Pinesdale, Montana is a place where polygamy is practiced and openly celebrated. The community was created in the early 1960s as a safe place for people who wanted to practice the Mormon fundamentals. The government and the Mormon Church were working together to eliminate the nuisance of polygamy. Men had been put in prison and their families taken from them. For those men who did not want to give up their families or religious freedoms a small ranch in Montana was the only solution.
When the community was first established it was as many would expect from this commune lifestyle. Women and girls wore long dresses or skirts and kept their hair long. Men and boys wore long pants and shirts, with hair trimmed very short. While this was not forced on them, it was in keeping with utmost morality that members of the community had established as their chosen way of life. Early on it was not uncommon for marriages to be arranged between young girls and men with other wives. The marriages were performed in secret. It was only when you saw a young woman leave her own family and begin sitting with another family at church did you realize that a marriage had taken place. Not long after that her belly would begin to grow; a tell-tell sign that the marriage had been consummated.
Over the years the community grew and changed. As community leaders died or left, new more progressive leaders took their place. And although the community still firmly practices polygamy as a religious belief and follows the other teachings of the Mormon Church, the lifestyle has become more relaxed. Women are free to choose their husbands, young boys and girls are free to leave when they become of age, and many women even hold jobs. The dress and lifestyle are still very conservative when compared to the outside world. But driving through Pinesdale on a warm summer afternoon or cold winter day, you wouldn’t be struck with anything different from any other small town off the beaten path.