strangers, thousands of miles from home and kindred. As this venerable woman adverted to her childhood days and her father's expatriation, she groaned in spirit and wept; a far-off echo of a voice that had preached pernicious doctrines, but long ago silenced by the paralyzing hand of death.

    We know of a sea captain who lived on the west side of the Saco. He had married a beautiful daughter of respectable parentage, and to them two pretty boys had been given. Before Jacob Cochran appeared in that community peace and contentment reigned in that home-circle. But the father, a man of speculative and unstable mind, was swept from his

    [ 6 ]

    moorings by the sophistry of this imposter and spent the time that should have been devoted to the interests of his family with the followers of the "New Apostle to the Gentiles," as some called him. He had a "spiritual wife" assigned to him, said farewell to Hannah, tore her children from her bosom, and left for the westward, where a community of primitive Mormons had congregated....

    [ Restoration Missionaries Labored among the Cochranites ]

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    The Cochran craze paved the way for a Mormon invasion in the Saco valley. A full-blooded Cochranite made a first-class Mormon saint. [This statement by Ridlon was printed in 1895 when the controversy over polygamy in Utah was receiving national attention and was at its zenith. It applies to the Mormon Church in Utah at the time, and not the Latter Day Saints during the lifetime of Joseph Smith, Jr.] Jake Cochran was a John the Baptist for the Mormon apostles, who appeared on his old battle-ground and gathered up the spoils. The inhabitants of the river towns, as well as some in the interior, were afflicted with Cochranite grasshoppers, followed by Mormon locusts. Scions cut from the decaying trunk of the old Cochran tree were readily engrafted into Mormon branches, but the fruit was not the same; when these had become firmly united, they were transplanted bodily to new soil, considered more congenial to their development, in the state of New York.

    Some of the old people, now living, confound the two movements, and we have found insuperable difficulty in sifting the chaff of error from the wheat of truth. It seems to have been a most remarkable coincidence, which has the appearance of concerted action between Cochran and his successors. Almost as soon as he vacated the field, the founders of the Mormon hierarchy invested it. The history of the Mormon church makes Brigham Young come to Maine in 1832 or 1833. The doctrine preached by [Samuel] Smith, Pratt, and Young, in York county, was not of an offensive nature; it was, properly speaking, Millenarianism.

    The excitement was immense. The inhabitants went twenty miles to hear these earnest missionaries preach. A change from Cochranism was wanted, and this new

    [ 7 ]

    gospel seemed to be an improvement. Old wine was put into new bottles, and many drank to their fill. At this time polygamy had not been mentioned [among the Mormons] (italics added). No attempt was made to form an organized church; Cochran had preached against such, and Brigham found these disciples averse to any ecclesiastical government, and waited until he had transported his converts to Manchester, N. Y., before enforcing this part of his creed....

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    The Mormon excitement spread into every town where Cochran had made converts; these had been washed from their moral and rational moorings by the tidal-wave let loose upon the community by Jacob, and the Mormon inundation landed them high—if not dry—in New York state.

    The Mormon elders were unwearied in their efforts to enlarge the circle of their influence and to drum up recruits for their semi-religious community. Like flaming heralds, they traveled from town to town, and their evident sincerity and unbounded enthusiasm drew thousands to hear them. . . .

    James Townsend went from Buxton with his family, consisting of a wife and four children. He proved loyal to the end; went westward by stages, and built the first hotel in Utah. Only a few years ago he visited the East and called upon his relatives and early acquaintances. He returned to his home in Salt Lake City and soon died, leaving a vast estate.

    Some who joined the westward Mormon tide became preachers and traveled extensively on our continent and in foreign lands to promulgate the faith held by the church of the Latter Day Saints. Many who removed to the New York settlement went west as far as Ohio, and some of them, after their brethren went to Nauvoo, purchased land and became successful farmers there. (G. T. Ridlon, Sr., Saco Valley Settlements and Families, 269­283

    [ 8 ]

    Ridlon's 1895 Account Illustrates the Cochran Connection

    The information taken from Historian Ridlon's book, in his chapter entitled "The Cochran Delusion," reveals some definite likenesses between Cochranism and the Mormon Church's polygamy, including:

    1. Cochran used the term "spiritual wives" just as the Utah polygamists did;

    2. Cochran claimed that permission to practice polygamy must come through revelation to the leader, just as in the Mormon Church's theology;

    3. The leader's permission was required before spiritual wifery could be practiced;

    4. "Assigning of wives" was practiced in both systems;

    5. Exchanging of wives was sometimes practiced by both;

    6. Oaths of secrecy were a requirement of Cochranism, and are still a part of the LDS temple ordinances;

    7. The "Garden of Eden" ceremony was practiced by Cochran and is also a part of the Mormon Church's temple ceremonies.

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    [ 9 ]

    Chapter 2

    Other Accounts of Cochranism

    In addition to Ridlon's account of the story of Jacob Cochran and his polygamous practices and theology, other writers added their testimonies.

    Among them are a number of histories of counties and towns in southern Maine where Jacob Cochran lived—from which the following excerpts are gleaned.

    Ephraim Stinchfield's Account Was
    Written during the Cochranite Craze...

    A minister named Ephraim Stinchfield, who called himself "A Watchman," published a twenty-two page booklet in 1819, detailing the activities of the Cochranites at the time that Jacob Cochran was at the height of his fame....

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    His book is entitled Cochranism Delineated: or, a Description of, and Specific for a Religious Hydrophobia, Which Has Spread, and Is Still Spreading, in a Number of the Towns in the Counties of York and Cumberland: District of Maine. Stinchfield's book was published in Boston. The following is extracted from it:

    While passing through the town of Scarborough [Maine], in the month of February, 1817, I ... [was] informed ... of a stranger, who had lately moved into the neighborhood, by the name of JACOB COCHRAN, who called himself a preacher ... he had lately moved his family into the place, from Conway, in the State of New Hampshire.... [T]he report I received from this family respecting Cochran, sounded like that of an impostor.... I was then about to take my leave of them, when they informed me this same singular man was expected to preach at their house the following

    [ 10 ]

    evening. They urged me hard to tarry...

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    I at length consented. I heard him through.... I still retained my suspicion that he was an impostor.... I heard no more from this stranger, until the summer following when a report was in circulation, that large numbers (some said more than one thousand) had been converted under his ministry. As I was passing through Kennebunk, in the winter of 1818, I was informed ... that the reformation, under the said Cochran, was marvellous—such as was never known in those parts before.... [A]s I was passing through Kennebunk, and hearing of a meeting of this society, I thought I would once more go and hear for myself....

    They had private, sometimes dark, meetings; in which none, but such as were bound by oath, to the most inviolable secrecy, not to divulge what was transacted in the meeting, upon penalty of eternal damnation, or of having their names blotted out of the book of life, were admitted. That each brother and sister in this fraternity has a spiritual husband, wife, mate, or yoke fellow, such as they choose, or their leaders choose for them. These spiritual mates, dissolve, or disannul, all former marriage connexions; and many of them bed and board together, to the exclusion of all former vows....

    Cochran pretends to have the power of life and death in his hands, and frightens his pupils into a compliance with any of his injunctions, by threatening to stop their breath in a moment; by which means he takes females from their parents, and carries them to his brothel. He declares that he has the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and pretends to open it for, or shut it against, whom he sees fit, by stretching out, and making a violent twist with his arm, one way or the other.

    He has introduced among his followers a feast, which he calls the passover; at which they all partake, at one table, provided for the purpose, at which, large quantities of mutton, lamb, bread and wine, &c. are expended. At this feast, he has a method of marching in a double file, consisting of a male and female, as far as the number of the males will admit, or hold out. But they pretend to have seven women to one man (italics added), in the society, alluding, as they told me, to a prophecy, in Isaiah—On that day, shall seven women take hold of one man.... [H]is [Cochran's] dwelling-house,

    [ 11 ]

    in Saco ... is on the road leading from Saco falls to Buxton corner....

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    The general family consists of twelve females, besides those who visit the house occasionally. Some of these are widows, who, with the rest of the females, have surrendered their persons, character and property into the common stock; and remain in this place, as those declare who have left them, destitute, to all appearance.... [H]is original purpose of having all things common.... [He] tells of more than two thousand people, now under him.... Those, who are in close communion with him, are bound to obey him, without gainsaying; and this will account for his ruining the character of so many innocent females....

    Another young man, in presence of Judge Woodman, of Buxton, and myself, with several others, declared, that when he was admitted a member of Cochran's fraternity, he had to hold a Bible in his hand, while Cochran administered a solemn oath, or what was called so. The amount of which was, that if ever he divulged what took place in their private meetings, his name was to be blotted out of the book of life, and he suffer eternal damnation. He then pointed to, and named this young man's spiritual wife, and said he was willing they should lodge together, which they did, a number of nights, though he declared himself innocent of any sinful conduct. He testified, that Jacob Cochran lodged two nights, to his certain knowledge, while he was there, with a woman not his wife. Five couple[s] more lodged in the same house, who were not husband and wife; one of which, had a wife at home at her father's house at the same time. ("A Watchman" [Ephraim Stinchfield], Cochranism Delineated, 3–19)

    Cochran Established a Community

    Historian Edward E. Bourne stated:

    He [Cochran] must have a place which would be abiding, where the community of his disciples could enjoy a common home and have all things common. He accordingly found an impressible disciple in a neighboring town, owning a large house, who was willing to open his doors and receive the brethren and sisters under his roof. To make the home fit for

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    more complete freedom, some of the partition walls were taken away, converting the rooms into one, so that day and night they could enjoy all the communion and fellowship which they desired....

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    Here he broached the new doctrine that spiritual men should have spiritual wives.... Some females from Kennebunk became associates and part of the great family (italics added). Here, under his own roof, Cockran and his disciples preached, and carried out this religion. How large his community was, we have not learned. But, while here, in the exercise and enjoyment of his spiritual freedom, violated law took hold of him, and he soon found himself an inmate of the State's prison. (Edward E. Bourne, The History of Wells and Kennebunk, 635)

    The Testimony of Daniel Remich

    Maine Historian Daniel Remich recorded:

    One Jacob Cochrane, who started on his career from Fryeburg, Maine, about 1815, succeeded in creating a wonderful excitement and in gaining great numbers of proselytes in several towns in Oxford, Cumberland and York Counties during the years 1816, 1817 and 1818....

    Cochrane soon gained a prominence and fame which at the outset he had neither sought nor expected. The superstitious notion that led him to become a religious teacher had no basis of sound morality, no affinity with pure Christian faith. Surrounded and fawned upon, as he was, by females of all ages, it was easy for him to cast aside the modicum of spirituality that had influenced his action—if, indeed, he had ever been moved by such an influence—and to yield to the "lusts of the flesh," to devote his unexplainable gift to the basest purposes, to become an impostor and a scourge. There were among his followers pure-minded, truly-excellent men and women, who would not participate in the unhallowed practices of their leader. Some of these had sufficient intelligence and firmness to enable them to abandon the cause altogether. Others, weak-minded, credulous and superstitious, disapproved and lamented the gross corruption of their chief, but could not subdue the feeling that such power as had been imparted to him must be from above....

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    The Newburyport Herald (May or June, 1819) says: "We have seen a pamphlet, published by a Baptist minister of regular standing in New Gloucester [Maine], giving an account of Cochrane and his deluded followers....

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    It appears that under the guise of religion they have committed the most indecent and abominable acts of adultery.... One of their leading tenets was to dissolve the ties of matrimony as suited their convenience, and a promiscuous sexual intercourse was tolerated by each male, being allowed to take seven wives! It seems Cochrane, the high priest of iniquity, had had nearly half his female followers for wives in the course of his ministration, which has been two years standing."

    The principal places of resort of the disciples of Cochrane, so far as we can learn, were New Gloucester, Buxton, Saco and Kennebunk. At the last-named place meetings were frequently held in Washington Hall, and there were in the village three private dwelling-houses in some one of which a meeting was held every evening when the hall was not occupied for that purpose. In the largest and best of the three from ten to twenty of the brothers and sisters were accustomed to take up their abode from two to four weeks at a time, perhaps quarterly....

    The time came when it was believed by the lovers of good order that these flagrant offenses against the best interests of society should be met by the fiat, "No farther." In February, 1819, Cochrane was brought before Justice Granger, of Saco, on a complaint of gross lewdness, lascivious behavior and adultery, filed against him by Mr. Ichabod Jordan. On examination, the allegations of the complainant were so well sustained by the evidence produced that the Justice ordered the accused to recognize in the sum of eighteen hundred dollars for his appearance before the Supreme Judicial Court, at York, on the third Tuesday in May following. This he did.

    At the commencement of the May term of the Supreme Judicial Court the grand jury found a bill against Cochrane and "he was arraigned on the third day of the term on five several indictments for adultery and open and gross lewdness," to each of which he pleaded "not guilty." On the trial for the offenses charged in the second bill of indictment the jury brought in a verdict of "guilty." It was found that the prisoner was not in court when the jury rendered its verdict,

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    and farther inquiries disclosed the fact that he had absconded....

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    (See also Gamaliel E. Smith, Esq., Report of the Trial of Jacob Cochrane [Kennebunk, Maine; Printed by James K. Remich, 1819], 40; New York City Public Library. )

    We learn from the court records that at the November (1819) term of the Supreme Judicial Court "the said Cochrane is brought into court and set to the bar" and sentenced,—on the first count, to solitary imprisonment for the term of five days and that afterward he be confined to hard labor for eighteen months; on the second count a like sentence is imposed; on the third count, three days solitary confinement and one year hard labor; sentence to be executed at the state prison in Charlestown, Mass. Warrant for removal to the prison issued November 3, 1819. (Daniel Remich, History of Kennebunk from Its Earliest Settlement to 1890, 268–274)

    "The Cochran Fanaticism in York County"

    A Maine Historical Society document states:

    The history of fanaticism in this State can never be fully written, without a record of the rise, spread, character, and influence of Cochranism. It dates from 1817 or 1818 and onward. It's range was in York County [Maine], with a few converts in other places. It's centre and fullest development was in the upper part of the town of Saco, Buxton, Hollis, North Kennebunkport and Scarborough. It's chief instigator, teacher, "head centre" and actor was Jacob Cochran—hence it's name.... The place where he won his greatest popularity and perpetrated his most infamous impostures lay between the Orthodox meeting houses of Saco, Buxton and Scarborough....

    Cochran commenced his public labors; and with a great show of sympathy, earnestness and deep religious feeling he took well with that people. He did not claim to belong to any existing sect; nor avow any design of forming a new one; but with a great show of sanctity strove to raise all believers to a greater degree of devotion;—to the state of primitive piety, and if that was accomplished he said they would secure the privileges of the primitive Christians, the working of

    [ 15 ]

    miracles and apostolic gifts. He said but little of these points of difference and dwelt largely on those already believed by his hearers. Considering his attractions as a public speaker, and remembering his unparalleled, artful, cunning and deep penetration into human nature, it is not strange that the masses were drawn after him....

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    In the vicinity of the Heath Meeting House in Saco he still made his headquarters; and there in the Summer of 1818 there was an extensive and powerful revival.... There was great excitement, loud responses, shouts, and various outbursts of emotion, but no grievous departures from rapturous religious feeling. It was for a while considered by many as a good work; and to some extent so it proved. Two thousand were thought to be converted....

    In this noted revival Cochran rose to the highest crest of his popular wave, and in consequence of it precipitated himself to his deepest disgrace. He could not modestly and temperately bear such unexpected popularity. He did not exalt the Devine Power and realize his own mere instrumentality. His most sanguine admirers became mentally intoxicated, and did not repress indecent adulation. Females in the craze of their fanaticism would embrace him in public meeting and unblushingly kiss him, and he found apology for it in "the holy kiss" of Scripture (italics added). Previous to this he had not broached any of his corrupt and damnable heresies. He had intimated innovations, but had not pressed them; had aspired to leadership, but moved towards it in an adroit and modest way. He now felt that Cochranism had become rooted, and he proceeded to give it a distinct form....

    His fame spread, and other wandering stars scented from afar their disgusting idiosyncrasies, and were drawn to his aid. For in other parts audacious heresies had been preached, and vile free love abominations practiced by the Osgoodites, and others, under the sacred garb of Christianity; and it is said that notorious adepts of this sort—pre-historic Mormons—came to Cochran's aid and helped sink him to his worst behavior....

    His next, and worst of all his devices, was his assault upon the sacred bonds of matrimony for the most corrupt purposes, and by the most revolting machinations he attempted to demolish this devine and all prevalent institution.

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    Given in Eden for the virtuous propagation of the race; as the guardian of the most precious social enjoyments, it has kept pace with the descending ages, defying barbarism, ignorance, heathenism and lust; and yet this besotted fanatic, in the sacred name of religion thrust a dagger into it's vitals....

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    He taught a spiritual matrimony sanctioned by a ceremony of his own, into which any man or woman, already married or unmarried, might enter choosing at pleasure a spiritual wife or a spiritual husband, with all the privileges of a legitimate marriage. Existing vows were violated, connubial happiness tortured often with the forsaken party, and hitherto happy families severed. And soon it did not wait for any ceremony, but liberty was taken to practice unbridled licentiousness, of which Cochran himself was the most noted example (italics added)....

    But many still adhered to him; many who had been hitherto modest and virtuous, but now having no other rule of action but his word, no confidence in any persons which he did not approve, no other worship than that which he prescribed. Some connected themselves, their families, their property entirely to his dictation, and he was verily King in his realm....

    With the means contributed by his followers he purchased a house a little retired from the river-road running from Saco Village to Buxton, and in this his wife and children resided, and several others of his deluded followers. Here too he had a regular harem, consisting of several unmarried females ... now subjects of his seduction and nothing else than his concubines.

    Nor were his vile practices confined to himself, nor to these concubines, but wherever he went he corrupted any wife, mother or maiden that he could seduce, and his devoted followers generally walked in the same steps. With true fanatical zeal he pressed on in propagating his actions and corrupting views....

    Calling one day upon a certain family, the husband found it necessary to step out for a short absence, and upon returning caught him [Jacob Cochran] in criminal connection with his wife. This was too much for his principles or patience. He did not however settle the abuse as another husband did a similar offence, by seizing his ox-goad and giving him a

    [ 17 ]

    smart drubbing, but went to a magistrate and had him legally arrested....

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    But by this Cochranism was death struck, a steady depletion from his counted ranks followed. Heretical spiritual matrimony tottered and fell; its entangled victims returned to their former homes and wives, and silently sought to keep out of harm's way....

    The jury convicted him, but sentence could not be pronounced in the absence of the prisoner [for he had escaped]. At the next term of the Court he was arraigned and sentenced to the State's Prison in Charlestown for a term of four years....

    Cochranism had now received its death blow. It had been well given. It fell upon the Head of the Beast. Others were guilty, and were pestilent in their influence and deeds, but he was the leader, the corrupter, the most guilty.

    After he was thus removed it dwindled away, and stayed it's poison. Many of his victims discovered their folly and shame, and deeply repented of it; but a few were so thoroughly taken captive that they still adhered to it, aiding and encouraging each other, and occasionally meeting in some private house, and waiting their leader's enlargement.

    After his liberation from prison he gathered his family, and such as cast in their lot with him, and, by the aid of friends, purchased a small farm in a remote part of Hollis....

    Sometime about 1829 the clan removed from this place and left the State, and their resting place is not sufficiently well known to state it. At length death overtook him.... After his death his wife, and such as still survived of his attachees came back to Saco, from New York State. ("The Cochran Fanaticism in York County" [typed manuscript, dated August 3, 1867; compiler quotes "From the manuscript letter of P. Huntoon, Esq., ... of Enfield, N. H. ... July, 1866"], 1–19; this reference is also cited in Saints' Herald 109 [May 1, 1962]: 22)

    Cochranism Continued after the Founder's Death

    Historian G. T. Ridlon explains how Jacob Cochran's denomination continued:

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    (for the top half of this page see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    But Cochranism was not extinguished with the death of its founder; the doctrines promulgated by him had taken too deep root. Long before Cochran had left the Saco valley he had anticipated what ultimately came to pass and had prepared for the extension of his empire. He saw the importance of introducing a missionary spirit into his system, and preached special sermons calculated to stimulate the zeal of his supporters on this line. With the same sagacious perception which had been so prominent a factor of his success in all his undertakings, he discovered those who had been gifted with natural fluency of speech and encouraged them to go forth and preach the doctrines they had embraced. This many did, absenting themselves from their homes and neglecting to provide for their dependent families and the cultivation of their farms until the inevitable results of poverty, hunger, and cold followed. (Ridlon, Saco Valley Settlements, 279)

    Latter Day Saint missionaries arrived in southern Maine in 1832, only three years after Jacob Cochran moved from Maine to New York State. The Church missionaries visited the Cochranite communities, stayed in their homes, taught them the gospel, baptized some, and urged them to gather to Zion. As a result, many of his followers joined the Church and moved to Kirtland and Nauvoo. Some took their polygamous beliefs with them. They and their influence caused the "church of Christ... [to be] reproached with the crime of... polygamy" (see Doctrine and Covenants [1835 Edition] 101:4; RLDS Doctrine and Covenants [1950 Edition] 111:4b) and assisted in bringing about the untimely deaths of two innocent men, Joseph the Prophet and Hyrum the Presiding Patriarch.

    Entire Contents © 2000 by Price Publishing Co. Only limited, "fair use" excerpts provided here.

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    Chapter 3

    Church Missionaries Converted Cochranites

    Jacob Cochran established his small denomination in the area between Boston, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine. By 1830 Cochran had gone into hiding to escape imprisonment due to his practice of polygamy; and his denomination was struggling to continue under the leadership of John Dennett and others. Shortly after the Book of Mormon was published in March 1830, Latter Day Saint missionaries began to make their way into the Boston area, where they found that making converts among the Cochranites was fruitful. So successful were they that a Church conference was held in Saco, Maine (the heart of the Cochranite area), August 21, 1835, at which nine of the newly ordained apostles were in attendance (RLDS History of the Church 1:583; Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2 [October 1835]: 204­207; LDS History of the Church 2:252). The LDS reference states that seven of the Twelve met in conference at Saco, Maine.

    But the converting of the Cochranites and their gathering to Church headquarters at Kirtland, Ohio, and later to Nauvoo, Illinois, brought the Church more than just increased numbers. It also brought the plague of polygamy for some of the Cochranites brought their doctrines with them. This was a natural consequence of the fact that these people had lived in polygamy for years. They were men who had practiced polygamy, women who had been plural wives, and children born of polygamy. They had been indoctrinated with the belief that polygamy was a sacred doctrine.

    An even more devastating result of missionary work among the Cochranites was that some of the Latter Day Saint missionaries, including Apostles Orson Hyde and Brigham Young,

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    (copyrighted area map not shown)

    The area where Church Missionaries converted
    many Cochranites in the early 1830s.

    [ 21 ]

    accepted the doctrine of polygamy and began practicing it at Nauvoo before Joseph Smith's death. Joseph moved to bring these men before the High Council for trial, but was martyred before he accomplished the task.

    Two of the first missionaries assigned to take the gospel to this area, which included the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, were twenty-six-year-old Orson Hyde, and the Prophet Joseph's younger brother, Samuel Smith, who was twenty-two. They left Kirtland, Ohio, on February 1, 1832, for their mission. Each kept a journal in which he recorded his daily experiences as they traveled through this area, preaching at every opportunity. The original Journal of Orson Hyde and the Missionary Journal of Samuel Harrison Smith 1832 are now in the archives of the LDS Church Historical Department in Salt Lake City, Utah. Typescripts of the two journals, which tell of their work among the Cochranites, were obtained by Richard and Pamela Price. Below are extracts taken from Orson and Samuel's journals.

    Orson wrote on June 29, 1832, at Boston:

    Preached in the evening ... two ladies confessed their faith in the work, and a Miss and Mrs. [Augusta Adams] Cobb.

    Samuel penned on the same day:

    Baptized three: Augusta Cobb, Elizabeth Harendeen and ______ Porter.

    Orson recorded on July 1, while still in Boston:

    attended to Sacrament, considerably disturbed by false spirits in a man and woman that believed in the Cochranite Doctrine. We cried against them and after a little got them considerably quelled.... Not a very good time because of disturbance.

    Samuel wrote of that meeting:

    Somewhat interrupted this day in the meeting by a man and woman that taught the doctrine of the devil, such as... having spiritual wives.... They came to our meeting. The woman arose and began to preach and we requested her to stop

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    and she would not, and we cried against her spirit, for we knew that it was an unclean spirit, and we cried against it that it was of the devil, and it made considerable stir. The man that had the same spirit tempted us, saying: "Cast the Devil out," crying amen to the words of the woman. After considerable muttering and grumbling and shaking of her frame, she stopped and we proceeded with our meeting.

    This was the first time that Orson and Samuel mentioned Cochranism in their journals. Note that Augusta Cobb, one of the baptismal candidates, was in the meeting where Cochranites were present. She later became a plural wife of Brigham Young (The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 2 [April 1920]: 54).

    Orson and Samuel continued their walking and preaching journey from Massachusetts, through New Hampshire, and into Maine, staying a part of the time in polygamous homes. On September 25 they were in the village of York, Maine, where they again came in contact with the Cochranite woman who had disrupted the Sacrament service in Boston on July 1. Samuel explained concerning her:

    a large congregation came together and Brother Orson preached to them.... We then were invited to go home with a young man by the name of Ludgkins and stayed overnight with him. His stepmother we had seen before. We had seen her in Boston, the woman that came into our meeting and we had cried against her spirit.

    On September 28 Orson and Samuel were in Kennebunkport, Maine, another Cochranite stronghold. Orson wrote:

    attended a Cochranite meeting, and they said, "if any one had a message from God there was liberty to give it unto the people." And I commenced by prayer, but thought I would not tell them about the work then, but would get their confidence in the first place.

    Samuel added to the story on that same day:

    we went to a meeting in the evening and the people were called

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    Cockrinites because the man that first preached their faith, his name was Cockrin. They gave liberty for anyone to speak.... Brother Orson spoke to them and exhorted them to faithfulness to the Lord and to humility and to stand in the Councul of the Lord, that they might know the voice of the Good Shepherd, that they might when the voice came "behold the Bridegroom Cometh" go out to meet him. And they said "Amen." When meeting closed, we spake that we would like to preach to the people.... They would not let us.

    On October 10 Samuel and Orson were still among the Cochranites. Orson wrote:

    Visited three families but without much hope of doing anything to profit them because of the "Cochranite's," a deluded sect of people, by whom many had been deceived, and the people were afraid of the truth, and for this cause the way of truth was evil spoken of.... [B]ut few came out to meeting.

    Samuel's journal for October 10 contains this revealment:

    a less number came together in the evening than before, but we declared unto them that they must repent and go up to Zion.

    On the following day, October 11, they walked only three miles to Ogunquit and found another Cochranite congregation, in which they were allowed to preach. Orson's journal states:

    preached to a congregation of Cochranites who gave liberty; told them again to repent and go up to Zion, and we lifted our cry in the Spirit, and I hope some of them will go; but they had a wonderful lustful spirit, because they believe in a "Plurality of wives" which they call spiritual wives, knowing them not after the flesh but after the spirit, but by the appearance they knew one another after the flesh. (italics added)

    Samuel gave his opinion about the Cochranites. He recorded:

    the people in these parts were under a delusion and such a spirit of confusion had seized them that it appeared to be impossible to teach them, to get them to hear and understand

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    by the right Spirit.

    The astounding thing about Orson's preaching (for he nearly always took the lead) was the fact that he preached the doctrine of the gathering to the Cochranites, and urged them to gather without weighing the terrible consequences of polygamy entering the Church.

    On October 15 Orson and Samuel were in the town of Newburyport, Maine. Orson wrote:

    called on Mr. Goodrich and Stimpson; tried to persuade them to go to Zion, and they seemed to have some little disposition to go, but could not bring them to repentance before God. Came up about two miles farther to Mr. [Timothy] Hams and tarried all night; found him an enthusiastic man, -- a Cochranite -- Not much hopes of going to Zion or embracing.

    On October 16 Orson and Samuel remained at Mr. Ham's. Historian G. T. Ridlon, Sr., wrote that Ham was "among the more notable who went out to plant Cochran's standard" (Ridlon, Saco Valley Settlements, 279). The two ministers helped Ham dig his potatoes and Samuel says, "Got them [members of Ham's family] to wash some clothes." That evening Samuel and Orson had a meeting with the Cochranites.

    On October 17 Orson recorded:

    Visited three families and talked a good deal; some hopes of their going to Zion some time.

    In commenting upon Orson's sermon, Samuel said:

    Brother Orson preached to them.... Spake upon the Covenant. Declared unto them that they must repent, all of them and be baptized and go to Zion. But they were hard and unbelieving and we had not much hope of them.

    But by the next evening, October 18, Samuel had more hopes for some of the Cochranites, for he and Orson had moved to the home of still another Cochranite, Captain Andrews. Samuel was encouraged. Not only had Captain Andrews subscribed to the Church's periodical, The Evening and the Morning Star,

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    but there were hopes that some of the Cochranites would "gather." Samuel declared:

    visited some of the neighborhood and found some that we thought would go to Zion.

    On October 20 and 21 they were guests of a polygamous Cochranite and his plural wife. Orson reported:

    Tarried all night at Mr. McKinney's, who lived with what he called a spiritual wife.

    On October 22 they left Kennebunkport and traveled to a neighboring Cochranite settlement. Since they were walking from one Cochranite group to another, it appears that friendly Cochranites were directing them in making new contacts. The journals of both men verify that before preaching on October 24, near Hollis, Maine, they visited with Samuel Hill and a Mr. Burrell [who were evidently Cochranites]. Some, who were opposed to Cochranism, were suspicious of Orson and Samuel because they were fraternizing with those polygamists who had caused so much sorrow among the people of that area. On the evening of October 24, after Orson had preached, a man questioned the two missionaries about their Cochranite connections:

    One man arose and said the people would not be likely to receive it [the doctrines brought by Orson and Samuel] if it were true because of Cochran's description. He then mentioned the names of two Cochranites, and said if we had any fellowship for them he wished us to depart out of their coast. I then told them that our message was from God, and it was as much to Cochranites as Free Will Baptists, and that I should rejoice as much to see a Cochranite redeemed from his errors as a Free Will Baptist. But I told them I had no fellowship with error nor iniquity. They did not request us to hold another meeting; but a man three miles from the place was there, a Cochranite, and he invited us to go there; and we gave out an appointment for the next evening.

    Samuel told the same story in these words:

    one man arose and said that there had been a deceiver through that country and had deceived the people and the people were

    [ 26 ]

    afraid and... if we had fellowship with that people that had been deceived (Kockranites) he should desire us to depart out of their coast, that the people would not desire to hear us any more. We told him our mission was unto all people and we did not believe in the doctrine of the Kockranites.... Hill [one of the two men they had been visiting] was some believing, but rather stupid ... yet we had hopes that he and his family would go to Zion.

    On October 25 Orson and Samuel were in the town of Limon, Maine, guests of Simeon Weymouth, a Cochranite. They helped Weymouth husk corn that day and the next, and he allowed them to preach evenings in his home. On the twenty-seventh, Orson and Samuel again visited Timothy Ham, a Cochranite, and the Dennett family, whose daughter was very ill. On the twenty-eighth the missionaries preached twice.

    Orson wrote:

    Samuel preached in the spirit; people paid good attention, and some, I think will go to Zion.

    By October 30 Orson and Samuel were guests at the George Dennett home, and were helping him dig potatoes by day and having meetings "at the School House" at night. They had a good attendance. On November 1 they returned to visit their Cochranite friend, Simeon Weymouth, and again spent the night. On November 2 they returned to Dennett's and preached the funeral sermon of the Dennett girl, whom they had visited earlier. This show of concern by Orson and Samuel, as well as their having helped with the harvest, and staying in their homes, caused the Cochranites to show so much interest in the Restored Gospel that the missionaries had a prayer meeting with members of the polygamous sect.

    On Sunday, November 4, the two men attended a Methodist meeting, but were not persistent in making contact with the Methodists, and were soon back with the more obliging Cochranites. Orson revealed:

    Went to Methodist meeting in the forenoon, hoping to give out an appointment for evening, but the Minister gave out an appointment before me, and we arose disappointed, but I spoke to them about 15 minutes, and bore a strong

    [ 27 ]

    testimony upon the "gathering." Held a meeting in the evening at Mr. Dennit's; cried against one unclean spirit, and had a very good time and meeting.

    Samuel confirmed:

    Went to a meeting expecting to give out an appointment for the evening, but the preacher gave out one for himself. We returned to Dennet's and Timothy Ham and others that were in the doctrine that was called Cochranites and some of them desired us to come into their quarter and preach. Ham began to pray as he called it and went into a wonderful spirit of distraction and confusion, yea, it was an evil spirit and we bore testimony against his spirit. Stayed overnight at Dennet's. Held a meeting in the evening.

    The missionaries spent November 6 at Simeon Weymouth's, and then returned to Dennett's. On the eighth they traveled to Weymouth's, where they baptized Simeon Weymouth and his wife Esther, Sally Taylor, and Lovey Dennett. Under the date of November 9 Orson's journal states:

    Went up three miles to S. [Simeon] Waymouth's and baptized him [George Dennett], and in the evening had prayer, and a very good time; and the Lord was with us; and Satan also came in -- a crazy sort of a female; we cried against her, and after a short time got her still. Tarried [stayed that night] at the same place.

    Upon reading Orson's description of the woman who disrupted the meeting, one is left to wonder if she were a plural wife; and if so, was her mental derangement a result of the baptism of one of the Cochranite men? Elders Hyde and Smith never addressed the problems of the polygamous wives and children in their journals. Their fate has been a well-kept secret for over 160 years.

    Now the mysterious puzzle begins to fit together. The shelves of many libraries still hold heart-wrenching stories, such as the following example:

    [ 28 ]

    We know of a sea captain who lived on the west side of the Saco [River]. He had married a beautiful daughter of respectable parentage, and to them two pretty boys had been given. Before Jacob Cochran appeared in that community peace and contentment reigned in that home-circle. But the father, a man of speculative and unstable mind, was swept from his moorings by the sophistry of this imposter and spent the time that should have been devoted to the interests of his family with the followers of the "New Apostle to the Gentiles," as some called him. He had a "spiritual wife" assigned to him, said farewell to Hannah [his legal wife], tore her children from her bosom, and left for the westward, where a community of primitive Mormons had congregated. When these sons had grown to manhood they retained a faint recollection of a mother, and refused to call one by that dear name who had taken her rightful place. They instituted a searching inquiry for their mother's family, came east and visited the old homestead, but, alas! too late to see her who had found a premature grave in consequence of the great sorrow that had fallen upon her heart (Ridlon, Saco Valley Settlements, 280).

    On November 12 Orson and Samuel were guests at the home of John Dennett. This may have been the notorious John Dennett previously mentioned -- the leader of the Cochranites, who took Jacob Cochran's place at the head of that sect when Cochran fled.

    On the thirteenth Orson and Samuel preached and stayed all night with a neighbor. Orson summed up his thoughts with these words:

    I think some of them will go to Zion.

    The above selections from the journals of Orson and Samuel are sufficient to show that the Church's missionaries labored extensively among the Cochranites. A vast amount of information is available in libraries in many states, including the LDS Church and RLDS Church archives, which shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that polygamy entered the Church through the Cochranite religion!

    There were other polygamous societies in America and England during the Kirtland-Nauvoo period, and they too contributed

    [ 29 ]

    toward polygamy entering the Church. But Cochranism was the polygamists' primary mainspring into the Church. However, many who joined the Church in Cochranite areas were not polygamists, but stalwart Christians with excellent morals. Among those faithful ones were two young women, Mary Bailey and Agnes Coolbrith, who were baptized as a result of Orson and Samuel's preaching. Samuel Smith, the Prophet's brother, married Mary Bailey, and Don Carlos Smith, another brother, married Agnes Coolbrith. Also from the midst of the Cochranites came Arthur Milliken, who married Lucy Smith, Joseph's youngest sister. Neither Mary nor Agnes embraced polygamy, and Arthur Milliken was a faithful member of the Church during the presidencies of Joseph the Martyr and his son, Joseph III. Arthur and Lucy bitterly opposed polygamy.

    Orson Hyde and Samuel Smith were not the only missionaries who journeyed through the Cochranite areas. Other Church ministers traveled and preached throughout the region with great success during the Kirtland and Nauvoo eras. But Saco, Maine, a Cochranite stronghold, was one of the most fruitful fields for missionary work -- so much so that a conference was held in Saco on June 13, 1834 (The Evening and the Morning Star 2 [August 1834]: 181; RLDS History of the Church 1:521). The following year, "On August 21, 1835, nine of the Twelve [apostles] met in conference at Saco, Maine" (Messenger and Advocate 2 [October 1835]: 204-207; RLDS 1:583). With nine of the twelve apostles making their appearance in Saco, there is no doubt that each one of them became well acquainted with the doctrines of Cochranism, for at that time it was a popular secular and religious news topic. Those evil dogmas must have made a deep impression on the apostles, for of the twelve who were in the apostolic quorum at the time of Joseph's death, at least eleven became polygamists!

    Entire Contents © 2000 by Price Publishing Co. Only limited, "fair use" excerpts provided here.

    [ 31 ]

    Chapter 4

    Brigham Young
    The Father of Mormon Polygamy

    (copyrighted material -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    The LDS Church, which has its headquarters in Utah, has taught for over a century that Joseph Smith was the author of Mormon polygamy -- and the religious public has been eager to believe the story. But the truth is that Brigham Young and his family and friends were the ones who brought polygamy into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and made it a cardinal doctrine. All of the writings of Joseph Smith (published during his lifetime) condemn polygamy, but after his death Brigham and the other polygamous apostles published polygamist documents which they ascribed to Joseph. As evidence of Joseph's innocence, he had no children by polygamous wives (even though the purpose of practicing polygamy -- according to LDS authorities -- was to have many children born of polygamy). Brigham had a total of fifty-six children (John J. Stewart, Brigham Young and His Wives: And the True Story of Plural Marriage, 82).

    It would take volumes to tell the complete story of Brigham's involvement in polygamy and how he was instrumental in bringing it into the Church. Part of that story is the account of how he requested to travel alone on missions, met a married woman, Augusta Cobb, who was acquainted with members of the Cochranite sect and their teachings, and later took her to Nauvoo and married her as his polygamous wife -- before Joseph's death. When Joseph discovered the polygamous practices of Brigham Young and others, he sought to bring them to trial, but was assassinated before he could do so. The polygamist party under Brigham Young then took control of the Church, which assured the success of polygamy as a doctrine among the Utah Saints.

    [ 32 ]

    Brigham's Cochranite Connections

    Brigham Young had a thorough knowledge of Cochranism, for he made several missionary journeys through the "Cochranite territory" from Boston to Saco, and later married Augusta Cobb as previously noted. He attended the 1835 Church conference in Saco. Brigham chose to travel alone in Cochranite territory instead of going with another elder, "two by two" as the Scriptures direct (see RLDS DC 52:3c; 60:3a; 61:6b; and 75:5c-d; also LDS DC 52:10; 60:8; 61:35; 75:30-36).

    The High Council met at Kirtland on February 20, 1834, and its record states:

    The council also decided that Elder Brigham Young should travel alone it being his own choice... and that there should be a general conference held in Saco, in the state of Maine, on the 13th day of June, 1834. (Times and Seasons 6 [November 1, 1845]: 1022–1023; RLDS History of the Church 1:434-435)

    Why did Brigham insist upon traveling alone in an area where adulterous temptations were sure to befall any lonely elder?

    The report for the June 1834 Church conference at Saco stated that "a numerous concourse had assembled" (Evening and Morning Star 2 [August 1834]: 181). Although Brigham did not go to the 1834 conference, he was on a mission to the eastern states from May to September 1835 (Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, Appendix A, 413).

    Brigham continued to work in that area and he reported that he also had been to a conference in Maine on August 12, 13, and 14, 1836, where fifty-two members of the Saco Branch attended (Messenger and Advocate 2 [September 1836]: 381–382). Brigham's presence in and around Saco during the Cochranite era is another evidence that he was very familiar with Cochranite polygamy.

    Brigham's Polygamous Revelations in England

    The Church opened its mission in England in 1837 by sending

    [ 33 ]

    apostles and elders to conduct missionary work there. The brethren were there for long periods of time without their wives. The mission was very successful and thousands joined the Church. The apostles were idolized by their new followers, and temptations naturally followed. To make matters worse, polygamy was a common topic of discussion in both England and America at the time, and was being practiced in both countries. Under these circumstances, Brigham declared "the doctrine" of polygamy was revealed to him in a vision and revelations while in England:

    While we were in England, (in 1839 and 40), I think the Lord manifested to me by vision and his Spirit things [concerning polygamy] that I did not then understand. I never opened my mouth to any one concerning them, until I returned to Nauvoo; Joseph had never mentioned this; there had never been a thought of it in the Church that I ever knew anything about at that time, but I had this for myself, and I kept it to myself. And when I returned home, and Joseph revealed those things to me, then I understood the reflections that were upon my mind while in England. But this (communication with Joseph on the subject) was not until after I had told him what I understood -- this was in 1841. The revelation [Section 132 in the Utah Doctrine and Covenants] was given in 1843, but the doctrine was revealed before this. (The Messenger of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 1 [June 1875]: 29; Deseret News, July 1, 1874)

    This statement by Brigham is very important because:

    1. He admits that polygamy was not a doctrine of the Church before 1839 or 1840: "There had never been a thought of it in the Church." This destroys the LDS Church's teachings that polygamy was even thought of as a Church doctrine as early as 1832 in Kirtland;

    2. According to Brigham, Joseph had never even mentioned polygamy as a doctrine before 1841;

    3. It was Brigham Young who first developed the dogma of polygamy -- and that he claimed he did so by Divine manifestations and by a vision.

    [ 34 ]

    Apostle Jason Briggs of the Reorganized Church, editor of the Messenger, made the following observations concerning Brigham's statement quoted above:

    This is lifting one of the early disguises, -- an uncovering of his [Brigham's] trail so long obscured. Here is an acknowledgment that the doctrine of polygamy was first revealed to him. He "had it for himself" before "Joseph or the Church" even thought of it. Well done, Brigham! Why didn't you tell the people this in the start, that polygamy was introduced through your revelation? The only answer to this is, it was thought essential to the success of this doctrine, that it should have the sanction of Joseph. (ibid., 29)

    Stafford's Testimony Concerning
    Brigham's Adulterous Activities

    Seventy Thomas Stafford, who knew Brigham Young in both England and Nauvoo, testified that he had personal knowledge of Brigham's misconduct. Stafford's family lived in England in 1837 in the city of Stockport, when they first heard the gospel preached and became acquainted with Apostle Brigham Young (Autumn Leaves 1 [June 1888]: 245). They joined the Church, moved to Manchester, and sailed for America on May 1, 1841 (ibid. [July 1888]: 299). The family arrived at Nauvoo in the summer of 1842 (ibid. [August 1888]: 354). At Nauvoo, Thomas and his brother, Edwin, were "schoolmates" and friends of Joseph Smith III (The Saints' Herald 81 [December 4, 1934]: 1545; ibid. 82 [December 10, 1935]: 1588). Both Thomas and Edwin later became ministers in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    On August 24, 1891, Seventy Thomas Stafford wrote a letter to Seventy Gomer R. Wells telling of improper conduct which he had witnessed on the part of Brigham Young, both in England and in Nauvoo. Stafford wrote:

    [ 35 ]

    But I am fully convinced, as I was then, that Brigham (Young), was in adultery in Manchester, England, in the fall, winter and spring of 1840 and 1841...

    (upper part of page not transcribed -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    Elizabeth Mayer is the person with whom Brigham was then committing adultery. My reasons are these: We lived next door to her, under the same roof.... This Elizabeth Mayer had a father and a brother who were gardners; they took their dinners, as they worked a long piece from home. After they had left for work, Brigham would step into the house, she would then lock the door and pull down the blinds and curtains, which to me was strange. He never came to see our folks, although not five steps apart; and when he left he was always in a hurry, and she never came to the door with him when he was leaving.

    This same thing occurred in Nauvoo with a woman and Brigham. Her name was Greenough; her son was about my age, was always driven out when Brigham came, the door was shut and the curtains lowered. I was puzzled to know why he acted so, if he had a good heart, and was engaged in the business of teaching the truth, why drive the boy out? Why not come also and see my mother, only a few steps apart?

    I am now, and was then, satisfied that he was in adultery, in Manchester, England. The seeds of polygamy was sown, and Brigham the sower.... I was present at a meeting in a grove [at Nauvoo], about three weeks before Joseph and Hyrum were murdered, when Joseph made a public statement in the presence of three thousand people, that polygamy was being practiced secretly by some; that it had crept into the church secretly and must be put down speedily or the church would be driven from Nauvoo.

    I am satisfied that Joseph was not in favor of it (polygamy) at all. Would swear to all I have stated. (R. C. Evans, Autobiography of Elder R. C. Evans, 334–335)

    Brigham Married a Woman
    Who Was Acquainted with Cochranism

    Between 1834 and 1844, Brigham Young made a number of journeys into the Boston area, where the Cochranite doctrine was prevalent. During this time he met Augusta Adams Cobb. Augusta was baptized on June 29, 1832, by Samuel Smith, as noted in a previous chapter (see Missionary Journal of Samuel Harrison Smith -- 1832,

    [ 36 ]

    and Journal of Orson Hyde). Both journals show that Augusta Cobb requested baptism at a meeting where at least two Cochranites were present. This establishes the fact that Augusta was familiar with the doctrines of the polygamous Cochranites when she met Apostle Young. Augusta was an educated woman from a well-known Boston family, married and living in luxury with her husband of twenty-one years -- Henry Cobb. According to Augusta's great granddaughter, Mary Cable, Augusta and Henry were the parents of seven children (American Heritage 16 [February 1965]: 50). In the fall of 1843 Augusta deserted her husband and all of her children but the two younger ones -- Charlotte, six, and Brigham, only a few months -- and went with Brigham Young to Nauvoo to become his plural wife (ibid., 52).

    While on the journey to Nauvoo the infant, Brigham, became ill and died at Cincinnati, Ohio. "She [Augusta] had it put in a tin box and took it with her" to Nauvoo (ibid., 54). A Nauvoo newspaper, the Nauvoo Neighbor of November 8, 1843, announced the death of Brigham Cobb, age five months and twenty days. By this time Brigham and Augusta were secretly married.

    Brigham Young was already a polygamist at the time he married Augusta on November 2, 1843 (Stewart, Brigham Young and His Wives, 86; Saints' Herald 105 [August 11, 1958]: 16). He took his first plural wife in June 1842, when he married twenty-year-old Lucy Decker Seely, wife of William Seely. Lucy had borne Mr. Seely three children (Stewart, Brigham Young and His Wives, 85; Kate B. Carter, Our Pioneer Heritage 16 [1973]: 187–189). In spite of the fact that some of the LDS Church's historical references state that Lucy was a widow, she was not. Official church archive records in the Genealogical Society Library in the LDS Church's headquarters building in Salt Lake City show that William Seely did not die until May 20, 1851. Further, references in the dozens of records give no concrete evidence that Lucy and William Seely were ever divorced. Therefore, Brigham was guilty of polygamy and Augusta and Lucy were both guilty of polyandry -- the having of plural husbands.

    [ 37 ]

    Henry Cobb Sued Augusta for a Divorce

    (page not transcribed -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    In 1847 Henry Cobb sued Augusta for a divorce. This action and her polygamous marriage to Brigham received nationwide publicity through the newspapers.

    High Priest George J. Adams, a popular missionary during the lifetime of Joseph the Prophet, was a witness for Henry Cobb. Adams was a noted preacher in the eastern states, including the Boston area. He had been a close consultant and advisor to Joseph Smith during the last few months of Joseph's life, and had labored fervently to free Joseph and Hyrum from the last legal charges against them before they were assassinated. Adams had served as a missionary in England and other European countries, along with members of the Twelve. Although Adams became entangled in the web of polygamy himself, he asserted that Brigham Young, and not Joseph Smith, brought that doctrine into the Church. He testified under oath as a witness for Henry Cobb that Joseph "did not teach the doctrine of spiritual wives."

    The following account of the Cobb divorce case was printed in the Boston Post and reprinted in the Quincy (Illinois) Whig for December 22, 1847, page 2:

    Supreme J. Court—Boston. [Cobb Divorce Case]

    Divorced from a Woman who had become the "Spiritual Wife" of a Mormon Leader.—Henry Cobb vs. Augusta Cobb. This was a libel alleging crim con on the part of the respondent [Augusta Adams Cobb] with Brigham Young, in Nauvoo, in August, 1844, and December, 1845. After living 21 years in good repute with her lawful husband, the respondent became led away with Mormonism, leaving her husband, went to Nauvoo, and joined the church there. After a year's trial of the system she returned to Boston, but not being able to content herself here, she made another trip to Nauvoo; returned to Boston again, and again went off, and she is now supposed to be in California [Utah Territory] with Young.

    Her conduct in Nauvoo was fully described in the deposition of George J. Adams, better known under the name of "Elder Adams," who testified that he knew Mrs. Cobb, when she lived in the house of Brigham Young, at Nauvoo. We give the following extracts from the deposition:

    [ 38 ]

    (this page not transcribed -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    "In the fall of 1844 after her return from Nauvoo to Boston, Mrs. Cobb said she loved Brigham Young better than she did Mr. Cobb, and, live or die, she was going to live with him at all hazards. This was in the course of a conversation in which she used extravagant language in favor of Mr. Young and against Mr. Cobb. Mrs. Cobb went out again to Nauvoo, the second time, and lived with Mr. Young, and their living together, and their conduct, was the subject of conversation in the society [of the Church] and out of the society. The subject of conversation, to which I have alluded, was that persons had a right to live together in unlawful intercourse [polygamy], and Mrs. Cobb avowed her belief in this doctrine, and said it was right.

    "In conversation with Mrs. Cobb on the subject of spiritual wives, I [Adams] told her such doctrines would lead to the devil; and she said if it did she would go there with Brigham Young. The Mormons were so incensed with me for my opposition to this doctrine that they attempted to take my life in various ways. I think Mrs. Cobb was originally a woman of good feelings and good principles, but I do not think so of her now. I think she was led away by religious frenzy.

    "She said, I never will forsake brother Young, come life or come death. She said that the doctrine taught by Brigham Young was a glorious doctrine; for if she did not love her husband [Cobb], it gave her a man she did love."

    In the cross examination, Mr. Adams stated that he performed on the stage when he was a young man; that he was a merchant tailor in extensive business before he joined the Mormons; that he has, since he withdrew, performed at the National Theatre in this city, that Joseph Smith the founder of Mormonism, did not teach the doctrine of spiritual wives (italics added); that Brigham Young, in assuming to be president of the church, had usurped authority, and that he, Mr. Adams, opposed the usurpation.

    The testimony of Mr. Adams was corroborated by a widow lady, who had been to Nauvoo.... Judge Wilde decreed a full divorce from the bonds of matrimony.

    The LDS Church in Utah has taught throughout the world that it was Joseph Smith who brought the doctrine of polygamy into the Church, but there is an abundance of evidence that

    [ 39 ]

    (this page not transcribed -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    Joseph and Hyrum did not teach nor practice it. Instead, it was Brigham Young and his large family and loyal friends who secretly began the practice even before Joseph's death. Catharine V. Waite best described the power of the elite group surrounding Brigham Young, which made the polygamy doctrine succeed. Mrs. Waite was a lawyer and the wife of Judge Charles B. Waite, a justice appointed by the Federal Government to the Territory of Utah. She had an excellent opportunity to observe the inner workings of this elite polygamous hierarchy while she lived in Salt Lake City during the 1860s. She wrote:

    It is worthy of remark, that all of Brigham's family became Mormons.... His brothers are all at Salt Lake, and are the devoted followers and satellites of the Prophet [Brigham].

    Through the plurality system, the Youngs have formed connections so numerous, that almost half the people at Salt Lake are in some way related to the ruling dynasty. This is striking evidence of Brigham's ingenuity in consolidating and perpetuating his power. (Mrs. C. V. Waite, The Mormon Prophet and His Harem; or, An Authentic History of Brigham Young, His Numerous Wives and Children, 2)

    Joseph and Hyrum fought a losing battle against the doctrine of polygamy because of Brigham's influence and power in Nauvoo. Brigham, and not Joseph, was the father of Mormon polygamy.

    Entire Contents © 2000 by Price Publishing Co. Only limited, "fair use" excerpts provided here.

    [ 41 ]

    Chapter 5

    The Apostles Brought
    Polygamy into the Church

    (remainder of book not transcribed -- see the on-line file at the Price Publishing web-site for full text)

    Cochranism was not the only source of polygamy. Indeed, polygamy was a common subject of discussion in America during the 1830s. Over a hundred different religious colonies or communes in America were practicing some form of polygamy during the years that the Church was being formed. In 1868 William Hepworth Dixon wrote two volumes entitled Spiritual Wives, which gave much information about the various forms of polygamy, spiritual wifery, and like practices during that time.

    Dixon was a distinguished English writer and the editor of the Athenaeum, a literary magazine published in London. He traveled extensively in America gathering facts about polygamous groups, and even visited Salt Lake City where he interviewed Brigham Young. Dixon wrote:

    A few words dropt by Brigham Young, in the course of a long reply to questions of mine on another point, told me that the Mormon Pope knew more than could be found in books about that doctrine of the Spiritual wife, which, in our own day, in the midst of our churches, and chiefly, if not wholly, among men of Teutonic race, has flowered out into so many new and surprising domestic facts: at Salt Lake City into Polygamy; among the New England spiritual circles into Affinities; at Mount Lebanon into Celibate Love; at Wallingford and Oneida Creek [New York] into Complex Marriage, and in a hundred American cities into some more or less open form of Free Love. (William Hepworth Dixon, Spiritual Wives 1:79)

    Dixon's statement that some form of spiritual wifery was being practiced "in a hundred American cities" will no doubt be

    Transcriber's Comments

    Elder Richard Price

    The Prices' 2000 Book


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