Smith, W.

Root Marriage

William Smith, 21
Caroline Amanda Grant, 19
1833-02-13

First Plural

Mary Ann Covington, 27
1843
Subsequent Marriages:
Chauncey Walker West
Joseph Albert Stratton

Subsequent Plural

Susan M Cooney Clark
1844
Hannah Maria Libby, 16
1845
Sarah Ann Libby, 26
1845
Priscilla Mogridge, 21
1845
Elizabeth Weston
1845
Mary Jane Rollins, 15
1845-06-22
Mary Jones
1845-08
Henriette Rice, 14
1845-08-08
Abeanade E Archer,
1846
Rhoda Alkire, 16
1846-12-03
Roxey Ann Grant, 22
1847-05-18
Eliza Elisie Sanborn,, 30
1857-11-12
Rosella Goyette, 59
1889-12-21
Mary Ann Covington
William Smith, c. 1862

Joseph Smith’s young brother William B. Smith was married to Caroline Amanda Grant for eleven years before he was sealed for eternity to his first plural wife, Mary Ann Covington Sheffield. Caroline was baptized in Pennsylvania in 1833; shortly afterwards her family had migrated to Kirtland, Ohio, where she met and civilly married William later that year. By the spring of 1844, Caroline’s health had been failing for several years and she and William had been seeking treatment for her “dropsy” with little success. Mary Ann and William were most likely sealed during his brief trip to Nauvoo in the spring of 1844. When he returned permanently in 1845 with Caroline, it would be only three weeks before she succumbed to her illness.

Baptized in England in 1841, Mary Ann immigrated in 1843, leaving behind an abusive husband, James Sheffield. She travelled with her elder brother, Beryl, who was also a recent convert. According to an affidavit that she gave in the 1890s, Mary Ann recounted that she had first been introduced to the principle of plural marriage by Joseph Smith shortly after her arrival in 1843. Smith had told her “his brother William wished to marry [her] as a wife in plural marriage if [she] was willing to consent to it.” Mary Ann remembered she did not spend much time with William prior to their sealing in spring of 1844, nor did they have a courtship. Indeed, after their sealing she did not see him again until his return from Philadelphia a year later in May 1845. Although he “treated [her] very well,” Mary Ann considered William’s October 1845 excommunication for apostasy and subsequent departure from Nauvoo a de facto divorce. In 1846, she civilly married Joseph Stratton, to whom she was sealed for eternity after his death. She was then sealed for time to Chauncey Walker West in 1851. Mary Ann died in Ogden, Utah in 1908 at the age of 93.

Despite a marriage of twelve years to his first wife Caroline, and a favorable assessment by Mary Ann for treating her “very well,” William’s subsequent marriages rarely lasted long, perhaps due to his volatile personality and his having been excommunicated for public defamation of church leadership in early October 1845. In June 1845, William had been sealed for eternity to Mary Jane Rollins, but they separated just months later and ultimately divorced in 1846. In August 1845, William was sealed for eternity to at least three additional women: Priscilla Mogridge, Henriette Rice, and Mary Jones. Henriette and Mary left him by the end of the year and, in mid-1846, Priscilla remarried non-member Samuel R. Lowry in St. Louis. At time of these sealings, William may have also been sealed for eternity to Elizabeth Weston, who appears to have separated from him by the end of the year.

Although there is no known contemporary evidence, William’s nephew Joseph Fielding Smith claimed in the early 20th century that sisters Sarah Ann and Hannah Mariah Libby were sealed for eternity to William prior to their sealing to George A. Smith, William’s first cousin, in October 1845. Baptized in May 1844, if the Libby sisters were indeed sealed to William, it would have taken place during his May 1844–May 1845 oversight of the Latter-day Saint churches in the eastern states. Scholars have speculated that the Libby sisters’ subsequent sealing to George A. Smith was likely due to William’s excommunication, which occurred only weeks before their arrival in Nauvoo.

William refused to follow Brigham Young to the Rockies in 1846. Instead, he associated with James J. Strang and Lyman Wight. During these years, Smith married as many as five more women: Rhoda Alkire, Abenade Archer, Rosanna “Roxey Ann” Grant (first wife Caroline’s sister), Eliza Elsie Sanborn, and, several years before his death, Roselia Goyette. Little is known about William’s possible civil marriage to Rhoda Alkire. Limited contemporary evidence indicates that before his 1847 excommunication from James J. Strang’s church, William was accused of adultery with Abenade Archer, and scholars have speculated that she may have been polygamously married to him. William’s 1847 marriage to Roxey Ann Grant ended in divorce in 1853, after he was charged with deserting her and their two children and raping another woman, Rosanna Hook. In 1857, William married Eliza Elsie Sanborn, with whom he had three children. He eventually affiliated with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, led by his nephew, which eschewed polygamy. After Eliza’s death in 1889, William married Roselia Goyette later that year. William died at the age of 82 in 1893.


Sources

Bates, Irene M. “William Smith, 1811–93: Problematic Patriarch,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 16, no.2 (Summer 1983): 11–23.

Bergera, Gary James. “Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38, no.3 (2005): 1–74, 36.

Edwards, Paul M. “William B. Smith: The Persistent ‘Pretender,’” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18, no.2 (Summer 1985): 128–139.

O’Donovan, Connell, “Hannah Maria Libby (Smith Smith)” and  “Sarah Ann Libby (Smith Smith),” http://www.connellodonovan.com

O’Donovan, Connell. “The Orphan Child: Priscilla Mogridge Smith Lowry Williams Staines (1823–1899),” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 32, no.1 (Spring/Summer 2012): 79–113.

“Smith, William B.,” The Joseph Smith Papershttps://www.josephsmithpapers.org/person/william-b-smith.

Walker, Kyle R. “William B. Smith and the ‘Josephites’,” Journal of Mormon History 40, no.4 (Fall 2014): 73–129. 

West, Mary Ann, deposition. Temple Lot Transcript, Respondent’s Testimony, Volume 2, pp. 495–513, https://archive.org/details/TempleLotCaseTranscript