SALT LAKE CITY — What began as a family history project has resulted in a new publication about a man who had significant influence in settling the Mormon territory.
Author Quentin Thomas Wells, of Salt Lake City, said his book “Defender: The Life of Daniel H. Wells” is about a man who is not well known in Mormon history. But he said his ancestor played a pivotal role in organizing the city where Utah’s first settlers arrived.
Daniel Wells was the mayor of Salt Lake City from 1866 to 1876 and was the second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving with Brigham Young, who was president of the church at the time.
“Many of the things Brigham Young proposed, Daniel made happen. Brigham Young’s health was failing,” he said, noting that the church president needed people to carry out his inspiration.
Even with all of Daniel Wells’ worldly influences, one of Quentin Wells’ favorite aspects of his life was his ability to successfully run a family that included seven wives and 37 children.
“Polygamy was an extremely difficult lifestyle for anyone,” Quentin Wells said. “There were few that really made a go of it in the sense of a happy home and family.”
But the author found his pioneer ancestor seemed to have created harmony in his home.
“None of his wives left him, challenged him or got angry with him,” he said of his six wives in Salt Lake City. “All revere him, all go along as a family in one big house.”
As many as 36 people lived together at one time in that house with no inside plumbing, Quentin Wells said.
Daniel Wells had left one wife behind when he came to the West. Eliza Robinson Wells had no desire to make the trip and to be a part of polygamy, he said.
“She was bitterly opposed to Mormonism and polygamy,” Quentin Wells said. Although Eliza filed for divorce, Daniel Wells never agreed, he said. He listed his first wife on the 1860 censes as if she were living with him in Utah.
Once in Salt Lake City, Daniel Wells married women who had struggled, Quentin Wells said, noting two were previously divorced. One was pregnant at the time they married.
Quentin Wells believes his work is relevant today as families struggle to stay together.
He started the project when he inherited family history and historical documents from Daniel Wells’ last remaining children.
“The more research I did, the more I thought ‘There’s a book in this,’” he said.
Wells’ work was published by the Utah State University Press. Publicity information about the book puts Daniel Wells in the same category with other important but historically neglected Mormon leaders, such as Heber C. Kimball, George Q. Cannon and Jedediah M. Grant.
“An adult convert to the Mormon faith during the Mormons’ Nauvoo period, Wells developed relationships with men at the highest levels of the church hierarchy, emigrated to Utah with the Mormon pioneers, and served in a series of influential posts in both church and state,” the book’s description reads. “Wells was known especially as a military leader in both Nauvoo and Utah ... But he was also the territorial attorney general and obtained title to all the land in Salt Lake City from the federal government during his tenure as the mayor of Salt Lake City.”
Among his other accomplishments, he twice served as president of the Mormon European mission. He ran businesses in lumbering, coal mining, manufacturing, and gas production.
Quentin Wells used research from relevant collections, sources in public records, references to Wells in the Joseph Smith papers, other contemporaneous journals and letters, and the writings of Brigham Young to create his book.
“Defender” is Quintin Wells’ sixth book. He is a former CIA officer, film and video writer and producer, entrepreneur and a retired director of program innovation and director of the student media center at Salt Lake Community College, according to his biography.