Sister Wives Series #11: Elizabeth Dowding (the 10th wife)

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Elizabeth “Betsey” Dowding Gardner Hall (1851–1921)

Part 11 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

I had to take a break during my Sister Wives Series (a.k.a. my coming-to-grips-with-an-uncomfortable-polygamous-family-history series) in order to teach a fall semester, celebrate my kids’ birthdays, sew some Halloween costumes, survive an American election, eat a turkey, etc. But perhaps these excuses are just poor attempts to hide the greater struggle I have had writing about Elizabeth Dowding, another of Archie’s 15-year-old brides, a woman whose biographical details I have struggled to pin down. Even as I prepare this short bio to post on BCC, I feel that it is incomplete. I don’t feel like I am done searching for Betsey Dowding yet. But here is what I have found out so far. [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #10: Harriet Armitage (the 9th wife)

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This photo is frequently attributed as Harriet Armitage Larter Gardner Larter (1830–1866), however, there is some dispute that this may actually be a photo of Phoebe Marie Curtis Neach Larter (1852–1949). 

Part 10 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

 

This was a tricky narrative to scrap together (and consequently has taken a bit longer to write than others in this series). There isn’t much I could find on Harriet herself, and even this picture is only maybe a picture of her (some have argued that this is a picture of her first/third husband’s second wife, Phoebe—I’ll explain in a minute). In researching and writing this, it felt a bit like I was dancing and skipping all around but not quite exactly on Harriet’s own story. She is like a skip on an old record; I can almost hear her, but every time I get close the needle jumps and I’m hearing someone else’s story near her.

In the same week of June 1857 (and, according to some records, even the same day) that Archibald married his 15-year-old 8th wife, Sarah Jane, he also married his 9th wife, 27-year-old Harriet Armitage [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #9: Sarah Jane Hamilton (the 8th wife)

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Sarah Jane Hamilton Gardner Howard (1842–1924)

Part 9 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

The year after Archie was married to 34-year-old Norwegian Serena, Archie was married and sealed to his youngest—and, at six feet, his tallest—wife yet: his 8th wife, Sarah Jane Hamilton. Sarah Jane married Archibald just ten days after her 15th birthday. She was the youngest of Archie’s wives by nearly a decade, and she was a full 24 years younger than his first wife, Margaret (my g-g-g-grandmother). Two years into this marriage, Sarah Jane would give birth to a boy, James Hamilton Gardner. This would be the only child she and Archie would have together, as Sarah Jane would leave Archibald soon afterward, followed by a divorce. [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #8: Serena Torjusdatter Evensen (the 7th wife)

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Tarjer Serine “Serena” Torjusdatter Evensen Gardner (1822–1911)

Part 8 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

“Let us think with pride of our pioneer dead
And follow the exemplary lives they led.”
—Annie Gardner Francis (Serena’s youngest child)

Archibald’s 7th wife, Terjer Serine Torjusdatter Evensen, was born in Risør, Norway, an untamed land surrounded by lakes and hills, fjords and fens, wrapped round with a coastline that had already been an important fishing and shipping port for hundreds of years. [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #7: Jane Park (the 6th wife)

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Jane Park Gardner (1834–1916)

Part 7 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

Five months after marrying the schoolteacher Laura Althea, 38-year-old Archibald courted and married his sixth wife, 18-year-old Jane Park, for time and all eternity on August 24, 1852. Jane had known Archie since she was a girl; she was born in Kent County, Canada (like Archie’s first children), and her family had joined the LDS Church there. The Park family was in the same company of Saints as the Gardners when they left Canada for Winter Quarters. Jane’s family, however, stayed in Missouri for a few more years to earn money for the trek west and did not reach the Salt Lake Valley until 1850, three years after Archibald and Margaret had helped to settle Mill Creek, Utah. [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #6: Laura Althea (the 5th wife)

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Laura Althea Thompson Gardner (1834–1899)

Part 6 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

Laura Althea was 17 years old when she married 37-year-old Archibald Gardner as his fifth wife on March 3, 1852. By this time, Archibald’s first wife, Margaret, was 34-years-old with 5 living children, her youngest about a month old. Abigail, the second wife, was 38 years old with seven living children. Abigail’s daughter and Archie’s third wife, Mary Ann, was 20 years old with two children in the three years since her marriage (her baby William would die before the end of the year, however). Big Liz, Archie’s fourth wife, was 19 years old, and had been married to Archibald less than a year when he married Laura Althea. Althea met Archibald in Cottonwood, Utah, where she was the schoolteacher for some of his children, working from a one-room log house in Mill Creek. Later, Althea would teach English to Archie’s seventh wife, a Norwegian named Terjer Serine (or “Serena”). [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #5: Elizabeth Elinor Lewis (the 4th wife)

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Elizabeth Elinor “Big Liz” Lewis Raglin Gardner (1832–1879?)

Part 5 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

Some men have got a dozen wives and others have a score
And the man that’s got but one wife is a-lookin’ out for more,
And sing Tittery Irie-Aye, sing Tittery Irie-Oh—

Now young men don’t get discouraged, get married if you can
But take care don’t get a woman that belongs to another man,
And sing Tittery Irie-Aye, sing Tittery Irie-Oh—

Songs of Mormon Pioneers, p. 4

Family narratives have unfortunately not been very kind to Archibald Gardner’s 4th wife, the mysterious singer known for her striking good looks that everybody called “Big Liz.” [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #4: Mary Ann Bradford (the 3rd wife)

Part 4 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

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Mary Ann Bradford Gardner (1831–1864)

Mary Ann was 17 years old when she and her 35-year-old mother both married 34-year-old Archibald Gardner as his second and third wives.

She was 32 years old when she died after giving birth to her 9th child. She is buried in the Salt Lake Cemetery and shares a headstone with her infant daughter, who also died that day, Abigail Jane.[1]

[Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #3: Abigail Sprague (the 2nd wife)

Part 3 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

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Abigail Sprague Bradford Gardner (1813–1879)

Abigail was a tough, stout, and gregarious pioneer woman. She had a sense of humor even in the wake of great tragedies. She wasn’t known as the most beautiful of Archie’s wives, but she also doesn’t seem to have been the type of woman who would have cared about looks. At one point she was heavy enough that she would handily keep her thimble and spool of thread in her fat rolls, where they would stay put until she needed them (I find this detail amazing and delightful). She found great pleasure in smoking her corncob pipe as well as in telling delicious and terrible stories to children about witches and fairies. She had tremendous respect for Native Americans and learned their languages. She made friends with Indians and served them, eventually adopting a young Indian girl who had been stolen from her home by a warring tribe and sold to Abigail’s brother for a pony. Abigail treated Fanny like her own daughter, and Archibald seems to have welcomed her into his fold without complaint.[1] Abigail could frequently be found smoking peace pipes in Native American circles, doing her part to build bridges between the two cultures and counteract much of the fear and suspicion harbored on both sides. [Read more…]

Sister Wives of the Traveling Pants #2: Margaret Livingston (the 1st wife)

Part 2 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

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Margaret Livingston Gardner (1818–1893)

My great-great-great grandmother Margaret was born October 12, 1818, in Lochgilphead, Argyllshire, a small maritime village on the western coast of the Scottish highlands near the Forest of Achnabreck, nestled between the Firth of Clyde and Loch Craignish, with the Atlantic Ocean just beyond that. Margaret’s family immigrated to Canada when she was only two, so I’m not sure she ever remembered much of the dark waters and wild heathered moors that had been her birthplace. [Read more…]

Sister Wives of the Traveling Pants: Confronting My Polygamous Ancestry

Part 1 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

“Genealogy, I am doing it, my genealogy! And I don’t know why I am doing it—it’s terrifying me!” So sang my young adult self, as a joke, to some college roommates during a Sunday School Family History course after realizing that my great-great-grandparents were also first cousins (double-first-cousins, actually, since their fathers were brothers and their mothers were sisters). It turns out that genealogy work doesn’t always give one warm fuzzies. And, literal kissing cousins aside, the real deep-seated anxiety I have always had with my family history concerns my great-great-great grandfather and his eleven plural wives. [Read more…]