Mormon History

Mrs. Joe Smith - 1884

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune

October 12, 1884


A Recent Visitor Describes her Position on the Polygamy Question.

Many people believe that the man in whose crafty mind the mighty system of Mormonism had its origin was also the husband of at least two wives, and in consequence the possesser of a duplex mother in law. All the living members of Joseph Smith's family strenuously deny this statement, and the writer of this sketch had an opportunity to discover that it would have required some temerity to make such an assertion in the presence of the "original and only" Mrs. Joseph.

In the summer of 18[54?] I went with a friend to the town of Nauvoo, from which the Mormons had removed a few years earlier. Soon after that a colony of French socialists had taken possession of their homes, but the widow of Joseph Smith, who was now Mrs. Biddison [sic], still lived in the house she had occupied when her first husband was killed. Mrs. Biddison was the hostess of the Nauvoo Arms, the only hotel in the town, and she had occupied the same position during the days when Nauvoo was the headquarters of Mormondom.

She was about forty five years old, of medium height, and rather stout, but quick and active in her movements. Her complexion was clear, though somewhat sunburnt. Her features were good and regular, her eyes very black and piercing, and her hair of the same color, slightly turned grey. She had married Joseph Smith in the state of New York, some years before he announced his discovery of the Mormon Bible. She accompanied her husband in all his subsequent movements, and they had three children -- two boys and one girl.

Mrs. Biddison acquired a good deal of property in Nauvoo during the lifetime of her first husband, and, as she had never [sic] been a member of the Mormon Church, she did not leave the town after his death.

Mrs. Biddison expressed herself very freely and openly about the members of the Mormon Church, and spoke in a contemptuous manner of their profession of faith,

After dinner Mrs. Biddison conducted us through the house, and showed us the portrait of Joseph Smith, painted by one of the most skillful artists in Europe. It represented him as a commonplace, ordinary person and we found it hard to believe that such a man could have acquired absolute power over a large body of people.

My companion had the boldness to mention to Mrs. Biddison the report that Joseph Smith had set his followers the example of polygamy. The mere mention of such a rumor made her very indignant. "No sir!" she exclaimed. "Joe Smith had but one wife, and I was that one. It wouldn't have been well for any other woman to assert any claim to him in my presence. If other women chose to do such things it was none of my business. Joe Smith knew very well that he couldn't have another wife, here or anywhere else. No, sir! Joe Smith had but one wife. He ruled the Mormons, and I ruled him." As Mrs. Biddison spoke, her eyes flashed, her nostrils expanded, and her whole form shook with passion. We were thoroughly satisfied that Mrs. Biddison had the ability to keep Joseph Smith, or any other man to whom she might have a claim, straight in the narrow road of morality and decency. -- Lippincott's Magazine.

Note: See also the New York Wellsville Daily Reporter of Oct. 27, 1884.