In 2004 the existence of a rather obscure and secretive family group hit the world headlines when two of their number, Jessica Kingston, 15, and her 12 year old sister Andrea ran away from their parents and contacted police. Their story was an incredible one – they were members of the so-called Kingston Clan who they claimed practiced polygamy, arranged marriages, used forced labour and disciplined their members with frequent beatings.
The Clan originated as a breakaway group from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in the 1920’s initiated by Charles W. Kingston over the issue of polygamy. He was strongly in favour of polygamy and along with a group of like-minded families settled in Utah in 1935.
They formed the Davis County Cooperative Society, led by Kingston’s son, Chares Elden Kingston. The Society was a combined religious and commercial organisation that was known inside the group as “The Order”, but because of its highly insular nature it became known more generally as “The Kingston Clan”. Contact with the outside world was kept to a minimum, mainly for commercial reasons and nearly all the maintenance tasks and labour to support the group was performed in-house by members.
The Clan expanded over the years and became financially prosperous with the establishment of a cattle ranch, law office, supermarket, coal mine and discount store. Membership numbers today are estimated to be over 3000, with many of this population believed to have been born from internal polygamous unions.
Following the defection of the Kingston sisters in 2004, allegations emerged of widespread mistreatment of members, including forced marriages of early teenage girls, incest, members forced to work virtually as slave labourers and the beating of disobedient members.
It was also revealed that members were not paid in cash but in “scrip”, a form of credit redeemable only from within The Order. Over the years, the Clan was also accused of tax evasion and welfare fraud.
Image: John Ortell Kingston, a leader of the Kingston Clan of Mormon fundamentalists, (A.K.A. the Kingston Clan and the Davis County Cooperative) a Mormon fundamentalist denomination in the Latter Day Saint movement. in Davis County, Utah, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.