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2/26/2012 9:59:00 PM
Romney, other Mormon ancestors in Arizona were once jailed for religious beliefs
Miles Park Romney was the great-grandfather of Mitt Romney, as well as Larry Romney and Marsha Romney Stratton.
Miles Park Romney was the great-grandfather of Mitt Romney, as well as Larry Romney and Marsha Romney Stratton.
Joanna Dodder Nellans
The Daily Courier

Editor's Note - This is the second in a series of two stories about the Romney family history in Arizona.

The 1880s were a time of extreme hardship for Mormons, and those hardships were centered in Arizona.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made a concerted effort to colonize Arizona in 1876-81, calling its members from Utah to establish colonies along several Arizona rivers.

Just a year later in 1882 the federal Edmunds Act cracked down on polygamy, making it a felony. It also made polygamists ineligible for public office.

More than 1,000 Mormons were imprisoned in the 1880s because of their faith, estimated Carmon Hardy, a professor emeritus of history at Cal State Fullerton who is an expert on Mormon history.

"I thought it would have been a much more noble thing for our government to leave them alone," Hardy said.

St. Johns became a center of strife for the Mormons in Arizona, as factions fought for control of the community's land and water. Enemies of the Mormons tried to use the new stronger polygamy law to drive out the Mormons.

Battles over land lot jumping were common, noted Arizonans Eric Kramer and Carol Sletten in their new book "Story of the American West." They extensively researched local newspapers and Mormon papers.

At the direction of the church in 1879, Mormon Ammon Meshach Tenney bought land from a powerful local merchant named Simon Barth to establish the Mormon colony at St. Johns, but Mexican squatters already were living there. Existing white settlers also established an anti-Mormon faction called the St. John's Ring. Some tried to "jump" the land the Mormons already had purchased.

The local election judge refused to allow Mormon Bishop David King Udall to vote.

Amidst this strife in 1882, Ammon's father Nathan was shot dead while trying to keep the peace. The Mormon church sent more members to St. Johns to strengthen their numbers.

Miles Park Romney started a Mormon newspaper called the Orion Era in St. Johns, while the anti-Mormon faction started a paper called the Apache chief. The editor was the same judge who had prevented King from voting. He wrote editorials calling for the killing of Mormons.

In 1884 Bishop Udall and Joseph Crosby were official witnesses to Romney's homestead claim. At the urging of the St. John's Ring, the three Mormons were arrested on charges of perjury, but a grand jury wouldn't indict them.

In 1884 a federal grand jury in the territorial capital of Prescott indicted five prominent St. Johns Mormons for polygamy: Ammon Tenney, William Flake, Peter Christofferson, Christopher Kempe and James Skousen.

Their trial was the first of its kind in Arizona, noted JoAnn Bair and Richard Jensen in their article "Prosecution of the Mormons in Arizona Territory in the 1880s," published in the University of Arizona's historical periodical "Arizona and the West" in 1977.

Flake and Skousen pleaded guilty and received six-month sentences in the Yuma territorial prison.

But Tenney, Kempe and Christofferson, who refused to plead guilty, were convicted in December 1884 and sentenced to 3.5 years in the new House of Corrections in Detroit.

Within two months of the sentencings, Mormon Church President John Taylor was publicly encouraging Arizona followers to organize settlements in Mexico.

Bishop Udall was the only man who escaped prosecution because authorities couldn't find his second wife.

Emboldened by the convictions, federal authorities revived the perjury charges against Romney, Crosby and Udall in 1885.

Deciding he couldn't get a fair trial, Romney skipped bail and fled to Mexico with his then four wives and their children. William Flake, the co-founder of Snowflake, had to find a way to cover Romney's $2,000 bond.

Romney wrote a letter to church President John Taylor while traveling to Mexico. He relates how he had been forced to keep his family on the move for nine months, and discusses his contempt for U.S. District Attorney Sumner Howard, who was based in Prescott.

Udall talked about jumping bail and fleeing as well. Others offered to cover his bail bond. He stayed but said he was not permitted to testify on his behalf. Even though a jury acquitted Crosby, it convicted Udall.

Udall was crushed, saying he'd rather be convicted of polygamy because the perjury conviction attacked his character. In the Prescott jail awaiting sentencing, he wrote about how his family was homeless and without his financial support.

Local newspapers supported the conviction. Meanwhile the territorial legislature in Prescott enacted its own anti-polygamy law that prohibited polygamists from voting or holding public office.

But church leaders fought back, getting key witnesses to submit written statements that Udall had not perjured himself.

Mormons generally voted Democratic back then, and they convinced newly elected Democratic U.S. President Grover Cleveland to pardon Udall at the end of 1885. Cleveland was the first Democratic president since 1869.

Church leaders then obtained support from Howard, Territorial Gov. Conrad Meyer Zulick and others for a presidential pardon for the three St. Johns Mormon leaders serving time in Detroit. Cleveland signed their pardons in October 1886 after they had served nearly two years in prison.

Zulick, the first Democrat to ever hold the office of territorial governor, in turn pardoned many other polygamists.

Historians have cited the desire of Zulick and Cleveland to foster more Democratic voters as a major reason behind the pardons.

St. Johns changed the name of the town's main street to Cleveland, while Udall and his second wife Ida named their first son Grover Cleveland Udall in 1887.

The territorial Legislature repealed its anti-polygamy law in 1887.

Mormon leaders started encouraging more followers to be Republicans in order to split their votes for both parties, thereby reducing fears that they might be trying to exert too much political block influence. The political Udalls of today are Democrats, while the Flakes, Romneys and Tenneys generally are Republicans.

By 1890 the Mormon church stopped sanctioning polygamy. In a further effort to stay low key, the Mormon church stopped sending large groups of settlers to Arizona.

Miles Park Romney died in Mexico in 1904 before his family returned to the U.S. during the Mexican Revolution in 1912. Mitt's father George, a Michigan governor who also ran for president, was born in Mexico in 1907. Mitt Romney descends from Miles Romney's first of five wives.

While some small polygamist groups still live in the remote northern fringes of Arizona, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not sanction their practices.

Related Stories:
• Romney family history in Arizona goes way back

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Article comment by: R J

Why doesn't God have a name? God is a title, not a name. There have been gods throughout the entire history of mankind, and they all had names. What gives?

Posted: Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Article comment by: Heaven Leigh

In response to Rex Whitmore, what do you mean by the "original" Jesus. Jesus is Jesus from day one, the "never changing". If God really came and spoke to Joseph Smith then why dont the mormons have any proof of this. The 10 commandments are in storage along with other proof, no physical evidence has ever been seen to back up Joseph Smith's story. Just sayin..........I would love to see it.

Posted: Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Article comment by: Retired Exec Fortune 200 Company

Fasting Badger offers an interesting slant on things. His fascinating references to the Mountain Meadows Killings and his alternative counterview to the Courier description of regional Mormon history and the Romney family are intriguing. I disagree with him and others when they criticize the Courier's timely endorsement of Romney as a candidate however.
On the other hand, postings from Leigh Greene are an obvious transparent pitch for a Rick Santorum dead-end lost cause come election time.
I recall primaries in last election cycle when Rush Limbaugh and gang were giddy watching Hillary Clinton & Obama slug it out. Now, it's the Republicans turn, and it's a damaging bloodbath for the Party. I’m increasingly skeptical. We can expect another 4 years of Obama. This is incredible given the state of the national economy, but unfortunately, it seems very likely.
One last thing - Where are the local Mormon voices in all of this? With the exception of Button Square Pants and Rex Whitmer there does not seem to be a very vocal local Mormon bloc out there. With keen and dangerous minds such as Fasting Badger lurking out there my guess is we can’t blame them for their reticence. I prefer to read Fasting Badger’s comments when he’s in a satirical mood. Agree or disagree, his humor and wit are always worth a look. He offers up food for thought. His knowledge of local history is both edgy and insightful. He claims to be a product of the Prescott Public School system. For a state that has such a poor reputation for educating it’s young, Fasting Badger is an example that there those who will manage to get educated regardless of the quality of the school system they may find themselves in. My husband and I appreciate living in a town as beautiful as Prescott and we look forward to learning more about its rich history. Now, that it appears that Romney is going to win the Arizona Primary perhaps the Mormon community will come forward to address both of Fasting Badger’s previous provocative statements regarding the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In his closing statement Mr. Badger asks that we do not jump on his band wagon. His self-described band wagon is more descriptive of a run-away freight train that anyone who dares jump on best proceed with caution - lest they get thrown under the wheels.

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012
Article comment by: Rex Whitmer

Responding to the comment from above I can assure you that Mormons are Christians. We however, worship the original Jesus Christ who was sent to earth by His Father. Authors in the New Testament all acknowledge this fact. Along about somewhere in the fourth century a council was held to re-determine who they all worshiped. Jesus stated that when you saw him, you were seeing a person like God. John writing his Gospel states that Christ was the express image of God, not the same as. Well politicians (and that's wha they actually were), usually get things and there had been an ancient greek religion that believed in one god who was a spirit and existed everywhere. This came to be accepted by the politicians who were declaring each other heretics and killing and assasinating each other, and was a bit dangerous. Of course, they still killed all the people who professed that God had sent his Son and the Son had sent the Holy Ghost. This concept percisted until a fourteen year old boy confused about religion went into the woods and prayed. I suppose God decided that his human children needed to get things straight again so when he came to visit Joseph Smith, he brought his Son along and introduced him. Kind of gives you a thought about who is really Christian? Mormons aren't going around killing or talking trash about those other Christians and they don't even mind if they called themselves Christians. In fact we don't pay any mind to people who worship other Gods or things, we kinda feel like maybe everybody had ought to be free to either worship whatever or nothing if they've a mind!

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012
Article comment by: Just Saying

As a Prescott native, I have had the pleasure of growing up around many decent Mormons.
I know more about Mormonism than most Mormons.
It is a fairy tale.

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012
Article comment by: Republican and Proud of it

Ditto to the Rev... I will not be voting for Romney, but it sure looks like the Courier is biased , if he wins the primary or even becomes President, the article would have been an appropriate .

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012
Article comment by: Leigh Greene

A perusal of Mormon literature quickly reveals that the ultimate goal of Mormonism is godhood. Brigham Young, for example, said that “The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like himself.” It goes on to say, “To become Gods like unto our Father in heaven.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 3:93)
This exaltation to godhood is known as attaining “eternal life” to Mormons. The official Gospel Principles manual (LDS church curriculum) states that “Exaltation is eternal life, the kind of life that God lives…We can become Gods like our heavenly Father. This is exaltation.” (Gospel Principles p. 290) Joseph Fielding Smith said that “Eternal life is the name of the kind of life possessed by the Father and the Son, it is exaltation in the eternal realm.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Life and Teaching of Jesus and His Apostles p. 327)
Mormons are not Christians yet the Republican “religious right”, as is the Courier are behind Mitt Romney. ... He is trying to be our president, ... I am one Republican who will NOT be casting my vote for Romney.

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012
Article comment by: Go Ronny Baby!

Go Ron Paul!

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012
Article comment by: Perspective !

Unattainable standards are too ridged. We and possible Mr. Romney should not expect the citizens of this country to be perfect. Religious freedom should allow different life styles without being labeled criminals. Currently we have a dysfunctional system regarding disabilities related to old convictions, when citizenship is restored. Individuals still have restrictions that are unreasonable and no funding to agency that should allow reconsideration.

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012
Article comment by: The Rev

Had this two piece in-depth story ran a few weeks ago one could have easily accepted it as valid and fair. However, running anything that goes into great detail about a single candidate's family history the day before a primary vote seems rather odd. I am left wondering, not about Romney or the LDS, but about the Courier and its ethics and level of detachment. Perhaps the Courier will do an investigative article on the Nyang’oma Kogelo Obamas for November 5th?

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012
Article comment by: Bringthem Young

!,000 because of faith. A few more from the middle east because of a different kind of faith. And at the end of the day, no matter what you want, it's still always going to come down to dumb luck.
Seems the story never changes, just the actors who we pay to play the part.

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012
Article comment by: Fasting Badger

Any person or any group can take a specific moment in time, take a side, and proceed from there in order to build a biased retrospective when it comes to “Historical Justification”. History has all too often been the victim when it comes to objective, honest, and critical analysis. The two part series by The Prescott Courier is no exception to this. I predict a Romney endorsement from The Prescott Courier in the near future.
I stand by my previous comments regarding Mormon aggression against non-Mormon settlers in the American Southwest during the period from roughly 1840 to 1880. I have no doubt that much of this is a result of the LDS experience back in the 1830’s when the religion was created. Simply put - “Violence begets violence”. As a new religious group, Mormons were mistreated, and that resulted in their westward movement to a land where they hoped they could safely flourish and exercise their religion. Sound familiar? The formation of the Mormon Battalion, and Utah Territorial Militias was in large part an attempt to protect their futures. This is understandable, but in doing so, these militias were what also lead to acts of predation against Indians and non-Mormons alike. By the mid 1850’s the church saw itself in a life and death fight with the US government. An all-Mormon settlement policy was de facto in much of the west by leaders of the LDS church. Offshoots of the militias are documented. There are references to these small select cadres as “Avenging Angels” and other ominous names for small groups of Mormon insiders who were the “care takers” and bodyguards of church leaders and doctrine.
Over the last few decades there has been a large volume of “Historical Justification” by scholarly research done by LDS writers who have attempted to shed a different light on one of the most heinous mass killings in US history. In a concerted attempt at damage control many of these same people try to imply that 17 or so of the surviving children were reunited with their families in Arkansas. In fact, this was only done after the church was forced to surrender the young survivors. It’s interesting to note that up until the last hundred years, the LDS Church was loath to admit to the Mountain Meadows Massacre at all. For a long time they insisted it was Piute Indians who were responsible. It was only after a Mormon who took part in the attack agreed to testify to the attack that the church began to gradually adjust, and then re-adjust the degree of its involvement as additional evidence came to light.
As previous comments have indicated, Mormons were not above the idea of taking these lands from either the Native Americans, nor from Mexican Americans who in some cases already had deeded grants. It’s ludicrous for the Prescott Courier to suggest that persecution of the Mormons was something unique only to them during this period.
I contend that the persecution of Mormons during the 1880’s was an unfortunate, but predictable backlash. Earlier events like the Mountain Meadows Massacre in southern Utah in 1857 needs to be taken into account as a pivotal backdrop to the era. Iconic Mormon leaders like Jacob Hamblin were likely duplicitous in the Mountain Meadows attack. A Mormon elder John D. Lee was the only man who was ever held accountable for Mountain Meadows. He’s a folk hero to Mormons for his gallant willingness to take sole responsibility. Although he wrote a scathing account of his life in the church and his involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre where he implicated Brigham Young and over 50 other Mormons who took part in the crime, he was the only man who ever saw a noose around his neck for the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In spite of his less than glowing views in his accounts (which the LDS Church has attempted to suppress over the years) he was officially reinstated as a member of the LDS Church in the early 1960’s. It’s also interesting to note that the majority of accounts regarding the Mountain Meadows in recent years have been done by Mormon scholars.
I’m not looking for anyone to jump onto this band wagon. I reject in advance any party affiliation. My statements are not intended to disqualify Romney as a viable Presidential candidate. Religion, race or sexual preference does not have any bearing on whom I choose to vote for.
I base my opinions on multifaceted family history, hearsay and lore which is a melting pot of Indigenous, Mexican American, non-Mormon and, yes, Mormon background. As for pedigree, my family goes back 5 generations in the Prescott area. This all means nothing if I’m not willing to look at my past with some degree of detached clarity when it comes to our collective future as Americans. We need to respect all of our various traditions and cultures, but that does not mean we remain slaves to the past.

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012
Article comment by: Button Square Pants

I think most Americans understand the horrible abuse Mormons experienced back in the days, they experienced many sorts of intolerance, including some of the most infamous religious persecution in American history.

When The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded by Joseph Smith in the early 19th century, its members often found themselves facing suspicion and hostility. As the Church grew and attracted additional converts, conflict with other groups followed, much of it a consequence of Mormons’ unique religious practices and beliefs.

Conflict in the period often escalated to intimidation, and sometimes to violence. Mobs and militias forced Mormons out of their settlements repeatedly, burning their homes and destroying their crops. One especially deadly conflict came in 1838, after the governor of Missouri ordered that all Mormons should be either driven out of the state or “exterminated.” It wasn't until just recently a few years ago that extermination order or law was overturned. A violent mob attacked a rural township and scattered its Mormon settlers, massacring 17 Mormon men and boys. In the wake of this and other incidents, the Latter-day Saints appealed for aid and protection from both state and national governments. Empathetic friends of the Church tried to help, but Mormons found little redress.

They were driven out of 3 different States until they finally found refuge in Salt Lake City, Utah. Even after being driven out of many States and it's members murdered in cold blood and with no help from the United States Government, once in Utah the Mormons were asked by the US Government to help fight the Mexican War... without hesitation, even after being persecuted and murdered, they sent a a thousand of it's members to go help fight the war.

Today this persecution still exhists, they may not be murdered in cold blood or driven out of their homes, but the same persecution exhists from those both in Government and the civil sector... just look at what Romney faced 4 years ago when he tried running for President as proof and it's still happening now.

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