-- May 17, 1900; Thursday
Either the last of April or the fore part of May, 1900, David Eccles called upon me at the Mormon Church office and had a private interview with me, the purpose of which was to ascertain what, if anything, in my opinion could be done to relieve Maggie Geddes from the unpleasant position she was in. He explained it in this way: Maggie Geddes had become a mother, and the father of her child was unknown, and she was refusing to divulge his name, and for that reason she was being told that unless she could clear herself with the Church authorities she would be considered an adulterer and perhaps excommunicated. Then Mr. Eccles told me that Maggie Geddes belonged to him, and that he was the father of her child, and he was caring for them, and all he asked was that she be accorded the same treatment as other polygamists wives were being accorded, that is, let alone to bear her burden unmolested. He told me that he was very anxious to avoid trouble, and that he easiest way to accomplish this was for someone to instruct [George W.] Bramwell to let Maggie Geddes alone. What he had told me about Maggie Geddes belonging, and he being the father of her child, he said must be kept a secret, otherwise it would bring him trouble from the inside as well as the outside, as he expressed it, what he meant by the inside he said was that if his relations with Maggie Geddes were known it would be the means of causing a break in his family ties, and this he wanted to avoid.
I told Mr. Eccles that President [Lorenzo] Snow was much more rigid in his policy towards polygamous marriages than President [Wilford] Woodruff had been, and I asked him if his marriage with Maggie Geddes had taken place during President Snow's administration. He told me no, and for that reason he thought he had good grounds for appealing to President Snow to be let alone. He seemed to believe that President Snow was the only person that could relieve the situation.
I told him them that he himself would have to see President Snow about it, and I told him that I could arrange for a private interview. He hardly knew what was best to do, whether to see President Snow now or later, or send someone else to see him, but this was very clear in his mind, that he did not wish this known by anybody excepting President Snow, and if President Snow should be approached either by himself or someone else whom he might send, he was very desirous that President Snow keep the matter to himself.
I reminded Mr. Eccles that President Snow had published a statement at the beginning of the year, announcing the fact that the Church had abandoned the practice of plural marriage, or the marrying of polygamous wives, and that he had given everybody to understand that there was no one authorized to perform a polygamous marriage either in Utah or any other State in the Union, and that anybody who should do such a thing would have to
meet the consequences; and I remember telling Mr. Eccles that if he decided to see President Snow he should be prepared to tell him all about his marriage with Maggie Geddes, that is, when and where and by whom the marriage was performed. I also told him that President Snow was aware that plural marriages were performed in Mexico since President Woodruff's manifesto, but it was understood that everybody entering into such marriages were to remain in Mexico; and that it was on account of some people not abiding by these conditions by returning to Utah and elsewhere that prompted President Snow to issue the communication referred to. I told him also that inasmuch as his marriage with Maggie Geddes was entered into during the administration of President Woodruff, that President Snow would expect him to abide the conditions under which it was entered into, that is, his wife, if not he, should make her home in Mexico. He did not know which was best to do, to see President Snow himself or to get someone else to see him, and he concluded therefore to think about it. Before leaving him I had the distinct understanding with him that if he should send anybody to represent him, I was authorized by him to tell President Snow what he had told me, that is, that Maggie belonged to him, and that he was the father of her child and was caring for them, and that he hoped she could be let alone, in common with other polygamous wives, and that if I should have occasion to mention this to President Snow, I was to ask the President to regard it in the strictest privacy, for the reason already given, that is,t hat it might not become known to his family.
Some days after this interview the late John Henry Smith saw President Snow, telling him that he had just learned that a Plain City girl was in trouble with her Bishop, that in fact she was in the Bishop's court charged with adultery, and that the girl had pleaded guilty to the charge and signified her willingness to make a public confession and ask forgiveness in order that she might retain her standing in the Church, but the Bishop's court had decided that she must do this and divulge the name of the father of the child as well, and had given her time to comply with the decision.
John Henry Smith felt that this was too much to require of the girl. ...
President Snow told John Henry Smith that he never had interfered with a Bishop in the performance of his duty, and he did not like to do a thing of that kind now. ...
A few days later Grant Geddes came to the office, this was on the 16th of May, 1900, and had a personal interview with President Snow. He told him that his deceased brother's wife, Margaret Geddes, had confessed to the charge of adultery in the Bishop's Court, and that the court had given her time to divulge the name of the father of the child, or the man in transgression with her; that this she had refused to do on the grounds that he was a man of family, respected in the community, and to do so would do no good, but only bring reproach upon his family; that she was willing to make a public confession and ask forgiveness, and desired that she might be permitted to do this and retain her
standing in the Church. The court held however that she must obey its requirement, and Mr. Geddes business was to consult the Presidency in regarding to this matter. As neither Pres[iden]t. [George Q.] Cannon or Pres[iden]t. [Joseph F.] Smith was in the office President Snow invited Grant Geddes to call in the morning.
After Mr. Geddes left the office I told President Snow that it was clear to me now that this was the same case that John Henry Smith had spoke to him about. I told President Snow further that I knew something about it; in other words, that the father of the child had come to the office to see me and had authorized me in all good faith to make his name known, but that he would prefer not on account of his family. I told President Snow that it was really a polygamous marriage, and that the marriage had been entered into during the time of President Woodruff's administration. President Snow said he admired the grit of the girl, but he did not see how such a thing could be kept from becoming known, and he really did not want to know the name of the father of the child.
Grant Geddes came to the office the next morning, and while he was waiting I explained the case to President Snow and President Cannon, President Smith not having come to the office. I told them also that I was personally acquainted with the man said to be in transgression with Maggie Geddes, and knew that he did not live in Plain City, and therefore was not under the jurisdiction of that Bishopric, and I repeated to Pres[iden]t. Cannon what I had told President Snow, that this was a polygamous marriage, that evidently the girl had plead guilty to adultery in order to shield her husband, to prevent his name being known, as the husband had told me that if it were known it would cause a break in his family ties. The result was that a letter was written to Bishop Bramwell, advising him of the interview Grant Geddes had had with the Presidency, and that they had decided that it would be right in this case for him to accept of the confession of Maggie Geddes and to forgive her transgression without any further requirement.
About two weeks or so after this I met David Eccles at the corner of the Deseret National Bank. He told me he wanted to see me as he was desirous of knowing what, if anything, I had done in the interest of Maggie Geddes.
I told him that I had told Pres[iden]ts. Snow and Cannon that this was really a polygamous marriage, but that the girl was shielding her husband by confessing to the charge of adultery, and that she had done this in order to shield her husband and to prevent her relations with him becoming known to his family. I told him also that I had been authorized to divulge his name in good faith, but that he would rather that this be not done. I told him also that I told them that he did not live in Plain City, and was therefore beyond the jurisdiction of its Bishopric, and on the strength of this a letter was written to Bishop Bramwell to accept of the girl's confession, and to permit her to retain her standing in the Church.
... He was ... very much relieved, and thanked me for the
service I had done him. (1)
We have just had a conversation with Brother Grant Geddes, in regard to your decision in the case of Sister Margaret Geddes, and have decided that it would be right and proper in this case that
you accept of her confession and forgive her transgression without any further requirement. (2)
1 - George F. Gibbs, excerpt from a statement regarding David Eccles and Margaret Cullen Geddes, ca. July 1915, typed excerpt in Quinn Papers, original in LDS Archives
2 - Lorenzo Snow and George Q. Cannon, letter to George W. Bramwell, typed excerpt in Quinn Papers, original in LDS Archives
LDS History Chronology: Lorenzo Snow
Mormon History Timeline: the life of Lorenzo Snow
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