An edited transcription of the 1879 to 1887 diaries of Mary Lois Walker Morris (1835-1919). Mary Lois, a plural wife in 19th century Utah, went in and out of hiding between 1885 and 1887 to protect her husband Elias Morris from prosecution for illegal cohabitation. Her daily diaries culminate with the court trial of her husband for illegal cohabitation in September 1887. At the trial, she testified falsely, stating that she had been separated from her husband since the beginning of 1883, when in fact the couple did not separate until May of 1885. As a result, her husband was acquitted.
Mary Lois and her husband Elias Morris, a prominent builder and businessman, were in a levirate marriage. Mary Lois had married Elias's brother John in 1852 and came across the plains to Salt Lake City with him. In 1855, when John lay dying, Mary Lois promised him that she would marry his brother Elias and raise up children that would belong to John in the hereafter. John's brother Elias agreed and took Mary Lois as a plural wife in 1856. Together, they had eight children, including LDS apostle George Q. Morris and Nephi Morris, a member of the Utah state legislature.
Mary Lois's diaries contain detailed information about her own and her children's church meeting attendance, her time as the president of the Salt Lake 15th Ward Primary Association, her work as a milliner, her attitude toward polygamy and her interactions with her husband and children. Her diaries also give evidence of a rich cultural life that included attendance at many plays and concerts and contain conversations and interaction with many LDS people in Salt Lake City at the time. She records information about courtship patterns, housecleaning, leisure activities, reading material and other aspects of daily life in 19th century Utah. In addition, Mary Lois gives political commentary on the anti-polygamy conflict occurring around her and records her own experience in hiding during the raid.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Milewski, Melissa Lambert, "The Diaries of Mary Lois Walker Morris" (2004). Theses and Dissertations. 4942.
Mary Lois Walker Morris, Elias Morris, Polygamy, 19th century, pioneer life, pioneer