Mormon History

Ann Young versus Brigham Young - 1875

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune November 14, 1875

Ann  Eliza  vs.  Brigham.

(From the Concinnati Enquirer.)

Mrs. Ann Eliza Young, familiarly spoken of as Ann Eliza, ex-consort of Brigham Young, will lecture tomarrow night in Thoms' Hall, under the direction of the Boston Literary Bureau. As Mrs. Young's divorce and alimony case before the Utah courts has long been a matter of legal vexation, and is now put to the consideration of the Cabinet solons, a brief notice to the aforesaid may not be inappropriate.

As is well known the Mormon fraud was originally projected by Joe Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and two or three others, near Palmyra, in Western New York. At first gotten up as a money-making scheme, it was soon turned to account as a religious dispensation by Sidney Rigdon and Parley P. Pratt, two of the most unprincipled adventurers that ever lived upon the credulity of mankind. Rigdon and Pratt invited Smith, Cowdery & Co. to come over to Kirtland, Ohio, where an opportunity to fleece the unsuspecting had already been improved by these two, Messrs. Rigdon and Pratt.

Although the proof is not direct, yet Mr. Tucker, who printed the first Mormon Bible, has produced a sufficency of evidence to show that Rigdon was the originator of the imposition, and Smith, Cowdery, Harris and Pratt, the accomplices to bring the play upon the boards. Public sentiment and the affidavits of near one hundred citizens of Palmyra abd Manchester raised the temperature above living conditions for Smith & Company in this State, in the year 1830. Kirtland is in Lake county, and one may search in vain to find a more amusing, long-drawn imposture than the pioneer Mormon knaves practiced upon the people of that town and neighborhood. The real story of Miss Ann Eliza begins at this place (Kirtland), as it was here that her parents met and married. The father (Webb) had been converted in New York, and coming to Ohio fell in with a charming young school teacher, sixteen years of age, who, under the pious declamation of Brigham Young, experienced a change of heart, became a Mormon, married Mr. Webb, and ultimately became the mother of Ann Eliza. While at Kirtland, Joseph Smith, the Lord's Anointed, had a revelation, which commanded him not to work -- which suited the Prophet amazingly, and he closed on every thing that smacked of labor. He also had a revelation instructing the people to build him a house, and the good Saints built him a house. To accomodate the brethren, just to accomodate them, Joseph and Sidney started a mill, from the funnels of which they took the flour, leaving the chaff to those less dainty than themselves. They also started a church store, in conducting which some misunderstandings occurred that led to the application of tar and feathers to these two worthies. After diverse purifications, they induced the brethren to "cast in" their currency, with which they started a bank, Rigdon being the President, and Joseph the Prophet, cashier. The bank notes were beautifully engraved, countersigned by Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith, and backed by assurance from Heaven; they went right out, and the good things of the earth, houses, lands, cassimeres and silks, biscuiys and honey, came right in -- to Joseph and Sidney. All at once, Jones of Pittsburgh, came in with a carpet sack full of Kirtland bills; whereupon Sidney and Joseph informed Jones that their banking was conducted on Divine principles; they put out their notes and took in whatever they could lay their hands on -- just to accomodate the people. As to Pittsburgh notions of exchange and redemption, they knew little, and cared less, and, with a glance at Jones' satchel, informed him that "they didn't redeem!" Immediately thereafter the Bank of Kirtland collapsed; and Joseph and Sidney were, for awhile, necessarily absent. Previously they had let the contract for a "Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," which Temple, the first of Mormon edifices, was duly completed, and is still standing. The building was dediacted with appropriate ceremonies, in which divers wonders, miracles, tongues and gifts of the spirit were indulged particularly the latter. Several of the Apostles got drunk, according to their own account, which, instead of raising them to a higher plane, only led to the exasperation of all the Gentiles and to the apostasy of many of the better sort of the brethren and sisters, Time would fail in giving even a short account of Kirtland Mormonism, its kanvery, foolery and wickedness; apsotasy set in. Gentile persecution increased, and, with Joseph in the lead, the Saints cleared out for Independence, Missouri, the Mormon Zion -- "Zion never to be removed" according to one of the Prophet's revelations. Here, as in fact it has been everywhere else, their pious fantastics did not commend the Saints to their neighbors, and, after being invited out of the State, the people of Jackson and other counties put them out. The Lord's geography as to Zion having proved inaccurate, a revised revelation pointed to Nauvoo, Illinois, where the Mormon faithful, among whom were the parents of Ann Eliza "gathered," as the phrase is in the sacred records. In this city Ann Eliza Webb, our own Ann Eliza, was born on the 13th of September, 1841. Previous to this time their pious peculiarities had brought the Saints into many troubles.

Dr. McLellen and Mrs. Smith became accidently cognizant of sundry amorous derelictions on the part of the Prophet, Cowdery told the naughty story and was turned out of the Church on the charge of "lying, counterfeiting, and talking about Joseph;" Rigdon got mad because some brother didn't treat Nancy just right; Brigham Young got into trouble with Martha Brotherton; Joseph, the Prophet, wanted to kiss Mrs. Pratt, which raised a rumpus in the camp of Israel; then Miss Law told what she knew, the Apostles began to cry, in that general melee Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed June the 27th, 1844. Sidney Rigdon claimed the Prophet's place, but Brigham, being a better looking man, having less principle and more pluck, handed Sidney over to the buffeting of the devil, took the Church reins into his own hands, and led the Saints to Utah.

Under such circumstances, in such company was Ann Eliza born. Persons who are inclined to speak unkindly of Mrs. Young would, perhaps, do the better part by considering these facts. Born of polygamous parents, and shut out from every opportunity to learn the deplorable condition in which she was compelled to live, are a part of the excusing facts to stay unkind judgment as to this woman, and as to those who would cats the first stone, it might be a profitable exercise to compare their own advancement, made in the light of Christian civilization with the acknowledged moral excellence of Mrs. Ann Eliza Young, as evidence by word and action since escaping from Utah's degradation. Shut out from the world by impassable mountains and deserts; knowing no better life; sacrificed by father and mother and brother in a marriage with a man she did not love, she lived only to learn the reality of all a woman's sufferings. But the little light afforded by Gentile rule came; and first perceptions of right awakened, her soul revolted at the unhallowed practices of those around her, and on the first opportunity she fled to tell the "Story of a Ruined Life;" to devote herself to the emancipation of the enslaved women of Utah, and combat the most monsterous delusion of this or any other age. Mrs. Young is good looking, a pleasant speaker, and her missionary efforts will no doubt commend her to the good wishes of our community.

(Foreword to the book 19TH WIFE)

In the one year since I renounced my Mormon faith, and set out to tell the nation the truth about American polygamy, many people have wondered why I ever agreed to become a plural wife. Everyone I meet, whether farmer, miner, railman, professor, cleric, or the long-faced Senator, and most especially the wives of these everyone wants to know why I would submit to a marital practice so filled with subjugation and sorrow. When I tell them my father has five wives, and I was raised to believe plural marriage is the will of God, these sincere people often ask, But Mrs. Young how could you believe such a claim?


Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.


Now, with the publication of this autobiography, my enemies will no doubt suspect my motives. Having survived attempts on both my life and character, however, I stand unconcerned by their assaults. I have chosen to commit my memories to the page neither for fame, the trough from which I have drunk and would be happy never to return to, nor fortune, although it is true I am without home and have two small boys to care for. Simply, I wish to expose the tragic state of polygamy's women, who must live in a bondage not seen in this country since the abolishment of slavery a decade ago; and to reveal the lamentable situation of its children, lonely as they are.


I promise my Dear Reader I shall recount my story truthfully, even when it distresses me to do so. In these pages you will come to know my mother, who by religious duty welcomed four wives into her husband's bed. You will encounter the old woman forced to share her husband with a girl one-fifth her age. And you shall meet the gentleman with so many wives that when one approaches him on the street, he answers, "Madame, do I know you?"


I can, and will, go on.


Under what circumstances does such outrage thrive? The Territory of Utah, glorious as it may be, spiked by granite peaks and red jasper rocks, cut by echoing canyons and ravines, spread upon a wide basin of gamma grass and wandering streams, this land of blowing snow and sand, of iron, copper, and the great salten sea Utah, whose scarlet-golden beauty marks the best of God's handiwork the Territory of Utah stands defiant as a Theocracy within the borders of our beloved Democracy, imperium in imperio.


I write not for sensation, but for Truth. I leave judgment to the hearts of my good Readers everywhere. I am but one, yet to this day countless others lead lives even more destitute and enslaved than mine ever was. Perhaps my story is the exception because I escaped, at great risk, polygamy's conjugal chains; and that my husband is the Mormon Church's Prophet and Leader, Brigham Young, and I am his 19th, and final, wife.


Sincerely Yours,
Ann Eliza Young
Summer 1874