Quantcast

Mitt's LDS roots run deep

Published: Monday, July 2 2007 12:23 a.m. MDT

"I felt that was more than I could endure, to have him divide his time and affections," Hannah wrote later. "I She "used to walk the floor and shed tears of sorrow. If anything will make a woman's heart ache, it is for her husband to take another wife, but I put my trust in my Heavenly Father and prayed and pleaded with him to give me strength to bear this great trial."

Then Hannah performed her duty: She prepared a room for her husband's new wife, Caroline Lambourne. Hannah wrote, "I was able to live in the principle of polygamy and give my husband many wives." But her despair deepened when her younger daughter died at 10 months.

Soon, Young gave Miles and his two wives a new mission: Sell your home, and move to the southern Utah town of St. George. The new settlement about 300 miles south of Salt Lake was in a vast desert, surrounded by red-toned ridges in a region where summer temperatures often topped 100 degrees.

Young prophesied that, "There will yet be built between these volcanic ridges, a city, with spires and towers and steeples, with homes containing many inhabitants." The Romneys sold their Salt Lake City home and moved to St. George, where they lived "in a little shanty, a small board room and a wagon box," Hannah wrote.

From the shanty, the Romneys wrote themselves into church history as builders. Miles played a major role in the construction of St. George Temple. Then, Brigham Young hired Miles to build a two-story addition to his winter home in St. George. Miles took on the task with zeal, constructing one of the most lavish residences in Utah, a sandstone brick dwelling with an elaborate porch painted red and green. The restored home is visited today by Mormons from around the world, who are told of Miles's role in building the house. Pictures of Young and Romney hang in an adjoining building.

But while Miles was prospering as a builder, he had increasing trouble handling two wives. Hannah wrote that Caroline "was very jealous of me.... She wanted all my husband's attention. When she couldn't get it there was always a fuss in the house. (Miles), being a just man, didn't give way to her tantrums."

Miles and Caroline had two children, whom Hannah helped to care for. But Caroline was not satisfied. She asked Young for permission to return to her parents in Salt Lake City. The separation was "the severest trial ever experienced" by Miles, according to "Life Story of Miles Park Romney," written by his son, Thomas. Miles and Hannah "made a special trip of three hundred miles by wagon to try to induce Carrie to return to her home in Saint George. But all their pleadings were in vain," and a divorce was granted, according to the biography.

Miles, meanwhile, was climbing in prominence in the church. He was given a new responsibility: defeat a congressional effort to enforce antipolygamy prohibitions.

Miles and four other Mormon leaders signed a letter stating that "the Anti-polygamy bill ... is unconstitutional and is an act of special legislation and ostracism, never before heard of in a republican government and its parallel hardly to be found in the most absolute despotisms, disfranchising and discriminating, as it does, 200,000 free and loyal citizens, because of a particular tenet in their religious faith."

Miles and the others said the legislation violated the Declaration of Independence's guarantee that all men had the rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of religion.

The lobbying paid off and the bill died in the Senate, but other antipolygamy laws remained on the books.

For a brief time, with Caroline having left, Miles and Hannah were once again in a single-wife marriage. It was then, in 1871, that Hannah gave birth to Gaskell, the grandfather of Mitt Romney.

Two years after Gaskell's birth, however, Miles met the fair-skinned Catharine Cottam, who had flowing hair, a serene smile, and was described by her brother as the "prettiest girl in St. George." Miles married Catharine in Salt Lake City on Sept. 15, 1873.

Hannah, seven months pregnant, did not attend the wedding. Instead, she prepared a room for Catharine, whom she called "a girl of good principles and a good Latter-day Saint."

"I cannot explain how I suffered in my feelings while I was doing all this hard work, but I felt that I would do my duty if my heart did ache," Hannah wrote.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS