Romney Family Files: Fled To Mexico Due To A Polygamy Ban Making Them 'The First Displaced Persons Of The 20th Century'
I decided to research Mitt Romney's father. George Romney was a powerful industrial and political figure of his day.
Romney's family came from England, converted to Mormonism, came to America and quickly turned to plural marriage which led them to an unexpected exile and exodus to Mexico and then just as abruptly, they fled back to the USA to avoid a revolution.
It's an unexpected backstory to the "next in line" probable GOP nominee.
In this post I'll use information I found from the book by Tom Mahoney published in 1960 called 'The Story Of George Romney."
Mitt comes from a long line of Romney's that resided in England for generations and when an early Mormon missionary from America named Orson Hyde came to England to spread their word, Gaskell Romney and his wife Elizabeth converted in 1839. Soon after they boarded a boat to America. (pg 50)
He and his wife, who had been Elizabeth Gaskell, were attracted by a street meeting of Orson Hyde, one of the first Mormon missionaries to England, and in 1839 were baptized.
If you're not familiar with the Mormon religion, Joesph Smith, the founder, said he had vision as far back as 1820 in upstate New York and traveled West, where his flock finally ending up in Utah, led by Brigham Young after Smith was killed. After writing the Book of Mormon, Smith had a revelation which is known as Article 132 from the Mormon text called Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, a sort of addendum book to the Book of Mormon.
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded 12 July 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant, and also the plurality of wives (see History of the Church, 5:501–7). Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, it is evident from the historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831.
Smith explained why the Old Testament leaders had multiple wives and soon after "plural" marriage was practiced in the Mormon faith. It was kept pretty secret even from his own flock in the beginning because Smith knew the affect it might have on his community and after polygamy began to take shape it did have a dire effect on his group, but in 1852, Oliver Pratt, a Mormon apostle openly preached the merits of polygamy:
Polygamy was not openly practiced in the Mormon Church until 1852 when Orson Pratt, an apostle, made a public speech defending it as a tenet of the church. From 1852 until 1890, Mormon Church leaders preached and encouraged members, especially those in leadership positions, to marry additional wives.
In the 1850's the Republican Party deemed polygamy as disgraceful as slavery. FOX News also discussed Article 132 back in 2007.
Smith's revelation that God authorized polygamy — remains in Article 132 of the Church's doctrine and covenants. In addition, Mormon widowers who remarry today believe they will live in eternity with their multiple wives. Mormon genealogical records, among the most detailed and complete of any religion, show that two of Mitt Romney's great-great grandfathers, Miles Romney and Parley Pratt, had 12 wives each.
In 1862, Miles Romney, a son of Gaskell married Hannah Hood Hill in Salt Lake City and he began to practice plural marriage soon after. He had three wives while living in St. Johns, Arizona. Miles was a carpenter, contractor, builder and publisher of a weekly newspaper. All seemed well for the Romney's until Congress finally passed the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act in the 1880's which made polygamy a felony after an earlier act that President Lincoln passed called the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862 was virtually ignored because Lincoln didn't want Utah involved in the Civil War. The Edmunds Act finally made the United States take a serious stance against polygamy. After the bill was passed, life for the Romney household took a rather bad turn. (pg. 51)
Overnight he was reduced from the leading citizen of the community to a hounded and hunted man. He and others in the same plight sought asylum in Mexico.
It's pretty confusing trying to track the Romney genealogy, but Mitt Romney's great-grandfather fled with his three wives to Mexico so they could continue their polygamist lifestyle with a multitude of other Mormon polygamists and settled there, cutting land deals with Mexican president, Porfirio Diaz using funds that came from The Mormon Church. President Diaz was happy to have the Mormon settlers there as a buffer against the Apache Indians. (pg.51)
With others, Helaman Pratt obtained permission from Diaz for Miles Park Romney and other Mormon refugees to buy lands and establish colonies in Mexico. Partly with funds advanced by the Church, they purchased large, mostly undeveloped tracts in Sonora and Chihuahua. Diaz was happy to have colonists there as buffers against the Apache Indians
Mitt Romney's father, George S. Romney was born in Mexico in the Colonia Dublan colony in 1907. It's not surprising that a Birther-type discussion was raised about George Romney either. (pg. 53)
As his parents had retained their American citizenship, experts on constitutional law believe his birth in Mexico is no bar to George Romney becoming a candidate for President regardless of the U.S. Constitution's clause: "No person except a natural-born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible for the office of President." No court has interpreted this clause but children born abroad or at sea have been considered "natural-born" citizens for passports and other privileges. If astrology is to be believed, those born in July are receptive to new ideas and adapted to catering to public needs.
Life was very good for the polygamist colonists in Mexico until a civil war broke out there in 1911 and in 1912 as you might expect, their camps were targets for rebels because they had many guns and supplies they needed, raids of their colonies ensued even with Mexican assurances of their safety so many had to flee back to America.
As an expectant mother, Mrs. Romney was given a seat in a coach. With her were Miles, young George, who had just celebrated his fifth birthday, and Lawrence, his two-year-old brother; two of her sisters, Miss Amy Pratt, the schoolteacher, and Mrs. Verde Pratt Cardon, wife of Clarence Cardon, then a missionary in Paris, France. Ahead in a freight car were the older Romney boys, Maurice and Douglas. They were cheerful as they arrived in El Paso that afternoon. In all 2,300 Mormon refugees reached El Paso within three days, to become, in the later words of George Romney, "the first displaced persons of the twentieth century."
The "1890 Manifesto", sometimes simply called "The Manifesto", is a statement which officially disavowed the continuing practice of plural marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Issued by church president Wilford Woodruff in September 1890, the Manifesto was a response to mounting anti-polygamy pressure from the United States Congress, which by 1890 had disincorporated the church, escheated its assets to the U.S. federal government, and imprisoned many prominent polygamist Mormons. The Manifesto was a dramatic turning point in the history of the LDS Church. It officially prohibited church members from entering into any marriage prohibited by the law of the land, and made it possible for Utah to become a U.S. state. Nevertheless, even after the Manifesto the church quietly continued to perform a small number of plural marriages in the United States, Mexico, and Canada, thus necessitating a Second Manifesto during U.S. congressional hearings in 1904.
I've included this point about Utah's banning polygamy because it appears to be a purely political move even if many Mormons opposed polygamy and as the 2,300 Mormon polygamist refugees fled Mexico, leaving many of their belongings behind, it was the U.S. Government that helped bail them out of their dire situation. (pg. 60)
They had just twenty-five dollars, two suitcases and three bedrolls. Many families were installed in vacant tenements and several hundred were quartered in huge empty lumber sheds on Magoffin Avenue which the Long Lumber Company made available. The U.S. Army supplied rations and loaned tents from Fort Bliss. Mayor C. E. Kelly and city officials joined Church leaders in finding homes and jobs for the refugees. Congress voted $100,000 for their transportation and relief.
If you calculate $100,000 for inflation from 1912, the figure turns into over $2.2 million in 2011. That's a lot of government money to people who were basically felons in the eyes of the law. Another fascinating thing happened in 1938. Mexico paid out a huge settlement to those early Mexican colonies because of the revolution. (pg.61)
The colonists eventually in 1938 received from Mexico $2.65 for each $100 of loss during the revolutionary disorders. Gaskell Romney's losses were so great that he received enough to purchase a comfortable house in Salt Lake City in which he lived his last years.
It's odd that Mexico would repay monies to the Mormon polygamists after so many years, but one can still make the case that the Romney family was even funded in some part by the Mexican government. To get an idea of how vast the Romney family was because of its polygamist past, in 1922, George Romney had roughly 165 first cousins. (pg.68)
There's more in the Romney Family Files I'll post later.