Some debts never die, at least, according to California novelist Judith Freeman, who in her latest work traces her family genealogy back to a group of polygamist families living in the northern Arizona wilderness.
In "The Mormon Chronicles: A Meditation In Four Parts," Freeman says her great-grandfather, William Jordan Flake, and Mitt Romney’s great-grandfather, Miles P. Romney, were patriarchs of adjoining Mormon communities back in the mid-19th century. Miles P. Romney, it turns out, was indebted to Freeman's ancestor, and now Freeman's taken her argument for repayment to the public.
The story begins when federal marshalls targeted the prominent Mormons, eventually arresting both under strict anti-polygamy laws. Romney skated on the co-habitation charge by sending two of his three wives into hiding, but another charge -- relating to land dispute claims -- stuck.
"Now we come to the matter I’d like to bring up with Mitt," Freeman writes in the "Los Angeles Review of Books."
Flake had more money than Romney and ended up posting bail -- set at $1,000 each -- for both men. But Romney allegedly skipped town and fled to Mexico with his wives and their children. "He left my great-grandfather Flake holding the bag," Freeman writes.
Now, about 130 years later, the author estimates the debt to be worth about $25,000. (She's willing to let the interest on the bill slide.)
"It's never too late to make a situation right, and since Mitt Romney seems to have sufficient funds now to cover his ancestor's old debt, I'd like to call upon him to do so," Freeman writes.
The presidential candidate's fortune is hard to pin down, with his assets generally thought to be worth anywhere between $85 million and $264 million, according to CNN.
Either way, the former Massachusetts governor can probably afford the bill.
After all, the Romneys declared a loss of $77,000 on their 2010 tax returns for their share in the care and feeding of their top dressage horse, Rafalca, according to The New York Times.
If Romney does decide to honor his ancestor's bond loan, Freeman said he can be assured the money will be distributed fairly and equally among William Jordan Flake's approximately 15,000 living descendants.
This is not the first time details of the Romney family saga have come to light. The prominent Mormon's family history has been examined carefully during his many years in public office, and in January a new biography titled "The Real Romney" was released by publishing house HarperCollins.
Written by a pair of veteran Boston Globe reporters, the investigative book included several details of Miles P. Romney's life. However, according to this account, the elder Romney had five wives, more than 30 children and was ordered to flee to Mexico by church officials, the Washington Post notes.