Elvira Euphrasia Cox:
A Case Study in Polygamy

by Andrea Lloyd
History 490, Sec. 009
December, 2004

"By far the most detailed and pathetic documentation of an unhappy polygamous marriage in Sanpete County is found in the diary of Elvira Euphrasia Cox Day," wrote Albert C. T. Antrei, a compiler of a Sanpete County, Utah history.  "By her own account [she] suffered constant vilification from [the first wife] Eliza... and her husband, Eli Azariah Day, could not, or would not, acknowledge her as his wife or be seen with her publicly." (1)

I am interested in this "pathetic" story because Euphrasia and Eli are my great grandparents.  Euphrasia’s life is indeed well-documented; she kept four detailed diaries.  Her life was difficult, sad, and humiliating, but Antrei may be unfair in his condemnation of Eliza and Eli as neither one of them kept a diary.  We do not know Eliza’s nor Eli’s feelings and cannot commiserate with them like we can Euphrasia. (2)

And while the story is one sided, Euphrasia’s experiences explain her decision to become the wife of a married man and the effects of that decision.  She fell in love and married the man of her dreams, but the dream soon turned into a nightmare as she faced the realities of being the second wife.


In 1852 polygamy was publicly announced and encouraged by Mormon leaders in the Utah territory.  For the next ten years the Mormons practiced polygamy without persecution. (3)   Then in 1862 congress passed the Morrill Act declaring polygamy to be illegal. This law was not a serious threat because in most cases it was impossible to prove that a man was actually married to more than one woman. (4)   But the Edmunds Act in 1882 made "cohabiting" with more than one woman a crime. The federal government was determined to prosecute those who chose to disobey the law. When a plural wife had a baby, that was proof enough that a man was unlawfully cohabiting. (5)   A man could not even visit his plural family without committing a crime. (6)

Then in 1887 the Edmunds-Tucker Act was passed.  Wives could be forced to testify against their husbands under this law.  This added another terrifying dimension to the raids by the federal marshals, because it meant that the plural wives also had to go into hiding.  (7)

Men dealt with the new laws in a variety of ways.  Some moved with their families out of Utah or out of the country where federal marshals assigned to the Utah territory had no jurisdiction.  Others went on "the underground," or into hiding. (8)

Why did Mormon men and women accept polygamy as a way of life when the United States Government was actively pursuing and imprisoning those who chose to practice it?  There were many reasons, but the most compelling was that Mormons believed it was a principle of the gospel.  Some people believed it was the only way they could be exalted.  Eli Day was one of those men, and his children knew it.  "Those that felt that they could live polygamy as it should be lived and were worthy to do it were advised to marry two or more wives," said Arthur Day, his youngest child. (9)   His oldest child, Ellis Day Coombs wrote:  "Father believed that celestial marriage was necessary for his exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom of God."  (10)

Oluf Christian Larsen and his wife, also of Sanpete County felt the same way.  They knew the word of God was true and that obedience would bring blessings.  They  also realized the trials and trouble that would follow obedience.  They decided it would not be right to shrink from their duty any longer. (11)   Many women would not have entered or allowed their husbands to enter into a polygamous relationship unless they believed it was a commandment of God.  Eliza Partridge Lyman wrote in her diary: "nothing but a firm desire to keep the commandment of the Lord could have induced a girl to marry in that way."  (12)

Another important reason people became polygamists was financial.  A single woman was hard-pressed to support herself in the latter half of the nineteenth century, especially if she had children.  The case of Sophia Petersen is typical.   She was destitute when she came to Utah but a family took pity on her and invited her to live with them.  She became the second wife a few months later.  Anne Larsen, a widow with a three-year-old daughter, came to Utah and married into polygamy a year later.  Her daughter became a plural wife thirteen years later.

Brigham Young preached the importance of "celestial marriage," a synonym for plural marriage, and exhorted both men and women to enter into it.  He told men it was their duty to marry and care for the many single women who were coming to Utah from the eastern states and Europe.  Some of these women had never married, some were widows, and others were divorced.   John Taylor specifically preached that "widows should be taken care of through [plural] marriage." (13)

Polygamy in Sanpete County

Not everyone chose to live polygamy.  In fact, polygamists were in the minority and polygamous marriages were on the decline in Sanpete County in the 1880’s.  By then women had "greater educational and economic opportunities" and were not as isolated as they had been before that time. (14)  In the temple city of Manti, only about 15% of the married men claimed two or more wives, (15) and in Fairview approximately 5% to 10% of the married men had more than one wife.  Out of the 147 families living there, 122 had both a husband and a wife, five were headed by single men, and twenty were headed by women. (16)  Out of those twenty women, sixteen said they were married and eight were proven to live in a polygamous relationship. (17)  Unfortunately, the 1890 Census is not available for comparison.

Choosing to live polygamy in Utah in the 1880’s meant hiding from the law, arrest,  imprisonment, fines, separation from loved ones, loss of income, poverty and fear.  Jonathan Layne wrote that he suffered "great anxiety and discomfort during these times" [when he was in hiding].  The Day family shared this experience along with many others.  Their greatest fear was that the "feds" would come and take their father away.  According to biographies the children left, the federal marshals usually came at supper time or in the late evening or early morning hours. (18)

This paraphrased account from Ephraim, Sanpete County appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune, February 15, 1888:   Two of the three men who had stayed on the underground for eight months were found and arrested one night between ten and two o’clock for unlawful cohabitation. One was found in a small log house over a mile from his own home where his two wives lived together.  The second wife was also in hiding, but was found and served with a subpoena.  The other man was found at his own house, stowed away in a pile of rags under an old bedstead.  The third man escaped; he had two wives; one lived at the north end of Spring City while the other lived at the south end.  "And that is the way a great many of these cohabs fix themselves, so that they can send runners out in time to notify the rest of the family before the officers can reach them.  These towns are fairly alive with horsemen and as soon as the deputies make an arrest, [they] notify the persons like to be wanted." (19)

Although most people were not in a polygamous situation, they were generally sympathetic to those who were.  Especially in the smaller Mormon communities a system to warn polygamists was in place.  They had look-outs posted at the entry points to the county and the town who sounded the alarm when strangers appeared. (20)   Euphrasia’s oldest son, Orville, said that when a deputy marshal came to town everyone would notify the polygamist and he would get under cover.  A new baby by the second wife meant that both went on the underground. Children were taught early not to speak to strangers because they might be spies for the feds. (21)

Eli and Euphrasia

Eli and Euphrasia were both born in Sanpete County.  Eli’s father, Abraham, joined the Mormon Battalion and left his family behind in Winter Quarters.  He brought them to Utah in 1851 where he married his second wife, Charlotte Broomhead, a young woman who had been living with the family as a servant.  He moved both families to Springville the next year; Eli was born there in 1856, the fourth child of Abraham and Charlotte. (22)

Eli was an educated man.  He grew up in Mt. Pleasant and was selected to go to the University of Deseret, now the University of Utah.  He was in the first graduating class in 1876 with a degree in English Language and Literature.  He returned to Mt. Pleasant and started teaching school that fall.  He introduced geography, history, grammar, and music to the students and eliminated corporal punishment as a method of discipline. (23)  He valued learning and education, one of the qualities that surely made Euphrasia attractive to him.

Euphrasia’s parents, Orville Sutherland and Elvira Pamela Mills Cox, arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in October 1847.  In November of 1849 they were called by Brigham Young to go to Manti to help settle the area.  Orville married two more wives there, one in 1853 and another in 1859.  He moved Elvira and her children to Fairview in 1862 where Euphrasia was born in 1864. (24)  She graduated from Brigham Young Academy with honors in December 1882 and became a certified mid-wife in 1896.  She loved school and loved to learn.  For special occasions she wrote songs, plays, farces, pageants, and stories.  One of her stories, "Out of the Darkness into Light," was published in serial form in 1889 in The Instructor. (25)

At the age of 14, she taught 40 "young scholars" in Fairview without pay. In the middle of the term the trustees officially hired her and paid her $25 a month, a marvelous salary at the time.  She continued to teach school until she was nearly 17, when she enrolled in the BY Academy.  She spent the winter and spring of 1883 acting in three plays and writing "the parts in ‘The Rose of Ettrick Vale.’"  In the fall, she started teaching school in Fairview again, this time as a certified teacher. (26)

The school term began the first part of September, but many of the students did not come to school until after the harvest was over.  Eli was the principal and the other teacher.  In the winter months there were 160 students of all ages.  Euphrasia started the year with sixty children from "Chart to Fourth Readers" while Eli taught the rest. At first, Euphrasia did not care for "Mr. Day."  She thought he looked frail and had little personality, though he seemed like a kind man.  He was five inches shorter than Euphrasia, slightly built, and quiet.  Euphrasia was tall, big-boned, feisty, and strong-willed. (27)  "He is nice, but rather mild-mannered," she wrote on October 16, 1883.  However, they soon became friends as they worked together and shared the many problems that teaching school encompasses.  She quickly became one of his most ardent admirers because of his popularity with the children, and his patient, gentle ways.

Eli was also an accomplished musician and he brought his organ to school, "much to the delight of the children." Euphrasia arranged to take organ lessons from him after school.  She enjoyed the lessons and enjoyed Eli’s company even more.   She made comments in her diary about him: "Day is cute as cute can be."  "I like Brother Day better every day."  She believed he was the favorite with the children and she was jealous of that.  Then she notes that she never heard anyone say a word against him.

As the months passed and they spent more time together, they began to fall in love.  Euphrasia’s diary entry for February 1, 1884 notes that Brother Day stopped by her room almost every day after school for a chat.  "He nearly always chances to go home at the same time I do, and I don’t mind that!"

Then things became much more serious.  She recorded: "February 28, 1884:  In the forenoon jestingly I said that I wished someone would take me to the Old Folk’s Party and Day offered to do so.  I promised, but at night when we were going home he said he was in earnest.  I told him I wasn’t."  The next night, however, Eli spent the evening at Euphrasia’s home.

Eli and Euphrasia tried to keep their courtship a secret, knowing they were playing at a dangerous game, but they often heard gossip about themselves even from acquaintances.  She began referring to Eli as "somebody" or simply "he" in her diary entries.  On April 8 she wrote:  "He wants it to be this vacation.  Gives me a beautiful silk handkerchief. I shall be afraid to wear it though."  Again on May 19 she wrote:  "He’s so noble and kind.  I feel, O dear!  So imperfect when I think of him."

Marriage was obviously discussed, but Euphrasia did not record when or how the proposal and the decision were made.  She did record her feelings of guilt and distress about what she was doing to Eli’s wife.  "April 2 1884:  His poor dear wife.  He says she  knows all about it, but still I can never feel perfectly at ease as I should like.  He’s seen mother and she is agreeable."  And again on April 3: "Sister Day is more self-possessed than I expected, but I can see a little how she feels, poor woman."  At the end of April Eli took Eliza and her children to Mt. Pleasant to stay with family.  He was then free to spend more time with Euphrasia, which she loved.    Euphrasia idealized Eliza at this time and penned: "She’s so good that I can hardly bear it."

Euphrasia continued to have guilty feelings right up to the time of her marriage. In June she recorded that a close friend "gave me a real strong hint about married men telling how much nicer girls are than old women.  [Eliza was four years older than Euphrasia and had three girls.]  I felt so bad I couldn’t think of another thing than the useless pain she [Eliza] was undoubtedly suffering."  Another June entry states: "I could hardly sleep for thinking what a terrible thing it would be if it would happen that I would be the cause of an estrangement between him and his dear good wife."

The marriage plans were finalized in June and Euphrasia "went up to Day’s to get an understanding with his wife.  She’s just an angel, and I must come to cast a shadow on her life, but it seemed like I couldn’t help it." She went to Mt. Pleasant "with them" on June 21 to meet both Eli’s and Eliza’s family. Euphrasia liked them "well enough."  (28)


Euphrasia continued to worry and feel guilty.  She left Fairview alone on June 27 and did not meet Eli until she reached Ogden on the 29th.  She commented in her diary on the long, tiring journey, the sick anxiety she felt waiting at the depot in Nephi, Provo, and Salt Lake: "After the strain was over I felt as sick as I could be."  They finally reached their destination, and were married on July 2, 1884 in the Logan Temple.

The newlyweds traveled together only as far as Pleasant Grove where Euphrasia  stayed with some old friends from her BY Academy days, and Eli went on alone to Mt. Pleasant to be with his first family.  She returned to her mother’s home in Fairview seven days later.  Her diary reveals her feelings at this time.  "July 11, 1884:  I’m all alone and need to talk so that Somebody comes.  His noble sacrificing wife.  How pleasant a visit."  And on July 19: "Someone stays with me Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday.  I wanted to go to conference at Mt. Pleasant but dread to start talk."  Again on July 27: "I sometimes wonder what I would do if something should happen to him, I love him so, but we’ll trust in God and borrow no trouble."

The trouble began less than a year later.  The feds found out about Eli’s second marriage and he fled to Lawrence in Emery County to his mother’s home to avoid arrest. His letter of  May 1, 1885 to Euphrasia encouraged her to "stand firm."  That same day he wrote to Eliza in Mt. Pleasant:  "For her sake I believe the sooner you get back home [to Fairview] the better.  Perhaps you can guess why."  Euphrasia was eight months pregnant with her first child, and Eliza had a two month old daughter, her fourth child.

Euphrasia’s diary entries described her difficult first year of marriage and the beginning of her resentment toward Eli and Eliza.  She had begun to realize that Eliza was only human after all. It was no longer possible to keep the marriage a secret.  Euphrasia’s first child, a son, was born one month later.  Euphrasia wanted to give her son at least part of his father’s name, but Eliza said, "Save that name for me." Euphrasia consented and named her son Orville Cox Day after her father. (29)

In 1887 Eliza had another girl and Euphrasia had another boy, Earl. (30)  Every time Euphrasia had a baby, Eli had to go into hiding until the feds moved on.  Antrei claims that Eli’s strategy for alluding prosecution for polygamy was to keep the marshals from discovering that he had a second wife.  "As a schoolteacher, he could hardly afford to go into hiding.  He lived with his first wife, Eliza in Mt. Pleasant and boarded Euphrasia with her widowed brother Almer in Fairview." (31)  This is only partly true.  Eli had to go into hiding at times and was unable to support his families.  While Eliza stayed in Mt. Pleasant with her parents sometimes, both women had homes in Fairview and even lived together on occasion. (32)


Husbands, wives, and children in polygamous families all suffered from the persecution inflicted by the law.  The Day children remembered what it was like to be hounded by lawmen.  Eliza’s fourth daughter, Geneva, remember that the word "deputy marshal" struck terror in their hearts because they knew their father could be taken away at any time.  She also remembered the anguish and the tears of her mother and the fears of the children, "the hidings and the chasings around at night of the persecuted ones."  One night the deputy marshals were hunting Eli, but they came to the wrong house just east of where he was staying.  As soon as it was safe, the lady of that house jumped up in her night clothes and ran through the lot to warn Eli and he escaped just in time.  He often slept at other people’s houses in order to escape the punishment for cohabitation. (33)

Ellis recalled: "The Brethren who had more than one wife, were hunted and imprisoned and fined and many homes were broken up and great sorrow and misery resulted."   The first thing she remembered being afraid of was strange men.  She thought every stranger she saw was a deputy marshal and she was constantly in fear that they would find and take her father to prison.

She described an incident that took place on February 14, 1889.  Eliza’s girls had delivered their valentines and were warming themselves by the fire.  They heard a knock on the door and rushed to open it expecting to find more valentines; instead two strange men stood there.  They did not wait to be asked in but boldly pushed past the girls.  They were U.S. deputy marshals and informed Eliza that she was subpoenaed to appear in court in Provo to give testimony against her husband.  The children were so scared they sobbed uncontrollably while Eliza told the men what she thought of them in no uncertain terms.  Eliza did not have to testify against her husband, but the threat frightened them all.

Ellis also remembered that it was difficult for strangers to get any information from the people in Fairview.  One Sunday afternoon in Sacrament meeting two marshals, who were known to be after some of "our brethren," walked into the chapel.  The whole congregation arose and surrounded the marshals while the two wanted men escaped through a window and got away safely. "The entire community stood together against those who came to arrest our men who were wanted for polygamy." (34)

Many of the polygamists were arrested and were forced to serve time in jail for the crime of cohabiting.  Eli Day was one of those men, but the only information available about his first arrest is found in an article from the Deseret Evening News, November 20,1888.  It states that he surrendered to deputy marshals on August 3 and pleaded guilty of unlawful cohabitation.  "The court remarked: ‘You have violated the law knowingly and may expect to take the consequences.’"  He was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment and fined $150. (35)

He served six months in the Territorial Prison in Sugarhouse along with Apostles George Q. Cannon and Francis M. Lyman.  They called themselves "prisoners of  conscience." (36)   Eli had to serve an extra month because he could not pay the $150 fine. (37)

1889 - 1891

Euphrasia’s third diary began on a depressing note on July 2, 1889:  "My life seems very cloudy and dark at present.  There is so much labor waiting for my hands."  She had three children now with the addition of a baby girl, Elva, in April 1889.  She was living with her brother and also caring for his three motherless children, as well as her own family during this time.  Though she felt needed and appreciated, it was very trying to her and she longed for a home of her own and the association of her husband.  Eliza finally had a son whom she named Eli Azariah, Jr.  Euphrasia was happy for her, but still resented the fact that her own sons could not have any of Eli’s name.  She confided to her diary on July 24, 1889:  "I thank God that Eliza has a boy, now I can feel easier than ever before.  I suppose he will have all of his father’s name (which I know I don’t do right to condemn) but I feel that it’s very selfish.  I have tried to make myself believe, and have made other people, that I did not want his name -- the dearest name on earth to me -- but its no use telling myself I didn’t want it or writing such things down here -- I did want part.  Euphrasia’s heart ached that her husband could not bless her baby because that would be admitting the child was his, a sure way to be arrested again.  He blessed Eliza’s baby son and Euphrasia commented that she hoped Eli Azariah, Jr. "will grow to be as noble and good as the first E. A. Day."

There was also happiness in her life.  In December 1889 she wrote that her two little sons and baby daughter were a great comfort to her, and life seemed sweet.   "If it may only stay so."

But it id not stay so.  On  December 29, she recorded: "There is a disagreeable feeling of some kind growing in my heart toward Eliza.  What it is I cannot tell, not jealousy -- unless it is of pa’s attention to the children, for I have been requested not to let them come there….."  Euphrasia accused Eliza of being jealous of her children because Eli paid more attention to them than he did to hers when they were there.  She did not allow the children to go to "Aunt Eliza’s" any more for a while.  And Eliza did not let her children go to "Aunt Phrasia’s" either.  Euphrasia said her children were lucky to average "a kiss once a week from him" [their father].  She concluded her entry with "I must try to overcome my dislike."

Euphrasia began to feel more and more that her children were being ill-treated and neglected.  Eli spent July 4, 1990 with Euphrasia, but then took Eliza and all of her children to Mt. Pleasant on July 6 for an extended visit.  Eliza complained that she missed Eli on the holiday and said how dreadful it was to be alone.  Euphrasia wrote: "She doesn’t seem to think I have any such feeling when she goes so often with him among her folks and leaves me lonely and sad as can be. I love him, but am gradually growing to think he is lead by Eliza to partiality."

That same summer, Eli was given the opportunity to be the principal of a church-sponsored school, the Emery Stake Academy, in Castle Dale.  He left the first of August; Euphrasia followed two weeks later, but when she got there, Eli had gone off preaching somewhere and she had to move into a cousin’s granary.  She did so "with as good grace as possible."  She lived there for three weeks before Eli returned and decided to allow her to move her things up "to a house that he had rented for Eliza, but as there was no other place for me, he thought I could have it until she came."  A month later Eli left for Fairview to get Eliza’s family.  Euphrasia had to move again, this time to a small home in the northwest part of town.

During the confusion of the move, eighteen month old Elva choked on some dry beans and then was left out in the cold too long.  She died two days later, probably from pneumonia.  Euphrasia sent for Eli but he was not in time to give Elva a blessing or to see her alive.  He "slept with the little boys who cried pitifully and I went home with Eliza to sleep with empty arms and an aching heart," mourned Euphrasia on October 8, 1890.

She worked as a clerk at the store in Castle Dale and at the Academy when Eli was away on other business.  She was offered a school in Cleveland about 13 miles north of Castle Dale, with a place for her and the two boys to board.  She took the position and moved again.  She stayed there until March 1991, where she was praised by the trustees as an excellent teacher. (38)

The Manifesto

In September 1890 President Woodruff issued the Manifesto declaring his intention to submit to the laws enacted by Congress and would advise the saints "from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the and."  It ended the legal confrontation between the U.S. government and the church but it did not void plural marriages already in existence, nor advise polygamists what to do about their plural wives and families. (39)  The Manifesto was a vague document.  Polygamists were left on their own to sort out their situation. Many people believed that it was simply a political move to gain statehood.  Some men chose to move to Canada or Mexico, others chose to discontinue living with their plural wives, many continued to live in polygamy, and some even married new wives in polygamy. (40)

Eli was one who continued to cohabit.  Euphrasia’s diary entry of February 1, 1891 stated:  "Nearly all the men in polygamy now are promising to obey the law, but E. A. Day can’t see the point yet, and that’s a comfort to me.  I don’t know what rash act I would do if I was cast off like some poor women are.  I hope never to be tried in that way."

Federal marshals continued to hunt down the polygamists in Utah who refused to leave their plural wives and Eli was still on their agenda.  On March 30, 1891 a Marshal Parsons came to the school in Cleveland and summoned Euphrasia to appear in the case of Eli A. Day.  The next day, Eli made a surprise visit to Euphrasia and told her that he had been arrested and had agreed to go before the commissioner the following Monday.  He had no intention of appearing, however, and determined to take Euphrasia and the boys to Colorado to get away from the law. (41)  Polygamists living in or visiting other states could not be arrested by the federal marshals assigned to Utah. (42)  They left immediately for Castle Dale, told Eliza of their plans, and set out.

Mancos, Colorado

Euphrasia was nearly five months pregnant with her fourth child; the roads were very rough as they jolted along in the wagon; at times the roads were impassable. The trip from Castle Dale to Mancos, Colorado took over a month yet Euphrasia commented that it was "a good trip."  She was very happy at this time.  She was going away with her husband and would have him all to herself.  One incident marred the journey.  On April 7, 1891 she commented in her diary:  "E.A. thought I was selfish to be so happy but I could not see it.  However, I thought if he did not want my caresses I did not want to give them." (43)   Eliza was not so light-hearted.  Her family was left without money or a father in a rented house in a strange town.  They soon moved back to Mt. Pleasant. (44)

On August 2, Eli and Euphrasia received a letter from Eliza stating that the U.S. president had pardoned all the polygamists in the pen, and no more arrests were to be made.  "It is surely a source of joy, thankfulness, and rejoicing... for we will return in peace, only we will have to live within the law," wrote Euphrasia.  She had been happy in Mancos, though Eli was restless. Their third son, Rye Ereal, was born in September in Mancos. Eli left for Utah on the train a month later.  He said he would send for her as soon as he could get the money.  Euphrasia was sad to let her husband go but knew that he had to go back to his school; he knew that Eliza needed him, also. Euphrasia was left alone once again.  She felt overwhelmed by her burdens -- three little boys, no money, and her husband miles away. (45)

In spite of Eliza’s letter, prison time for polygamy was still a threat and Eli and Euphrasia had to be careful even about the letters they wrote to each other.  Orville remembers his mother getting letters in Mancos from his father.  She read each letter then held it up to the stove.  Suddenly, brown writing appeared.  She read the secret message then burned the letter in the stove.  She wrote back, signed her name, then dipped a smooth stick in a teaspoon of skim milk and wrote the most important messages on the bottom. (46)

It was at this time that Euphrasia realized that the Manifesto was real, it was not simply a political move, and it was not going to go away.  A diary entry in November 1891 stated:  "If my dear husband were only here!  But I am a widow now.  The Manifesto is real.  President Woodruff in court also added that he never expected to see plurality revived, so I must try to gather faith to stand alone in the church and all other things."  But she was very grateful that she had four children "by so noble and good a man as E. A. Day."

Eli was not able to send her money for several months, so she taught school there in Mancos and took on sewing jobs to support herself and her boys.


Euphrasia finally had enough money to get back to Utah in the spring of 1892.  She arrived on the train in the "dear old town of Fairview."  On April 12 She wrote:  "A crowd was at the station and received me very warmly.  Brother Day had written me to be cool to him, and I guess I was cool enough to suit him."  The threat of arrest for cohabiting was ever-present.  She went to live with her mother, but longed for a home of her own.

Just twelve days later "word was brought that the marshals were after us both,"  Euphrasia penned.  She and Eli both left their homes and stayed elsewhere.  The next week was "full of anxiety and consternations."  On April 30 Euphrasia noted: "word was brought that Day was arrested and they were liable to soon call for me so I again disappeared."  She slept in a field that night.  The next day Eli was taken to Provo to "give bonds."  He returned home on Sunday "having been put under $1,000 to appear for trial in the fall."

In September 1892 Eli applied for a pardon from President Harrison.  The pardon was not granted, and again Eli served time in prison "to pay for a bright beautiful baby boy who is such a joy and comfort to his mother, and all who know him," Euphrasia told her diary. (47)

The Deseret Evening News reported his release on January 20, 1893.  This time he only had to serve one month. He could not pay the $45 fee for prosecution so he "took the poor convict’s oath and was discharged." (48)    Euphrasia was thankful for his early release but had doubts about the future.  Her diary entry of Jan 22, 1893 reads:  "Pa arrived home in safety from the 'Pen’ having been released... the 20th.  Looks well.  I hope we may partially bear the separation which must exist between us and still live near each other."

That summer Euphrasia was able to move out of her mother’s house and was "very thankful for a little home of my own, where my friends can come and be treated as I want them treated."  In spite of her good intentions and resolves to do her duty to her "venerable parent," Euphrasia had too strong a personality to be happy in someone else’s house.  She continued to support herself and her family. (49)  She worked at the post office, took in sewing and taught school in the winter at Milburn, about five miles north of Fairview.  She was only able to come home on weekends and then returned to school each Monday morning noting that it was "dreadful hard work."

Although the gossip in Fairview was that Euphrasia had left Eli, probably because she was not having children, they were still seeing each other secretly.  In January 1895 she confided to her diary that she had been praying about whether she should have another child. She wrote: "I concluded to give nature or God one chance while there were virtually no laws against us. The chance was taken and nature profited by it."  Utah was pleading admission into the Union at that time and "things were suspended almost, as to whether it was to be state or territory."

That same month she went to Provo (probably to the BY Academy) to take a course in obstetrics under a Dr. Allen.  She was disgusted with Eli when he refused to help her get ready for the trip and would not give her any money.  She called him "lazy and uncaring."  And when he learned that she was pregnant "he began being overbearing, it seemed to me, by trying to make me subservient to Eliza," Euphrasia noted in her diary.

She studied as hard as her "delicate health would permit," and in April she traveled to Salt Lake City to General Conference and to take her obstetrics examination which she passed successfully. (50)   As a licensed midwife, she delivered and took care of the mother and baby, did all the housework, and took care of the new mother’s family. (51)

She returned home in May, taught summer school in Manti, and had her last baby, Heloise, in October 1896.  This was Euphrasia’s only child blessed and named by her father.   This was the last entry in her third diary until 1915. (52)

The Day family continued to struggle financially.  Orville says that "while the polygamy persecution was on father lost everything and we were in poverty."  Eli did what he could, teaching and farming.  He took Eliza and her family to Mt. Pleasant where he started a dairy farm.  Euphrasia did not profit from the venture but continued to work hard to support herself and her family. (53)


Being the second wife in a plural marriage had taken its toll on Euphrasia. She struggled with loneliness and resentment.  She nurtured, taught, and disciplined the children and seldom had the support of a loving husband.  It seemed to her that Eli was never there when she needed him most and that Eliza’s children were always first in his affections. (54)

Heloise remembered her mother crying for want of bread.  Euphrasia was hungry and discouraged and bitterly told Heloise that if she had been the first wife she could have charged at the store and gotten bread.  The store did not extend credit to second wives. (55)

Eli did not believe in physical punishment for his students, but Euphrasia claimed that did not apply to his second family.  In the summer of 1897, she shielded ten year old Earl from an unearned whipping.  Eli shouted, "This ends our marriage!"  "OK by me, she shouted back," and went that very night to her bishop to apply for a divorce. (56)

In 1906, Euphrasia married Mormon Miner but the marriage lasted for less than six years.  He was seventeen years older than she was, and she thought him selfish and greedy.  She made no mention of him in any of her diaries. (57)

As noted before, Euphrasia recorded Heloise’s birth and blessing in 1896, but did not write again until 1915.  On July 13 she penned:  "[Heloise] is always teasing me to write in my diary, but I’m mostly too blue.  My life has been such a failure, I am ashamed to write more here.  Let future generations forget it if they can, the present generation remembers it too well."

Euphrasia had no desire to marry again, though loneliness continued to plague her. Her dislike of men became apparent in her writing.  In 1927, she wrote a letter to a niece, Adelia, berating male doctors and men in general. (58)   The following poem illustrates what she thought of men.  It was written sometime after her second divorce.

A Woman and a Man

How does a woman love? Once, no more.
Though life forever its loss will deplore.
Deep in virtue or deep in sin
One king reigneth her heart within.
One voice only her soul can call
Back from the grasp of death’s enthrall.
One alone by night or day
Moves her spirit to curse or pray.

How does a man love? Once for all.
The sweetest voices of life may call,
Sorrows daunt him or death dismay,
Joys, red roses bedeck his way,
Fortune’s smile or jest or frown,
The cruel thumb of the world turn down,
Better than wife or child or self,
Once and forever he loves himself. (59)

She must have run into Eli occasionally, but made only one mention of a chance meeting: "March 13, 1943: Went to Old Folk’s party and saw E. A. Day going out.  He looks extra feeble."

Eli Azariah Day died November 23, 1943.  Euphrasia did not go to the funeral, but a relative gave her a report of the services.  Euphrasia wrote:  "One would think he was an angel.  I hope at my death the good will not be stretched so far out of proportion." (60)   She died alone in her home less than a year later, October 7, 1944. (61)


Being the second wife in a plural marriage was difficult for Euphrasia. She struggled with loneliness and resentment.  She nurtured, taught, and disciplined the children and seldom had the support of a loving husband.  It seemed to her that Eli was never there when she needed him most and that Eliza’s children were always first in his affections.  Sometimes she did not have enough food in the house to feed her children. Once when Euphrasia was hungry and discouraged she bitterly told Heloise that if she had been the first wife she could have charged at the store and gotten food.  The store did not extend credit to second wives. Heloise did not remember her father. (62)

Euphrasia’s family did not stay close.  Orville, the oldest, married and moved away to Wyoming and then came back to Utah County.  He kept in touch with his mother, visited as often as he could, and urged her to come and live with him, which she never did.  Earl moved out of state and married three times (not in polygamy).  He rarely even wrote to his mother. Rye Erael never marred and did not stay in touch with any of the family.  When his father died in 1943, he could not be found.  Heloise married and moved to Idaho, then Arizona.  She divorced her husband and did not remarry.  She kept in touch with her mother and also tried to persuade her to come and live in her home, to no avail.

Orville was the only one who returned to Fairview for his father’s funeral.  None of the brief biographies or histories the children left indicate that they had any relationship with their father after they grew up, nor did any of their children. (63)

Euphrasia lived in a time of social upheaval.  She fell in love with a married man and chose to become his plural wife even though it was illegal to do so in the Territory of Utah.   The pressures of poverty, the hardship of moving frequently, the constant threat of arrest and imprisonment, the humiliation of being the second wife, and the prolonged absences of a husband who seemed to care little for her children all took their toll on her.  She chose to divorce him and go her own way.  There is no record that she ever regretted any of her decisions.



1. Albert C. T. Antrei and Ruth D. Scow, eds., The Other Forty-Niners: a topical history of Sanpete County, Utah 1849-1983  (Salt Lake City: Western Epics, 1982), 155.

2. "Histories of Eli Azariah Day SR and His Family," (hereafter known as "Histories.") comp. Mary B. Larson, 1980. L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. (Hereafter known as Special Collections at BYU.)  Eliza left a brief autobiography but did not even mention that she lived in polygamy. (134)  Eli left a wonderful history of Sanpete County as seen through the eyes of a small boy and a young man, but he did not  finish the story; it ends in 1877.  He died before he mentioned either one of his marriages.

3. Kathryn M. Daynes, More Wives than One:  Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System 1840-1910.  (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 36-37.

4. LDS4U.com, Laws/Morrill Act/1862.  This law "was aimed directly at the Mormons and made bigamy a felony."  The law was tested in 1879, but the government was unable to prove that the man was actually married.

5. Ibid, Edmunds Act/1882.  This law made "bigamous cohabitation a misdemeanor."  If found guilty, a man could serve a limited jail sentence and pay a fine.  If convicted, a man could not serve on a jury, could not vote, and could not hold public office.  In February of 1885 the Idaho Test Oath Law stated that "in order for one to vote, he had to swear that he did not believe in or support an organization that taught plural marriage," thus effectively disenfranchising every Mormon from voting regardless of whether he personally practiced plural marriage.   Orville Cox Day interview by Keith Ward, January 26, 1965. L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2.

6. Jessie L. Embry, Mormon Polygamous Families: Life in the Principle. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987), 22.

7. LDS4U.com, Laws/ Edmunds-Tucker Act/1887. This law disincorporated the Church, allowed the federal government to seize church property, and required wives to testify against their polygamous husbands.

8. Embry, 19-21.

9. Arthur Day, interview by Leonard R. Grover, 14 February 1980.  LDS Polygamy Oral History Project, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, BYU.

10. Ellis Day Coombs, "History of My Life," Special Collections at BYU, 3.  Ellis’ real name was Eliza Estella, but she went by Ellis.

11. Gary B. Peterson and Lowell C. Bennion, Sanpete Scenes: A Guide to Utah’s Heart. (Eureka: Basin Plateau Press, 1987), 26.

12. As quoted in Daynes, 16.

13. Daynes, 116-123.

14. Ibid, 174-175.

15. Peterson, 26.

16. United States Federal Census, 1880, Fairview, Sanpete, Utah, Family History Library film # 218,673.

17. Family Group Sheets from Patrons, located in Main Section of the Church Records Archives, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Film #’s 1273812, 1273524, 1273873, 1274723, 1275077, 1275179.

18. "Histories," 148 and 183.

19. The Salt Lake Tribune, February 15, 1888.

20. Embry, 18

21. Orville Cox Day interview, 4.

22. Pearl C. Day, "Elmira Bulkley Day," 2-3.  Unpublished manuscript, copy in author’s possession.

23. Ester Coombs Durfey, "Eli Azariah Day," 7-8. Unpublished manuscript, copy in author’s possession.

24. Histories of Those Buried in the Old Pioneer Cemetery, Fairview, Utah, 1, comp. the North Bend Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1999, 46-47.

25. "Elvira Euphrasia Cox Day," 9.  Unpublished manuscript, copy in author’s possession.

26. From the first diary of Elvira Euphrasia Cox Day, entries from 1878 to 1883 reprinted in "Histories."

27. Stella Day Norman, "Grandma Euphrasia," 1.  Eli was 5’4 and Euphrasia was 5’9.  Unpublished manuscript, copy in author’s possession.  Great-niece Nancy Cox Mackay told author that she lived with "Aunt Phrasia" for two weeks and thought her "delightful and very feisty."

28. From first diary, entries from October 1883 to June 1884.

29. Ibid, June 1884 to July 1885. Euphrasia’s first diary ends in July 1885.  Her second diary has been lost.  Her third diary does not begin until July 1889.

30. Family Group Sheets prepared by O.C. Day, copy in possession of author.

31. Antrei, 155.

32. Orville Cox Day, "Orville Cox Day," 1.  Unpublished manuscript, copy in author’s possession.

33. Martha Geneva Day Larsen, "Geneva Larsen Papers," Special Collections at BYU, 3-4.

34. Ellis Day Coombs, 4-5.

35. The Deseret Evening News, November 20, 1888, 2.

36. Peterson, 26.   Orville Cox Day, "Life History of Orville Cox Day," 1.  Copy in author’s possession.  Orville wrote that his father, Eli, actually spent time with seven different apostles, but no dates or names are given.

37. Deseret Evening News, 2

38. Elvira Euphrasia Cox Day, "Diary  of Elvira Euphrasia Cox Day: 1889-1934." Microfilm copy of original in Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. Entries are July 1889 to March 1891.

39.  www.ldshistory.net -- "The Manifesto"

40. Embry, 16.

41. Third diary, entries February 1891 to April 1891.

42. Embry, 19.

43. Third diary, April 7, 1891 entry.

44. "Histories" 136.

45. Third diary, entries August 1891 to October 1891.  Orville wrote that his father’s first job in Colorado was "with team and scraper helping build the grade for a new railroad."  Next he worked at a saw mill measuring lumber.  From "Orville Cox Day," 1.

46. Orville Cox Day, "Life History of Orville Cox Day," 2.  Unpublished manuscript, copy in author’s possession.

47. Third diary, entries November 1891 to September 1892.

48. News, p 4

49. Norman, 11.

50. Third diary entries January 1893 to April 1896.

51. "Histories," 225.

52. Third diary, May 1896 to July 1915.

53. Orville Cox Day interview, 9.

54. Norman, 11-12.

55. "Histories," 227.

56. Fourth diary, November, 1943.  The fourth diary starts June 1, 1942 and goes to 5 October 1944, 2 days before Euphrasia’s death.  Excerpts are reprinted in "Histories." Euphrasia was granted a temple divorce from Eli on October 29, 1903 by President Joseph F. Smith.

57. Stella Day Norman interview by author, October 28, 2004.

58. "Elvira Euphrasia Cox Day," comp. Afton P. Crawford, 1978, 3.  Copy in author’s possession.

59. Norman, 1.

60. Fourth diary, March 1943 to November 1993

61. Norman, 15.

62. "Histories," 228.

63. "Histories," 202-228.  "Orville Cox Day," 6 and "History of Orville Cox Day," 2.



Primary Sources

Coombs, Ellis Day. "History of My Life."  L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Day, Arthur. Interview by Leonard R. Grover 14 February 1980, transcript. LDS Polygamy Oral History Project, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Day, Elvira Euphrasia Cox. "Diary of Elvira Euphrasia Cox Day, 1889-1934."  Microfilm of original.  Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Day, Orville Cox. "History of Orville Cox Day." Copy of unpublished manuscript in author’s possession.

Day, Orville Cox.  Interviewed by Keith Ward, Janurary 26, 1965, transcript.  L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Day, Orville Cox. "Orville Cox Day." Copy of unpublished manuscript in author’s possession.

Deseret Evening News, November 20, 1888.

"Histories of Eli Azariah Day SR and His Family," comp. by Mary B. Larson, 1980.  L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Larsen, Martha Geneva Day, "Geneva Larsen Papers."  L. Tom Perry SpecialCollections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Salt Lake Tribune,  February 15, 1888

United States Federal Census, 1880, Fairview, Sanpete County, Utah.  Microfilm # 218,673, Family History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Secondary Sources

"Elvira Euphrasia Cox Day."  Unpublished manuscript copy in author’s possession.

Antrei, Albert C. T. and Ruth D. Scow.  The Other 49ers: A topical History of Sanpete County, Utah 1849-1983. Salt Lake City: Western Epics, 1982.

Crawford, Afton Petit. "History of Elvira Euphrasia Cox Day."   Copy in Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.

Day, Pearl C. "Elmira Bulkley Day."  Unpublished manuscript copy in author’s possession.

Daynes, Kathryn M.  More Wives than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System 1840-1910. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001.

Durfey, Ester Coombs. "Eli Azariah Day."  Unpublished manuscript copy in author’s possession.

Embry, Jessie L.  Mormon Polygamous Families: Life in the Principle.  Salt Lake City, University of Utah Press, 1987.

Family Group Sheets from Patrons, Main Section, Family History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Salt Lake City, Utah.  Microfilm #’s 1273812, 1273873, 1274723, 1275077, 1275169.

Family Group Sheets prepared by O.C. Day in author’s possession.

"Histories of Eli Azariah Day SR and His Family," comp. by Mary B. Larson, 1980.  L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Histories of Those buried in the Old Pioneer Cemetery, Fairview, Utah, vol 1, comp. by The North Bend Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1999.

Norman, Stella Day, "Grandma Euphrasia."  Unpublished manuscript in author’s possession.

Norman, Stella Day.  Interview by Andrea N. Lloyd October 28, 2004.  Transcript in  author’s possession.

Peterson, Gary B. and Lowell C. Bennion.  Sanpete Scenes: A Guide to Utah’s Heart.  Eureka: Basin Plateau Press, 1987.

Salt Lake Tribune,  February 15, 1888.


Notes by Paul R. Day, for this web page:

Andrea Lloyd wrote this paper for college credit, History 490, Sec. 009, Fall 2004.

Martha Geneva Day Larson is the fourth child of Eli Azariah Day and Eliza Jane Staker Day.

Orville Cox Day is the first child of Eli Azariah Day and Elvira Euphrasia Cox Day.

Stella Day Norman is the daughter of Orville Cox Day.

Andrea Day Lloyd (author of this paper) is the daughter of Stella Day Norman

Ester Coombs Durfey is the daughter of Eliza Estella (Ellis) Day Coombs, oldest child of Eli Azariah Day and Eliza Jane Staker Day.

e-mail from Andrea:

I never knew Grandpa Day's youngest sister Heloise, but I found out a lot about her when I was doing the research for this paper.  Did you know that she acted in movies with Kathryn Hepburn and Spencer Tracy?