Episode 88: Ben Bistline, FLDS Historian

Written by Lindsay Hansen Park on . Posted in year of polygamy

mormonhair:The five wives of Richard S Jessop and several of their children rest in Short Creek Arizona, 1953photo by Joern Gerdts, Getty ImagesRichard Seth Jessop (1894-1978) was Merril Jessop’s father. He was simultaneously Carolyn Jessop’s father-in-law and stepgrandfather.Richard Seth Jessop was a son of Joseph Smith Jessop snr. Richard’s siblings include Uncle Fred, Vergel Yeates Jessop and the AUB’s Joseph Lyman Jessop snr.  Richard Seth Jessop’s AGE AT RAID: almost 60 years old.Richard’s wives were1) Alveda Anderson. Richard’s first wife Alveda (marriage in 1915) had died in 1927. 2) Ida Young Johnson (1906-1956). Parents: Jeremiah Nelson Johnson & Anna “Annie” Maud Young. Marriage in 1928. Jeremiah Johnson was a brother of Leroy S. Johnson and Warren Elmer Johnson (all were sons of Warren Marshall Johnson). AGE AT RAID: 47. Ida was Merril Jessop’s mother.   3) Fern Judith “Judy” Carlson Shapley (1919-1992). AGE AT RAID: 34.4) Lola Spencer Johnson (1916-2012). Parents: Warren Elmer Johnson & Viola Spencer. 14 children. AGE AT RAID: 37. 5) Artemishia “Mishie” Spencer Johnson (*1931), spelled “Artimichie” in Richard Seth Jessop’s obituary- for reasons unclear to me she was the legal wife when he died. Parents: Warren Elmer Johnson & Viola Spencer. Children include Ernest Randolph Jessop (1950-1975), died of brain tumor. Mishie was a teenager and Richard Seth was in his 50s years old when he impregnated her. AGE AT RAID: 21 years old.  6) Jennie Johnson Bistline (1902-1984). Widow of John Anthony Bistline, who had died in 1949. Maternal grandmother of Carolyn Bistline Blackmore. John Anthony Bistline died when Carolyn Bistline’s mother Nurylon Johnson Bistline was only two years old. Nurylon was then raised by Richard Seth Jessop. Which means that Merril Jessop and Carolyn Bistline were uncle and niece by marriage… and that Merril Jessop and his later mother-in-law Nurylon Bistline had been raised as siblings. Similarly, Jennie’s son and Nurylon’s brother Ben Bistline (the author) married his stepsister (Merril’s full sister) Annie Johnson Jessop. Jennie Johnson was not closely related to her sisterwives Ida Johnson and Ida’s cousins Mishie and Lola Johnson. Jennie was a great-granddaughter of Benjamin F. Johnson. AGE AT RAID: 51 years old.In the picture above, Jennie is definitely the second from left. Ida is the woman at the far right. Mishie and her full sister Lola Spencer Johnson are between Jennie and Ida. Which would make the woman in the front Fern Carlson.More pictures of Richard Seth Jessop’s family during the Short Creek raid: Two of the wives of Richard Seth Jessop are also featured on the right here, all 5 wives and the children are also here and the wife on the far left of the picture above (probably Fern Carlson) is also in this picture here.    

“If we give up plural marriage, the streets will be filled with harlots and soldiers will be corrupting the fair daughters of Zion.” (1944 polygamy trial defense) “I don’t believe in all that women’s lib stuff.” (Valerie Darger) The five wives of Richard S Jessop and several of their children rest in Short Creek Arizona, 1953

  Join Lindsay as she interviews FLDS historian Benjamin Bistline about growing up in Short Creek and about his work. Links important for this podcast:

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Comments (1)

  • Pam Jenson

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    I’ve been working with local organizations helping and assisting people who leave polygamist organizations and assimilate into mainstream culture (HOH, Diversity, Sound Choices Coalition). Because Utah legislators refuse to recognize the challenges, these organizations are trying independently to provide much needed resources. Are you aware of other organized groups that would be useful as a resource or interested in combining with us? We are always needing more help than we can find.

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