02 August 2009

The Family Relationship of James J. Strang's Assassin, Thomas Bedford

James Strang, who once vied with Brigham Young for the leadership of the Latter Day Saints, formed his own group, the Strangites. Jesse James (later known as James Jesse) Strang's (brief) autobiography in the Michigan Pioneer & Historical Collections can be found here (which also includes a biography).

Apparently, a rift between Thomas Bedford and James Strang originated in a dispute over bloomers. Strang, as "King" of Beaver Island, proclaimed that his female "subjects" were mandated to wear bloomers and could no longer wear dresses. A power struggle ensued; Mrs. Bedford was one who rebelled against this edict and Thomas Bedford backed his wife. Thomas Bedford, who became more outspoken, was severely whipped for his transgressions. The dispute was not going to end peacefully; Thomas Bedford and Alexander Wentworth shot the "King," James J. Strang in June of 1856; Strang was taken to Wisconsin where he died on July 9, 1856.

From the Clarke Library's Strangite Collection:


Clement Strang to Stanley Johnson (Onaway, Michigan)
2 September 1938 Re: Life and Behavior of Thomas Bedford - His part in assasination

(After the assassination of his father, James J. Strang, Clement) lived with mother's brother Albert Field. Uncle Albert's wife, Jane Miller, was a daughter (sic?) of Harrison Miller and a sister of Thomas Bedford's wife, Ruth Ann Miller.

What were the family dynamics, already unusual considering the polygamous marriage of James J. Strang and Elvira Field, when Elvira moved in with her brother and sister-in-law? Elvira's sister-in-law, Jane (Miller) Field, was the sister-in-law of Thomas Bedford, who murdered Elvira's husband, James J. Strang.

Note: The assassins were never brought to trial.

Ruth Ann (Miller) Bedford was living next door to Harrison Miller in the 1880 Census:
1880 MI Manitou, Chandler
Harrison MILLER Self M W 42 NY Cooper NY CT
Bridget MILLER Wife M W 37 IRE Keeping House IRE IRE
George H. MILLER Son S W 20 MI Sailor NY IRE
Elizabeth MILLER Dau S W 16 MI Housekeeper NY IRE
Ruth MILLER Dau S W 10 MI Attending School NY IRE
William H. MILLER Son S W 8 MI Attending School NY IRE
Julia MILLER Dau S W 6 MI Attending School NY IRE
Mary J. MILLER Dau S W 2 MI NY IRE
Next Door:
Ruth A. BEDFORD Self W W 45 NY Keeping House NY CT
Edwin E. BEDFORD Son S W 26 MI Cooper NY ENG
Ruth (Miller) Bedford died in 26 Nov 1911 in Charlevoix County, Michigan.

Albert Field died 13 April 1915 in Eaton County, Michigan.

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