The Blairs and McKays
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|Heber C. Kimball, reluctant polygamist and frontier colonizer. He had 43 wives and 65 children.|
|The 16th century church where the Kimballs worshipped. Rattlesden, England..|
Heber C. Kimball was a seventh generation descendant of Richard and Ursula Scott Kimball. Heber was born in 1801 to Solomon Kimball and Anna Spaulding in Sheldon, Vermont, a small village eleven miles east of Lake Champlain and nine miles south of the Canadian border.
After his marriage to Vilate Murray in 1822, he took up residency in the little town of Mendon, New York where he established himself as a potter. In the same town lived a family by the name of Young. In 1829 Brigham Young, a son, moved from Oswego, NY to Mendon to join the rest of his family there. (Steve Young, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers is a great-great grandson of Brigham Young.) Through family members, Heber and Brigham became fast friends, a friendship that would last until Heber's death, 39 years later in the valley of the Great Salt Lake, (Utah).
During this same time period, the Joseph Smith family lived just a few miles away in the town of Palmyra on the Erie Canal. It was in the vicinity of Palmyra that Joseph claimed to have received ancient records from a heavenly messenger in 1827. This record, once translated into English and first printed in Palmyra became known as the Book of Mormon. This new book of scripture, along with other revelations that Joseph said he received formed the basis of the restored Church of Jesus Christ. This church was organized in 1830, with six members present. Immediately thereafter, Samuel Smith, Joseph's younger brother went throughout the local countryside, selling copies of the Book of Mormon and telling anyone who would listen about the restoration with it's heavenly manifestations. Passing through Mendon, Samuel sold a book to Phineas Young, an itinerant preacher for the Methodist Episcopal Reformed Church and brother to Brigham. He read it, as did Brigham, and his father, and many others, most of whom accepted the validity of the book and the message of the missionary and joined the new fledging church. Heber is alleged to have read the same copy and likewise asked for baptism and membership in this new church.
Through distribution of the Book of Mormon by representatives of the church (missionaries), membership grew rapidly. In 1833, Joseph Smith advised the new converts from New York and Pennsylvania to follow him to Ohio and settle in Kirkland, a small trading and milling center about 20 miles northeast of Cleveland. Both Heber Kimball and Brigham Young threw in their lot with God's new prophet and followed him to Kirkland. Here they hoped to find a permanent home among people of their own faith. But this was not to be.
After getting his family settled into a new home, Heber was called as a missionary, a pattern that was to be repeated eight times over the next twelve years. These mission calls would last any where from four months to nearly two years. In 1837, Heber and six others were called by the Prophet Joseph Smith to go to England, to open that land for the preaching of the restored gospel. Heber was in England twice - 1837-38, and again in 1840-41. Through the efforts of these early missionaries, approximately 8,000 converts had joined the Mormon Church by the end of 1841, many of whom would immigrate to America and settle first in Nauvoo, Illinois and then move on to the Great Basin in the western desert - the valley of the Great Salt Lake.
During Heber's first mission, he recorded the following in his journal:
This infant Mary Smithies, who became Heber's last plural wife was my great-great-grandmother, and my link to the Kimball heritage. The five children were
As a young boy of 9, my parents brought me to Utah in 1953, from Phoenix, Arizona. We settled into my grandparents home, as they had just passed away. This home in South Salt Lake was the same area where Mary Smithies Kimball came to live with her four children after Heber died in 1868. She had inherited the Kimball farm. She lived with her parents in an adobe brick home until her death in 1881 at age 43. The four living children each received a portion of the farm as an inheritance and each built a home (farmhouse) on their portion.
|My great grandfather Lorenzo's farmhouse in Salt Lake City. This house was typical of many of the homes built in Utah in the late 1890 - 1910.|
Returning from his second mission to England in 1841, Heber was introduced to the doctrine of plural marriage or polygamy, and it was not to his liking, in fact he became violently ill at the idea of entering into such a practice. The prophet Joseph Smith had much the same reaction, when, he says the Lord revealed this new doctrine to him via revelation. For reasons known only to the Lord, but as part of the "restitution of all things" as spoken of by the writer of Acts (Acts 3:19-21) the Lord required his latter-day servants to reinstitute the Old Testament practice of plural marriage. Abhorrence and obedience would be the two words that would best describe the reactions of those who were first introduced to this new concept. Heber firmly believed that Joseph Smith was a prophet who served as a spokesperson for the Lord, in the same manner as had all the Old Testament prophets. But this new doctrine went squarely against the grain of his moral upbringing.
During the Nauvoo, Illinois period, 1839-1846, when the Saints were gathered to this place, after mobs had driven them out of Missouri, plural marriage was practiced by just a very select few, and it wasn't spoken of openly, in fact, if asked about, it was denied. Heber reluctantly agreed to enter into this practice, but for the moment, was forbidden to tell his beloved wife Vilate. After the marriage, the awful secret weighed heavily on Heber and, according to his daughter Helen:
Her mind was opened, and she saw the principle of Celestial marriage illustrated in all its beauty and glory, together with the great exaltation and honor it would confer upon her in that immortal and celestial sphere if she would but accept it and stand in her place by her husband's side. She was also shown the woman he had taken to wife, and contemplated with joy the vast and boundless love and union which this order would bring about, as well as the increase of kingdoms, power, and glory extending throughout the eternity’s, worlds without end... She returned to my father, saying, Heber, what you have kept from me the Lord has shown me.
She related the scene to me and to many others, and told me she never saw so happy a man as father was, when she described the vision and told him she was satisfied and knew that it was from God. ( Stanley B. Kimball 1981:96)
Rumor and fantasy to the contrary, there was apparently little romance in Mormon plurality. Heber's sealing to so many wives just prior to leaving Nauvoo was not only unromantic, it was foolhardy. The last thing Heber needed at that time was more responsibility. By doing so, however, he indicated his willingness to assume full liability for these women (and their children) while heading into the unknown....The unusual and pragmatic nature of many of these marriages goes far in explaining why ten wives left him and six are unaccounted for after the move to the West, and why he had children by only seventeen. ( Stanley B. Kimball 1981:123)
After settling in the West, Heber would marry five more times - two were spinsters and two were widows with small children. The last wife, my great-great-grandmother Mary Smithies was 19 when she married Heber. In reviewing the women he married, and the circumstances under which he married them, it becomes apparent that these wives and their children were more family wards than wives. He fully provided for each and every wife and her children that stayed with him, which was no small financial responsibility on his part.
Brought on my increasing government pressure to discontinue the practice of polygamy, the church officially discontinued plural marriages in 1890 and reiterated the same policy in 1904 with the enforced stipulation that anyone who entered into a plural marriage after 1904 was to be excommunicated from the church. Polygamy is no longer an issue for members of the Mormon Church, yet it remains for me and many others a significant legacy of our pioneer heritage.
Officially Heber C. Kimball was married to 43 wives, of which he had connubial relationships with only 17. These 17 bore him a total of 65 children of which 43 lived to maturity. Heber was the only member of his family to accept the Mormon faith, so today there are two large Kimball Family Associations - the Utah Kimballs and the eastern seaboard Kimballs.
Knowing my family history helps me to understand who, and what I am, why I look the way I do, and perhaps why I act the way I do. If there are any dysfunctionallities in my character or personality, I can place the blame on my progenitors.