Kimball

Root Marriage

Heber Kimball, 21
Vilate Murray, 16
1822-11-07

First Plural

Sarah Perry Peake, 30
1842
Previous Marriages:
William Spencer Noon

Subsequent Plural

Lydia Kenyon, 42
1844
Ruth Wellington, 35
1844-07-23
Alice Ann Gheen, 16
1844-09-10
Sylvia Porter, 26
1844-09-19
Frances Jessie Swan, 22
1844-09-30
Mary Ellen Abel, 26
1844-10-01
Nancy Maria Winchester, 16
1844-10-10
Charlotte Chase, 19
1844-10-10
Sarah Lawrence, 18
1844-10-12
Martha McBride, 39
1844-10-12
Ellen Sanders, 19
1844-11-05
Lucy Walker, 18
1845-02-08
Clarissa Cutler, 20
1845-02-29
Sarah Ann Whitney, 19
1845-03-17
Lois Alexander Trumble, 32
1845-09-27
Emily Trask Cutler, 17
1845-12
Amanda Trimble Gheen, 15
1845-12
Mary Fielding, 44
1846-01-15
Harriet Sanders, 22
1846-01-26
Ruth Amelia Reese, 28
1846-02-03
Christeen Golden, 23
1846-02-03
Sophrona Melinda Harmon, 21
1846-02-03
Sarah Stiles, 52
1846-02-03
Abigail Pitkin, 48
1846-02-03
Hulda Barnes, 39
1846-02-03
Laura Pitkin, 55
1846-02-03
Mary Huston, 27
1846-02-03
Ruth L Crosier, 27
1846-02-03
Theresa Arathusa Morley, 19
1846-02-03
Sarah Scott, 29
1846-02-03
Mary Ann Shefflin, 30
1846-02-04
Prescindia Lathrop Huntington, 35
1846-02-04
Abigail Buchanan, 44
1846-02-07
Sarah Schuler Buckwalter, 44
1846-02-07
Elizabeth Hereford, 56
1846-02-07
Rebecca Swain, 47
1846-02-07
Dorothy Moon, 42
1846-03-14
Margaret Worrell McMinn, 17
1847
Mary Dull, 59
1848-05-21
Hannah Moon, 53
1856-03-14
Eliza Doty, 47
1856-04-11
Adelia Almira Wilcox, 28
1856-10-09
Mary Whiting, 48
1856-10-09
Mary Smithies, 19
1857-01-25
Vilate Murray
Heber C. Kimball, c. 1850

Civilly married in 1822, Heber C. Kimball and Vilate Murray Kimball joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1832 and were quickly drawn into leadership and its associated hardships on marital life. Heber was a member of the original Quorum of Twelve Apostles and served several missions. Vilate was a member of the Nauvoo Relief Society and among the first women to perform ordinances in the Nauvoo Temple. When Sarah Noon (Sarah Perry Peake) joined the Kimball family in 1842 with her two daughters, Vilate and Heber already had five children of the eventual eleven they would have together.

The Kimballs had been introduced to the principle of plural marriage in mid-summer of 1841, when Heber, along with other members of the Quorum, were recalled from their missions. While the exact date of the Kimballs’ acceptance of plural marriage is unknown, the difficulties it posed for them are remembered. As recollected by Kimball family lore, Joseph Smith introduced the subject to Heber in the form of a test: Would he agree to Vilate’s becoming Smith’s plural wife? After three days of fasting, prayer and tears, Heber acquiesced and was relieved to learn that he need not give up Vilate, but rather marry another woman as well. According to the Kimballs’ daughter Helen, when Heber finally shared with Vilate the reason for his recent distress, she accepted the news calmly because of independent spiritual validation of it. 

Having been reassured by Vilate’s acceptance of the principle, Heber first decided on sisters Abigail Pitkin and Laura Pitkin, who were among Vilate’s best friends and had been part of her household during his mission to England, as well as having assisted Heber as he fell ill in Quincy on his way to the mission field. It seems certain that this proposition was an evasion on Kimball’s part, an attempt to preserve his family’s sexual status quo as far as possible. Joseph Smith, at least, treated it as such, and told Heber that he would lose his apostleship if he did not accept all the responsibilities of plural marriage. Consequently, in late 1841 or early 1842, Heber married Sarah Peak Noon (1811-1873). He was eventually also sealed to both Pitkin sisters in 1846, on the eve of the Church’s departure from Nauvoo.

Sarah Perry Peake, an English convert, was married to William Spencer Noon; they and their two young daughters emigrated to the US aboard the same ship that brought Kimball home from England in 1841. William, however, had left his family in Nauvoo and returned to England shortly after arrival. It is not known whether he was a church member, or whether he came to Nauvoo at Sarah’s insistence. Nor is the reason for their marital discord known, although as was often alleged in such disputes that William may have had “drunken and dissolute habits.” On her own and responsible for her daughters, Sarah accepted the stability offered by the Kimball family. Nevertheless, at least one record shows she was sealed for eternity also to William in 1842 and 1846. This is likely a mistake.

According to his biographer, Heber had thirty-seven wives, 16 of whom left him and 17 of whom bore him children. He had 65 children, most of whom (57) came from what his biographer calls his “basic family” of twelve wives or the family which lived in proximity to one another. He supported nine other wives; none of whom bore him any children. Virtually nothing is known of six of his wives. Vilate and Sarah both remained with Heber through the many challenges and marriages which characterized these years. Sarah bore four children to Heber, dying in Utah in 1873. Vilate died in Salt Lake City in 1867, a year before Heber.


Sources

Gary James Bergera, “Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841-44 Dialogue (Fall, 2005), 12.

Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, Woman’s Exponent, vol. 10 (Oct 15, 1881), 74.

Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, “Scenes and Incidents in Nauvoo,” Women’s Exponent 10, no. 10 (October 15, 1881), 74.

Stanley B. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer (Urbana, Ill: University of Chicago Press, 1981).

Stanley B. Kimball, ed., Heber C Kimball: On the Potter’s Wheel: The Diaries of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987)

Edward W. Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom (New York: 1877)