Polygamy on the Pedernales is about the Mormon settlements in Texas during the 1840s and 1850s, whose primary allegiance was to Lyman Wight. Christened the "Wild Ram of the Mountains" by the New York Sun, Wight was ordained an Apostle by Joseph Smith in 1841. Because he was "charismatic, intensely personal, and often domineering in his dealings with others," writes author Melvin C. Johnson, "the Wild Ram became influential with Joseph Smith." Wight's group broke with Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve, and they pursued Wight's vision of a Latter-day Saint safe haven in Texas, which Wight believed was commanded by Smith.
Born in 1796, Wight served in the War of 1812, married Harriet Benton Wight, and settled in frontier Ohio by 1826. Lyman and Harriet joined Sydney Rigdon's Campbellite community in 1829, where Lyman became passionately converted to New Testament Christian primitivism and common-stock economic communalism. He was part of a large body of Rigdon's followers who converted to the LDS faith when missionaries arrived.