Recently, we’ve uncovered details of Eliza Clift’s marriage before becoming a plural wife to Theodore Turley. In a divorce case filed in Scott County, Iowa, in 1850, Eliza Clift testified that she was married to George Gardner Fidler in the summer of 1841 near Utica, New York (en route to Nauvoo). She declared that she and George Fidler remained married through February 1845, at which time he abandoned her in Galena, Jo Daviess County, Illinois. Eliza said she had two daughters from her first marriage, one of whom was still living.
Traditionally, the family has believed that Theodore Turley and Eliza Clift were married 6 March 1844 in Nauvoo.1 This appears unlikely if Eliza was married to George Fidler through the beginning of 1845. Eliza’s two daughters, Henrietta and Emma Georgianna, were always thought to be the children of Eliza Clift with Theodore Turley, but Eliza stated both girls were the daughters of George G. Fidler.
We can corroborate some of Eliza’s testimony.
- Her marriage to George Fidler in the summer of 1841 was recorded in the memoirs of Mary Ann Weston Maughan, a fellow British immigrant.2
- In early 1842, George and Eliza Fidler were enumerated in the Nauvoo Second Ward census separately from the other members of the Clift family.3
- George Fidler’s presence in Nauvoo can be documented through May 1843.4 In a February 1842 letter to Joseph Smith, George mentioned his wife, his mother, and his mother- and father-in-law as living destitute in Nauvoo. Unfortunately, he did not mention any of those family members by name.5
- Eliza’s daughter, Emma, went by the name “Emma G. Fidler” at the time of her 1869 marriage6 Her birth place is also listed as Galena, Illinois, on her headstone.7
Other facts lend circumstantial support to the idea that George and Eliza left Nauvoo and may have traveled to different towns to seek employment.
- A list of letters published in a January 1844 newspaper suggests George and Eliza Fidler had moved from Nauvoo and were living at that time in Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa.8
- There were Latter-day Saints working in the Galena lead mines while the Nauvoo temple was being built.9
Below are the transcripts of affidavits from two divorce cases that Eliza Clift filed in Scott County, Iowa. The first is a divorce from George G. Fidler, filed in 1850.10 The second is a divorce from a later husband, George Summerfield, filed in 1859.11 Interestingly, Eliza noted in the paperwork for the second divorce that her first husband was deceased. While the wording is unclear, this later affidavit seems to indicate that her living child was originally from twins.
Eliza C. Fidler vs. Geoge G. Fidler (1850)
PETITION FOR DIVORCE.12
State of Iowa, Scott County,} District Court, October Term, A. D. 1850.
Eliza C. Fidler, vs. George G. Fidler.}
The defendant is hereby notified that the complainant has filed in the Clerk’s Office of said County, a petition praying to be divorced from the bonds of matrimony from said defendant, and, whereas, the Sheriff of said County of Scott has returned on the subpoena sued out against the defendant in said suit, that said defendant is “not found” in said County of Scott. Now unless the said defendant shall appear at the October Term of the Court aforesaid, to be begun and held in the Court House in Davenport, in said county, on the fourth Monday in October, A. D. 1850, to plead, answer or demur to the petition of said complainant, said petition will be taken as confessed, and the prayer of the petitioner will be allowed.
JA[ME]S THORINGTON, Cl[er]k Dis[trict] Court.
BRACKETT & WAITE, Sol[icitor] for Comp[lainan]t.
August 29th, 1850.
State of Iowa, Scott County}
Before the District Court of said County, on the Chancery side thereof, to the October Term A.D. 1850.13
To the Judge of the Second Judicial District of the State of Iowa, sitting in chancery:
Complaining, showeth unto your honor, your oratrix, Eliza C. Fidler, that she is a resident of said County, and has been for six months and longer, previous and next preceding the time of filing this bill. That on or about the sixth day of July A.D. 1841, at Utica, in the State of New York, your oratrix intermarried with one George Gardner Fidler. That she had, by him, two children, one of whom is now living, and is of the age of five years or thereabouts.
That from the time of said marriage, continually, for the space of three years and a half, or thereabouts your oratrix lived with the said George Garder, and in all things acted towards him the part of a dutiful wife; and that she was then ready longer to live with and to continue to act in a like dutiful manner.
And your oratrix further showeth, that some time during the winter of 1844-5, to wit, on or about the 15th day of February A.D. 1845, the said George Gardner Fidler wilfully deserted her, leaving her in the Town of Galena in the State of Illinois, and has, without reasonable cause or for cause to her unknown, absented himself continually ever since said 15th February 1845 up to the present time, and has, during all of said time, totally neglected to provide any means for the maintenance or support of your oratrix or her said Child, and he still continued so to absent himself, and still continues to neglect to provide as aforesaid.
In consideration whereof, your oratrix prays that the said George Gardner Fidler be required full, true and perfect answer to make to all and singular the premises, as fully as if the same were again here repeated, and he particularly interrogated thereto; and that the marriage between your oratrix and the said George Gardner Fidler, be dissolved, and a divorce decreed, according to the statute in such cases made and provided. And that your oratrix may have such further relief or such other relief in the premises as shall be equitable. And as in duty found, your oratrix will ever pray &c.
State of Iowa, Scott County}
Before the undersigned, Clerk of the District Court in and for said County, this day appeared Eliza C. Fidler, whose name is signed to the foregoing bill, and who being by me duly sworn, deposes and says that the facts stated in said bill are true according to her best knowledge and belief, that the complaint is not made by collusion between the complainant and the defendant, nor through fear, restraint, nor out of levity, for the mere purpose of being separated from each other, but in sincerity and truth, for the reason mentioned in said bill.
Subscribed and sworn to before me this 28th day of August 1850}
Eliza C. Fidler
Eliza C. Summerfield vs. George Summerfield (1859)
The State of Iowa, Scott County}
Scott County Dist[rict] Court
Eliza C Summerfield vs. George Summerfield} Petition for Divorce14
Your Petitioner Eliza C Summerfield of the County of Scott & State of Iowa claims a Divorce from the bands of Matrimony, now & heretofore existing between Eliza C Summerfield, & the Defendant George Summerfield.
And for cause of such claim states that heretofore to wit, on or about the 1st day of July AD 1853, in the City of Davenport said Scott County & State of Iowa your Petitioner was legally married & joined in lawful wedlock to & with said George Summerfield, This Defendant, that Petitioner & Defendant lived & cohabited as man & wife in said Scott County from said July 1/53, up to January 3rd AD 1856, during all of which time your Petitioner conducted herself as a good & dutiful wife, toward said Defendant, that about the middle part of said month of January AD 1856, said Defendant abandoned your Petitioner & left the State of Iowa, & has abandoned & deserted your Petitioner from that time up to the present
That said Defendant has not only abandoned & deserted y[ou]r Petitioner during the time as herein aforesaid, but still continues to do the same, & has furnished nothing in the way of money or property, or of any thing of value, during the whole of said time for the support or maintenance of y[ou]r Petitioner
Plaintiff claims the Divorce aforesaid, on the ground of wilful desertion & absence & abandonment of Plaintiff by said Defendant, without a reasonable cause for the space of two years, & more, next prior to the day of commencing this suit, viz from the month of January AD 1856, up to the present time.
Plaintiff says that during said marriage there has been no issue, that there has been no children the issue of said marriage & cohabitation, but she has now one child, the issue of her first marriage, by her former husband now deceased, & she asks the, control & custody & possession of said child – also is from[?] twins[?]
Petitioner states, that at the time of said desertion & separation, that neither she nor said Defendant, was possessed of, or owned any Real Estate, nor other property subject to an execution, but that both were, without any visible means of support, or livelihood.
Petitioner further says, that she has been in the last six months, & more than six years last part, a Resident of the State of Iowa, & that this application is not made through fear or restraint, or out of any levity, but in sincerity & truth for the purposes set forth in this Petition. Your Petitioner therefore prays, that upon a final hearing of this Petition, Your Honor will decree the marriage aforesaid between your Petitioner & said Defendant, be dissolved- & for nought held, the same as if it had never been solemnized, & that she be bestowed to all the rights of an unmarried person, & for such other & further relief, as to y[ou]r Honor may seen just & right.
Eliza C Summerfield, Plaintiff
The State of Iowa, Scott County}
I, Eliza C Summerfield, of Scott County Iowa, being duly sworn on oath say, I have heard read the foregoing Petition, that I am the Petitioner therein named, that I know the contents of said Petition, that the same is true of my own knowledge, except as to the matters therein dated to be as information & belief & as to those matters I believe them to be true.
Eliza C. Summerfield
Affidavit of Robert Clift
Eliza C. Summerfield vs. George Summerfield} The State of Iowa, Scott County15
Scott Co. Dist[rict] Court No[vem]b[e]r Term AD 1859
I Robert Clift, being duly sworn, say I am Seventy years of age, I know the Parties to this suit, that the Pl[ainti]ff, is my Daughter, that I live in Scott County Iowa, that I have known Pl[ainti]ff from her birth, that I know the parties of this suit were legally married, in the year 1853, that I was present & saw the marriage ceremony performed, that they were married by John A. Boyd the then Mayor of City of Davenport said Scott County.
That the Parties herein lived together & cohabited as man & wife. That said Defendant abandoned & deserted the Pl[ainti]ff in the early part of the year AD 1856, & since that time has not returned, & is still absent & his whereabouts is by me & has been unknown. That I verily believe said Pl[ainti]ff, is a frugal, industrious, moral & virtuous woman, & that she never gave Def[endan]t any cause whatever for his said desertion & abandonment. That Def[endan]t abandoned & deserted Pl[ainti]ff as aforesaid & which has been for more than two years prior to the commencement of this suit, to wit, from & ever since the early part of the year AD 1856. That Pl[ainti]ff then lived in Scott County aforesaid, has ever since & yet does, & further saith not.
[Affidavit dated 18 November 1859]
- See, for example, p. 56 of The Theodore Turley Family book (a.k.a. Red Book), published in 1978.
- Transcript of Mary Ann Weston Maughan Journal, Joel E. Ricks Collection of Transcriptions, Merrill-Cazier Library Special Collection and Archives, Utah State University, book 1, page 17, digital images online at USU Digital History Collections, https://digital.lib.usu.edu/digital/collection/Diaries/id/16984, accessed February 2021.
- George Fidler was enumerated directly above “elivia” Fidler. Nauvoo Stake, Nauvoo 2nd ward census, https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets?id=2febcd71-25e6-470f-94c1-d1bcb53cdfca&crate=1&index=23, accessed February 2021.
- George Fidler vs. Robert Foster in MS 1443, Hancock County (Ill.) Circuit Court legal documents: 19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
- “Letter from George Fidler, 23 March 1842,” JS Collection, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Scott Co., Iowa, Marriage License Record Vo. 3 1868-1871, p. 270, marriage of P. N. Littig and Emma G. Fidler, 15 Jul. 1869, image 538 of digital film 4309869, FamilySearch.org, digitized from FHL 1004414.
- FindaGrave.com, memorial page for Emma Georgianna Turley Littig (7 Jan 1847–27 May 1902), memorial no. 49144098, citing Pine Hill Cemetery, Davenport, Scott County, Iowa, USA.
- One letter is addressed to “Fiddler Mrs. or G G Fiddler.” “List of Letters,” Iowa Territorial Gazette and Advertiser, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, 13 January 1844, p. 4, col. 4, GenealogyBank.com.
- “Galena, Illinois,” The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/place/galena-illinois, accessed March 2021.
- Scott Co., Iowa, Divorce records, 1837-1940, case no. 967, Eliza C. Fidler vs. George G. Fidler, images 447-459 of digital film 8524040 at FamilySearch.org, digitized from FHL 1643738.
- Scott Co., Iowa, Divorce records, 1837-1940, case no. 4556, Eliza C. Summerfield vs. George Summerfield, images 2206-2229 of digital film 8524072 at FamilySearch.org, digitized from FHL 1665844.
- “Petition for Divorce,” The Davenport Gazette, Thursday, 12 Sep. 1850, p. 4, col. 4, GenealogyBank.com.
- Complaint of Eliza C. Fidler in Scott Co., Iowa, Divorce records, 1837-1940, case no. 967, Eliza C. Fidler vs. George G. Fidler, images 457-158 of digital film 8524040 at FamilySearch.org, digitized from FHL 1643738.
- Petition of Eliza C. Summerfield in Scott Co., Iowa, Divorce records, 1837-1940, case no. 4556, Eliza C. Summerfield vs. George Summerfield, images 2208-2210 of digital film 8524072 at FamilySearch.org, digitized from FHL 1665844.
- Affidavit of Robert Clift in Scott Co., Iowa, Divorce records, 1837-1940, case no. 4556, Eliza C. Summerfield vs. George Summerfield, images 2218-2219 of digital film 8524072 at FamilySearch.org, digitized from FHL 1665844.