Elizabeth Buchanan, 19
- Rebecca Atwood, 18
- Subsequent Marriages:
- James Wareham
- Mary Ann Buchanan, 21
- Elizabeth Jane Tuttle, 22
- Rosilla M. Carter, 20
Joseph W. Coolidge and Elizabeth Buchanan were married civilly in 1834 in Illinois, not far from where Nauvoo would be built five years later. It is unknown when exactly Joseph and Elizabeth’s marriage became polygamous. In August 1870, Coolidge stated “Joseph Smith had sealed more than one wife” to him. He did not specify the women’s names or the dates of these sealings. Scholars argue they would have been first wife Elizabeth and her younger sister Mary Ann Buchanan. In January of 1846, Elizabeth Jane Tuttle and Rebecca Atwood were sealed to Coolidge in the newly completed Nauvoo Temple, followed a month later by Rosilla M. Carter.
According to family records, the Buchanan family had moved to Illinois from Kentucky in the mid-1830s and converted soon after arriving. Joseph was a transplant from Maine via Ohio, and most likely converted around the time he was married to Elizabeth. By the end of January 1838, Joseph, Elizabeth, and her extended family joined the main body of the Latter-day Saints at Far West, Missouri, only to be forced out by the “Mormon War” at the end of the year. They migrated to their church’s new settlement in Nauvoo. Joseph soon enlisted in the Nauvoo Legion and, in April 1844, was admitted to the Council of Fifty to participate in the planning for resettlement in the West. Elizabeth became an early member of the Relief Society.
In 1846, the expanded Coolidge and Buchanan families made the exodus from Nauvoo together and stopped at the Saints’ winter encampment in Council Bluff, Iowa. According to family lore, it was during this time that Joseph found himself at odds with Brigham Young’s plan to settle the Great Basin of the Rockies. Joseph evidently felt the Northwestern territory was the better choice and his decision to explore further west than the Great Basin may have been motivated by this preference. Regardless, he returned from his Western exploration to his family in Iowa by 1851 and remained there with first wife Elizabeth and their children, until his death in 1871. Elizabeth bore three children, one of whom died it her first year. Elizabeth died in 1913, one week shy of her 98th birthday.
Joseph’s plural wives, however, did not remain in Iowa for long. By 1850, Rosilla had left Joseph to join her younger sister Matilda as a plural wife of Lyman Wight’s son, Orange Lysander Wight, in the Wightite settlement of Zodiac, Texas. In 1851, Mary Ann left Joseph and married Preston Guard in Iowa and, probably after his death in 1884, departed with her children for Butte, Montana, where she died in 1912 at age 84. In 1852, Elizabeth Jane Tuttle and her two young daughters travelled with John Buchanan (the brother of her sister wives Elizabeth and Mary Ann) and his family to Manti, Utah, where she became a plural wife to John Darwin Chase, Sr.. Rebecca Atwood and her two children emigrated to Utah in 1864, settling near the Buchanan family in Manti, where Rebecca was married to the recently widowed James Wareham in 1868. Elizabeth was the only one of his wives to stay married to Joseph.
Bergera, Gary James. “Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38, no.3 (2005): 1–74.
“Coolidge, Eleanor,” “Coolidge, Eliza Jane,” “Coolidge, Elizabeth Jane,” “Coolidge, Rebecca Atwood,” and “Wareham, James,” Pioneer Database, 1847–1868, https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/overlandtravel/.
“Coolidge, Joseph, Wellington,” Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/person/joseph-wellington-coolidge.
“Desdemony Rebecca Atwood (KWVG-K3N),” “James Wareham (KWVZ-9T2),” “Mary Ann Buchanan (KWVP-2KW),” https://www.familysearch.org/.
“Elizabeth Buchanan Coolidge,” The First Fifty Years of Relief Society, https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/the-first-fifty-years-of-relief-society/people/elizabeth-buchanan-coolidge?letter=C&lang=eng.
History of Mills County, Iowa Containing a History of the County, Its Cities, Towns, Etc. . . . (Des Moines, IA: State Historical Co., 1881), 674–75.
Johnson, Melvin C. Polygamy on the Pedernales: Lyman Wight’s Mormon Village in Antebellum Texas (Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2006).
“Joseph Wellington Coolidge Family Group Sheet,” http://colebin.com/michael/jcoolidge.htm.
Lundwall, James Rodney, comp. The Pioneer Heritage of the Miller/Lewis Family (Toole, UT: James Rodney Lundwall, 2012), 26.
“Mary Ann Buchanan Guard,” FindAGrave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/9003620/mary-ann-guard.
Smith, Joseph F., Journal, 28 Aug. 1870, in Joseph F. Smith, Papers, Journals, 1856–1883, 1909, 1912. Joseph F. Smith, Papers, 1854–1918. Church History Library. MS 1325, bxs. 1–4.