Utah History Encyclopedia


By Miriam B. Murphy

Martha Spence Heywood

Martha Spence Heywood was born in Ireland in 1812. She left with a sister for America in 1834 against their parents' wishes, arriving penniless in New York City. She sewed and "toiled & toiled late & early," and also traveled extensively in upstate New York and Canada, part of the time as an "Advent preacher . . . . enduring the scoffs and privations that attend such a course." In July 1848 she joined the Mormon Church and in 1850 traveled to Utah. She became a plural wife of Joseph L. Heywood, a merchant and the first U.S. marshal in Utah Territory. She had two children, one of whom died at the age of eighteen months.

A pioneer settler of Nephi, she lived for a time in a wagon box. Her husband visited the settlement several times a year, and she occasionally traveled to Salt Lake City. She supported herself by making hats and caps, and she trained other family members in hatmaking while her husband took orders, collected materials, and marketed the finished items. She also taught school in Nephi.

In 1861 she settled in Washington, north of St. George. There she became well known as a schoolteacher. She held classes in her home, charging three dollars a month, a fee that could be paid in produce or in chores. She died there in her sixty-first year.

Historians consider her diary of the years 1850 to 1856 one of the best personal accounts of that period in Utah. It documents, among other things, the new territory's intellectual life, the settlement of Nephi, and polygamous family life. Unflinching in her honesty, Martha Heywood records ambivalent feelings about her marriage and the dissatisfaction of some Nephi settlers with her husband's leadership. Her own self-examination was rigorous; and her diary remains a testament to her integrity.