Correspondent of the Springfield Republican.
Domestic Life at Salt Lake.—The Institution of Polygamy—How they Marry and are Given in Marriage.—The Institutions of Mormondom.—Etc., Etc., Etc.
AUSTIN, NEVADA, June 22, 1865.
I go back to the Mormons, to add some facts and gossip, because their civilization is so remarkable and because they and their institutions are about to come into new and final conflict with the people and the govern-ment of the country. Polygamy introduces many curious cross-relationships, and inter-twines the branches of the genealogical tree in a manner greatly to puzzle a mathema-tician, as well as to disgust the decent-mind-ed. The marrying of two or more sisters is very common; one young Mormon merchant in Salt Lake City has three sisters for his three wives. There are several cases of men marrying both mother (widow) and her daughter or daughters; taking the "old woman" for the sake of getting the young ones; but having children by all. Please to cipher out for yourselves how this mixes things. More disgusting associations are known—even to the marrying of a half-sister by one Mormon. Consider, too, how these children of one father and many mothers—the latter often blood relations—are likely to become crossed again in new marriages, in second or third, if not the first generation, under the operation of this polygamous practice; and it is safe to predict that a few generations of such social practices will breed a physical, moral and mental debase-ment of the people most frightful to con-template. Already, indeed, are such indica-tions apparent, foreshadowing the sure and terrible realization.
Brigham Young's wives are numberless; at least no one seems to know how many he has; and he has himself confessed to forget-fulness in the matter. The probability is he has from 16 to 20 genuine or complete wives, and about as many more women "sealed" to him for heavenly association and glory. The latter are mostly pious old ladies, eager for high seats in the Mormon heaven, and knowing no surer way to get there than to be tacked onto Brigham's angelic procession. Some of these sealed wives of his are the earthly wives of other men; but, lacking faith in their husband's heavenly glory, seek to make a sure thing of it for the future by the grace of gracious Brigham. Down East, you know, many a husband calcu-lates on stealing into heaven under the pious petticoats of his better wife; here the thing is reversed, and women go to heaven because their husbands take them along. The Mormon religion is an excellent institution for maintaining masculine authority in the family; and the greatness of a true Mormon is measured, indeed, by the number of wives he can keep in sweet and loving and especi-ally obedient subjugation. Such a man can have as many wives as he wants. But President Young objects to multiplying wives for men who have not this rare domes-tic gift.
In many cases the Mormon wives not only support themselves and their children but help support their husbands. Thus a clerk or man with similar limited income, who has yielded to the fascinations and desires of three or four women, and married them all, makes his home with No. 1, perhaps, and the rest live apart, each by herself, taking in sewing or washing, or engaging in other employment, to keep up her establishment and be no charge to her husband. He comes around, once in a while, to make her a visit, and then she sets out an extra table and spends all her accumulated earnings to make him as comfortable and herself as charming as possible, so that her fraction of the dear sainted man may be multiplied as much as possible. So the fellow, if he is lazy and has turned his piety to the good account of getting smart wives, may really board around continually, and live in clover, at no person-al expense but his own clothing. Is not this a divine institution indeed!
When President Young goes on a journey through the territory, on private or public business, he takes a considerable retinue with him, and always a wife and a barber. The former is more his servant than his companion in such cases, however. His household is said to be admirably arranged. A son-in-law acts as commissary; the wives have nothing to do with the table or its supply; and whenever they want new clothes or pocket money, they must go to this chief of staff or head of the family bureau. Con-sidering his opportunities, the head of the Church of Latter Day Saints has made a rather sorry selection of women on the score of beauty. The oldest or first is a matronly-looking old lady, serene and sober; the youngest, and present pet, who was obtained, they say, after much seeking, is comely but common-looking, despite the extra millinery in which she alone of the entire family in-dulges. The second president and favorite prophet of the church, Heber Kimball, who in church and theatre keeps the cold from his bare head and the divine afflatus in by throwing a red bandanna handkerchief over it, is even less fortunate in the beauty of his wives; it is rather an imposition upon the word beauty, indeed, to suggest it in their presence. Handsome women and girls, in fact, are scarce among the Mormons of Salt Lake—the fewer Gentiles can show many more of them. Why is this? Is beauty more esthetic and ascetic? Or good-looking women being supposed to have more chances for matrimony than their plainer sisters, do they all insist upon having the whole of one man, and leave the Mormon husbands to those whose choice is like Hobson's? The only polygamist, into whose family circle we were freely admitted, had, however, found two very pretty women to divide him between them; and I must confess they ap-peared to take their share of him quite re-signedly, if not amicably. They were Eng-lish, and of nearly equal years; appeared together in the parlor and public with their husband and dressed alike; but they had the same quiet, subdued, half sad air that characterized all the Mormon women, young and old, that I saw in public and private. There is certainly none of that "loudness" about the Mormon ladies that an Eastern man cannot help observing in the manners of our Western women generally. And I hardly think the difference is to be attributed to the superior refinement and culture of the sisters of the Salt Lake Basin; it rather and really is the sign and mark of their servitude, their debasement.
Brigham Young's younger children, as seen in his school, to which we were admitted, look sprightly and bright and handsome; and some of his grown up daughters are comely and clever; but his older sons give no marked signs of their father's smartness. The eldest, Brigham Jr., is mainly dis-tinguished for his size and strength—he weighs two or three hundred pounds, and is muscular in proportion. He has now taken one of his wives and gone to England with her on business for the church. The next son, John, is a poor and puny looking fellow, with several wives and an inordinate love for whiskey. Brigham's dynasty will die with himself.
There is no more love lost between the soldiers and the Mormons than between the soldiers and the Indians. The "boys in blue" regard both as their natural enemies and the enemies of order and the Govern-ment; and the feeling is cordially reciprocat-ed. There is a provost guard of soldiers in Salt Lake City, but the rent of the building which it occupies is about expiring, and according to a Mormon way of getting rid of an uncomfortable presence, none other is now to be had in its place. Every building singularly happens to be occupied or engaged just now; and the Mormons have evidently hoped to thus drive all these standing menaces, and seducers of their women, as they and the soldiers all are, out of town and into camp, two miles distant. But when Mr. Colfax suggested to two or three of the elders that such a result could only be interpreted at Washington as a compact and contrivance to embarrass the soldiers and defy the Government, they seemed to be incited to a new and original line of thought; and the probability is that the Provost Guard will be able to find some unoccupied building that had not been before thought of.
One of the "institutions" of Mormondom is Peter Rockwell, the accredited leader of the Danites or "Avenging Angels" of the church. We were presented to him, and were invited to eat strawberries and cream at his "ranch," but our engagements did not permit accepting and partaking. Though given to heavy whiskey drinking of late years, he is as mild a mannered man as ever scuttled ship or murdered crews; and I re-ally do not think that any anxiety for our lives entered into our declination of his hos-pitality, unexplainable, as it may seem, that for any less reason we should have omitted any opportunity at strawberries. There is a difference of opinion even among the Gen-tiles as to his real share in the mysterious and terrible takings of parties in bad odor with the saints of the church; though unlettered, he is strong minded and strong-hearted, and unless under the influence of a shocking fanaticism, I can hardly believe from his appearance and manners, he could be guilty of such crimes as are laid at his door by the more implacable and suspicious of the Gentile resident. I should not be willing, however, to set Mr. Fitzhugh Lud-low fall in his way again; there might not be murder, but the author of the largely im-aginative articles in the Atlantic Monthly on the Western journey would certainly feel the sharp vengeance of the injured and irate Avenger. Mr. Ludlow tells the worst stories about Rockwell, such as that he had commit-ted about fifty murders for the church and as many more on private account, as if accept-ed, proved facts; at the same time that he ac-knowledges being his guest, and availing himself of his courtesies to see the country. Mr. Ludlow has not left a very savory repu-tation in all this country—he not only has drawn a very long bow in his published sketches, but he has been careless and wan-ton in his treatment of individuals and im-portant interests. He travelled overland with Mr. Bierstadt, the artist, and there is a very marked contrast in the opinions of them by the people they met on the route.
There is little or no emigration to the Mor-mons this season, at least, not yet. They have been sending out fresh relays of mis-sionaries and recruiting agents to England and the continent of Europe, and expect great returns next year. On the Sandwich Islands they seem to have established a permanent colony, also, to which has just been contrib-uted a new company of about 50, men, wo-men, and children from Utah. Some of the gentiles believe this Sandwich Islands move-ment is towards a new and contingent base; and that if hard pressed by the progress of civilization and the hand of authority, the Mormon leaders will gather up all their available forces and wealth, and retreat thither. It is certain that they must make a change of base of one sort or another before long, either in the matter of polygamy, or else in the location of their earthly taberna-cles and kingdom. Even without the inter-ference of government, they must soon give way here, in their peculiar sway and their revolting institutions, before the progress of population and the diversification of civilized industry that come along with it. Our bach-elor stage-driver out of Salt Lake, who said he expected to have a revelation soon to take one of the extra wives of a Mormon saint, is a representative of the Coming Man. Let the Mormons look out for them.
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.