Jews in the Wild West
Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West
Extraordinary Abuses of the Spiritual Wife SystemFanny
LittlemoreThe Writer paints her PortraitHer early LifeAttempt by her
Parents to force her to marry her Uncle at NauvooHer Escape to St. LouisShe
writes to her LoverTerry LittlemoreMarriageExtraordinary
LetterFanny's Mother exchanges Husbands with her AuntHer Father also exchanges
Wives with her UncleFanny's journey to Salt LakeTerry Littlemore becomes a
MormonFanny opposed to MormonismHer two Sisters become spiritual Wives of a
distinguished MormonShe meets her Father and Mother in Salt LakeThe Writer
becomes acquainted with her Mother and UncleHis Journey to Parowan with
THE following facts were related to me by a lady residing in Salt Lake City, being interwoven with her life. I give all except the real names of the parties. This history was volunteered during the time I was occupied in painting her own, and her husband's portrait; I was not bound to secrecy, the parties immediately interested, are all residing at present in Utah. I became afterwards personally known to them, on my journey to Parowan.
Fanny Oldham, the heroine of our story, was one of several daughters. Her parents were originally Presbyterians, to which faith she had been brought up. A few years previous to the commencement of this tale, her parents, as well as other members of her family, became Mormons. The scene opens in Nauvoo, in the year 1842.
"My parents resided in Nauvoo; my aunt being confined, at her own house, with a newly born infant, permission was requested of my parents, that I should go there on a visit, to assist in the domestic duties of the family, during her illness; they consented, and I, favorably impressed with my aunt's former kindness, willingly went. At this time, I was in my seventeenth year, and although surrounded by Mormons, and hearing nothing else but Mormonism preached, I still retained the religious views in which I had been educated, and refused to be baptized in their faith.
"Several days elapsed, after I was domiciled in my aunt's residence, during which time, most marked attentions were shown me by my uncle, my aunt's husband; he would affectionately kiss me for good night, and morning, and I returned his embraces with the affection of a niece. One morning, after my duties had been completed, I went into the parlor, and seated myself on the sofa; shortly afterwards my uncle came in, and taking a seat next to me, placed his arm rather familiarly around my waist, and pressed me towards him. This unusual demonstration annoyed me, and I endeavored to extricate myself from him, but he held me the tighter, and attempted to kiss me. Highly indignant at this proceeding, I asked him how he dared to treat me thus? he replied, 'that as I was to be his little wife, he thought himself privileged to kiss me.' I had never heard of the spiritual wife system, and I could not but believe he was joking; but he told me in earnest, 'that I was destined by the Almighty to become his wife." I rushed out of the room in tears, and putting on my bonnet, hurried home, as fast as I could. My father, was a man of high temper, and quick to resent an offence; he was at home when I got there, but, not daring to tell him of the insult, which had been put upon me, I went to my mother's chamber, and bursting into tears, revealed to her the scene which had just been enacted at my aunt's house."
Terry Littlemore was a cousin of Fanny, there had been a reciprocity of sentiment existing between them for years, and their troths were pledged to have been married ere this, but from the opposition they had received from Mr. and Mrs. Oldham, Fanny's parents. Terry was well to do in the world, his moral character unexceptionable, and he could not conceive the reason that he was refused the hand of his cousin Fanny. Finding that his business required his services in a town in Missouri he bade adieu to Fanny, promising to return in a few weeks and marry her even without the consent of her parents. It was during his absence that the scene I have related, took place.
Mrs. Oldham quietly listened to her daughter, and then told her that "the Prophet Joseph Smith had received a revelation from Heaven, that certain Mormon priests, were to take to themselves spiritual wives, in addition to the one wife they might have." Joseph Smith had lately seen Mrs. Oldham, and had approved of her daughter Fanny, as a wife for Mr. Wilson, Fanny's uncle, and believing as she did in the truth of Joseph Smith, she also approved of the marriage, and forbade her ever to think any more of her cousin, Terry but to prepare herself to marry her uncle in a few days.
Fanny became horror struck. She had hoped, on the bosom of a fond mother to have wept away the recollection of the unnatural and revolting proposal that had been made to her, but what was Fanny's dismay at hearing such a decision from her mother. As a last resort she sought her father, and on her knees begged him to interfere and prevent the dreadful sacrifice which was awaiting her. Her father, stem and inflexible with fanatic zeal, gave her no hope. He also approved of the marriage, and commanded her to submit, or he would use force. Poor Fanny had just time to reach her chamber when she fell fainting on the floor. When she recovered from her swoon her youngest sister was bending over her, applying restoratives. Neither of her parents had been near her for the two hours she had remained insensible.
Fanny, at the time I saw her, was the most beautiful woman in Utah. Her eyes were dark hazel, a classical nose, high forehead and luxuriant black hair. Her teeth were beautifully white, while her lips and mouth were "rich with sweetness living there." She was the mother of two children, and was 28 years of age. Still she was an elegant womanwhat must she have been at the commencement of our story?
This melancholy and horrible scene had passed so rapidly before her, that she had scarcely time to realize her situation. She determined to fly. It was therefore with an aching heart that she surveyed her beautifully arranged chamber for the last time.
There were no tasseled curtains, or luxurious carpets, no hanging chandeliers, or gilded looking-glasses, but her bed was covered with linen as pure as her own spotless breast and the primitive furniture was adorned with embroidered covers made by her own hands. A sweet little canary, the gift of dear Terry, sent forth a burst of melody when she approached his cage.
Unbidden tears streamed down her pallid cheeks, and with an unnatural composure she arranged a little bundle of clothing, which she required on her voyage. Swallowing a cup of tea which her sister had brought to her, she nerved herself for the trials she was about to encounter from the wide world. She intended to claim the protection of a married sister, who had lived at St. Louis. She told her young sister, who was ignorant of what had transpired, that she intended returning to her aunt's, and kissing her affectionately, she bade her adieu.
When she got out of the house, it was near ten o'clock at night; turning towards the steamboat wharf, she flew down to the boat, and entering the cabin, she told the captain, who was well known to her, that some urgent business demanded that she should go by the first opportunity to St. Louis, and requested him not to inform her family that she was on board. The steamer left the next day, and in good time she arrived at St. Louis.
Fanny, on reaching St. Louis, immediately repaired to her sister's, who was astonished and unprepared for her arrival. She pressed Fanny to her heart, and wept from very sympathy. Poor Fanny, resting on her sister's bosom, related what had transpired at Nauvoo. Her sister determined to protect her at all hazards, and save her from the horrible fate that awaited her.
With the sanction of her sister, Fanny the next day wrote to her lover, Terry Littlemore, requesting him to come immediately to St. Louis. In the mean time, she applied herself to her needle, and earned a sufficiency to support herself.
In the course of a week, Terry Littlemore arrived at St. Louis, and hastening to his cousin Louisa's house, was soon in the arms of his beautiful betrothed. She related to him the occasion of her flight from Nauvoo) and then told him she was ready to become his wife, at any moment. Terry, fearing that his uncle would pursue Fanny to St. Louis, as soon as he knew her whereabouts, determined to marry immediately, and the next morning they were united in the bonds of wedlock.
Terry Littlemore was advised to commence business in St. Louis, which he did. He opened a grocery store in partnership with another man, and furnishing a house comfortably, he took home his lovely bride. Fanny wrote to her parents, after her marriage, informing them of the fact, that they as well as her uncle might know that she was under a husband's protection.
Fanny and her husband lived happily and comfortably. In course of time she presented him with a son.
After they had been married some time, she received the following letter from her mother:
You will be surprised to hear that after living twenty years with your dear father, and bearing him nine children, that we should be separated forever in this world. It was "revealed to both your father and myself by an angel from heaven," that we should separate, as he could not secure my eternal salvation! Your uncle, whose wife you ought to have been, has been "sealed," to me, as my Spiritual husband, and your father has been "sealed" to your aunt. I have the future care of your uncle's children, and he has the charge of your father's. Both of our families are now making arrangements to go across the plains, into some valley beyond the mountains, to seek a future and permanent home, where I hope to see you some of these days. I pray you to receive the farewell of
Your affectionate mother.
On receipt of this extraordinary epistle, Fanny hastened to her sister Louisa, who had also received a letter, conveying the same intelligence. They threw themselves into each other's arms, and wept over the infatuation and fanaticism, which had branded their parents' names with infamy.
Terry Littlemore was offered the lucrative situation of wagon-master, to conduct one hundred wagons and teams, laden with merchandize, etc., from Independence to Salt Lake. Terry decided to go, and leaving his wife and child in the care of his cousin Louisa, and his business in the joint charge of his wife and partner, took command of this expedition, and after a long journey, arrived safely in Great Salt Lake City, where another uncle held a high position in the church of the latter day saints. Here the future prospects for Terry were bright, and a fortune seemed within his grasp; he was offered by his uncle, that if he would bring his family out, that he would build him a flour mill, and give him a large tract of ground, besides stock, etc. This offer was most tempting to Terry; he determined to accept it, and making the necessary arrangements with his uncle, returned home for his family. Fanny at first declined going, but an offer having been made of a very lucrative character, to her sister's husband, which they determined to accept, Fanny not wishing to remain alone, and her husband being resolved to go, she made a virtue of necessity, and acquiesced in his wishes, although she had her fears that she was taking a wrong step.
Terry Littlemore dissolved partnership, and found he had sunk half the amount he had put in his business, by the carelessness and mismanagement of his partner.
Both families made preparations to travel, and early in the spring of 1849 they started, and with the usual adventures of a journey across the plains, arrived safely in Great Salt Lake City. When Fanny arrived, her uncle and family called on her, and conducted her to a comfortable residence.
She was some months in the city before she would consent to see her mother, who was residing with her Uncle Lorenzo, as husband and wife. Her father, having had some disagreement with this spiritual wife, left her, and when Fanny arrived he was very badly off. At the time Mrs. Littlemore related to me these extraordinary episodes in her life, her father was caring horses and cattle on the pasturage beyond the River Jordan, in the Salt Lake Valley. She is now on affectionate terms with her mother. Her husband, Mr. Terry Littlemore, became a Mormon, and was baptized into the faith of the latter day saints. Mrs. Littlemore never became one. She told me her husband will never bring home a spiritual wife while she lives. Her two sisters are spiritual wives of their uncle, who is one of the great lights of the Mormon church. She seemed happy and contented, and enjoys herself. She has all the comforts, and many of the luxuries of life, and her husband is devoted to her; they live on Mill Creek, some few miles from the city, and Terry is proprietor of a flour mill, and as well-cultivated a farm, as fine teams of horses, as choice stock, and as beautiful and lovely a wife, as any man in Utah.
I subsequently learned some of the above facts from other sources. Mrs. Littlemore told
me very nearly the words and substance of the foregoing, voluntarily. I think I remarked
that I would write a romance, but the recital of the facts are as tragic, and as
improbable as the most improbable romance that ever was written "Truth is stranger
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