Consigned to a Distant Prison: Idaho Mormons in the South Dakota Penitentiary


Mormon Studies, penitentiary, polygamists, Idaho


"Today is the greatest day of my life," wrote convicted Mormon polygamist Austin Greeley Green upon entering the United States Penitentiary at Sioux Falls, Dakota Territory, on 4 December 1887.1 These sentiments were certainly strange for one who was beginning a prison sentence nearly a thousand miles distant from his family. Serving time with Green were four other Mormon men from southeastern Idaho: Joseph Henry Byington, Sidney Weekes, William Sevins, and Josiah Richardson. All had been convicted of unlawful cohabitation and adultery and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to three and a half years.3 Green and his companions were victims of a rise in anti-Mormon sentiment in Idaho that led to the incarceration of many polygamists in the 1870s and 1880s. Moreover, they were the first men from Idaho to be sentenced to a prison in another territory. "Exiled" either because of overcrowding in the Idaho penitentiary or because of judicial vindictiveness, they accepted their sentences and, along with other Mormon polygamists' imprisoned in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Michigan, and Nebraska, viewed themselves as martyrs for their cause. Between 1887 and 1892, a total of eleven Mormon polygamists' from Idaho served time in the penitentiary at Sioux Falls.3

Original Publication Citation

Fred E. Woods, “When the Saints Came Sailing In: Mormon Immigration in Mystic-Built Clipper Ships,” The Log of Mystic Seaport 49, no.1 (Summer 1997):12–20.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



South Dakota History




Religious Education


Church History and Doctrine

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor