Hannah Grover Hegsted

Now that the Church has released its treatment of Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah, many of our people are going to be learning of the phenomenon of post-Manifesto polygamy for the first time.  To get up to speed one can read, for example, Quinn, Hardy and Hales, but I would like to point folks to a more intimate account, from a woman’s perspective, as to why one might have entered into such a post-Manifesto marriage.  The article I would like to suggest that you read is Julie Hemming Savage, “Hannah Grover Hegsted and Post-Manifesto Plural Marriage,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26/3 (Fall 1993): 100-117.  I recommend this article not only because it is terrific, but the subject of the piece happens to be a relative of mine.  My most famous Mormon ancestor was Thomas Grover through his wife Hannah Tupper.  Their son, Thomas Grover III married Elizabeth Heiner.  My great-grandmother was their first daughter and second child, Evelyn Maria Grover, born September 3, 1868.  Hannah was her younger sister, born November 26, 1870.  So Hannah was my Grandpa’s aunt.

Hannah Grover married Bishop Victor Hegsted on May 1, 1904, which was 14 years after the original Manifesto and a month after the second Manifesto.  So why would a good Mormon woman enter plurality in 1904?  The short answer is that she came to believe that marrying Victor fit into God’s plan for her life.  But why?  Well, you really need to read the article, but I’ll try to summarize some of the factors involved in the hope that it will intrigue you enough to click on over there and read the actual article.

Religious and Cultural Comfort with Polygamy.  Hannah was steeped in the Mormon polygamous tradition.  Her paternal grandfather, Thomas Grover, eventually had six wives, and her own father (who was born in 1845 and would have been one of the first sons born to Mormon polygamy) had two of his three wives alive at the same time.  She wrote often of visiting her “aunts,” many of whom were her grandfather’s plural wives.  Her Aunt Lucy once told her that “had she her life to repeat she would again enter plural marriage.”  Polygamy was all around her, and during the first 20 years of her life the Church defended the practice vigorously.

Intense Feelings of Loneliness.  When Hannah was 11 her mother died in childbirth, leaving six small children.  Hannah helped to take care of the family, and her home was with her siblings.  But as they grew and married, one by one they left, leaving her alone, a loss that she felt deeply.

Patriarchal Blessings.  Over the course of her life, Hannah received not one, not two, but seven (!) patriarchal belssings.  As one might guess, these routinely gave divine promises of marriage and children, promises she took to heart.

Love of Children.  It is evident from her journals that Hannah enjoyed the presence of children, especially her nieces and nephews.  She was so pleased when she went to visit her sister and the kids would yell “Aunt Hannah has come!”  She was also active serving in the Primary organization.

Monogamous Suitors Didn’t Work Out.  In 1891 she promised to be the wife of Marcus Taggart, but nearly five years later she stated that “the ties between Marcus and me were severed because of another girl.”  Shortly after this relationship ended, Hannah began to spend time with Tom Condie.  On June 9, 1897 she wrote that “Bro. Condie . . . declared his love for me and the desire that I should be his wife.  Received testimony in answer to my prayers.”  But eight days later he left to serve in the Southern States mission.  When he returned in 1899 they began to spend time together again, but then he was called on an M.I.A. mission to Arizona.  As it turned out, before the winter’s mission was over he fell in love with and married another woman, which Hannah wrote “blighted the hopes of a devoted heart.”  After this she wrote again and again of a deep loneliness.  She had taken a position as a teacher at Ricks Academy and bought a house in Rexburg.   On the ride there she bemoaned going “alone to live in a lone house.”  She was under a heavy cloud of despondency.

Opportunities to Enter Plural Marriage.  It was during this time of intense loneliness that she first begins to record opportunities to enter plural marriage.  Within six months of her break up with Tom Condie, she reports that a brother E.W. Hunter and his wife expressed an interest in her.  She reported this proposition matter-of-factly and does not seem to have given it much thought, but it did open her mind to the possibility.  In 1902 she was offered two other chances to enter plurality: one from a Martin Randall of Centerville, and the other from Bishop Victor Hegsted of Salem, Idaho.  Having two such propositions forced her to a period of deep introspection. 

She spent the summer away from both men, taking classes at the University of Utah, where she had an emotionally devastating experience.  She attended an evening stake conference, only to see Tom Condie and his wife.  “He was loving and fondling the baby and the sight pierced me to the quick.”  Just then she was called up to the stand to speak extemporaneously, as they did in those days.  She tried to beg off, but they insisted.  She managed a few sentences before breaking down.  (I’m glad we don’t do that anymore!)

Hannah fasted and prayed and consulted with her father, who advised her to accept Victor.  It was not until she met with Brother Randall that she felt confirmed in her decision to accept Victor.  In January of 1903 she finally was able to meet privately with Victor, and the meetings went very well; from this point her language concerning him becomes adoring and intimate, referring to him as “sweetheart,” something she had not done in any other relationship.  That July she called on Ada Hegsted, Victor’s second and only living wife.  Ada gave her consent and approval to the match, and told her that so long as she had a home Hannah would always be welcome in it.

Victor and Hannah sought approval from church leaders at the April 1903 conference, which they received.  (At this point some apostles were trying to discontinue the practice and others were trying to keep it alive, so this was a matter of going to the right apostle.)  After the marriage, Hannah never lived with Victor on a continuous basis until Ada died in 1912.  She would end up having four children with Victor.

Although not formally excommunicated, she seems to have experienced some sort of informal censure, as in 1911 she writes that she “once again became identified with the church in regular order.”  After Ada died she and Victor were able to marry civilly, which they did, and which procured a place for Hannah in mainstream Mormon society.  She began to run a large household and accept positions of responsibility in the Church.

The piece concludes as follows:

While Hannah may have had her lonely times, there is no evidence that she wished she had taken a different path.  She made her decision to marry with integrity.  Using her family life and church leaders as examples, and believing in blessings that promised her a husband and a posterity, she prayed to God and married Victor Hegsted.  As with other experiences in her life, she met the challenges of being a post-Manifesto plural wife with strength and dedication to the church.  Whether her experience with post-Manifesto plural marriage is typical is a question for future historians.

Comments

  1. Meldrum the Less says:

    Excellent suggestions.

    Some may believe there was a point in time when post-manifesto polygamy ended. (When and which was the last sanctioned marriage?) But I am under the impression that there was more of a gradual decrease in the amount of authorization or permission given over time. The later plural marriages were more secret and increasingly less acceptable to fewer and fewer leaders. The founders of our fundamentalist brothers and sisters differ more in timing of conformity with our mainstream ancestors than in principle.

    I would be interested in any material that would shed further light in this area. I am most interested in secret plural marriages in the 1920′s since my grandparents were invited into them by leaders seemingly still in the mainstream but chose to not participate, (else I might have found myself living in Short Creek.

  2. Thanks, Kevin. Excellent write up.

  3. Hannah is my husband’s great-grandmother (hello, cousin!) and a matter of some family interest. Her daughter Hannah (my husband’s grandmother) never liked to speak of her childhood/being raised under an assumed name. We have recently learned that Victor Hegsted was also involved polygamously post-Manifesto with the woman who then became Elder Richard Lyman’s mistress, Anna Jacobsen. And although Victor had been a bishop, and spent his waning years working in the Salt Lake Temple, his church associations for the early decades of the twentieth century seem to be on the fringe–he was released as bishop to avoid censure, moved around, and worked with the Nathaniel Baldwin Radio Company (which was a cover for a clandestine group of polygamists/fundamentalists). You can read more about these folks (and our common Grover/Heiner/Tupper ancestors) on my blog, http://www.familytreerings.org

  4. My great-great grandfather took a plural wife in 1910. He was released from his stake presidency position, but otherwise did not receive any formal church discipline (that I am aware of.) All of his children from both families were monogamous.

    I always find first person accounts of polygamy interesting. Thanks.

  5. Interesting, Kevin. Thanks for this.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Anita, I’m always happy to run into another Grover cousin! Thanks for the additional information.

  7. I actually stumbled upon Hannah’s story a while back. Fascinating stuff. Didn’t know you were related.

    This actually brings up an interesting question. From what I understand, and depending on which “official statement” I read, these post manifesto (at least post 1904) marriages were “unauthorized” by the church. What does that mean for Hannah’s marriage?

    At what point does the priesthood ordinance become invalid because it was done without authorized approval? MDearest’s comment above refers to a 1910 marriage. Isn’t this getting into Fundentalist territory? Or perhaps these marriages are still valid no matter when they’re performed..? If that’s the case, is there an argument that Warren Jeff’s marriages are eternally valid? I wouldn’t think so but the question still lingers with me. I think of Alma the older who was able to baptize with authority even though his authority to do so was passed down through wicked King Noah. Wouldn’t that makes a case for the validity of fundamentalist marriages today?

    I seem to recall Quinn mentioning something about Kimball or McKay having to issue a statement to the thousands of decendents of post manifesto marriage participants affirming that their parents/grandparents were indeed married under the covenant. Do you have any info about this?

  8. My grandmother was married in 1900 as the second wife. She was also older, in her late 20′s, apparently headed for a life alone. She was married by apostle John Taylor in the temple. Her father was a polygamist. She was an educated woman and capable of supporting herself. I think she did it out of the desire to have a family. I have no proof of that, but Hannah’s story seems to reflect what I suspect.

    Some decades ago the Church relented and said it was permissible to record her children as BIC.

  9. CORRECTION: I checked the date of my ancestor’s second marriage; it was 1903. I think that seven year difference (1903 vs 1910) could be significant.

  10. Familysearch tells us that someone sealed Hannah and Victor Hegsted in 1992 in Logan, although earlier family records indicated “do not seal.” Not sure how this whole polygamy thing works out in the eternities anyway…

  11. Three comments: Kevin, are you joking about no longer calling people up out of the audience to speak? It happens with us every stake conference, adult session. Often it’s someone who has undergone a traumatic experience and come out okay; two years ago it was a saintly woman whose husband had died a few months earlier. She did well but it was tough.
    Second, I loved this line in the article: the current wife of Victor says, “If you want V. you can have him.” Ha ha!
    Three, Hannah’s story sheds light on the actions of Richard R. Lyman, who took a secret “wife” about 1925. Maybe he had this idea that apostles still had the right to approve secret plural marriages even though there was the public disavowal.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    Beth, you’re right that the impromptu call to someone in the audience to come and speak does still happen on occasion. (But back then it was the regular course of things.)

    Yes, that was a great line from the article! I’m glad you checked it out.

  13. Meldrum the Less says:

    I met a girl while in college and since I expressed an interest she introduced me to her grandmother who claimed to have been married to an apostle as a young plural wife in 1912. If my dim memory serves me correctly this grandmother lived on 2nd north in Logan. When her descendants turned in their 4 generation sheet (as was requested back then) it was returned to them with instructions to “correct” it. Being descended from an apostle was no small thing to this family and they resented an official denial of their royal heritage after a lifetime of secrecy and second class citizenship. Apparently they didn’t get the Kimball letter (Greg above asserts Professor Quinn mentioning) affirming their post-manifesto marriage.

    The most controversial plural relationship I am aware of is the second marriage of Apostle Richard R. Lyman. His first wife was Amy Brown. In 1925 he married Anna Hegsted. I have deceased relatives who knew people who claimed to have witnessed this secret plural marriage performed in the Logan temple by a member of the First Presidency. The first wife Amy Brown Lyman was the church Relief Society President in the 1940′s. Apostle Lyman was excommunicated in 1943 for the second marriage and his first wife continued to serve as Relief Society President.

    The second marriage was an open secret. The contemporary correlated explanation that the church leaders suddenly discovered this dedicated apostle living sin without the knowledge of his wives (who were not disciplined) does not make sense. I will defer further speculation on this topic, but as long as we are airing dirty laundry I want to state the historical fact that here is another controversial plural marriage, the details of which are clouded in secrecy and thereby much in need of the shedding of further light.

  14. The Other Clark says:

    Edward Kimball mentions Pres. Kimball’s work on this in his biography “Legnthen Your Stride” IIRC, the phrase was “They slipped through the gate” president woodruff left unlocked. He added that president JF smith “locked the gate” with the second manifesto.

  15. The Other Clark says:

    Meldrum, Journal of Mormon History recently looked at they Richard Lyman case in depth.
    http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/mormonhistory/vol37/iss4/1/

    The case of Joseph Musser (married a 3rd wife in 1907, then called as mission president) also sheds light on how the issue was seen contemporanously.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_White_Musser

  16. Meldrum The Less says:

    Thanks you. I will check it out.

  17. Interesting indeed:

    JF Smith didn’t lock the gate. My great grandfather John M. Canon had 2 polygamous wives married to him after the 2nd manifesto of 1904. I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I’m sure the marriages were quite late… Perhaps the 19 teens or twenties.

    The interesting thing about this is that is was somewhat secret. As far as I understand the children of these marriages did not know they were half siblings. But thought of each other as cousins and the mothers as aunts. I believe the lived in separate locations.

    When John Canon died President JF Smith attended his funeral and the other two wives were on the front row in front of JF Smith.

    To some family members this was proof that JF Smith knew of the marriages and approved of them. It also meant to some of them that the Church leaders were lying and covering up polygamous marriages post 2nd manifesto. Quite a few family members have left the church or had serious struggles with their faith due to this family history.

    Michael Quinn’s writings about post manifesto polygamy were a godsend to me while I was at the BYU.

  18. I need to edit my comment above:

    John M Canon married his first wife Zina Bennion 1893; second wife Margaret Peart 18 July 1900; and third wife Harriet Neff 3 Nov. 1900.

    So all post manifesto, but not post 2nd manifesto as I had thought.

    Still… it has been a point of faith crisis for not a few members of the family that JF Smith was present at the funeral, aware of the solemnized marriages, lied in front of the US Senate, and that the marriages and families were kept secret even among the family.

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