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2016-11-10

Mormon villages in Antebellum Museum to host historian

Special to the Courier

Recent news stories on polygamy among members of a Mormon splinter group hearken back to another group of Mormons who settled the Texas frontier in 1845. Then, another band of dissident Mormons, seeking refuge following the murder of their prophet Joseph Smith Jr. was led to Texas by a maverick apostle named Lyman Wight. Historian, Melvin Johnson, will discuss his research and book, Polygamy on the Pedernales in a presentation and book signing at 6 p.m., November 17, at the Frontier Times Museum.
For thirteen years, the settlers, known as Wightites, attempted to build their Kingdom of God in preparation for Christ’s return, practicing their versions of plural marriages, temple rites and communitarian economics separate from the Mormons gathering in Utah. They were experienced millers from the northern woods of Wisconsin. Coming to the Texas Hill Country, they brought gristmills and sawmills with them. One of their gristmills in set in a fireplace in the Frontier Times Museum.
Settling first in Zodiac, outside of Fredericksburg, they would eventually settle along the Medina River where the Medina Lake is today. The Mormon settlers were professionals, farmers and furniture makers. A chair made in the Mormon colony is now in the museum’s collection. Unfortunately, their settlement was continuously attacked by Comanche Indians. Their leader Lyman Wight’s pleas for help from Austin were not successful. By 1858, the settlement had disbanded following the death of Wight from the ill effects of alcohol and opium use. While most scattered to various locales, some of the descendants remained in Bandera County.
Melvin C. Johnson is an historian, writer, researcher, columnist and retired educator who resides with his wife in Marble Falls, Texas and Salt Lake City, Utah. He has presented papers, chaired sessions and served on Boards and Committees for professional history organizations, including the Sunstone Conference, East Texas Historical Association, West Texas Historical Association, John Whitmer Historical Association, Mormon Historical Association, the Texas Forestry Museum Hall of Fame and once was a historical consultant on a movie and also managed a failing campaign for Congress. His Polygamy on the Pedernales: Lyman Wight's Mormon Villages in Antebellum Texas, 1845-1858, Utah, won the Smith-Pettit Best Book Historical Award for the John Whitmer Historical Association. The book is available at the museum’s gift shop. For more information, please call the Frontier Times Museum at 830-796-3864.