MARTHA MCBRIDE KNIGHT
Martha McBride married
Vinson Knight in 1826 at the age of twenty-one. Eight years later,
while living in New York State, the couple met Joseph Smith and together
they joined the church. In the spring of 1835, Martha and Vinson
sold their property and joined the Saints in Kirtland. Thinking he
had found the truth, Vinson wrote a letter to his Mother, “Now you think
that your priests are holy...I do know that the foundation you stand on
is an abomination in the sight of God”. He continued, “...we are
blessed with the privelege of going to meeting such as we never had before.”
By 1841, Martha and
Vinson were in Nauvoo, where Vinson was appointed Bishop of one of the
three Nauvoo wards. About this same time, Joseph taught Vinson the
doctrine of plural marriage and he soon took a second wife, Philinda Merrick.
In mid 1842, Vinson became sick. Joseph Smith’s diary records, “Bro
Knight has been sick about a week and this morning he began to sink very
fast untill 12 o clock when death put a period to his sufferings.”
Less than a month after
Vinson’s death, Martha married Joseph Smith. The details of the wedding
and subsequent married life with Joseph are sparse. Joseph did inquire
about Martha’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Almira, wondering if she would
be willing to become a plural wife of his brother, Hyrum. Martha
discussed the issue with her daughter, but Almira chose to marry another
man instead, eventually leaving Nauvoo and the unfolding of polygamy.
Martha’s other daughter, Adaline, would follow her mother’s path by entering
polygamy. Many years later, Martha received a letter from Almira
discussing her apprehension about polygamy: “I can never like [polygamy]
for [it] has robed my Sister & her family of their just dues by dividing...substance
between more than the law allows & what is still worse divided affection
worse than none at all would have killed me in a vary little time
but God spared me my heart bleeds for her... write soon from
your affectionate daughter...”. Since Almira mentions her sister
in this letter, she was perhaps unaware that her mother, Martha, was a
plural wife of Joseph Smith.
After Joseph Smith
was in killed in 1844, Martha obtained a cut of his hair, which she kept
in a locket and treasured throughout her life. A few months later,
she married Heber C. Kimball. Martha joined the westward migration
to Utah, building friendships with several of her “sister wives”.
For a few months she lived in Salt Lake City with three of Heber’s thirty-nine
wives, although she lived most of her life with relatives in the Ogden
and Weber County area, essentially living apart from Heber.
At one point she wrote in a letter to her daughter Adaline, “ to tell
you all my feelings would be hard to do but feel some like a wanderer
for truly I have not a home on the earth. I do not know where I shall go
nor what I shall do. I have no one to look to but the Lord alone...I trust
in him and do not dispair”. Martha died in 1901.