One of strangest trends in recent plural marriage publications by cultural Mormons has been to regress back to Fawn Brodie’s portrayal of Joseph Smith’s first plural marriage with Fanny Alger as an adulterous affair. This despite Todd Compton’s seminal treatment and a wide array of evidence in favor of a marriage from both hostile and friendly sources. I don’t wish to recap all this here as it would be a retread of G. L. Smith’s recent FARMS Review (I was thrilled to receive a shout out in the footnotes). Suffice it to say, the distorted version of Joseph Smith as a womanizer has really taking a beating and I have recently uncovered some additional information that will further vindicate the Prophet on that score, but that will have to wait for another post. The other major paradigm debate regards Fanny’s age at the marriage and on this I part ways with Compton’s analysis. Even if it is granted she was 16 at her ceremony, I can find regions of the country contemporaneous with Joseph Smith where men married a higher percentage of females aged 16 or less with greater frequency than Joseph Smith did. But, first let me present my unprofessional transcription of Mosiah Hancock holograph that I followed Compton’s lead and checked up on in the LDS archives:
We were then able to have rye bread and soon the potatoes came on so we fared well again. By fall we had some apples and peaches. I went to live with Solomon for awhile to help him boil his sorghum. By this time it was spring and I helped Father drive his team and get the ground ready to plant corn, beans, and potatoes and wheat. After the crops were in I went to live with Samuel Alger in 1815. I stayed there through the fall and winter. My sister, Clarrisa was at mothers with her young baby, Fanny. She stayed through part of the summer, sometimes her boy, Eli, was with her and at times he stayed with his Father or his uncle Solomon. Samuel Alger went to stay with his wife and children and hauled wood with a man by the name of Adams. In the spring they returned home. He gave me twenty-five cents to bare my expenses and I started home in March, 1816.