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Eminent Women: Anna Charlotte Eldridge Hinkle Chidester and Charlotte Corday

By: Amy Tanner Thiriot - January 02, 2012

John Madison Chidester and his wife Mary Parker were early converts to the church and were both members of Zion’s Camp, making the two thousand mile trek through early America. During the difficult times in Missouri:

[a]ccording to family tradition John [M. Chidester] stood by the side of Joseph [Smith] … as a body guard and … he was with Joseph when he was betrayed by Colonel [George M.] Hinkle….

[Thirty years later, on] October 10, 1864 a reunion for the members of Zion’s Camp was held at the Social Hall in Salt Lake City…. Three years later to the day in 1867, John married his third wife, Anna Charlotte Eldredge [sic]. They were married in the Endowment House by Wilford Woodruff and were witnessed by W.W. Phelps and D. McFarland. Anna was the wife of George Hinkle, the Mormon Militia commander that had turn[ed] Joseph Smith over to the mobs. When he was excommunicated from the Church he refused to let any of their large family go with Ann[a] and she had been without a family until this time. Source

The story of John Chidester’s third marriage has all the elements of a great tale: heroes and villains, conflict, betrayal, irony, friendship, forgiveness, redemption.

But like many family traditions, the story is an intriguing blend of fact and fiction. In other words, the story is not true. Chidester did not marry a former wife of George M. Hinkle.

However, there is enough truth in the story that it helped identify what really happened.

Anna Charlotte Eldridge was born in Stokes County, North Carolina, in 1808. Her family belonged to the Moravian Church. In 1828 Anna’s mother, Elizabeth Ann Hauser Eldridge, left her husband, Fredrick William Eldridge, in North Carolina and moved to Indiana with some of her children, including her youngest daughter, Anna Charlotte.

While living in Indiana, Anna Charlotte and her family met the missionaries and Anna and her brother, John Eldridge, joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

That same month, Anna married William W. Hinkle. None of the records mention whether he was also baptized into the church. He was from Kentucky, like Colonel George M. Hinkle, but they were not brothers. It is possible that they were cousins but the Hinkle/Henckel family association could not find a connection between the two men.

Anna and William had at least four children: George, William, Eliza, and Harriet. They may have had more, including John, Milton, and Ellen.

The Eldridge family spread throughout the region. Anna’s mother died in 1840 in Martin County, Indiana. Anna’s widowed sister Pauline Eldridge Worth didn’t seem to join the church, but she died in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1847, leaving five orphaned children who were split up among family members. One of them, Mary, later wrote a touching letter about their destitute circumstances.

Anna and William Hinkle lived in Missouri for a while, and in 1850 they lived in Sny Island, Illinois, south of Quincy.

Before they separated, Anna and William may have moved back to Missouri, along with Anna’s brother Emanuel and his family and two of their sister Pauline’s orphaned children. William Hinkle and Emanuel Eldridge and their families remained in Linn County, Missouri, for decades.

No family records remain to tell how Anna came to leave her family. The separation, however and whenever it occurred, must have been bitterly difficult.

Meanwhile, Anna’s brother John Eldridge had traveled to Utah in 1852 with his family. Two years later, his wife, Cynthia Howlett, died. He remarried Margaret Mitchell, the widow of Benjamin Lillywhite. The marriage did not last, and she remarried another man. About the time John’s second marriage was breaking up, the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database shows an otherwise unidentified John and Annie Eldredge traveling as members of the James Wareham Company in 1862. Could John have traveled back to Missouri to bring Anna to Utah? None of the other John Eldredges (or Eldridges) in Utah could have traveled in this company.

John Eldridge had lived for several years in the same small Utah Valley community as John Madison Chidester and his family. Then John Eldridge moved down to Millard County and the Chidesters moved back to Salt Lake City and then went south to settle Dixie. They helped found the small community of Washington, northeast of St. George, Utah, and returned from time to time to Salt Lake City as mentioned earlier, and on one of those trips John Chidester married Anna Charlotte, who was otherwise almost alone in the world.

There does not seem to be any way of knowing if Anna kept in touch with her children. Did she know that two of her sons and a son-in-law fought in the Civil War? George served in the Missouri Volunteers 49th Regiment, William served in the 19th Iowa Infantry, and son-in-law Edward Dance served in the 69th Regiment Enrolled Missouri Militia, all three fighting for the Union.

Did Anna know when her children married and had children? She has descendants still living in Missouri. Here is a picture of her grandson William Hinkle, born in 1886, and his wife.

When the St. George Temple was built, Annie, as she was known, did the temple work for her mother and sister. She also helped do the temple work for two of Wilford Woodruff’s Eminent Women.

Anna lived with the Chidesters for decades. John’s first wife Mary died in 1879. John and Anna lived in Washington until John’s death in 1892.

At some point before 1900, Annie probably developed dementia due to old age, and perhaps needed more care than her family members could provide. Someone—we don’t know who—took her on the long drive through Provo, past the swamp and past the town dump, to the Utah Insane Asylum, where she would have spent her last years in the crowded and noisy wards of that institution.

She died in 1902 and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Provo City Cemetery.

* * *

Anna Charlotte did the endowment for Charlotte Corday when the men and women of St. George did the temple work for the Founding Fathers and other Eminent Men and Women of the world.

* * *

Charlotte Corday was a member of the minor gentry in France. In her youth she became enamored with the writings of Plutarch, Rousseau, and Voltaire, and took a great dislike to Jean-Paul Marat, one of the more strident voices of the French Revolution, a member of the Jacobin faction and a prominent journalist. So 24-year-old Charlotte planned and carried out his assassination, stabbing him in his bath. She was tried and convicted and guillotined.

The author de Lamartine called her “the angel of assassination.” She viewed herself as another Jael. For a romantic telling of her story, see the chapter in this link.



10 Comments »

  1. Yikes! Somewhere in one of the edits I deleted the note about William W Hinkle’s second wife. Here’s the gist of it:

    Sometime between 1850 and 1860, Anna and William separated. In the 1850 census, he is living with her on one side of the Mississippi River, and in the 1860 census, he is living with a woman named Mary in Linn County, not far from Anna’s brother Emanuel Eldridge. William and Mary have several of William and Anna’s children living with them and some children that could be either Anna’s or Mary’s — the Missouri birth records are not good enough to tell which of the younger children belong to which wife.

    There are a lot of people to keep track of in this life story, but tracking down all of her siblings and children, as much as was possible, is what allowed me to trace her story.

    And the research process was so interesting — I found myself last week rather unexpectedly discussing HIPAA regulations with the lady in charge of records at the Utah State Hospital (formerly the Insane Asylum). I can’t request Anna’s records. Evidently one of her direct descendants could, if he or she could prove the line of descent from her with legal documents.

    Why is there not some sort of time limit for medical records privacy laws like there is for the census?

    Comment by Amy T — January 2, 2012 @ 9:27 am

  2. I wonder how many readers understand the depth of Amy’s research to put together one of these posts. I do. You start with a total stranger — just a name, and the fact that she was part of the Eminent Woman project, so she probably lived in or near St. George, at least at that point in her life. That’s it. So then where do you go to find more?

    Amy is researching these women using the same kinds of records, the same meticulous attention to detail, that she would if she were researching the life of one of her own great-grandmothers — only she starts without having the clues that we have about our great-grandmothers (a general idea of where they came from, through family tradition; the fact that they had a child who became our grandparent; maybe access to family pictures or family writings). Those of you who have identified new ancestors, or who have dug out the stories of their lives through your own research, have some idea of the work she’s done — only few of us have done that for women who are unrelated to us.

    And she makes it look easy by presenting it to us in a nice package, all organized and coherent, with pictures. And she’ll be doing it over and over again, with other women — some of them famous in our culture, perhaps, but some of them so unknown that her tributes here may be the only life history these faithful women ever have.

    Three cheers! This is a labor of love — and I cheer for both the labor and the love. Thanks, Amy.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 2, 2012 @ 10:50 am

  3. All sorts of odd random associations come to mind: from the Charlie Chaplin character “Hinkle” in “The Great Dictator” to the Hinkle/Henckel/Heinkel? (this last a nod to Ernst Heinkel, the German engineer/aircraft manufacturer who designed several military aircraft used by the Luftwaffe in World War II).

    And all those marriages: did anybody bother with divorce back then? Or did they simply walk away, head out into the frontier, and marry again when they found a suitable mate? (There may have been a lot more bigamy (both polyandry and polygyny) going on than we know–restrictive divorce laws might have helped drive the numbers up.)

    But all of that is secondary to the big question: Why Charlotte Corday?? How many other assassins were included among the Eminent Women? Was she viewed as a modern-day (and female) Nephi to Marat’s Laban? What was Wilford Woodruff thinking? (Who’s got his journal, and what did he say about this?)

    Comment by Mark B. — January 2, 2012 @ 11:36 am

  4. This is a wonderful series. I appreciate the detail and research that goes into it. I have learned so much and hope to continue to do so. Thank you.

    Comment by Colleen Willis — January 2, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

  5. Extraordinary work, Amy. Thanks.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 2, 2012 @ 7:36 pm

  6. I am in awe at the depth of research Amy has done and hope that I can dig farther into some of my own line where I don’t have much information.

    Mark B., My 2nd great-grandmother left her husband in England and came to Utah with a son and daughter, where they lived with another daughter and her husband. A few years later, she married a man in a neighboring town and lived with him until his death. There was no divorce from her husband in England. Like you, I wonder if there was a lot of this going on.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — January 3, 2012 @ 12:54 am

  7. Interesting comments about the fluidity of marriage in that era. A prime example from outside Mormon culture involved Rachel Donelson and her husband, Andrew Jackson. Since Rachel Donelson Robards Jackson is one of the Eminent Women, and since the circumstances surrounding her divorce and remarriage became such an overwhelming part of her life, we’ll return to the subject in a future post.

    To address Mark B.’s question about why this temple work was done: at her trial Charlotte Corday said, “I killed one man to save 100,000.” She took Marat’s life and gave her own to save France. It didn’t work, but she tried! She was a very quixotic character. And perhaps there are other reasons as well. I don’t know.

    Thanks, all, for your comments, and Ardis for your particularly kind comment. This project really is about the love of the subject and the people — it’s certainly not done for fame or fortune!! And one of the very best parts of the project is the people I meet and interact with along the way.

    Comment by Amy T — January 3, 2012 @ 8:47 am

  8. Mary, daughter of Pauline Eldrige Worth, was my great great grandmother. In your post you mention a “touching letter” that Mary wrote with a link to the letter. This link does not work. Just wondering if you have a link to this letter. I do have something similar to a letter that Mary wrote about her life.

    thanks,
    Nina

    Comment by Nina Peoples — November 25, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

  9. I noticed that broken link recently — anyone know what happened to the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation? Its website has been down for awhile. It would be a disappointment to lose access to the content of the Nauvoo Journal and Mormon Historical Studies Journal.

    Nina, the letter I mention is:

    Charmaine A. Burdell, “A Young Girl’s Memory of Nauvoo: 1846-1847,” Nauvoo Journal, Spring 1995, 35-37.

    It is a letter by Mary Elizabeth Worth Peoples, telling her memories of the the death of her parents and the last days of Mormon life in Nauvoo. It’s a couple of pages long. If you don’t have a copy, drop me a note at amyancestorfiles at gmail dot com and I’ll send you a pdf.

    Comment by Amy T — November 26, 2012 @ 5:28 am

  10. Three notes. First, the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation is back online. Here’s an updated link to the Mary Worth Peoples letter. (Link to pdf.)

    Second, this past week a few people have asked about my project during long car rides and I’ve had the opportunity to tell Annie’s story a couple of times. (As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, she is one of my favorites so far in the Eminent Women project.)

    When her brother took her to Utah, she had to leave all her children in Missouri. Her children and descendants did not seem to have any connection to the Church until fifteen or twenty years ago when one of her descendants and his wife joined the Church in Missouri.

    They didn’t know that they had a Mormon pioneer ancestor until I contacted them when I was writing this history — they had traced their line back to her daughter, but hadn’t been able to make the connection back another generation. Looking at the family from Annie down to her children, the family connection was perfectly obvious, but it wasn’t obvious the other direction.

    Anyway, since I was thinking about her, I looked at FamilySearch Family Tree and saw that her descendants have started doing the temple work for her family.

    Third, I recently had the opportunity to read the Washington City Relief Society account books which listed all the local donations to the Relief Society. One woman might donate a quilt top, another might donate some food, and still another might donate 50 cents or a dollar. In the early 1880s, Annie twice donated 25 cents to the work of the Relief Society. It was surprisingly touching to see her name and those modest amounts penciled into that account book

    Comment by Amy T — June 27, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

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