Weird and Wonderful


Those Darn Kingstons


Who Are The Kingstons?

The Kingston Clan is one of the biggest success stories in Mormon splinter group history. While other Utah polygamous clans were making news with bloody purges and stand-offs against the federal government, the Kingstons remained under the radar, acquiring teenage wives and wealth.

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The media's roving eye often focused on groups like the FLDS in Hildale, Utah or the crazed Lafferty brothers' murderous spree. National new services regaled us with lurid tales of Ervil LaBaron and that former spokesman for fun-loving polygamy, Tom Greene. The Kingston Clan was left alone to count the dollars rolling in from its voluminous business holdings, unheralded - out of the public eye.

All that changed in May 1998 when sixteen-year-old Mary Ann Kingston put in a call to the Box Elder County Sheriffs. The teenager had stumbled over seven miles in search of a phone after escaping from the clan-owned Washakie Ranch near Plymouth in northern Utah.

A Tale of Woe

And what a tale she had to tell. It seemed she had been ferried to the ranch after being beaten by her father, one John Daniel Kingston. And what had she done that so pissed off daddy? She attempted a cut and run from a polygamous marriage forced on her by her father. Her husband, 32-year-old David Ortell Kingston, who as it turned out was also her uncle and allegedly already married to fourteen other women. Yuck.

Of course, the media attacked the story like hungered sharks in a pool of chum. It had the big three selling points of the best bizarro Utah news; polygamous Mormon whackos, teenage wives and sex.

John D. Kingston received 28 weeks in jail after pleading no contest to felony child abuse. David O. Kingston served a four-year bit in the Utah State pen for incest and unlawful sexual contact with a minor.

Worse yet for the Kingston Clan, the lid was blown off their little religious good-old-boy club. Things got even dicier for the group when that same year four ex-polygamous wives founded Tapestry of Polygamy (later Tapestry Against Polygamy). One of the founders, Rowenna Erickson, is a former Kingston multiple wife and she was ready to talk about life with the secretive clan.

While its more flamboyant polygamous counterparts put themselves in the national spotlight by killing each other, getting in shoot outs with the feds, or parading multiple wives around for the edification of the media, the Kingston Clan was raking in the dough with numerous business holdings like The Fountain of Youth Spas, the East Side Market, the CW Mining Company, vending machine enterprises and many other ventures.

Its cumulative wealth has been estimated at over $150 million. The Kingstons may not be the biggest Mormon fundamentalist cult, estimates put membership between 1,500 and 2,000 members, but they are the richest.

Under the Media Spotlight

The Kingstons can't stay out of the news now the cat is out of the bag. A strike started last year by workers at the Kingston owned Co-Op mines in Emery County threw some light on the Clan's business practices. Coal miners were paid between $5 and $7 per hour for long dangerous work, and all this without the added incentive of health benefits and other some such. The Kingstons got away with this by hiring mainly immigrant workers.

Tapestry of Polygamy has been keeping the plight of multiple wives from the Kingston Clan and others under the spotlight. Erickson, due to her former insider status, has been able to shed some light on the Clan's secretive religious practices. Not as much as we would like, perhaps, because the true gospel is kept among a few high ranking church patriarchs.

Jeremy Ortell Kingston pleaded guilty in January 2004 to misdemeanor incest for a marriage with a 15-year-old cousin, LuAnn Kingston. She was his fourth wife. He received a year in prison. This less than a year after his uncle David O. Kingston was released from jail for the crimes that thrust the Clan into the limelight.

The final nail in the coffin for the Kingston's privacy, however, was the $110 million lawsuit against the Clan filed August 1, 2003 by Mary Ann Kingston. Mary Ann, now 22, named 242 family members and 97 businesses owned by the Clan in the suit. In August 2004 a Farmington judge threw out a countersuit for defamation against Mary Ann by two Kingston Clan couples. The trial on Mary Ann's lawsuit is expected to take place sometime in 2005 and may finally shed more light on the Kingston's Byzantine business holdings.

Child Rearing Interrupted

In October 2004, the Kingstons were once again thrust into the limelight. A Utah judge ordered eight children from the polygamous marriage of John Daniel Kingston and Heidi Mattingly Foster placed in state custody. He further ruled that Foster could only get her kids back if she severed all ties with the Kingston Clan. This included her job and home, both owned by the fundamentalist order. Foster has been a member since birth.