Jennetta Richards, 21
- Sarah Longstroth, 16
Willard Richards and Jennetta Richards (née Richards) married civilly in the fall of 1838 in Lancashire, England. Willard had been introduced to Mormonism by his cousin, Brigham Young, and baptized in 1836 in Kirtland, Ohio. In 1837 Willard arrived England as a missionary and Jennetta was baptized; she was the only member of her family to join the church. In April 1841, the young couple began to move to Nauvoo but, because of illness, Jennetta and her young son remained with Willard’s sisters at Richmond, Massachusetts, while Willard continued to Illinois without her.
It was not until the summer of 1842 that Willard was able to bring Jennetta and young Heber John to Nauvoo. On their way to Illinois, the Richards family stopped in St. Louis to visit the Longstroths, a family he had baptized in 1839 during his mission. While there Willard proposed that sisters Nancy and Sarah Longstroth be sealed to him. Willard had been serving as Smith’s private secretary and recordkeeper for the Nauvoo temple, making him privy to the new doctrine of plural marriage. He possibly also knew of his cousin Brigham’s plural marriages as well. There is some evidence that he tried to explain the doctrine to Jennetta in their correspondence, but what she knew at the time does not appear in the one responsive letter to Willard which remains. Because Sarah and Nancy were respectively 14 and 16 years of age, their parents demurred. Willard suggested that they could, after being sealed, live with their parents until they matured. This proved to be an acceptable proposition for the family and in January 1843 Nancy and Sarah were sealed to Willard for eternity. The sisters returned to St. Louis until the Richards’ and Longstroth’s migration to Utah in 1848. Nancy and Willard had four children, the first child in 1849 in Salt Lake City. Sarah and Willard had three children, the first in 1847.
Willard was sealed to one more woman before Joseph Smith’s death. When Susanna Lee was sealed for eternity to Willard in June 1843, she had been civilly married twice: first to the late John Liptrot, with whom she had six children, and then to a man surnamed Walker. Born in England, she likely joined the church during the early 1840s while Willard was a missionary. Although little is known about how the two met, Susanna’s needs as a widow with six children may have prompted her inclusion in the Richards’ household. As a trained nurse, however, she would have also shared Willard’s professional and personal interest in medicine as he was trained in Thomsonian “botanical” medicine. The moniker “Dr. Richards” derived from this training and practice. Beginning in 1848 after they settled in Utah, Willard and Susanna worked together to train prospective midwives in obstetrics.
Jennetta succumbed to a chronic illness and died in 1845 at age 27 in Nauvoo. By the time he died, at age 49 in Salt Lake City in March 1854, Willard had been sealed to ten plural wives.
At least one historian has argued that Willard’s first plural marriage was not to the Longstroth sisters, but to Nancy Marinda Johnson, the wife of Orson Hyde, who was at that time serving a mission to Palestine. Willard and Nancy Marinda Johnson Hyde began living together in January of 1842 when Jennetta was still in Massachusetts and Willard took over printing responsibilities for the Times and Seasons. The printing office included living quarters which had previously housed Ebenezer Robinson, the former printer of the paper who had been tasked by Joseph Smith with providing for Nancy while her husband served a mission to Palestine. While scholars disagree on the nature of Nancy and Willard’s relationship, a sealing seems unlikely, given that Nancy would be sealed to Joseph Smith later that year. Indeed, Willard’s cohabitation with Nancy—an open secret in Nauvoo—may have provided cover for Joseph to court her without suspicion. Whatever the case, there is no evidence of a sealing or sexual relationship and by summer he had left to bring Jeannetta to Nauvoo.
Anderson, Devery S. “’I Could Love Them All’: Nauvoo Polygamy in the Marriage of Willard and Jennetta Richards,” Sunstone Magazine, June 7, 2013, https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/i-could-love-them-all-nauvoo-polygamy-in-the-marriage-of-willard-and-jennetta-richards/. Accessed 28 July 2020.
“Ann Read Braddock,” FindAGrave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/75258395/ann-braddock. Accessed 28 Jul 2020.
Bergera, Gary James. “Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38, no.3 (2005): 1–74, 23–25.
Garrett, H. Dean. “Richards, Willard,” Utah History Encyclopedia, https://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/r/RICHARDS_WILLARD.shtml. Accessed 28 July 2020.
“Journal, December 1842–June 1844; Book 2, 10 March 1843–14 July 1843,” p. , The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 28, 2020, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/journal-december-1842-june-1844-book-2-10-march-1843-14-july-1843/263.
“Liptrot, Susanna Lee” “Richards, Amelia Elizabeth,” “Richards, Jane,” “Richards, Nanny,” “Richards, Sarah,” and “Whitaker, Alice,” Pioneer Database 1847–1868, https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/overlandtravel/.
“Mary Thompson (L29X-GJT),” “Nanny Lynn Longstroth (KWJR-YZP),” “Rhoda Harriett Foss (KWJ1-F4W),” “Susanna Bayliss (KWJ1-F48),” and “Willard Richards (KWJ5-X12),” FamilySearch, https://www.familysearch.org/.
“Nanny Longstroth” https://www.familysearch.org/service/records/storage/das-mem/patron/v2/TH-300-44905-287-0/dist.txt?ctx=ArtCtxPublic. Accessed 28 July 2020.
“Richards, Jeanetta,” and “Richards, Willard,” The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/reference/people.
“Richards, Mary Thompson,” and “Richards, Rhoda Harriet Foss,” First Fifty Years of the Relief Society, https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/the-first-fifty-years-of-relief-society/people/.
“Richards, Nanny Longstroth,” The Journal of George F. Richards, https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/george-f-richards/people/nanny-longstroth-richards?letter=R&lang=eng. Accessed 28 July 2020.
Stevenson, Joseph Grant, ed. Richards Family History, Volume 3 (Provo, UT: Stevenson’s Genealogical Center, 1991) http://mormonpolygamydocuments.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/JS1625.pdf. Accessed 28 July 2020.
“Thomas Dunn Braddock,” WikiTree, https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Braddock-1326. Accessed 28 July 2020.
Watt, Ronald G. The Mormon Passage of George D. Watt: First British Convert, Scribe for Zion (Logan, UT: University State University Press; University of Colorado Press, 2009), 165.