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James Ririe's Experience with Polygamy
By James Ririe

I found this story typed out on 3 legal size pages in a stack of old family history items. If anyone knows who transcribed this account, please let me know.

This is the content of twenty pages of James Ririe’s own handwriting in which he gives an account of his plural marriage.

About 1866 I was at conference in Ogden. I sat on the north side of the north alley over half way down. George A. Smith was speaking. While I sat there a power rested on me and dictated to me that it was my duty to enter into the celestial order of marriage by taking another wife.

So strong and sure was that impression on me that it was my duty, I could not get rid of it. I thought this way: My wife was very much opposed to polygamy, if I take a young women I may cause her to be jealous. I thought of how to get one that would suit her. It was my custom to hire a girl or women to do the work when she had young children.

It was at this time when we had to haul all our produce to Salt Lake to market. In the fall of 1866 I went to Salt Lake with a load. As I stopped at an acquaintances house, Peter Reeds in 16th ward, there was a woman there just come from Dundee Scotland. Her name was Betsey Hendry. I hired her to come and work for us, which she did until about May 1867. One day as we were at the table eating I said something to her like this: “How would you like to go into polygamy?” I forgot the answer but my wife did not require her services much longer. She got a passage with a Brother Greenwell to Salt Lake.

That fall I was again at Salt Lake with produce and stopped at Peter Reed’s as usual. Betsey Hendry was there. I asked her if she would marry me. She said that if I would pay for her emigration that she would. Of course I knew that I would have to do that for I had to pay my wife’s emigration too.

When I returned home I went to see Bishop West and ask him if I wanted to take another wife, would he give me a recommend. He said “What does your wife say about it?” I told him she was as much opposed to it as she could be. “Never mind,” said he, “Go ahead, they are all alike. God bless you.” He said he was glad to see the boys going ahead into that principle. He told me to meet him in Salt Lake, naming the hour at the conference and he would get his recommend.

I did so and married Betsey the day after conference. Brother Wells married us and Brother Brigham Young was one of the witnesses. As I had stayed longer at conference than usual I started home that afternoon. I had a log house that we used as a lumber room. I fixed that up for Betsey. In about a month I went to Salt Lake City and brought her home. When my wife seen us coming she left the house. It took quite a searching to find her. I found her in the milk cellar crying. It took quite a great deal of coaxing to get her to come to the house. In the meantime Betsey had put her few things into the house that I had fixed for her. When my wife came into the house, Betsey commenced to work the same as she had done when she was hired to us. She slept in her own house nights, but worked and ate in Ann’s house.

Thus things went on for some months. I was as kind to my wife as I could be. Taking notice of her remarks that as soon as a man and his wife passes through poverty and they can be comfortable, he takes another wife to eat up what the first wife helped to get.

Thus they got along until one day Betsey was paring the potatoes. Ann said she was not digging out the potatoes eyes enough. She went and took a knife and in front of Betsey dug out the potatoes eyes again. I suppose words ensued. When I came home at night Betsey had gone to her room. Soon after I got into the house Ann said: “I have quarreled with your woman today.”

From that time on Betsey cooked for herself. The houses were near together and as it was not a good building spot, I thought of moving to another spot. As soon as I could I built a house for Betsey, apart from where I intended to move the others to. I built a good two room adobe house for Betsey which cost me over $400.00. Lumber was high in price, $17.00 per hundred. I had to haul it from Salt Lake City at that. It was about the time that the railroad came in. I also moved the other houses to a better building spot and enlarged them. This was in 1869-1870. In 1870 we were visited by the grasshoppers. They took nearly all my crop. Only left me 55 bushels of wheat. I had hired a hand all summer to get that.

In 1871 I raised the biggest crop that I had ever raised. There must have been about 1000 bushels. I had gone in debt about $200.00 for hired help. John Bitton called it the great extreme, named after that great ship.

As the threshers were threshing it they let the machine run dry for grease and it struck fire at the nuchel. It burned up the machine and all my grain except 100 bushels that had got threshed. It also burned my hay, my winters wood, stable, sheds, fences, etc. The stack burned for about a week.

I had not been able to pay my help for the year before. The grasshoppers took my crop. That man I had hired for that year came with his sacks to get his pay while the fire was going on. But he never asked for it. God Bless him. I paid him next fall. John Barrett was his name.

Matters got no better between my wives, although separate. I was found fault with by them both. I got a letter from the Bishop to call at his office. I did so and Walter Thompson being his first counselor and secretary acted for him when he was no present. Brother Thompson said: “Your second wife has been here and complained that you will not furnish her her living.” Brother Thompson knew that I had built her a house and furnished it except for a few nick nacks and she lived in the garden. She had her choice of what vegetables there was and what fruit there was to dry. We had a good orchard then. She had two cows pastured and fed, only she had to milk them. These were furnished for I had her other necessities. “Stop” said Brother Thompson, “but go right home and never say you were here.”

There was no socialibility between my wives. They would not go together to meetings so I had to go alone. Neighbors did not make things any better by their advice. Betsey wanted me to give her half of my time. I thought it was my duty as the children needed some care often in the night time to help Ann in the night. So she could get her rest. So for the children’s sake I thought I ought to be there three nights out of four. Betsey had no children. When I would not go there half the time, she did not want me to come at all. She locked me out twice. The last one was in this way. I had got up and went for watering in the field at daylight and could not leave the water until well between nine and ten o’clock. When I got home for breakfast I found the door was locked and the key and Betsey were gone. I looked for the key but no key was there. I suppose I felt a little vexed and to go to the other wife’s house and say “Give me breakfast” that would have been so satisfactory to Ann. I felt like bursting the door open. For that purpose I came against it with my knee. The door sprung so as to draw so the lock came out of the catch and opened. For three days Betsey never said anything about it, so the third day as I was going away I took down the key off the nail and held it up to her. Said I, “Now Betsey I’ll take care of this. You are not to lock me out of my own house again.”

When she told me not to come there I said, “As long as you eat my bread, you are to cook part of it for me.” She did. I will here say that Betsey when she is good, she can make anyone as sociable and comfortable as any woman but when she was the opposite, she can be the opposite. She would set my dinner down, plain bread and milk. As I often rested after I had eaten my dinner she would go to work and cook meat, potatoes, and set the table for herself with cake, pie, etc. Not that she was gluttonous at all, but just to get me to say something bad.

Some say that polygamy was a great comfort to the men and hard on the women. I can say I never lived nearer to the Lord and prayed to him harder than I did for help and with his spirit dictate to me what to say and what not to say.

Betsey separated the bedding and made up two beds. “Now”, said she, “I have made up two beds. You can take which you like.” And I did. All I said was: “I had expected it to come to that.” I never cohabitated with her from that day to this. March 1901.

Betsey called the ward president and teachers to correct me, but they never condemned me in word or deed, but justified me in all.

Betsey was very kind to the little children. She would like to have taken one of the twin boys as hers, if grandma had let her as told by some of her children in later life.

About the last threshing we had while Betsey was there. I had to go with the machine when it left on account of changing work with my neighbors. As Betsey’s chicken coop was about thirty rods from the stack yard and as Ann’s chickens ran right in the stack yard, I told Betsey to gather up the broken wheat and waste from the cheat box for her chickens. When she was doing so, Ann came and gathered up with much energy and talked among the rest, said “Why don’t you take a bill? I would soon pay the $10.00 for a bill to you.”

In 1875 Greenwell and I bought a place in Ogden Valley. In the summer of 1875, my daughter Margaret Ann took care of the milk and butter there but she got married. In the spring of 1876 as I had no way of taking care of Betsey’s cows as the other stock was in the valley I ask her to go and take care of the milk and butter. She said, “No, I couldn’t pare a potato to please her and I am sure I could not make butter to please your wife.”

Elizabeth was only ten years old and Isabel six, but they went and took care of the milk and made the butter and did the cooking for us and the hired hands.

In 1877 Betsey went to President Farr wanting a divorce from me. Of course, I was summoned there also. When Betsey and I had both told our tale President Farr said, “I have often sat with the greatest of patience and heard family grievances but I cannot say with the greatest of pleasure.” He then asked me if I was willing to forgive Betsey for what had been done and said in the past. I said, “I cared nothing for the past.” It was past. All I wanted was peace in the future . He then said, “If Betsey had of been a mind to she could have taken Brother Ririe from the other woman but” said he: “Betsey, Brother Ririe has given you no cause for divorce. None whatsoever and I will not give you one now. You go home and try it again for three weeks or a month.”

Betsey did not agree with what Brother Farr said but wanted a divorce. She said she would leave it to the brethren to say what of my property she should have. Brother Farr said he would leave it to Brother Hart to arrange about the property she should have. He was only ward president but had to act as Bishop.

Brother Farr asked me if she brought any property with her. I told him, “No, only her clothes.” I had to pay her emigration $60.00 and $15.00 for interest on her note. Betsey wanted the house hold furnishings and they asked me if I was willing to let her have them. I answered, yes quite willing and the house also if she would move it. I then left the meeting.

It was dismissed the same day and Brother Hart told me they had decided to give her, Betsey, $100.00 worth of property and that I should give her two cows and 700 lbs. of flour. I told him that she could have her choice out of three cows that she used to milk. By next Wednesday I would have the flour ready for her at my house. On Monday she came with a wagon and team and moved everything away from the house. By Wednesday John Hart told me that she did not want the cows or the flour. But wanted the $100.00. He would give the $40.00 for the house for his stepson-in-law if I would give the $60.00 which I agreed to do. After a while he came and told me they did not want the house. (The house had cost me over $400.00 but I was willing for anything to get quiet of the trouble.) They said they would take my note for $100.00 I said “No you cannot get my note to put into the hands of a lawyer for collection.”

Betsey was not to come Ann Elizabeth Young over me. I have now more notes out than I see how to meet. This was because Greenwell and I bought the Wheeler place in Ogden Valley for $2000.00 and only paid one third, giving our note for the other two-thirds. As Greenwell had backed out it left me alone with the notes to redeem them.

I told him, if there was any property I had that would suit to take it. Land property was mentioned. I told him I had offered 5. After that I had a talk with John Hart about the land. He wanted 7 acres and if I would not give it he would call my standing in question. That sent me to the president of the stake.

David H. Perry was president but Lester Herrick was the first counselor. I saw him and told him all about John Hart’s threat about the seven acres. Said I “It is not that but Brother Herrick when am I to get through this trouble and how.” Brother Herrick said “You can suit yourself about giving the 7 acres but if you do go to the county clerk and make out a deed to her, but tell the clerk not to give up that deed until he gets a note from you to do so. Then go to John Hart and tell him that I sent you then tell him that I want him to get Betsey to sign a note that this is her last and final claim on you as a wife. Then keep that note.

I did so and have it today, 1901 with hers, John Hart’s and John Collins’ signatures as witnesses.

I learned that John Collins, John Hart’s brother-in-law, was to give the $100.000 for the land. But after all Betsey would not sell it. But built a small house on it and sold all for $350.00

Betsey Hendry was the daughter of Matthew Hendry.

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