Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 2003, Excerpts
On August 23 , 1877, Brigham was overcome with fever, gastrointestinal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Six days later “The Old Boss” was dead, most likely from a ruptured appendix. John Taylor, who replaced Brigham as the Saints’ president, prophet, seer, and revelator, pronounced on January 4, 1880, during a Sunday assembly in Great Salt Lake City, “We believe in honesty, morality, and purity; but when they enact tyrannical laws, forbidding us the free exercise of our religion, we cannot submit. God is greater than the United States, and when the Government conflicts with heaven, we will be ranged under the banner of heaven and against the government.”
John Taylor dispatched increasing numbers of Saints not only to far-flung desert settlements around the American West [such as Lee’s Ferry] but also to Mexico and Canada in order to establish safe havens where a man could have a plurality of wives without fear of harassment or arrest. The Mormon presence in Mexico, which remains strong even today, goes back to 1886, when a group of polygamous Saints purchased fifty thousand acres along the Rio Piedras Verdes, about 150 miles southwest of El Paso, Texas. Thriving colonies of cohabs sprung up in such places as Cardston, Canada [in the province of Alberta, just north of the Montana border], and at the foot of the Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico.
From the time of Rutherford B. Hayes moved into the Oval Office in 1877 through the end of Grover Cleveland’s term in 1897, each successive American president increased pressure on the Mormon Church to forsake polygamy and submit to the laws of the land. Under the Edmunds Act, which was passed in 1882, Mormons could be prosecuted not only for engaging in polygamy, which was difficult to prove, but also for “unlawful cohabitation,” which wasn’t. Thereafter, Utah’s polygamists were derogatorily referred to as “cohabs,” and swarms of federal agents descended on Utah to carry out “cohab hunts” in virtually every town in the territory. By the late 1880s, some one thousand Saints had been thrown in jail, but still the Mormons remained defiant. Going to prison on a polygamy conviction became something to brag about.
In 1885, a warrant went out for Taylor’s arrest, forcing the prophet himself to go into hiding. One year after that, he thumbed his nose at the feds by marrying twenty-six-year-old Josephine Rouche, his sixteenth wife. The groom was seventy-eight years old at the time.