Martha McBride, 21
First & Only Plural
- Philinda Clark Eldredge, 32
- Previous Marriages:
- Levi Newton Merrick
- Subsequent Marriages:
- Daniel Hutchison Keeler
Vinson Knight and Martha McBride were early converts to the church, accepting baptism in 1834 in New York and joining the Saints at Kirtland, Ohio the following year. Vinson held church office as a high priest and bishop, was a member of the Nauvoo City Council, warden of Nauvoo’s schools, an aide-de-camp to Joseph Smith in the Nauvoo Legion, and laid one of the cornerstones for the Nauvoo Temple. Martha was one of the original members of the Nauvoo Women’s Relief Society. Shortly before Vinson’s untimely death in mid-1842, he was sealed to Philinda Clark Eldredge. Philinda and her first husband Levi N. Myrick were natives of Vermont and were baptized in the early 1830s. The Haun’s Mill massacre of June 1838 killed Levi and their nine-year old son, Charles, who was mortally wounded and succumbed about a month later. The widowed Philinda was left to care for her three surviving children alone.
According to family lore, Martha “was told by Joseph Smith that she was the first woman to give her consent for her husband to enter into plural marriage.” Evidently, plural marriage was not a difficult choice for Martha. She is reported to have known that something was troubling her husband, but he would not speak of it. One day he returned from Philinda’s home, having taken her a basket of produce, and “Vinson explained to Martha that he had been told [probably by Joseph Smith] to enter plural marriage and that, if he had to, this Sister Merrick [Philinda] would be the one he could help best. Martha’s reply is said to have been, ‘Is that all?’” (Belknap Family Organization). Philinda was sealed to Vinson in 1842.
The Knights’ polygamous family did not last long. Vinson died in late July 1842. A month later, Martha was sealed for time to Joseph Smith and, after Smith’s 1844 death, was sealed for time to Heber C. Kimball; thus, preserving her eternal kinship to Vinson. In 1850, Martha migrated to the Utah territory and, after Kimball’s death in 1868, Martha remained unmarried until her death in 1901 at age 97 in Weber, Utah. Four of her seven children with Vinson lived into adulthood. Martha had no children with Joseph Smith and one child with Heber, a boy who died in infancy.
In February 1843 after Vinson’s death, Philinda married Daniel Hutchinson Keeler. When the main body of Saints followed Brigham Young west in 1846, Philinda and Daniel retreated to St. Louis. They had two children in addition to her surviving three from her first marriage. In 1852, they began travelling to Utah, but Philinda died near Fort Laramie, Wyoming at age 43.
Baugh, Alexander L. “Joseph Young’s Affidavit of the Massacre at Haun’s Mill,” BYU Studies Quarterly 38, no.1 (1999): 189–202, 200n53.
Belknap Family Organization. “Vinson Knight (1804–1842),” http://wp.belnapfamily.org/histories-and-documents/vinson-knight-1804-1842/. Accessed 3 Aug 2020.
Bergera, Gary James. “Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38, no.3 (2005): 1–74, 14–15.
“Charles Myrick (LH8L-LK5),” FamilySearch, https://www.familysearch.org/
Compton, Todd M. In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998).
Hales, Brian C. “Biographies of Joseph’s Plural Wives: Martha McBride,” https://josephsmithspolygamy.org/plural-wives-overview/martha-mcbride/
“Martha McBride Knight Smith Kimball,” FindAGrave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/32003029/martha-mcbride_knight_smith_kimball
“Keeler, Philinda Clark Eldredge Merrick (Myrick) Knight” The First Fifty Years of Relief Society. https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/the-first-fifty-years-of-relief-society/people/philinda-clark-eldredge-merrick-myrick-knight-keeler?letter=M&lang=eng
“Knight, Vinson,” The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/person/vinson-knight
“Knight, Martha,” and “Myrick, Philinda Myrick,” Pioneer Database 1847–1868, https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/overlandtravel/pioneers/43437/martha-knight