A Family History Letter to Mitt Romney

While I don’t take sides in politics in any country I’ve lived in, I found some information in the Mitt Romney family history fascinating – and the author of the following highlighted article giving me a fit of the family history giggles.

I was surprised to find Los Angeles Review of Books review on “The Mormon Chronicles: A Meditation In Four Parts” by Judith Freeman with an interesting perspective that some family historians should consider.

It told the story of her ancestor William Flake, a Mormon church patriarch who served time in prison with Grandfather Romney for “illegal cohabitation.” The article began with “Mitt Romney owes me money.”

As stated in Wikipedia’s entry for the Romney family, they are considered “LDS royalty.” The family is linked by marriage to the John Smith family, the original founder of the Mormon church.

The Romney family immigrated from England to the United States in the 1840s, long after most of my family had been in the country, paving the way for the Romneys and the rest of the immigrants following us.

Miles Romney (1806-1877) was an architect and he designed the St. George Tabernacle in Utah. Many family members and descendants were politicians and successful business leaders. And the men practiced the polygamy of the Mormon way at the time.

While Mitt was raised in Michigan, his father, George W. Romney, was born in a Mormon colony in Mexico. Mitt’s grandparents fled to Mexico to escape prosecution for polygamy in the 1890s. The family history of polygamy still haunts them as it does many Mormon family trees.

They fled Mexico in 1912 from the Mexican Revolution. While there is sometimes confusion over whether or not Romney’s father should be considered Mexican, the Mormon colony in Mexico was strictly “white” and not integrated into Mexican gene pools even though recent biographical information lists him as Mexican-American.

Struggling to survive back in the United States, George eventually rose up after World War II in the automotive industry eventually becoming chairman and president of the American Motors Corporation and Governor of Michigan. His wife, Lenore, was an active politician as well, running for US Senate in 1970 and her husband’s bid for US President in 1968.

While the Obama family is one of mixed races, mixed stories, and poverty, as well as success stories, the Romneys are a form of Kennedy family in the eyes of many, a family with a long history of leadership, political power, and corporate experience.

From the article, Judith Freeman how Mitt Romney owes her money.

Not a lot of money by his standards, but a fair little chunk of change by mine. It’s an old debt, in fact a family matter, and I’d like to say right here and now that I think it’s high time it was repaid.

Here is the story of that indebtedness:

In the 1870s, Mitt Romney’s great-grandfather, Miles P. Romney, and my great-grandfather, William Jordan Flake, were patriarchs of adjoining Mormon communities in the high, cold, hard country of northern Arizona, a region known as Apache County. They had been sent to northern Arizona by the prophet Brigham Young to settle new communities and expand the kingdom of Deseret, which was the name the Mormons liked to use for their fiefdom in the West (it’s the word for honey bees and meant to evoke their ceaseless industry).

Both Romney and Flake were descendants of early English converts to the Mormon Church: their fathers had made the great trek westward in the late 1840s and settled in Utah, where Miles Romney became known for his roles in amateur theatricals while Flake was celebrated for his horsemanship and frontier skills. A few years before they were called to become part of Brigham Young’s plan to establish a corridor from Utah to Mexico, both Romney and Flake had been told to take additional wives, much to the chagrin of their original spouses. But because polygamy was considered to be the “Divine Principle,” a commandment revealed by God, and because one did not disobey the Prophet Brigham Young, both Romney and Flake added wives to their households. As it turned out, Flake married, as his second wife, a young family friend, 16-year-old Prudence Kartchner, my great-grandmother.

The article goes on to tell the story of how Flake posted $1,000 in bail for both he and Romeny. It also goes on to describe the Romneys and her ancestors lives, the history of how the polygamists ended up in Mexico, and offers historical descriptions of Grampa Romney.

One newspaper editor wrote of Romney, who had a well-known fondness for wine in spite of the Mormon prohibition against drinking, that he considered him “a mass of putrid pus and rotten goose pimples; a skunk, with the face of a baboon, the character of a louse, the breath of a buzzard and the record of a perjurer and common drunkard.” In other words, he didn’t like him.

It seems that Miles P. Romney, grandfather to Mitt, skipped bail, “fleeing across the border into Mexico with his three wives…” leaving the author’s grandfather “holding the bag.”

Her grandfather eventually became an upright citizen and one of the first Arizona State Senators, while Romney stayed in Mexico until pushed out by the war.

While many may take the fact that Mitt Romney’s grandfather was a polygamist and find fault with the presidential candidate, I find it fascinating that little tidbits of history such as this are revealed and shared with the world, giving insights to others researching the same time period, location, and families from that time period.

I think about my ancestors who served public office. Many articles were written about them and their family history, casting doubts as well as shedding light on their history and the roles they played in that history. What a treasure for the Flake and Romney family historians to have access to such information, even if it is lighthearted and in jest – okay, partial jest as the author sums it up.

The point is Miles P. Romney never bothered to repay my great-grandfather Flake the thousand dollars he owed him for posting his bail. Since it’s never too late to make a situation right, and since Mitt Romney seems to have sufficient funds now to cover his ancestor’s old debt, I’d like to call upon him to do so. I’ve done some calculation, and $1,000 from the 1880s would today be worth about $25,000, not counting interest (and since I’m not a smart enough to figure up the interest, I’m willing to let that part slide). Because William Jordan Flake has about 15,000 descendants living at the moment, I realize I’ll have to divide up the money should Romney do the right thing and write out that check.

However, I want to assure Mitt that I’m more than happy to be the disperser of the funds and I guarantee that all the Flakes of the world will get their fair share the moment he does the right thing.

I’m now searching my records for debts owed to my ancestors. Maybe I can get paid by the debtor’s descendents. 😀

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About Lorelle VanFossen

Lorelle VanFossen hosts Family History Blog covering her ancestors and related family members. She is one of the top bloggers in the world, and host of the Lorelle on WordPress, providing WordPress and blogging tips for bloggers of all levels. A popular keynote speaker and trainer, she is also editor, producer, contributor, and official disruptive thinker for Bitwire Media which includes WordCast, Making My Life Network, Stories of Our Journeys, Life on the Road, WordCast Conversations, and the very popular WordCast Podcast.
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