Patty Sessions

Patty was Joseph Smith's 9th plural wife.


Her mother-in-law often acted as a midwife, and one day she was called for but unable to travel quickly, so Patty went immediately in her place. She successfully delivered that baby and the delivery was done perfectly. When the doctor arrived, he “congratulated her upon her ability” and told her she would prosper as a midwife. 

Patty rode horseback as far as twenty miles to attend births, and reportedly delivered 3,977 babies throughout her life.

She later delivered 9 babies on the banks of the Mississippi River while traveling west with the pilot company sent by Brigham Young.

Father’s first wife died, leaving him with 10 kids. He married Anna, 29 (her father, Enoch, was 53) in 1794 and Patty was born the next year. She became the first of another set of 9 kids. All but one - Lavinia, who died at age two - lived to adulthood, married, and raised families. 

Because there were fewer boys than girls in the family, Patty often worked the fields with her father. Patty’s son, Perregrine, wrote of her father, “My Grand Father Enoch made no pretensions to religion and never belonged to any sect. He was a very liberal man to the poor and was honest and upright in all his deportment and taught his children to work and always to speak the truth, to deal justly with all, to live virtuous and to not take that was not their own, not so much as an apple from a neighbor’s tree without leave.”

Patty gave birth to seven children. Perregrine, Sylvanus, Sylvia, 

Anna - who died at two years old from “colery morbus”- 

David, then another girl they named Anna to replace the first, and Bartlett, who died at six months old from “hooping cough” in 1828. 

In 1832, “typhus fever” hit the family, and all of them suffered. Patty “could not raise her hand to her head” and “lay in the same room where my sister died”. Anna, the second sister named so, had died. Sylvia, the oldest girl, “being the second time deprived of her Only Sister, she mourned and wept until she had to go to bed”. 

A month later, Enoch and Patty had “got some better but my Grandmother was there and she and David were so sick that they did  not know when Sylvanus died, altho they were in the same room.”

Perregrine wrote that he “could not describe his feelings” about this time.

Patty was 39 and would soon be a grandmother when she heard the gospel. “As soon as my Mother heard, she believed,” wrote Perrigrine. She was the lone member in her family and for 6 miles around for a year. 

Then, in 1835, Brigham Young and Lyman Johnson presided at a conference held at the Sessions farm. “The blessing of God attended the meeting. There were several added to the church through the ordinance of baptism and the laying on of hands.” Patty’s husband, David, was baptised on that occasion. A month later, Perregrine was baptised. And now, they began to prepare for the trip to Zion (Missouri). 

Before leaving, they sold their mill, their 400 acre farm, farm equipment, livestock, and packed as many of their possessions as they could. 

They left in June of 1837, “when many a tear was shed by our neighbours and friends” as they and Perrigrine’s new wife and child “left her aged father and step mother with all her brothers and sisters, never expecting to see them again in this world.”

Patty was 42 and four months pregnant, while Sylvia was nearly 18.


Gathering with the Saints

The company, consisting of Patty, David, their children Perrigrine, Sylvia, David Jr.; Perregrine’s wife Julia and their child; Patty’s half sister, Lucy Bartlett Powers, her husband Jonathan, and their two sons. 

They traveled from Maine through New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and Ohio. Here, in Kirtland, they first met Joseph Smith and heard him preach in the temple. Then they travelled on through Indiana, Illinois, and finally to Missouri. To reach Far West from Maine, they trekked two thousand miles.

Once in Far West, they found many of the Saints living in tents. They quickly bought a farm and began to raise food. Patty’s last child, Amanda, was born shortly after they arrived. 

Within six months, Patty was friends with Joseph and making visits to his house.

Within 15 months of arriving in Far West, they had to flee to Illinois. Patty continued to serve as a midwife, and walked alongside the other Mormons, all while caring for her baby, now nearly two years old. 

They were stalled at the frozen Mississippi river and had to camp in a tent nearby with three inches of snow on the ground. They crossed the frozen Mississippi in March and eventually landed in Nauvoo. Perregrine left on a mission in June, leaving his wife and child with his father’s family. When he returned a year later, he found the family suffering from malaria, “in a little log cabin, 14 feet square… without any chimney or much floor, being not chinked… and a poor roof, and every shower of rain wet all that were in the house… my family and friends with hardly a whole garment and in poverty and distress… sickness was in almost every house.

Amanda, three and a half, died of croup in September 1840, the same month they were finally able to move into their own home in Nauvoo. 

Patty was grief-stricken at the loss, but wrote “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” - Job


Marriage to Joseph Smith

It isn’t clear if Patty knew about Sylvia’s marriage to Smith before marrying him herself a month later, but she would have known soon after, if not before. 

Her journal states, “I was sealed to Joseph Smith… for time and all eternity… Sylvia, my daughter, was present when I was sealed to Joseph Smith.” 

Patty was 47 at the time and his first older wife. This was probably purely religious in nature and no cohabitation took place. 

However, she became an important part of his family. She, and others of his plural wives, participated in his subsequent marriages by educating prospective wives, by serving as messengers, and by acting as witnesses at ceremonies.


David Becomes a Polygamist

In 1845, David married Rosilla Cowins and Patty had a terrible time with her. At Winter Quarters, the tension between the two women became too much that Rosilla returned to Nauvoo. He marries again in 1850, to nineteen year old Harriet Wixom. Patty is almost 55 and David is nearly 60. There was no major conflict between Harriet and Patty, and sometimes Patty even watched her child (that she came into the marriage with; she had been divorced). Shortly after this, David passes away from a stroke. Patty often wrote “I feel bad” and “Oh how lonesome I am” in her journal. 

“The polygamous experience for women was often defined by the husbands absence” [Compton, 196].


Patty Marries John Parry

After David’s death, Patty married John Parry in 1850. In her journal she wrote: “I was married to John Parry and I feel to thank the Lord that I have someone to cut my wood for me.”
After two years of seemingly happy marriage, John Parry married again. Patty was very distraught when she discovered that her new husband was to become a polygamist. After taking his second wife, he eventually moved in with his second wife, (also named Harriet, she was 31 and John was 65). 

After the course of two years, all John gave her was 10 ½ pounds of flour and one pound of butter. 

“Here was see another characteristic of polygamy the men: often were willing to add plural wives to their families, but after the marriage took place found they were unable to support the multiple families adequately and the wives often had to depend on siblings and teenage sons” [Compton, 199].


The End of Patty's Life

When John Parry died in 1868, Patty did mourn him. She was now fully a widow and actually ended up very wealthy. 

At one point she even loaned Brigham Young $175 in gold. 

She started a free school in Utah, called the Patty Sessions Academy.

Patty died in 1892, nearly 98 years old.

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