This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Pebble Gifford is a descendant of an esteemed Massachusetts family and was excited to come to Utah this fall for a friend's wedding because it gave her a chance to research her special if odd connection to 19th-century Mormons.
When she was here, though, she received a strange lesson on genealogy.
She made it a point to visit Brigham Young's Beehive House in downtown Salt Lake City after she traveled from her home in Cambridge, Mass.
Her great-great-grandmother had twice run away from her family to be with her lover Brigham Young, whom she had met while he was serving a Mormon mission in the Boston area in the early 1840s.
Augusta Cobb left behind her husband, a wealthy Quaker, and seven of their children, prompting Boston newspaper reporters to question who the father was of her infant, whom she had named Brigham Young Cobb.
Once in Utah, Augusta promptly became the third wife of Brigham Young. One of her children, James Cobb, joined her and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the West.
James married but was divorced from Mary Van Cott, who then became wife No. 51 of Brigham Young. That made James both the son and ex-husband to two of the Mrs. Youngs.
Augusta's daughter, Charlotte Cobb, married William S. Godbe, a Mormon polygamist who was excommunicated after he became a dissident and critic of Brigham Young. Godbe helped found The Salt Lake Tribune in the 1870s as an alternative to the Mormon-owned Deseret News.
While visiting the Beehive House, however, Gifford was disappointed to learn from two tour guides that they knew nothing of her ancestors' history. In fact, they assured her that Brigham Young had only two wives and had wed his second spouse only after the death of his first wife.
When Gifford asked for some literature on the subject, the guides gave her a Book of Mormon.
Gifford insists she is correct about her family, whose story has been passed down for more than 150 years. In fact, she has a portrait of Augusta's former daughter-in-law and later so-called "sister" wife that hangs in her dining room.
Gifford says she was taken aback that the guides "were either censored or trained to speak only of Young's two wives. It was very strange to me."
Utah's peculiar heritage became even stranger when Gifford toured southern Utah. At the Parowan Cafe, she noticed a sign advertising the raffle of a doubled-barreled shotgun, with tickets selling for $1 apiece or $5 for six tries at the grand prize. The raffle was sponsored by the Parowan Chamber of Commerce.
"I know other states are not as strict about gun control," the Massachusetts resident said, "but I never imagined that businesses would make money by raffling off guns."
Perhaps it's a good thing Gifford did not hear about the 2015 Legislature's commemorative rifle, a limited edition sold to eager gun collectors.
It's better still that she didn't learn the rifle, proudly embraced by Utah lawmakers, was modeled after the gun used to kill schoolchildren and adults in Massachusetts' neighboring state of Connecticut.