Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Rough Seas and Fine China

This is Eveline Mercy Tuckett McCafferty and her daughter Mercy Ellen McCafferty. I don't have a date for this photo, but if Mercy Ellen is between 2 and 4 years old, that would place this as between 1883 and 1885.

I introduced Eveline in an earlier post about Mormon Polygamy. She was the plural wife of my great-great grandfather, William Wallace White. This marriage did not last long, and there were no children born as a result of William and Eveline's union. Neither my family or Eveline's descendants were aware of this marriage for many years. It could easily have stayed a secret forever.

Yet, this episode, like others kept as silent memories, was meant to be discovered. Another family researcher was poring over microfilms at the LDS Family History Library, and saw William Wallace White's name on a sealing record with Eveline. In Mormon parlance, a temple marriage is referred to as a sealing-as the ordinance is meant to seal the union for eternity.

When this marriage record was discovered, much of my family-the grandchildren of  William and Louisa-found it unbelievable. There followed questions and rationalizations. Maybe this was a DIFFERENT William Wallace White ?

In an effort to eliminate any room for doubt, I began to dig harder into Eveline's story. What I found was a woman whose life wove in and out of many key events of Western US and Mormon history.

Eveline's parents met as early Mormon pioneers in St. Louis, Missouri. Henry Tuckett was a shoemaker, and Mercy Westwood was an actress, from a theatrical family. While in St. Louis, Mercy and her brother Philip staged plays to raise funds for the Westwoods and Tucketts travel west. Henry emulated the iconic western frontiersman: driving oxen, scouting trails, and eventually serving in the Pony Express.

By the time Henry and Mercy arrived in Salt Lake City, they had a six week old baby, Henry Augustus Tuckett.

Part of Brigham Young's plans for the State of Deseret included a refined center of culture. Drama and dance had been staples of Mormon social life from the beginning under Joseph Smith's direction. The first large structure the Mormons erected in the Salt Lake Valley was The Bowery. This structure served multiple needs--feeding large groups, sheltering many while their homes were being built, and staging of concerts, dances, and plays..

A more permanent structure was built by 1852 for community entertainment. Designated as The Social Hall, Brigham Young set about the establishment of the Deseret Dramatic Association.  Within LDS ecclesiastical structure, very nearly everyone was given a job-these were known as "callings". Your calling could be farming, weaving, learning midwifery, or carpentry, etc.

Brigham Young called Mercy Westwood Tuckett to the stage.

She was a popular, well-received actress, and played the lead in "The Stranger", "The Honeymoon", "Lady of Lyons", "Robert McCaire", "School for Scandal", and all the popular plays of that day.  Henry would attend the productions, with their (now 2) children in tow.

In 1857, due to shared animus between the US government and Brigham Young, President Buchanan sent a show of strength by way of military force to the Utah Valley. Residents of Salt Lake were directed by Brigham Young to vacate the city in preparation for war. As a result, the Tucketts relocated some 50 miles south with Westwood relations.

There would be more war hysteria and war preparations than actual war, but the occupation was not without negative impact. There were casualties and loss. Farming was disrupted, laborers were pulled away from their families to join the reactivated militia-The Nauvoo Legion, and added pressure was placed on those left to fend for themselves in a year already plagued by drought.

Mercy and her brothers David and Philip Westwood, organized a new acting troupe. With permission from their local religious leaders, they took their performances to the US Army encampment.  Starved for entertainment, the soldiers happily paid to attend the musicals and dramas. The funds raised were distributed to families and neighbors in Spanish Fork.

Not surprisingly, as the partnership between the Westwood Dramatic Association and the Army solidified, jealousies appeared. Richard C.White was the military's liaison for entertainment, and at some point, gossip began that he and Mercy were far too familiar and friendly. While there was no proof, and Mercy was never given opportunity to defend herself, local religious leaders accepted the rumors as truth, excommunicated Mercy, and granted Henry a divorce in proceedings she was not able to attend.

In the acrimonious fallout, Mercy had her baby Philip with her, so was able to keep him. But Henry hid her oldest two children, and barred her from their home, disregarding her appeals for entry.

Weary of rural starvation and shunned by their more pious neighbors, Philip Westwood, David Westwood, and Richard White decided to go to west with their families and establish a theatre. Mercy was compelled by circumstance to accompany them. Four months after leaving Utah, in March of 1860, Eveline Mercy Tuckett was born in Folsom, California. There is a window of time here, where the group of dramatic hopefuls may have tried their luck in San Francisco, but by 1861, they were living in Virginia City, Nevada.

The Westwoods arrived in Virginia City as the Silver boom erupted. Theirs was one of the very earliest theatres in what would, for a time, be a metropolis to rival San Francisco.  After a couple years, Mercy Tuckett and Richard White did marry. During childbirth, Mercy died, and Richard's child also died, shortly thereafter. This left Eveline and her older brother Philip orphaned with a stepfather ill-equipped to raise them-even had they been his children. Richard left Virginia City to write plays in San Francisco, and the children were left in the care of Philip and Mathilda Westwood.

Henry Tuckett was contacted, and he came to Virginia City to retrieve his children. He may have still harbored doubt or resentment regarding Eveline's paternity; or perhaps the childless Westwoods prevailed upon him to allow them to keep Eveline. Whatever the reason, only young Philip went home to Utah with his father.

Eveline enjoyed all the creature comforts of a well-off, socially connected family. She was educated in private schools, encouraged in musical pursuits-excelling at the piano, and prepared in all ways to the station of higher society. She had auburn hair and green eyes, with a pale, protected complexion.

When Eveline was 8 years old, Philip Westwood, whom she knew as her father, died after a short illness. Mathilda Westwood married Charles Rawson, City Clerk of Virginia City. In this way, Eveline continued to live a sheltered life with social obligations and opportunities.

At 20 years of age, Eveline married William McCafferty, a miner who had done well enough for himself to travel socially among the same elite circles as Eveline. Shortly after the birth of their daughter, Eveline found a letter in the pocket of William's coat. Family in Ohio had written, seeking to know how William was faring, as it had been some time since they had heard from him. Excitedly, Eveline wrote a letter in return. She, a young woman with hardly any family, sought now to connect with that of her husband.

Before long, a reply came to her. To her shock and dismay, the letter she had read originally, was not from a sister or aunt, but from a wife William had left behind in Ohio. There, he had three children waiting for word from their father.

Broken in spirit, Eveline retreated to the Rawson's home with her baby. Unfortunately, the timing of all this heartbreak could not have been worse. The silver market was sinking, and Virginia City seemed destined to go down with it. Her stepfather Charles had suffered a stroke and lost his position with the city. As he was unable to find work to which he was suited, the Rawsons were in the midst of selling their home for a fraction of its worth.

In secret, Mathilda Rawson wrote to Utah, asking the Tuckett family to rally support and travel expenses for Eveline. She had written to them periodically over the years, so they knew of Eveline, though Mathilda had not shown any letters from the Tucketts to Eveline. Now in this time of dire need, they were not immediate in their response, frustrating Mathilda. She wrote: 

"There are so many of you there, that it would be an easy matter among you all to send for her and make her a home".

The Westwoods who had remained in Utah were also an option in Mathilda's mind, and she said as much in her letters to the Tucketts. I haven't seen anything that shows who eventually helped Eveline and Mercy travel to Utah, but once in Utah, she resided with the Tucketts, so they may well have paid the fare.

This would have been the way Eveline discovered she was not the daughter of Mathilda and Philip Westwood, but the spurned child of a man she had seen only once, as a toddler.


While Salt Lake would have been quite different from Virginia City in many ways, Eveline was still part of the fortunate class by reuniting with the Tucketts. Her oldest brother, Henry Augustus Tuckett, owned a Confectioner's shop, and was a composer of hymns for LDS worship. Her sister Lillie Tuckett Freeze held a position of some authority within Mormonism--leading efforts to educate children and young women. Lillie wrote for the church publications on a regular basis. The entire family was quite devout, however, and Mormonism must have been strange to Eveline. It appears Eveline attended a Presbyterian church in Virginia City, and I would imagine it was a strong possibility that Mormonism was not looked upon fondly after the way the Westwoods had been pushed out.

But by all family accounts, Eveline was a "good girl", sensitive and delicate, and accustomed to following direction. So I imagine she did her best to assimilate into Mormon society. At this time, being a woman in Mormonism meant a high likelihood of plural marriage.

While not a mathematical issue--there were indeed more men than women in the Utah Territory--patriarchal polygamy was a matter of both earthly and Heavenly status. To reach the highest level of Heaven, a person would have to be part of a plural marriage. And to maintain a respected position in earthly Mormon society, a person would need to be actively pursuing the highest level of Heaven.

It was this social climate in which Eveline found herself in 1883. She was a divorced woman with a child--her first marriage having been to a non-Mormon. Her paternity may or may not have still been a matter of judgment, but the fact remained, her mother had been excommunicated and, by all appearances had run off with another man. (Lillie Tuckett Freeze did eventually petition for posthumous reversal of their mother's excommunication, and Henry retracted his accusations). All of these factors would have added to the pressure of ensuring her eternal salvation.

In the same congregation as the Tucketts, were my ancestors, William and Louisa. While not as well established financially as the Tucketts, the Whites were deeply involved in the religious structure. Louisa served with Eveline's sister in the youth organizations, and wrote articles for church publications as well.

On June 4 of 1884, Eveline was sealed to William W. White as his plural wife. Louisa's uncle Robert was present as a witness. There is no record showing Louisa as present, but there would have been no occasion to mention her, if she was there. (Louisa was certainly in Salt Lake City at the time, as she gave birth to Lola just two months later.) Additionally, since polygamy was by now a federal offense, there would be no public acknowledgement of the marriage. It would be very likely that Eveline and Mercy would continue to live in her brother's home. By all appearances, she would still be the single mother with no husband. She would not be allowed to even whisper to a friend that she was married. Somewhere, not far away, William and Louisa lived with their two children.

From May of 1886 to November of 1887, William and Louisa were not even in Utah. They left to visit family in Michigan, and to try and find work.

This leaves Eveline, a woman only 25 years old, living like a spinster with no options for the future. Or no options for a future here on Earth. Her Heavenly future was secure, as long as she stayed faithful to her absent husband. She listed herself in the City Directory as "Eveline Tuckett, a widow".


As part of efforts to expand Mormon settlement of the west, LDS leaders sent groups of people to farm and establish a presence in various areas radiating outward from Salt lake City. These efforts began in Brigham Young's time, and continued with the following prophets.

Mancos, Colorado was one of these places. Historically populated by Navajo and Ute tribes, Mancos was taken from the reservation land in 1873 as part of the San Juan Cession, and became a trading post. Cattle ranchers and farmers began claiming land for themselves.

In November of 1887, William and Louisa answered a call to come to Mancos and join her two brothers already engaged in farming and irrigation efforts. William spent a little over a year surveying land, building a home, and planting some kind of crop.

In June of 1889, it is known that William traveled from Mancos to Salt Lake and back.  It must have been on this trip that he brought Eveline and Mercy to Mancos. It is certain they were in Mancos on August 1st, 1889, because local church records list 8 year old Mercy's baptism at that date in Mancos, the ordinance performed by two local leaders. In May of 1890, William performed these same ordinances in Mancos for his son Charles.

What could that have possibly been like-all these people suddenly thrown together in a frontier outpost ? So many other stories of polygamy illustrate the plethora of difficulties navigating this unconventional family structure. In the best of circumstances, polygamy was a test and a trial, but some families made it work. It doesn't seem likely here, relegated as second fiddle to First Wife Louisa, and required to work at physically demanding tasks, Eveline would have been completely helpless. And poor little Mercy, it appears that William didn't think of her as his responsibility--since her priesthood ordinances were performed by other men.

There is evidence of some trouble recorded in a visiting official's journal. Francis A. Hammond was the church leader responsible for the area now known as western Colorado and southeastern Utah. He would travel by horse and buggy from town to town in the region, and provide counsel and gather reports of progress in these young settlements. On March 7, 1890, Francis Hammond recorded in his journal:

"Evening, had a meeting at Bishop Halls with Bro. & Sis. White in relation to his treatment of her as she is his plural wife-her name was Tuckett. I counseled Bro. White to take her back to Salt Lake and treat her as a wife."

William's next recorded trip to Salt Lake was in May of 1891. After this date, we begin to see Eveline Tuckett listed again in the Salt Lake City Directory, again a resident of her brother's home. LDS church records show that the plural marriage between Eveline and William was cancelled on September 21st, 1893.

Eveline would spend another couple of years unmarried and unsaved, before meeting James Holder. He was a widower with grown children, and a congenital heart defect that kept him from consistent employment. He was handsome, and treated Eveline kindly, but they were never financially stable. They had three children. Eveline taught her children all of the graceful etiquette and refined manners with which she was raised, and showered them with love.

In her last years, she lived in the home of one of her children, and spent many hours with her grandchildren. She was still delicate, sensitive, and sweet after all the buffeting about by life. A grand-daughter fondly remembers her this way, even knowing that these characteristics may have not protected her grandmother as well as a sterner, more independent demeanor may have.