United States History: Mormon Polygamists in Mexico Part 2

About the Mormon Church in United States history and the polygamists who fled to Mexico to retain their rights to plural marraiges.

Mormon Polygamists in Mexico

Porfirio Diaz, President of Mexico, had been in office since 1877 and would continue to rule-if not as President, then by controlling whomever he had made President-until 1910. Diaz believed not only in foreign capital but in foreign ways, whether European or American, and he admired the Mormons' Yankeetype industry. But under Diaz more and more land passed into the hands of a few hacendados, landowners who were frequently not even Mexican citizens. Publisher William Randolph Hearst owned enough Mexican land to make San Simeon seem the size of a weekend camp.

In 1910, the Mexican peasants, who had become mere slaves or peons, began to rebel. Francisco Madero, the liberal son of a rich liquor distilling family, headed a revolution. Diaz was overthrown, sent into exile, and civil war engulfed all Mexico. The Mormon settlers, against the advice of church leaders in both Utah and Mexico City, were inclined to side with the conservatives rather than remain neutral. They had done well under Diaz, and the Mormon philosophy of hard work and hard ambition and hard land titles did not agree with the Maderista-Mexican policy of ejidal. Under this policy, a man and his family were given what land they needed, rather than what they could acquire.

Furthermore, the rebels, poorly financed and coming mostly from poor backgrounds, had to seize what they needed in order to conduct their war. Pancho Villa, it is true, issued money in large quantities-he had it printed for him by the American Banknote Company in the U.S.-but there were no assets to back up this paper money. Mormon cattle, Mormon food, Mormon fodder were seized by the revolutionaries, and even if they were paid for in Villista money, the Mormons resented the loss of their goods.

They complained to the local judge, who deputized 4 Mormons to go and arrest a local Mexican who was looting on his own account, rather than from patriotism. This man, Sosa by name, resisted arrest and the Mormons shot him dead. They were promptly thrown into jail, along with 4 freebooting looters, and there was talk of lynching the Mormons until Raul Madero, the local general's brother, came into town and released them.

Shortly after, the local general told Mormon stake president Junius Romney that the Mormons must hand over the large supply of weapons and ammunition they had been storing in case of trouble. Romney stalled. Despite the fact that flatcar-mounted artillery was trained on Colonia Dublan, he went into council with his people and decided to turn over some, but not all and certainly not the best of their guns to the rebels. In this way, he tried to gain time to get the multiple wives of each family, the women and children of the colonias, out of Mexico.

This was in July of 1912. The Mormon women, like refugees in every war, were illprepared for a hasty departure. They took with them what they valued most, which was not necessarily the things most needed on a trip across the Chihuahuan desert, or even on a journey by train. They arrived in E1 Paso thirsty, hungry, and poorly clad.

Ironically, the Mormon Church petitioned the U.S. Government to aid these refugees. The Government issued tents and food and offered to provide train tickets for any of the Mexican Mormons who had friends or relatives they could join. But they had been in Mexico for 24 years, ties were broken, and few of the women had a place to go.

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