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Why author Judith Freeman says Mitt Romney owes her money

August 27, 2012|By Carolyn Kellogg
  • Author Judith Freeman says the family of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney owes a debt to her own family.
Author Judith Freeman says the family of presumptive Republican presidential… (Judith Freeman by Ken Hively…)

Mitt Romney owes Judith Freeman money if you follow their genealogies back a few generations, to the time of the Mormon settlement of the West, she says.

Freeman is the author of the biography "The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved" and three novels; Romney is expected to be nominated by Republican delegates at the convention this week as their candidate for president. The financial connection was between Romney's great-grandfather Miles P. Romney and Freeman's great-grandfather William Jordan Flake.

Both were devoted to the Mormon teachings of Brigham Young. Each had taken additional spouses, as they had been told to do. By the 1880s, both families found themselves in northern Arizona, part of a Mormon plan to create a corridor of Mormon communities from Utah to Mexico.

The problem was that Arizona, still a territory, didn't cotton to polygamists, and the law was about to be used against Romney and Flake.

This is what happened next, Freeman writes in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

"The marshals began rounding up the Arizona polygamists and arresting them. Both Romney and Flake became targets. But Flake, as it turned out, had become a deeply respected man, much more so than Miles Romney. One newspaper editor wrote of Romney, who had a well-known fondness for wine in spite of the Mormon prohibition against drinking, that he considered him 'a mass of putrid pus and rotten goose pimples; a skunk, with the face of a baboon, the character of a louse, the breath of a buzzard and the record of a perjurer and common drunkard.' In other words, he didn’t like him."

They sure knew how to insult a guy in the Old West.

Both Flake and Romney were arrested, Flake for polygamy and Romney for polygamy -- which he ducked by sending two of three wives into hiding -- and a dispute over his land claim. Flake had resources that Romney did not, and he posted bail for both of them: $1,000 each.

And then Romney left Arizona for Mexico.

"Miles P. Romney skipped out on his bail, fleeing across the border into Mexico with his three wives, Hannah, Annie, and Catharine, and their children. He landed in Colonia Juarez where he helped establish a new sanctuary for Mormon polygamists. He left my great-grandfather Flake holding the bag," Freeman writes. She calculates that the $1,000 would translate to about $25,000 in 2012 dollars.

She doesn't want it just for herself: She'll share it with Flake's other descendants, she says. He lived to be 93; she estimates that they total around 15,000 people.


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