Note: A very interesting story of a hundred years ago. How history
seems to repeat, and how the role of self defense and gun control
plays. Looks like some things never change. AZMEX has related
events with the current colonies in Chih. over past few years. Have
heard over the years of a lot more history of all this from folks on
both sides of the border. Don't know if it was ever written about.
So, a RFI. Thx
Mormons fled violence in Mexico to find safety in new state of Arizona
Tim Steller Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Saturday, February 11, 2012
12:00 am | Comments
Six months after Arizona became a state, Tucsonan Jeanette Done's
mother fled Mexico's revolution in a journey that helped establish
Tucson's first Mormon community.
Her family's flight followed a pattern by which Mormons from Mexico
scattered across Southern Arizona in the state's first year.
Just a 3-year-old child, Done's mother, Thora Young, was among
thousands who escaped the eight Mormon colonies in Chihuahua and
Sonora as fighting and lawlessness took hold around them in July and
August 1912. Young, her sister and mother were among the refugees who
stayed in an abandoned lumberyard in El Paso, while hundreds more
later stayed in U.S. Army tents in a camp outside Douglas.
Eventually, Young's father joined her and the family settled in
Binghampton, then a farming settlement at the bend in the Rillito
where Alvernon Way meets the river. Other families from the Mexican
colonies settled in places like Douglas, Safford, Pomerene and St.
David, helping establish some communities that endured and others
that died out.
It's an extraordinary family story that is becoming familiar to more
Americans because of Mitt Romney's candidacy for the Republican
nomination for president. Like Done's mother, Romney's father fled
the Mormon colonies in Chihuahua as a child, but in Romney's case the
family resettled first in Utah.
Across Arizona, people with family names such as Haymore, Naegle,
Lillywhite, Fenn, Huish and Williams share the stories even today in
self-published books and passed-down accounts. The stories fill Done
and other descendants of this so-called Mormon Exodus with awe at the
ingenuity, forbearance and community spirit of their ancestors.
"They were all very hard-working together," Done said. "They were
dedicated to their church and their community, and they became quite
POLYGAMISTS MOVED SOUTH
A U.S. government crackdown on polygamy in the 1880s drove the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to establish colonies south of
the border, where polygamist families could be free from the
increasing harassment of U.S. marshals.
"After the Civil War, the federal government felt they'd cleaned up
the slavery issue, and polygamy was the next great sin to go after,"
said Carolyn O'Bagy Davis, a Tucson author who last year published
"The Fourth Wife: Polygamy, Love & Revolution," a biography of a
woman forced to flee the colonies.
By moving to Mexico and maintaining polygamy, the families felt they
were fulfilling a religious calling that would let them attain higher
glory in heaven and help them keep their multiple families together,
In 1885, scouts from St. David and elsewhere checked out
possibilities in Sonora before buying land in the plain below the
eastern slopes of the Sierra Madre in northwestern Chihuahua. By the
time the revolution broke out in 1910, there were eight Mormon
colonies in Chihuahua and Sonora, with a population around 5,000.
The Mormons did not mix much with the local Mexican population, and
tensions grew along with the increasing prosperity of the white
American colonists, who quickly developed orchards, flour mills and
fine brick homes. Missionary Ammon Tenney, who lived in Colonia
Dublán at the time, noted in his journal that "race prejudice"
existed among the Mormon colonists.
Tenney went on: "While on the other side the Mexican Element are
among the most jealous and when we add our Superior intellect coupled
with our advanced Prosperity it naturally irritates these Poor
People, which too often Culminates in Robery with its kindred train
of evils, or crimes." (Capitalization and a misspelling are repeated
from the journal.)
The revolt against Mexico's dictator, Porfirio Diaz, stemmed in part
from his allowing foreign investors free rein in the country. So the
presence of rich, white Americans inflamed some residents and rebels,
who coveted the Mormons' horses, supplies, homes and guns.
"The social fabric was unraveling," said Mike Landon, archivist at
the LDS Church History Library in Salt Lake City. "It was tough for
anyone, but especially for foreign nationals. It was a nationalistic
SOME LEFT BEFORE 1912
For a couple of years leading up to 1912, as Mexico destabilized
Mormon families slowly trickled away from the colonies, some of them
settling at Binghampton. Then battles, criminality and threats spiked
at the Chihuahua settlements. On July 28, 1912, Mormon officials
finally agreed to long-held rebel demands that they hand over their
Though they hid a few firearms, the Mormons now felt too vulnerable
to stay and made hasty plans to send all the women and children to
the United States. Done's grandfather, William H. Young, stayed while
Done's grandmother, Effie May Butler Young, took their two children
on the freight cars of a refugee train from Casas Grandes, Chihuahua,
to El Paso.
There the migrants stayed in an abandoned lumberyard.
Done's mother explained in a short memoir: "I remember my mother
draping some quilts around posts to give us a little privacy. The
government brought us food."
While the locals were generally welcoming, some came around to stare
at the American polygamists from Mexico, although some of the
families, including Done's grandfather's, were monogamous, and the
church opposed polygamy by then, too.
"They felt like they were in a zoo," Done said.
A FEW STAYED LONGER
As quickly as possible, with the help of the U.S. government and
fellow Mormons, the refugees looked for someplace to go while they
waited out the revolution. In the case of Done's grandmother, the
first stop was Utah, where she gave birth to her third child before
traveling to Binghampton to await her husband there.
Like many of the men, Done's grandfather stayed longer in Mexico and
held out hope for a rapid resettlement of the colonies they'd built
there. But eventually most fled, often in wagon trains. He went to
Binghampton for a few months, then returned to Colonia Dublán in
April 1913, and in June that year, thinking the situation was safer,
sent for his family in Binghampton.
"Conditions in Mexico became increasingly worse," Done's mother wrote
of that time in her memoir. "The rebels were killing and stealing all
the time. My father had some very narrow escapes several times. He
was captured by the rebels and held hostage because he would not give
up a revolver he had borrowed from a friend in Colonia Dublán."
"In 1914," she went on, "we left Mexico for good and came back to
Tucson, to the little community of Binghampton."
The communities of Pomerene and Miramonte, northwest of Benson, also
sprang up thanks to the settlement of Mormons from Mexico. Miramonte
didn't last much more than a decade because of inadequate water, but
Pomerene exists today, although it has lost its farming culture due
to low water levels.
Binghampton, too, disappeared as a separate community in the 1950s,
swallowed up by Tucson as it grew. But the Mormon refugees from
Mexico had left a legacy that Done and others across Southern Arizona
continue to appreciate.
"They didn't all get here directly, but once they were here, they
were all this united community," Done said. "I felt it was a little
bit of utopia."
On StarNet: See more early photos of Mormons who left Mexico at
Read more: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/mormons-fled-violence-in-