I remember this rock house. My great-grandparents lived there.
Grandpa died when I was 4; Grandma lived until I was 9. She was only 4’11” and I was almost as tall as she was. I was very excited about that. That’s what I remember about my great-grandparents. Perhaps Grandma sold the house after Grandpa died. I don’t remember it after I was very young. It’s gone now, torn down.
Mormons were once inclined to write life sketches. I think my Grandpa Len wrote one, too. I don’t think Grandma will. She’s very modest, didn’t even save their love letters from WWII! It killed me! She had just thrown them away before I came for a weekend to interview her and write her life story myself. Oh, it still hurts when I think of the loss.
Great-grandma wrote in the 1920s of going shopping with her girlfriends. It was such an occasion, all the way to the 50s. People dressed for town. Great-grandma complained that even though she covered every bit of her skin, she “still came home brown!” That delights me. Generations later, her redheaded progeny would lay out all summer in the 80s. All I got was freckles, and skin cancer in 2015.
When we visited Utah while my great-grandparents were both alive, we would leave the car in a run for our lives. There was a white bulldog that came running from the large country yard to greet visitors. To a 4-yr-old girl, it was the end of times. That dog’s face is burned in my brain as it rounded the corner, as is the terror I felt at the sight of him. Would he reach me before I got in the door?!
This was an original homestead in Hyrum, Utah, built by my ancestor in the 1860s.
I just found this photo on FamilySearch. I meticulously combed through the names on the left to locate my direct relatives, and to see, once again, if I could weave together the polygamous tapestry of Andrew Andersen’s family.
I’m writing because they’re gone. The sisters he married, with whom he had children, are not photographed here. This is all extended family through my ancestor, his first wife. Children, in-laws, grandchildren, of Alice Brooks and Mr. Andersen.
What of those women? This was taken, I think, in 1899? Polygamy was disavowed in 1890, in a “Manifesto” by the prophet Wilford Woodruff. Where did they go?
Modern Mormons believe the end of polygamy was brought about by divine revelation. God lifted the order. He didn’t. Utah wanted statehood by the late 1800s, and couldn’t get it with multiple wives.
Wilford Woodruff himself continued performing plural marriages after 1890 in Mexico, and technically, Mormons still practice a kind of polygamy, in the form of remarriage available to widows, depending on their gender. Men who remarry can be sealed for Time and All Eternity to any wife that isn’t already sealed to another man, however many times he’s widowed. A woman can remarry for Time only. She’s sealed already.
Of course, it’s known that polygamy was kept something on the down low, even before it was written out of our history. It was always reviled. Men were jailed. Women and children starved. But I had a cab driver once whose ancestor was a legislator at the time of statehood. He wouldn’t disavow his multiple wife, so he was run out of office.
What do you mean, “disavow”? She never existed?
How were these families supported? What of their feelings? Betrayal, heartache, confusion, disgust? “I served the Church and the Lord, and now I disappear?”
It hurts my heart, all of it.
Come to think of it, Mr. Andersen isn’t in the photograph above. He’s among the “not pictured,” top right. Was my ancestor, the first wife, also a wife left? Did she get the house, and another woman, the singular marriage? Mr. Andersen was alive at the time of this photo. Where was he? They did go on missions at all ages back then, even with families, not the pimply-faced children on bicycles of today. Why is he absent?
Where What Why When How?
The whole scenario has my head spinning. It’s painful to consider the actual people. I do understand why. It’s in Bible. These good people really, really believed they were practicing the Restoration of the Gospel. That’s what it’s called to this day. Come hell or high water, polygamy was practiced in God’s ancient church, and would be again.
But why, really? You know?
I don’t like thinking this when I remember the pretty rock house of my childhood.