Artimesia Beman, 19
- Louisa Wing, 36
- Achsah Wing, 56
- Elizabeth Rebecca Ashby, 15
- Julia Josephine Spencer, 18
- Mary Jane Farley, 52
- Ann McMenemy, 68
- Ane Hansen Beckstrom, 45
- Margaret Earl, 56
- Rebecca Abigail Farley, 52
- Frances Fanny Porter, 67
- Matilda Wells, 67
- Inger Nielsen, 57
When Erastus Snow and Artimesia Beman were civilly married in Far West, Missouri in December 1838, they had already invested considerable time and resources in building their religious community. Erastus had completed three lengthy preaching tours since being baptized in 1833. Then, after relocating in 1839 to Nauvoo, Erastus departed for what would become a three-year mission to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts; Artimesia joined him several months into it. While in the east, she bore the first two of her eventual eleven children.
Erastus visited Nauvoo briefly in March 1843 for about a month, during which time Joseph Smith introduced him to plural marriage. In November of the same year, Erastus returned again to Nauvoo, this time bringing his family and several others. In early 1844, Erastus married Artimesia’s close friend Minerva White, and was subsequently sealed for eternity to Minerva’s mother Achsa Wing White and to Achsa’s sister Louisa Wing in early 1846 and, by proxy to Achsa’s deceased daughter, Louisa Wing White. Subsequently, Elizabeth Rebecca Ashby was sealed to Snow in Winter Quarters in 1847, and Julia Josephine Spencer became the final wife to join the Snow family in 1856.
Artimesia’s family had been neighbors and friends to the Smiths in Palmyra and early converts to the church. Several members of the family, elder sister Mary and her husband Joseph Noble, and her sister Louisa, were also living in Nauvoo during this period and were among the first to accept the doctrine of plural marriage. In fact, Louisa’s April 1841 sealing to Joseph Smith, performed by her brother-in-law Joseph Noble, is believed to have been the first plural marriage in Nauvoo. Three years later, on February 15, 1844, Artimesia and Erastus were sealed to each other shortly before his sealing to Minerva White in April.
Given that Artimesia’s sisters Mary and Louisa had known about and participated in polygamy for least three years before Artemisia’s own marriage became polygamous in 1844, it seems \ that she would not have been surprised by her husband’s introduction to the practice by Joseph Smith. It seems likely that Erastus had also already heard of it from other Artemesia or other sources before approached by Joseph. We only know from a public speech Artemesia gave in the late 1870s that, when asked for her consent for Erastus to marry Minerva, she “freely gave it, believing such an order of marriage to be a pure and holy principle, revealed from the heavens” and, at that point having lived it for 35 years, she stated: “I have no desire — to have it changed or abolished.”
Born in Northbridge, Massachusetts, Minerva joined the church at age 18 and with her mother came to Nauvoo in 1840. Minerva later remembered that sometime prior to 1844 Smith himself taught her concerning polygamy and she “received his counsel on this subject as a divine revelation, and never for one moment of [her] life … regretted taking that step.” From that time forward, Minerva held Artemisia as a “dear sister.” In February 1846, Minerva’s mother Achsa and maternal aunt Louisa were sealed to Erastus, likely driven equally by concerns about salvation and the pragmatic demands of the impending westward migration. At the time of their sealings to Erastus, Achsa White was a widow, but Louisa Wing was still married to her first husband, Levi Aldrich, who had remained behind in Massachusetts when Louisa came to Nauvoo with at least three of the Aldrich children.
Elizabeth Rebecca Ashby and her family were converted by Erastus during his 1840–43 mission to the northeastern states. After their conversion, the Ashbys and the Snows grew close, eventually living next to each other in Nauvoo. At the age of seventeen, Elizabeth was sealed to Erastus in 1847 in Winter Quarters, when he returned from the vanguard company to remove his family to the Salt Lake valley.
Julia Josephine Spencer’s parents were New Yorkers converted to Mormonism before she was born. Soon afterwards they moved to St. Louis, but Julia’s mother and her two younger children, including Julia, moved to Nauvoo. Without resources to make the migration west, the three rejoined their family in St. Louis. Approximately four years later, when Julia was thirteen, the three again left; this time for Salt Lake City. To support herself, Julia worked in several homes, possibly for the Snow family, and became friends with eldest daughter Sarah Snow. In 1856 at age 19, Julia was sealed to Erastus.
Ordained an apostle in 1849, Erastus was infrequently home, though by the end of his life he had fathered 36 children by four wives. Artimesia bore eleven children and, with her sister wives, managed the Snow household’s colonization of southern Utah, until her death at age 63. Minerva wrote the news to Erastus, on yet another church mission, closing with “It was a struggle to let her go. I almost felt I wanted to go with her. O! the ties that bound our hearts together.” Minerva bore nine children and was a leader in several church organizations before her death at age 74. Elizabeth bore ten children and was noted for her exquisite hospitality as the hostess of the Snow family hotel in St. George. She died at age 84 in 1915. Julia bore six children and died in 1909.
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