Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Colonia Juarez, Edmunds Act of 1882, Gaskill Romney, George Wilcken Romney, LDS, Mexico, Miles Park Romney, Miles Romney, Mormon, Mormon Colonies, Mormons, polygamist, polygamy, Willard Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney was born on March 12, 1947. His birth certificate says he was born in Detroit, Michigan. There is no dispute to these facts. The question is why was Mitt Romney born in Michigan? Mitt’s father was born in Mexico and his grandfather, Gaskell Samuel Romney was born in 76 years earlier in St. George, Utah. How did Mitt Romney end up in Michigan rather than in Utah or Mexico? Mitt Romney refrains from discussing his family history during his campaign to become the President of the United States; however, the journey from Utah to Michigan is as dramatic as any 19th century account of settling the American West.
Mitt’s great-great grandfather, Miles Romney, was born in Lancashire (now Cumbria,) England in 1806. In 1837, he converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormons) and in 1841, he moved his family to the United States (Illinois) to join a Mormon colony. Mile’s son (Mitt’s great-grandfather,) Miles Park Romney was born in Illinois in 1843, but the Mormons were driven out of their community in 1846. The family drifted for several years and finally settled in the Territory of Utah around 1850, a few years after the United States took the northern third of Mexico away at gunpoint following after the Mexican-American War.
It was Miles Park Romney who first embraced polygamy and married five wives and fathered 31 children during the course of his life, including Mitt’s grandfather, Gaskill, in 1871. Miles Park Romney was enlisted in the effort to make the new American West territory a mega-Mormon colony. He moved to Arizona in 1881, to establish a Mormon presence there; however, existing settlers were not agreeable to a religious takeover of their community.
At about the same time the United States passed the Edmund’s Act (¹) that made polygamy a felony. After attempts to challenge the law failed and law enforcement began arresting polygamists, Miles Park Romney took at least one of his families (he had two wives at the time) and fled to Mexico in 1885. Miles Park Romney settled at Colonia Juarez in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico along with other Mormons attempting to avoid arrest in the United States. Miles Park Romney never returned to the United States as he died in Mexico in 1904.
While still living in Mexico, young Gaskill Romney became an adult and married Anna Amelia Pratt in 1895. In 1907, Anna gave birth to Mitt’s father, George Wilcken Romney. A few years later the Mexican Revolution began and by 1912, the Romney’s were on the run back to the United States when violence threatened to involve their Mormon community. After living as refugees in Texas, California, and Idaho, the Gaskill finally settled his family back in Utah where they lived out much of the Great Depression.
As a young adult Mitt’s father, George W. Romney, completed a mission to Great Britain and then unsuccessfully attended several colleges in the United States. He married in 1931, and eventually moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1939, where Willard Mitt Romney was born in 1947.
That is how the person who will be nominated as the Republican Presidential candidate came to Michigan, via Mexico.
¹A Mormon account of the Edmund’s Act and the Polygamist’s flight to Mexico. (From OrsonPrattBrown.com – The Life and Times of Orson Pratt Brown)
The United States Congress on March 14, 1882, passed the Edmund’s Bill which gave new cause and impetus to Mormon interest in Mexico. The bill made illegal the Mormon practice of having more than one wife. The concept of plural marriage was one of the cardinal doctrines of the Mormon Church and its members believed it to be a divine principle as set forth in revelation to the founding prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr., in 1843.
In 1884, the United States government began active prosecution of the new law. The penalty for polygamy was set at $500,000 or five years imprisonment, or both. Cohabitation was punishable by a fine not to exceed $300.00 and imprisonment not to exceed six months. Federal marshals hunted down violators in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, and New Mexico….