The Staircase and Eliza

Tonight I came across Eliza R. Snow's Nauvoo diary on the internet. One factoid conflicts with the mental construct I had developed:

- Eliza taught school in the upper room of the Red Brick Store from Dec 12, 1842 through Mar 17, 1843 and had perfect attendance. (I knew she was teaching the Smith children during this time, but thought it was in the homestead).

In my (fictional but plausible) construct Eliza was seduced by John C. Bennett before he is kicked out of Nauvoo. Bennett left Nauvoo in mid-May 1842, the last feasible date where he could have "persuaded" Eliza of spiritual wifery. If Eliza became pregnant in May 1842, then she was due or past due on 17 March 1843.

Her perfect attendance at school means she could not have miscarried on February 11, the date she relocated from the Smith homestead to the cabin of Jonathan and Elvira Holmes.

I've also now toured the Smith homestead and the Mansion house. Neither of these two buildings has a staircase that could serve as the fabled location where Emma pushed/dragged Eliza down the steps, causing a miscarriage.

However the Red Brick Store, where class was held, has an ample staircase.

A largely pregnant Eliza could have tripped on her way down the stairs on March 17. Emma was there, Joseph was there. Any number of people could have been present to witness a stumble down those stairs.

Later events conspire to paint Emma in a poor light, but we know Emma and Eliza remained close during their shared time in Nauvoo (Elvira Holmes' stepdaughter tells of Emma and Eliza going about in the evening ministering together circa winter 1844 while Elvira stayed home telling stories to the children who stole cookies from the black cook (Jane Manning)).

The fact of a pregnant Eliza Snow harbored in the Smith home would have spoken volumes to those "in the know" about polygamy. I find it curious that it is presumed without question that Joseph slept with many or even most of the 32 "wives" he ceremonially married in addition to Emma. However there is no DNA evidence that any child begotten to those women is genetically linked to Joseph, despite literalistic interpretations of the oral history.

I am persuaded that Eliza and Emily Patridge "enjoyed" marital privileges with Joseph, and these two were specifically given to Joseph by Emma. Emma was present at the ceremonies, though Emma evicted them from her home three months later.

The other day I realized a possible reason the extremely unhappy Emma would wait three months to evict the girls. After three months she would know whether the Partridge girls' time with Joseph had resulted in pregnancy. When they remained childless three months later, she could kick them out without evicting unborn children.

Emma clearly lied in 1879 when she claimed Joseph never had any other wives. But she may have been confident Joseph didn't engender children by any other woman. The idea that that much-married Joseph could have refrained from "knowing" his wives is a possibility that never occurs to the Mormon "cognoscienti."

The story of Eliza and the staircase isn't so much important because of what it says about Emma. Rather it is important because it is the story that most graphically confirms our certainty that Joseph was as "red blooded" as the practicing polygamists during the Nauvoo era (e.g., Brigham Young) believed him to be.

[Thought about writing up something about this, but BYU Studies requires you have a PhD in the field or be mentored by a PhD in the field. Maybe some other day.]

@polygamy, writing, Nauvoo, midrash

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