Towards a More Fully Representative History of the British Mormon Experience [3]

PART THREE: A Disrespectful Racket.

For most early British converts the painful discovery that they had not been fully informed concerning the true nature of what Fanny Stenhouse called “practical Mormonism”, did not take place until they arrived in America, by which time there was little realistic opportunity of turning back. However, some British members did catch a glimpse of things as they actually were through their close association with the American leaders of the church in Great Britain, and how they privately conducted themselves.

Samuel Hawthornthwaite was an elder in the Hulme Branch in Manchester in 1850, at a time when the growth of the 19th century British LDS church was nearing its zenith. At that point Cyrus Wheelock, (who had been a close friend and confidant of Joseph Smith at the time of Smith’s assassination in 1844), was called to preside over the Manchester Conference, (i.e. District), and Hawthornthwaite kindly offered accommodation in his home to Elder Wheelock and his English wife, whom he had recently married[1]. An ugly rumour was already in circulation however, (and it was subsequently shown to be true), that Wheelock had another wife or perhaps wives back in America, and so Hawthornthwaite, not wishing to be an accessory to bigamy, privately confronted him about the matter, whereupon Wheelock issued strenuous denials and assurances.

Nevertheless, within a short time complaints arose against Elder Wheelock because of his “making too free with the younger sisters in the country branches”, concerning which conduct, Hawthornthwaite noted, even non-Mormons had begun to comment. Wheelock’s response was to deny all accusations, and to take disciplinary action against those members who had dared to accuse him of such predations. Continues Hawthornthwaite: “When he had been at my house a few months, he persuaded his wife to go and live with her friends at Birmingham, and in her stead, he brought a Miss Dallan, from Newport, where he had been preaching.” This part of the narrative is borne out by the 1851 census of 45 Clare Street, Hulme, in which it was recorded that Mary Ann Dallan, aged 19, a native of Ilfracombe, Devon, was staying with Cyrus H. Whellock (sic), a Gentleman, in the Hawthornthwaite household.

1851 Hawthornthwaite

1851 Census enumeration of Samuel & Ann Hawthornthwaite’s household at Hulme.

The Hawthornthwaites were somewhat disconcerted that there appeared to be an inappropriate degree of intimacy between Elder Wheelock and young Sister Dallan, but nevertheless accommodated her as a guest, by altering the household sleeping arrangements. However, Miss Dallan soon affected to be unwell, and took to her bed, asking Wheelock to “lay hands” upon her, (i.e. to give her a priesthood blessing), to ease her sickness. After that Wheelock assured Hawthornthwaite he would sit up and look after the young woman each night. This aroused Sam Hawthornthwaite’s suspicions, until he, his wife and other witnesses one morning observed the couple sleeping together in bed. Mrs Wheelock was privately sent for, and when she arrived in a state of distress, Mrs Hawthornthwaite told her all that had taken place. Wheelock and Miss Dallan were out together at the circus that particular evening until 11.30pm, so were unaware that Mrs Wheelock had arrived in their absence. The couple returned in a state of some jollity, only to be confronted by the wronged wife.

In addition to the act of adultery, Elder Wheelock had also spent an estimated £90 on the wooing of Miss Dallan over the course of six weeks, and that money had come from donations made by the downtrodden members of the Manchester Conference. “He bought her three new dresses… boots, bonnets, ribbons, shawls, pomatums, paints, scents, in fact everything a capricious girl could wish, or an old fool lavish. He took her to the boxes of the Theatre Royal five nights out of six, where he fed her with wine, jellies, cakes, oranges, and the like, to such an extent, that when she emptied her pockets in the morning, there was enough of broken bits to feast my little boy during the day.  This he did, while the Saints were starving themselves on his account.” Wheelock was in effect using the widows’ mites to further his own amorous ambitions, and so out of a sense of acute injustice, Hawthornthwaite attempted to hold his Conference President to full account before the church on charges of adultery and extravagance.

However, Wheelock’s reputation for vindictiveness, acquired when he had been previously accused of wrongdoing, was enough to persuade some witnesses to withdraw their evidence, for fear that they would in the process lose their membership, and with it, as they believed, all eternal hope. In the hour of their testing, loyalty appeared more important to them than truth. Even Hawthornthwaite’s branch president, who had previously complained to him that for fourteen years the Americans had been the greatest curse the English members had had to endure, when it really counted bore a hypocritical testimony to a church court, (held over the course of three consecutive evenings), that without servants of the Most High like Wheelock the British would have no salvation available to them. Unsurprisingly, Wheelock denied all the charges, whereupon the presiding officer, Elder Wallace, another American, dismissed the case as unproven, commenting: “I know it is hard to make you Englishmen believe that a servant of the Lord can sleep with a young lady for three weeks, and not commit adultery with her, but it is so.” Undoubtedly, Wallace, like Wheelock, already had knowledge of the secret system of plural marriage which was being practised in America, but it was not until the following year that this was officially revealed as a doctrine and practice of the church, and until then the British members were “protected” from hearing it, unless, of course, they emigrated and witnessed it first-hand.

 Cyrus H. Wheelock

Cyrus Wheelock, one-time friend of Joseph Smith and Manchester Conference President in 1851.

Having been acquitted, Wheelock then set about cutting off from the church all who had opposed him in the hearing, and according to Hawthornthwaite’s record, used his high priestly powers to curse him and his children publicly that they might be cast “as far into Hell, as a pigeon can fly in a day!” Such a volatile outcome was perhaps always likely when an experienced American frontiersman, believing himself to be uniquely authorised of God, encountered a stubborn Englishman, (and a Yorkshireman at that), who had discerned through reasoned observation that he was not. It was not long though before others reached similar conclusions to Hawthornthwaite: when a member by the name of Harrison was excommunicated for fathering an illegitimate child, he protested to the church court: “If you cut me off, you must also cut off Elder Wheelock, for while I was in one bed with one sister, he was in another bed with the other.”

The Mormon elite were permitted some extra degree of latitude apparently. They were their own judges in this land, as no resident British member was at that time authorised to sit in judgment upon them, so their word was effectively the law of the church, and the church, of course, was God’s prescribed means of salvation. Having known, or been personally acquainted with Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and others, these men occupied a rarefied position in the gathering of the British people to Zion. Cyrus Wheelock, for example, was the man who had smuggled a pistol into Carthage Jail, Illinois, for Joseph Smith shortly before his death. (Smith and his brother were at the time being held, pending trial, to answer charges of treason, having destroyed the printing press of The Nauvoo Expositor newspaper, which had published details of Smith’s marital or extra-marital excesses.) Wheelock’s conduct was perhaps only in imitation therefore of that of his file leaders, whom he idolised.

Not long after Sam Hawthornthwaite found himself embroiled in troubles over the conduct of Cyrus Wheelock, Fanny Stenhouse received news from her Scottish husband, who was at the time serving a mission in Switzerland, that talk was rife among his American brethren that Brigham Young might be about to announce that the church would adopt the practice of polygamy. There had been rumours which had previously come to her ears, but they had been quickly dismissed as anti-Mormon propaganda. Upon hearing this shocking news therefore, her world fell apart: “I began to realize that the men to whom I had listened with such profound respect, and had regarded as the representatives of God, had been guilty of the most deliberate and unblushing falsehood; and I began to ask myself whether, if they could do this in order to carry out their purpose in one particular, they might not be guilty of deception upon other points? Who could I trust now? For ten years the Mormon Prophets and Apostles had been living in Polygamy at home, while abroad they vehemently denied it, and spoke of it as a deadly sin. This was a painful awakening to me; we had all of us been betrayed.”[2]

Her sentiments so eloquently recorded for posterity in those words echoed the thoughts of many of the British members at the time, and when the official announcement duly came, many began to turn away from Mormonism in the British Isles. The decline in membership from 1852 onwards, accompanied by public hostility shown to Mormons, was a feature for the rest of the century.

National Baptisms

The real disgrace though, was that so many devout British converts had already been encouraged to commit so much on trust to a cause about which they actually knew so very little. As a matter of policy, they had been deliberately deprived of full and accurate reports by their American leaders, and this had been done in order to elicit from them the kind of life-changing commitment, from which most inevitably later found themselves unable to retreat.

If the challenges of being a British Mormon had been significant before the shock of the polygamy announcement in 1852, they suddenly became much fiercer. Mormonism had previously been an object of ridicule in Britain, but afterwards became a target for hatred and despising. The following excerpt from ‘The Bristol Mercury’ in 1857 was a fairly typical illustration of how public disliking for polygamous Mormonism was apt to spill over:

“THE MORMONS AGAIN — Thomas Ingram was charged with being disorderly, and with having thrown a stone at the Mormon Chapel in Milk Street. Sunday night P.S. 91 saw a number of people, of whom the prisoner was one, throwing stones and dirt at the door of the Mormon chapel, and at the people assembled there… Mr Inspector Bell said the row on Sunday night was a very violent one; and that the mob hunted one of the Mormon elders all through the Horsefair.  Mr Barrow remarked that however much the magistrates might differ from the Mormonites in their way of pursuing their religious calling —

Mr Herapath (interrupting) — Don’t call it religious. It is not that, and certainly not moral. It is a disgrace to England that we are obliged to permit these people.

Mr Barrow said that might be so, but the peace must not be broken.

Mr Herapath — Certainly not.

Mr Barrow — The magistrates would therefore call on the prisoner to find sureties, himself in £20, and two others in £10 each, to keep the peace for the future.”[3]

Petty Sessions 19th century

A mid-19th century Petty Sessions Court

The public perception from the first had been that ignorance was the reason British people were deceived by Mormonism. “It is surprising”, reported the Worcester correspondent of the ‘Morning Post’ on 4th November 1846, “even to those who know the exceeding lack of education in the rural districts of this county, and its neighbour Herefordshire, that so clumsy an imposture, and so ungainly a set of adepts, could have succeeded so well, as, unhappily, too many wretched dupes can testify.” [4] The question arises as to whether that “ungainly set of adepts” really believed in the message they were spreading? Undoubtedly the answer to that reasonable question is that they did. The great majority of missionaries by this time were British, and being recent converts themselves, trusted fully in the message they carried. They were the ones who bore the main burden of taking Mormonism to their fellow citizens under the direction of a few American leaders, and they earnestly believed that they were living during the end times of a fallen world.

Some of the earliest converts had met and listened to Apostle Wilford Woodruff during his highly successful mission to England in 1840-1, so it is not difficult to imagine the profound effect on those men and women when they read Woodruff’s words in ‘The Millennial Star’, their own LDS newspaper, in 1845; Woodruff proclaimed: “You live in the day and hour of the judgments of God Almighty… Thrones will be cast down, nations will be overturned, anarchy will reign, all legal barriers will be broken down, and the laws will be trampled in the dust. You are about to be visited with war, sword, famine, pestilence, plague, earthquakes, whirlwinds, tempests, and with the flame of devouring fire…. the slain of the Lord will be many.”[5] Little wonder then that those men called to serve missions had fire in their souls as they ventured forth into a sick and dying world with, as they believed, the single ultimate solution: Mormonism. Any personal rejection they encountered along the way merely strengthened their faith that the end was nigh. A Book of Mormon witness, Martin Harris, referring to that publication, had once stated, ”All who believed the new bible would see Christ within fifteen years, and all who did not would absolutely be destroyed and dam’d.”[6] Christ’s return, it seems, had at one time, early in the church’s history, been expected by 1846, and a similarly fatalistic outlook seems to have infected not only Woodruff, but his many British converts.

A good illustration of this is the case of Henry Glover. In the summer of 1840, Apostle Brigham Young selected Glover to leave his native Ledbury and open up the work in the city of Bristol, 40 miles away. Glover was a former preacher of the United Brethren, a localised splinter group of the Primitive Methodists, which group had converted en masse a few months earlier, under the instruction of Woodruff, believing Mormonism to be a fulfilment of their spiritual aspirations. Young described Glover in a letter to Joseph Smith as “a humble, good man, and will do much good”. However, as Young in later years recollected, Glover “went to Bristol, and cried, ‘Mormonism,’… and no person would listen to him. On the next morning he was back at Ledbury, and said, ‘I came out of Bristol, washed my feet against them and sealed them all up to damnation.’” [7]

Here then is a clear example of the apocalyptic mindset of those early British Mormons. Anticipating an imminent return of Christ, Glover, in his religious fervour, had apparently felt justified in condemning a whole city of 140,000 citizens, because a token sample of its populace had rejected in a single afternoon what he himself had recently accepted as the one true gospel! Glover was promptly returned to Bristol however, and persevered for a while longer the second time, for Woodruff’s journal records on 14th September 1840 that the Bristol Branch consisted then of Elder H. Glover, and three others.[8]

19th century Bristol

Bristol in the mid-19th Century

For a few years following the exodus of the church from Nauvoo to the Rocky Mountains in 1846/7, very few American brethren remained in Great Britain. Fanny Stenhouse records that in 1849 there were only two or three Americans in total preaching the gospel, so virtually the whole burden had fallen upon the British, and this also coincided with the greatest period of LDS success enjoyed in Britain during the 19th century. She noted that “Mormonism was bold then in Europe — it had no American history to meet… polygamy was unheard of as a doctrine of the Saints, and the blood-atonement, the doctrine that Adam is God, together with the polytheism and priestly theocracy of after years were things undreamed of.”[9]

So what was the message British Mormons were teaching in the halls and streets and market places at that point? Fanny Stenhouse explained that it was: “The saving love of Christ, the glory and fulness of the everlasting Gospel, the gifts and graces of the Spirit, together with repentance, baptism, and faith… and who can wonder that with such topics as these, and fortifying every statement with powerful and numerous texts of Scripture, they should captivate the minds of religiously inclined people?”

Even so, proclaiming this watered-down version of Mormonism was a challenging enough undertaking, especially for those who had no former experience of preaching. Of those who were called to do so, (and this was an era when male members were not automatically given the priesthood, and relatively few were ordained elders), most set about it with typical British stoicism and workmanlike determination. They did so because they believed that they were God’s vessels for bringing salvation to a dying world. Richard Rawle, a native of Devon who had been baptised in Bristol in 1842, was a fairly typical example of such men. A humble cobbler during the working day, he spent much of his spare time preaching the gospel to his fellow citizens of Bristol in ad hoc open air meetings. On two occasions he was chased by mobs through the streets after preaching, and feared he would be badly beaten or killed if caught, but still accounted himself blessed to be entrusted in this way with God’s word[10]. Mormonism may have been publicly despised, but in everyday situations individual Mormons seem to have been tolerated. William Jefferies, commenting on his interactions with non-LDS work colleagues in the 1850s stated that he had been “party to many a little ‘mormon’ debate with Sunday religionists who were my fellow-workmen, and although they pitied yet they respected me.”[11]

  Richard Rawle & William Jefferies

Two of Bristol’s home-grown missionaries, (Left) Richard Rawle, (Right) William Jefferies

The more able British male converts were sometimes called to serve missions away from home for weeks or months at a time, usually within a day or two’s walking distance from their homes. They covered an extraordinary number of miles on foot, hitching an occasional ride, and often simultaneously supported themselves by working at their trade as opportunity presented itself along the way. Many of their contacts occurred while walking from place to place. William Jefferies wrote that it had been when he was 17, “during the first few days of Jan. 1849, that I first heard ‘Mormonism’ as it is commonly called, from an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints… I was going from Coleford where my father resided, to Stoke Lane, to visit an uncle by the name of Taylor, when I met with Elder Edward Hanham… He was peddling tea and preaching the gospel, and he talked to me about the Church and its doctrines.” Conversations were not always so religiously themed however. William Willes, an American, recorded in his diary for 1st March 1864, Left Bath, in the morning, on foot: I fell in with a lame man on the road, who was very talkative: and among other matters he stated that he once hiked with a man, who was a great drinker & who had an attack of the “Ringle Tringdums,” (Delirium Tremens). In a short time we were overtaken by a butcher, with a horse & cart, who gave us a lift nearly 8 miles from Bristol. I paid the turnpike fee for my ride.”[12]

Most of the Americans, who oversaw and participated in the work, evidently believed in the prophetic powers and divine calling of Joseph Smith, and by inference their own providential calling to direct matters as they saw fit among the British saints. Probably few were as cynical and opportunistic as Hawthornthwaite portrayed Wheelock to be, although it is clear from contemporary accounts that the American leaders generally expected and were afforded preferential treatment. They had been called for a season to perform a challenging work in a strange land. They knew the mysteries of the kingdom, which they had received in the Endowment House, and to which the British were not party. Their knowledge of how the church functioned at headquarters was therefore superior. The means whereby desired ends were accomplished were ultimately of secondary importance. It did not matter that British converts were systematically deprived of knowledge concerning certain key “higher principles” of the gospel, or were left woefully unaware of the hellish struggle which their Zionist ambitions would bring them; in mid-19th century Mormon eschatology, Zion was still a far better place to be than “Babylon”, and gathering in the harvest of souls, (including for some a plural wife or two who would accompany them back to America), was what most counted. Pious lies were justifiable therefore.

However, when one considers from a modern perspective the evident sleight of hand with which early Mormonism in Britain was dispensed by a few “in the know” men who occupied the upper echelons, surely all but the most dyed-in-the-wool Mormons today would acknowledge, (as a significant number of the converts themselves later did), that in the 19th century Mormonism was routinely mis-sold to the British public. It becomes difficult to dismiss entirely from mind the idea, (regardless of how one might view today’s LDS church and culture), that the whole exercise was actually a disrespectful racket which mainly targeted the disenfranchised and uneducated.

Of course, for the sake of current public relations, it is absolutely essential that those early missionary endeavours be represented as having been in every respect honourable and full of faith. Equally, in order to foster an illusion of continuity in purpose, it must now be made to appear that British converts who migrated to America in the 19th century, did so in order to build up and strengthen the church so that it might in the subsequent centuries mount its present global mission. The problem with that concept, which is very popular within Mormonism today, is that it is not what the converts actually believed they were doing when they did it. Mormonism has endured because it is skilful at reinventing itself and its historical narrative from generation to generation. The plain truth is that those early British converts were living in their present, a very different present than our own, and considered themselves to be fleeing spiritual Babylon no less, (Great Britain), to avoid the scourges which they had been led to believe were about to be unleashed; they were seeking physical and spiritual refuge in God’s place of safety, Zion. Fear underpinned by a certain sense of elitism, is what induced them to forsake for ever their homes, their employment, and their unbelieving relatives and friends. This is more than clear from voyage notes like those recorded for the emigrant ship ‘George Washington’, which sailed from Liverpool for Boston on 28th March 1857: “During the meeting several hymns suitable to the occasion were sung by the brethren and sisters in a spirited manner, one of which was — ‘Ye elders of Israel come join now with me,’ &c., with the chorus ‘O Babylon, O Babylon, we bid thee farewell, / We’re going to the mountains of Ephraim to dwell.’ All hearts seemed to be filled with joy, peace, and praise to their Heavenly Father for his goodness in giving them an understanding of the gospel, for making known to them that the hour of his judgments (upon Babylon) were at hand, and for making a way for their deliverance.”[13]

 Mormon emigrants on board during the Liverpool to Boston crossing

Mormon emigrants on deck between Liverpool and Boston 

Mormonism succeeded in accomplishing its purposes in 19th century Britain to the extent that it did, largely because those overseeing the operation were prepared to cultivate the credulity of rank-and-file members year after year. They did so in order to produce a steady flow of human cargo, which commodity was to be used in establishing an American theocratic community, and it was done in the questionable belief that it was necessary that God’s chosen people be located in one place. Some may even see subtle parallels in those aims with their experience of Mormonism today. To be cynical, the all-consumingly important gathering of Israel, first to Nauvoo, and then to Utah, was ultimately about seizing and maintaining political power and identity, in the name of God, although of course that is not how Mormonism was ever promoted on Britain’s streets.

When the resulting cost in terms of human misery is taken into account, and weighed in the balance against the oft-shared faith-promoting material which understandably emanates from proud descendants of those who managed to endure the gathering process, that increasingly redundant Zionist worldview will be concluded by many to have been a social misjudgement, and a costly irrelevance. Further, it will with good reason be argued that the true legacy of the British Mormon experience, powered as it was by pious deception and spiritual manipulation, is an embarrassingly incongruous one for an organisation which today still proudly proclaims itself to be the only true and living church, with Jesus Christ having directed its progress throughout.

And this will become a stubborn legacy which will probably never be entirely shaken off by Mormonism until the full spectrum of the historical record is confronted and embraced with courage and honesty, and until a sense of genuine compassion and remorse is felt for those who, through a combination of circumstances and unrealisable promises, were eventually cast in the roles of victims and losers.

(to be continued)

[1] Samuel Hawthornthwaite. Mr Hawthornthwaite’s Adventures among the Mormons as an Elder during eight years. (Hulme, Samuel Hawthornthwaite, 1857). pp112-115.

[3] The Bristol Mercury (Bristol, England), Saturday, October 17, 1857; Issue 3526.

[4] “Fortunes of a Mormonite”, The Morning Post, (London, England), November 04, 1846; Issue 22751.

[5]  Wilford Woodruff, Millennial Star, v. 41, p. 241

[6] Martin Harris, The Telegraph (Painesville, OH), March 15, 1831, v. 2, no. 39

[7] “4:305”, Journal of Discourses of the General Authorities of the LDS Church, accessed May 10, 2011,

[8] “The Church in Bristol 1840 – 1911”, Mormon History, accessed May 10, 2011,

[10] “Incidents From The Life Of Richard Rawle as told by Maybelle Millet Rawle, granddaughter-in-law of Richard Rawle, also of Morgan, Utah, Summarized by Dale S. King”, accessed July 14, 2010,

[11] “The Journal of William Jefferies”, William Jefferies Website, accessed December 20, 2009,

[12] Mary C. Cutler & Glenda I. C. Sharp. “The life of William Willes : from his own personal journal and writings” (Provo: Family Footprints, 1999).

2 Responses to Towards a More Fully Representative History of the British Mormon Experience [3]

  1. Daughter of the Utah Pioneers says:

    Thank you for publishing this information. I live in Utah and my ancestors were converted in the 1850s and 1860s in England and Wales. I have been raised on faith-promoting pioneer stories but have not been able to find much information about converts who came to Utah but were able to leave. This is excellent material.

  2. Debra van Driel Kluit says:

    Whilst searching for more newspaper articles about Martha Brotherton I came across the following article from an Isle of Man newspaper dated May 2 1874. LDS missionaries had decided to revamp the missionary efforts in the Isle of Man and had hired a hall to present their message, at the end of their presentation an elderly man came forward to share his warning about the Mormons – this is what he shared (it is quite long but opens up a whole new can of worms, or several cans)

    “He read a statement from Mr. William Hill, formerly a respectable shopkeeper in Manchester, whom the speaker had known, and who had, in his hearing, repeated the statement. He and his wife had become Mormons, and had gone to Utah. “I remember,” said he, “an emigration coming into the valley. There were 90 wagons, with 10 persons in each wagon, making 900 persons. 165 had died on the way. They arrived when the snow was thick on the ground. The authorities, having taken their oxen and cows from them, made them camp on an open space, taking no further notice of them. Many of them died for want of food and fire. I have often seen from 20 to 30 young females start from the camp in the morning, barefoot, for Red Bute Kanyon, a distance of ten miles, through snow and ice, and come back to the city at night, with loads of wood on their backs, worn down with cold, hunger,and fatigue. As these wretched girls passed Brigham’s house (which they had to do) they could see above 100 loads of wood piled up behind it, guarded by one of his servants. When these young emigrants are fairly worn down and destitute, the authorities go and pick out the prettiest girls, engage them as servants, and in a few days they are wives of these ugly old men: and more than that, in about a fortnight more they are divorced, again to be picked up by some other old scoundrel ! There is a man in the 7th ward, called Thomas Blezzard, who married a woman and her daughters ! This woman’s name was Mrs Wise; her husband died on the plains; she was about 40 years of age, her eldest daughter 18, the next 16, and the youngest 13: he had two distinct families in the house before that.” William Hill personally knew all the parties and made oath to the truth of the statement. He further made oath to the following disgusting facts, which are a pretty commentary upon the old Manxman’s averment as to the morality of Utah. “G.D. Watt behaved himself very indecently towards his own daughter, when at Council Bluffs, frequently being seen in her wagon in a most disgusting state. When he arrived in the Valley, he asked Brigham Young to marry them, but Brigham told him that the time had not yet come for the general priesthood to marry their own daughters, but the time was not far distant when all the priesthood would be allowed the privilege of Lot. As she was a nice looking young woman Brigham married her himself, and took her to his own house. In about three weeks after, he sent for Elder Watt, handed over to him the girl, telling him, at the same time, that he might now have his daughter for a wife as the time had come, Brigham married them.
    Hill, in relating his own personal experience of Utah and it’s morality, said: “I had not been long in the Valley before Parley Pratt (one of the chief Elders) began to visit my house in my absence. One day, when I came home from the Kanyon,my wife told me that Parley had been to her, and he wanted her to leave me, telling her that I was poor and could not save her. I had lived with my wife nearly thirty years, and I am not ashamed to say I loved her, and in return, she loved me. But she said, ‘he threatened to curse us both if I do not become his wife. I would rather have you, William, than all the men I ever saw,’ In a few days after I came home to my wife, as I thought, but found her gone ! On inquiry I was told that Parley had been during the afternoon, and had taken her away in his carriage. I went to Brigham and asked him to give me back my wife; but he turned himself round and said: ‘If Parley has got your wife you must get another,’ I saw her go to the tabernacle, in Parley’s carriage, the Sunday but one after, and the moment I looked at her, a big Danite took me by the shoulders, and said, ‘move on, brother Hill, you can’t stand there,’ I was a marked man ! Six weeks after he took her, I was asked if I would have her back again, to which I indignantly replied ‘Never, while my heart is warm !’ She is now Parley’s 12th wife. I saw her just before I came away setting potatoes behind Parley’s house, with another of his wives, and when she saw me she dropped down on the ground and covered her head with her hands. I was told the next day that she fainted; they carried her into the house, laid her on her back on the floor, and the first word she spoke was, ‘Oh, William! William!’” Hill got away from the Salt Lake Valley with a company of 63 persons all well armed. The Danites, the avengers, the murderers of the valley, followed for 160 miles but dared not make an attack, as the escaping saints were desperate. Hill walked above 500 miles barefoot, over rocks and mountains, to gain the liberty of England, and to get away from what he always calls “that den of thieves”
    And now, said the speaker, what do you think of moral Utah?
    Mr Johnson then described the first attempt on the part of Joe Smith to introduce polygamy by inducing a young girl – Martha Brotherton to become his wife at Nauvoo. She escaped into the States, and told her tale, which was speedily carried to Manchester. Miss Brotherton being well known was believed. Parley Pratt, who was then in England published a statement in the Millennial Star, vol. iii., page 74. “But for those who may be assailed by these foolish tales about the two wives, we would say that no such principle ever existed among the Latter Day Saints, and never will”. He further wrote in the Star, vol. vii page 22: “No such doctrine (polygamy) is known, held, or practiced as a principle of the Latter Day Saints. It (polygamy) is just another name for whoredom….It is as foreign from the principles of the church as the devil is from God.” And yet the scoundrel was at the very time living with another man’s wife, his own wife being compelled to work in a factory in America!…..”

    This is what I have been able to find out – William Hill was born in Manchester, England in 1812, on 11 November 1834 he married Keziah Downes daughter of Edward Downes and Elizabeth Broadhead of Rainow, Cheshire, they were both aged 22 and were married in Prestwich, a suburb of Manchester.
    In 1842 they were introduced to the church, probably by Parley P Pratt, Keziah was baptised on the 8th April 1842 in Manchester, I don’t have William’s baptism date, Keziah’s mother and siblings also joined the church.
    I believe that Keziah and William emigrated to Utah in 1851.
    On the 2nd November 1853 Keziah was divorced from William Hill in Salt Lake City and on the 27th December 1853 she was married to Parley P Pratt as his 10th wife – she was therefore a sister wife to Elizabeth Brotherton, Martha’s sister. Four years after her marriage to Parley P Pratt he was shot by the husband of his last plural wife.
    William Hill returned to Manchester and died in 1868, he left his estate to a daughter of Keziah’s brother as he and Keziah were childless. Keziah died January 11 1877 and is buried in Salt Lake City.
    These are the bare facts, there are some letters from Keziah to her family in the Jared Pratt archives –
    William’s story also mentioned two other people whom I decided to research, it was a third hand report so obviously not all the facts would be correct as can be seen in regards to his report of Martha Brotherton being proposed to by Joseph Smith instead of Brigham Young.
    The two people that he mentions are Thomas Blezzard who married a widow and her three daughters and G.D. Watt who got permission to marry his daughter.
    I couldn’t find a Thomas Blezzard but did find a John Hopwood Bleazard or Blezzard who was born in Yorkshire and emigrated to Nauvoo with his wife and children after joining the church. His first and second wife both died in Nauvoo and then he married a young widow in Winter Quarters, Sarah Searcy Miller, apparently Brigham Young offered him Sarah’s young daughter of 16 also as a wife if he would stay in Winter Quarters to build and repair the wagons (he was a wagonmaker by trade) also the youngest daughter Martha was given to him. This is what I found –

    “John Hopwood Bleazard and Sarah Searcy Miller were endowed at the new Nauvoo Temple in 1846, and probably lived together by Brigham Young’s permission (as was a customary proceeding) until they were remarried March 30, 1848, at Winter Quarters. They were sealed in the Endowment house, Salt Lake City, January 17, 1853.
    Their first child, John was born December, 1848 at Winter Quarters; the second, Miriam, December 23, 1849, at Winter Quarters. I’ve heard through Uncle Mark’s line that Brigham promised John Hopwood Bleazard Mary Miller, daughter of Sarah, as a plural wife, in order to induce him to make and mend wagons for the Church. He married her (Mary Jane) and the first child, Sarah Jane, was born October 14, 1849, in Holt County, Missouri.
    Sarah Searcy Miller, my grandmother, got a temple divorce from John Hopwood in the Endowment house in Salt Lake City, July 7, 1873, at the age of 58, and was sealed to her first husband, James Miller, by Daniel H. Wells. (On record)

    Her daughter, Mary Jane Miller, had two children by Bleazard, (one died), then left him and married Isaac Hill, October 27 1852. It is on record, in the Temple archives, that she was sealed to Hill March 10, 1866. (Mary Jane had been sealed to Bleazard at Winter Quarters at 6:00 p.m., Witness, Wilford Woodruff.)

    (Sarah Searcy Miller must have been about 33 when she married Bleazard, and her daughter Mary, 16, and Bleazard, 45.)

    It is said that Brigham promised Martha, Mary’s younger sister, to John Hopwood Bleazard also, when she grew up a little more. (My mother said Martha wouldn’t have him. Effie Syphus in St. George, swears that Martha married him, also.) Anyway, Martha is on record as marrying her sister Mary’s husband, later, and having a family by him.

    (Ma said these two girls were beautiful, that Martha was to have married a young man her own age, that she was crazy about. She wouldn’t give him up, when commanded by the priesthood. He came up missing, and she never saw him again. A young man’s body was dug up in an old cellar a few years later, but could not be identified as he.)”

    Also the following – “Mary Jane Miller was the daughter of James Miller and Sarah Searcy (or Surcey). She was born January 9th, 1832 at Beards, Montgomery County, Illinois. Mary Jane was 10 years old when she joined the Church. The date of her baptism is given as October 10th, 1842.
    Mary Jane’s father, James Miller, is believed to have died at Nauvoo, Illinois while working on the temple. Isaac’s diary mentions a James Miller who died there on March 12th, 1841. The Miller family was supposedly living in Nauvoo at that time.
    Mary Jane and her mother, Sarah Searcy, a widow, were married in polygamy to John Hopwood Blazzard, March 30th, 1846, at Winter Quarters. (If these dates are correct, Mary Jane would have been only 14 years of age.) President Brigham Young performed the marriage ceremony, with Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards as witnesses. To this union of John Blazzard and Mary Jane, two daughters, Sarah and Mary Ann, were born. The latter, Mary Ann, died when she
    was about two years of age from the effects of ill-treatment received from her father. Mary Jane became very angry and resentful toward her husband because of his outrageous temper and of his mistreatment of her children and herself, and she finally left him. She received a divorce from him on January 31st, 1850.
    As noted above, Mary Jane married Isaac on October 27th, 1852 in polygamy with her sister, Martha Ann”

    My husband says in Dutch “Wat een soep zootje !” What a mess !

    The other name G. D. Watt, I believe to be George Darling Watt who was also born in Manchester in 1812 – this is what I found about him

    “Take for example the story of George Darling Watt, who was the first man to be baptised in England. The LDS church provides a very interesting account of how Watt won a foot race to the banks of the River Ribble in order to be accorded that unique privilege. The story is designed to convey the fervour of those early converts. However, the equally interesting fact that Watt was later authorised by Brigham Young to take as a plural wife Watt’s own younger half-sister, Jane Brown, (they shared a mother, Mary Ann Wood), and that they became parents of three children, is seldom if ever discussed, even though that also illustrates the degree of enthusiam with which some accepted the Mormon gospel.”

    I can remember hearing about that story about a race down to the river Ribble when we visited Preston many years ago. So it turns out that he had an incestuous relationship with his half sister (a little better than with a daughter !)
    This is apparently what Brigham said ” Quinn mentions George D. Watts and links him to this October 8, 1854 discourse at general conference.

    “Then I reckon that the children of Adam and Eve married each other; this is speaking to the point. I believe in Sisters marrying brothers, and brothers having their sisters for Wives. Why? Because we cannot do otherwise. There are none others for me to marry but my sisters.

    ‘But you would not pretend to say you would marry your father and mother’s daughter’

    If I did not I would marry another one of my sisters that lives in another garden; the material of which they are organized is just the same; there is no difference between them, and those that live in this garden, Our spirits are brothers and sisters, and so are our bodies, and the opposite idea has resulted from the ignorant and foolish traditions of the nations of the earth.”

    George was eventually excommunicated in 1874 because he joined the Godbeites.
    Another rabbit hole to delve into 😊

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s