Harriet Benton, 21
- Mary Hawley, 20
Harriet Benton and Lyman Wight were civilly married in New York in 1823. The Wights were among the first converts to the church in Ohio in late 1830, having been previously associated with the Disciples of Christ and Isaac Morley’s common-stock community. Scholars disagree when the Wights’ marriage became polygamous, but most estimate that Mary Hawley, Mary Ann Hobart and Margaret Ballantyne were sealed to Lyman for eternity sometime between the latter half of 1843 and Joseph Smith’s death in 1844. Margaret may have been earlier married to a man by the surname Burgess.
The Wights made substantial contributions to the church almost immediately after joining, serving as early missionaries and settlers in Jackson County, Missouri beginning in 1831. Lyman was involved in rescue mission to Missouri in 1834 and, four years later, participated in the Missouri war, both as an aggressor against the Missourians and as their prisoner. He served in a variety of leadership positions, until his ordination to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1841. As an apostle, Lyman oversaw the church’s effort to produce lumber for the Nauvoo temple at pineries in the Wisconsin territory from 1843 to 1844. Many among the Wisconsin community rejected Brigham Young’s leadership and ultimately followed Wight to settle Zodiac, Texas, in 1847. The following year he was excommunicated from the main body of the church.
Little is known about the circumstances of the Lyman’s plural marriages, though some information has survived in family lore concerning the women’s earlier lives. Mary Ann Hobart was born in Indiana, but nothing else is known about her. Margaret Ballantyne’s family was from Scotland and joined the church around 1840 before migrating to Nauvoo in 1841. Mary Hawley was born in Illinois and joined the church with her family the winter of 1833-1834. The family experienced the Missouri mobs, gathered to Nauvoo and by early 1844 were part of the Wisconsin pinery community. Mary’s father Pierce was a local church leader and a signatory to Lyman’s petition to Joseph Smith in February 1844 to relocate the Wisconsin membership to Texas, at the time an independent republic. It seems probable that Lyman’s marriage to Mary cemented a preexisting relationship with Pierce.
All of Lyman’s wives went with him to Texas and stayed with him throughout his life. Harriet bore six children, all prior to the addition of three wives to the family. Mary and Mary Ann each added two children to the family and Margaret another four. Remarkably, all fourteen children survived to maturity and only one preceded her parents in death. Lyman died in 1858 before he could realize his prophetic intention to lead his Texas colony back to Missouri to build Zion. Mary Hawley preceded him in death by six years. The other three wives relocated to Iowa and joined the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Of the three, only Mary Ann married again, to one of her husband’s followers, Ralph Jenkins in 1865.
Bergera, Gary James. “Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38, no.3 (2005): 1–74.
“Hawley, Pierce,” and “Wight, Lyman,” The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/reference/people
Johnson, Melvin C. Polygamy on the Pedernales: Lyman Wight’s Mormon Villages in Antebellum Texas, 1845–1858 (Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2006).
Johnson, Melvin C. “Wightites in Wisconsin: The Formation of a Dissenting Latter Day Community (1842–1845),” The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 32, no.1 (Spring/Summer 2012): 63–78.
“Langford, Lauren A. and Jermy Wight. “Lyman Wight and his Colony: A Brief History,” The Bandera County Historian 24, no.3 (Fall 2003): n.p.
“Lyman Wight (KWJR-TLX),” “Margaret Ballantyne (LZK2-PHR),” “Mary Hawley (KNHN-451),” and “Mary Ann Hobart (LCDS-9FJ),” FamilySearch, https://www.familysearch.org/
“Margaret Ballantyne Wight,” FindAGrave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/55079481/margaret-wight
Martin, Donell Kohout. “Wight, Lyman,” Texas State Historical Association: Handbook of Texas, https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwi05#:~:text=WIGHT%2C%20LYMAN%20(1796%E2%80%931858).&text=After%20the%20war%20Wight%20moved,children%20in%20Centerville%2C%20New%20York. Accessed 3 Aug 2020.
Smith, George D. Nauvoo Polygamy “…But We Called It Celestial Marriage” (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), 631.
“Wight, Mary Hawley,” The First Fifty Years of the Relief Society,” https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/the-first-fifty-years-of-relief-society/people/mary-hawley-wight?letter=H&lang=eng