A Schoolmarm All My Life
Joyce Kinkead, editor
Martha Spence Heywood
[p.20] Almost every Sunday for six years, Martha Spence Heywood turned to her diary to record the events of the week. That record is an unusually articulate account of daily life among the Mormons as they trekked from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City to set up homes in their promised land. But then Martha was an unusual woman. At age twenty-three, she left her family in Dublin, Ireland, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and set about making a living in the United States by sewing and teaching. She claims that her mother died from the heartbreak of her children departing Ireland; her father remarried and also moved to the States in the 1830s.
The details of her early life are sketched in a letter Martha wrote in 1855 to one of Brigham Young’s wives (Brooks, 133-35); fortunately, the epistle was not burned as Martha requested. Not one to sit still she sought adventure in the “wilds of Canada West” (Brooks, 45), preaching for the Adventisis (she calls herself a “religionist”). She converted to Mormonism in 1848. Anxious to gather to the Salt Lake Valley, she travelled to Kanesville, Iowa. A single woman had a more difficult time latching on to transport; finally she was invited to share the company of the Joseph Heywood wagon and reached Salt Lake City in 1850. There, she lived in the Heywood household, and, even though his first two wives were at times lukewarm toward her, she became his third wife at age thirty-nine—Heywood being four years her junior.
Martha’s marriage was apparently not a romantic one but grew out of practical and religious causes: she needed the security of a home and [p.21] marriage while Joseph benefitted from taking a third wife. The actual time the two spent together was negligible, and although Martha was hurt by his absences and slights, she never questioned a marriage that gave her the joy of motherhood.
Martha’s intellectual pursuits (she joined in literary, philosophical and theatrical societies—writing essays or making costumes) probably caused some friction. To keep peace in the house, Joseph moved Martha to Salt Creek (Nephi) to establish a house there. Two children were born to her (she was forty-two at the birth of her second child—a daughter who later died). To earn money, she taught school and made hats and caps. Her husband fell out of favor with the local leaders, and she moved with Joseph to St. George, Utah, in 1861, where her teaching skill was renowned:
Martha … was ready to start a school before the new year. Her terms were high: three dollars a month, but this could be paid in produce of any kind. Some children hauled or carried fertilizer from their horne corrals to spread on her garden; others helped to pull weeds or hoe on Saturdays; no child was denied attendance who really wanted to learn. Her skill as a teacher has become folklore in Dixie (Brooks, 5).
* * *
January 1st, 1850—Kanesville. I take my pen to record this first day of the present year, and take a retrospective glance of the previous portion of time since my embracing this Latter-day work and being baptized therein, which even took place in Hamilton [Ontario, Canada] in the month of July, 1848, while there for the purpose of more fully investigating the subject of Mormonism and deciding thereon.
[Martha traveled first to Rochester, then by rail and steamer to Council Bluffs—Kanesville—to join a Mormon company.]
I spent about two weeks with Elder [Ezra] Benson and enjoyed the society of his lady very much. I also spent a few days with Mrs. Joseph Young and while there the chance of a school offered itself which I accepted and in a few days located myself in Springville and found myself presiding over an interesting group of juveniles of all ages and while in the capacity of school teacher I made some in-[p.22]teresting acquaintances, especially Brother Houston the sympathy and hospitality I experienced from them has made an impression not easily effaced.
Since the termination of my school I have located myself here in Joseph E. Johnson’s family for the purpose of making “Caps” but was disappointed in not getting materials. I had an offer to go over to the Mission School from Mr. McKenna at two dollars a week with good home and would have accepted it but for having previously engaged my services to Mr. Johnson1 and the result was but little money making, but still I was amply repaid for this disappointment by having an opportunity of becoming well acquainted with Elder [John] Taylor, Lorenzo and Erastus Snow and Franklin Richards2 going on missions to different nations of the earth and also many other of the brethren, their companions in the work. Previous to the brethren’s arrival I felt somewhat unhappy in mind as skepticism had crept in and opened the door to cavil at almost anything.
[Martha wanted to go to the Salt Lake Valley even if it meant walking, but she was deterred.]
July. Well, every chance failed—even Brother Haywood [Heywood] called for the last time to tell me he could not see his way clear enough to say I could go. That call decided me as to my remaining in Kanesville and I determined to locate myself comfortably for the coming year and perhaps for many years, not feeling disposed to make so thorough an exertion again to go to the Valley. I proposed to start me a select school and commenced boarding with Mr. Johnson’s mother and went to some labor in preparing to live there, when at the end of another week Brother called again to tell me I could go. I had my mind so settled as to there being a providence in my not going that I really felt disappointed in his telling me I could go but my own rule of action bound me to as I considered it equally a providence in his asking me to go.
[Martha made the trip to Utah with the Heywoods, arriving in Octo-[p.23]ber. She then lived with Heywood and his two plural wives.3 She supported herself by making hats.]
December 8th—Sunday—The Youth’s Theatrical Society met here three times last week and have elected Brother Campbell for their president. I have been called upon to take a part but have not yet decided to do so. I wish to see the Society in existence on strictly moral principles and for intellectual improvement and did I give my services to it, it would be purely to give an impetus to the carrying out of these principles. The combination of the human mind is always the better in uniting the sexes. It makes men more moral and polite in their deportment and expands the minds of females and gives them a more intellectual turn and I consider it a higher order of amusement than Balls or the common run of entertainment.
January 17th —Friday—Monday evening Brother Brigham and Sister Young spent the evening here with the view of his talking over the subject of Brother Haywood’s going south. It was decided that Edgar Blodgett had better accompany Brother Haywood and when the subject of being sealed to him was taken up he said it was all right and of going south it was best not; as the family had best stay together in this place.4
When I learned the disposition of my case it seemed to throw such a weight of responsibility on me in taking this step that my feelings were uncommonly oppressed and continued so till the ordinance of sealing was attended to which took place last evening, January 16th, 1851 by Brigham Young. … The ceremony appeared solemn and interesting and different from anything the world knows of. Brother Haywood stood on the floor, his wife taking hold of his left arm with her right and taking first Sister Vary5 by the right hand and placing it in that of Bro. Haywood’s right hand and [p.24] in that way she was sealed to him for time and eternity by a form of words most sublime. When done she fell back by taking Sister Haywood’s arm. I then went forward going through the same ceremony. … My destiny has taken its bent and I am satisfied in the man the Lord has given me for a husband.
January 26th—Sunday—My feelings have been rather calm during the last week though I meet with the little rubs that I anticipated. Tis rather trying to a woman’s feelings not to be acknowledged by the man she has given herself to and desires to love with all her heart.
[Heywood was due to depart on a mission to the South Sea Islands, but an appointment as federal marshall cancelled that trip—probably much to the relief of his wives. At the same time Brigham Young was appointed territorial governor.]
February 9th—Sunday—… Friday, Mrs. Andrews and Mrs. Brosbie visited us very pleasantly and in the evening we attended the exhibition in which I declined to take any part. It went off well. Today Seventies6 meeting in session—commenced yesterday. Brother Lewens has been ordained a seventy. Brother Brigham spoke this afternoon, principally on education and recommends all to go that possibly can.
April 27th Sunday—1851—… I made a call on Mrs. Joseph Young and had a smart discussion on the merits of my choosing a man who had a wife and how much more the first wife had [to] endure than those who voluntary took the men afterwards. This I would not allow. My doctrine is that both have their trials, not alike but one exists as much as the other.
May 26th—Sunday—I had the pleasure of receiving a letter from my dear friend Mrs. Strong7 full of affection and interest. Mrs. S. is [p.25] much concerned on the subject of polygamy and requests me to write her the truth and the whole truth.
June 8th—Sunday—For two weeks past I have felt rather miserable in health and some puzzled as to the true cause of it having some indicates of pregnancy and some rather opposed to it.
[Martha traveled to Salt Creek—now called Nephi—to help build a settlement.]
January 1st, 1852—It is now over two months since making any record, in which time my darling boy was born on the 18th of Nov. about haft past nine forenoon in the wagon.8 Was first taken sick on the night of the 15th. Suffered much unnecessary pain and distress from taking a wrong position as also from the smallness of the wagon and its openness. Sister Anna Gifford was all the assistance I had and after my sweet one was born was left pretty much to myself, having taken all the care of my babe from the time he was dressed. [She continued to make caps.]
January 11, 1852—Sunday—… the brethren have projected the getting up of a school house and arranged to finish the bridges.
January 16th—Friday—This night completed one year of my becoming a married woman, the result of which is my coming into possession of my precious boy who lacks two days of being two months old and having a husband to care and watch over me that I feel reverence, love and esteem [for] and connected with a family that I am proud to be a member of, and realize that I am much happier now than I was a year ago. My child is the consummation of all my earthly wishes.
March 8th Monday—Had hoped to have had seen Mr. Haywood amongst us by this time and to have had our contemplated party this evening, being the return of my natal day and completion of my fortieth year. Our settlement had done well during the winter and now making what preparations they can for the spring. The probability for my keeping school is rather slim as my health seems to continue poorly. Mary Shunway has been proposed by Bro. Bradley to teach if my health will not permit. It has also been thought of my living in the school house until I get a house of my own, that is if I can teach the school.
[p.26] March 24th—Wednesday—Mr. Heywood left yesterday having stayed but one short week and during his stay the house being full of company and with him and my visiting all the time I feel much prostrated in strength and health. Mr. H. would like me to teach school and wishes me if it is practicable to get a boarding place or board with Mary Anne, but I know not yet what I will be able to do. I made out to give him a lot of caps and feel in the spirit to make as many as I can.
May 2—Sunday—Had a meeting to regulate about the school and it was decided that school would commence forthwith engaging Candace Smith to teach at the rate of five dollars a week and board herself.
May 24th To our great surprise we found that Candace left for Manti vacating her situation after six weeks trial of it; she being some what dissatisfied with some of the people and the people generally dissatisfied with her management as School Teacher. And as I formed an opinion of her inefficiency as a teacher I expected sooner or later she would have to resign. But I was disappointed in her not showing more interest in the welfare of the school and keeping her time, two things she was very remiss in—.
July 12, 1852—Monday—Commenced school this day with 17 scholars. My health being some better than it has for a long time realizing that my getting better health and also having a girl to help me with the baby and spending my time during the two weeks that Mr. H. has been gone in my garden.
Attended Sabbath School yesterday and was surprised that there was no teacher there, it being the 2nd Sabbath of my attendance finding no one there with the exception of Bro. Baxter who is the superintendent. We have now commenced our Sabbath School at eight o’clock in the morning, being the same time that they held in Great Salt Lake City. There was some difficulty in the people to agree about having a daily school. The trustees had a meeting two Sundays ago being the Sunday before Mr. H. left and Bro. Foote was not for having the school started until it was ascertained how many families should send. He also volunteered to go round to ascertain this point and report the next Sunday afternoon at which time they decided on meeting. I was proposed as teacher until a suitable one could be obtained.
The next Sabbath it was reported that some of the brethren objected to the salary of five dollars a week for the teacher and would not [p.27] send. The foremost of such were Amos Gustin, Elmore and Miller. Bryan having an opportunity offering his mind to Gustin & Miller, they confessed they were wrong and Gustin said it was Bro. Foote drew it out of him and Miller’s excuse was because Gustin and Elmore objected he did.
Brother Bradley having returned from the city Saturday, he called a meeting yesterday and proposed that those who desired a school would subscribe so much each as they felt would be wisdom. This plan took at once, Bro. Foote being absent. Bro. Byran took out his pencil and amongst those present there was over seventy dollars collected.
July 19th, 1852—Sundays—Attended Sabbath school this morning and found the superintendent, Bro. Baxter present who acted as teacher with myself, making two teachers and fourteen scholars. My school during the week was as interesting as I could expect considering the great deficiency of the children.
July 25th—Sunday—Attended Sabbath School this morning with Bro. Baxter, making two teachers. We had 16 scholars. Had a letter from my husband informing me of his expecting to be with us very soon—he will probably leave the city today.
August 1st—Sunday—My baby is recovering from the whooping cough but is some troubled with teething. He is now eight months and a haft and none through yet. My health is mending gradually and thus far I have been able to keep the school without any serious inconvenience. The number rose to twenty-one today. Friday forenoon had but eight scholars and did not keep in the afternoon for that reason. I continue to enjoy boarding with Sister Bryan very much.
August 16—Monday—Resume school today after a week’s absence on account of Mr. and Mrs. Heywood’s being here with the children and Mary Bell,9 who all returned to the city last Thursday morning. We had a very pleasant time while they were here with the exception of Sister Heywood having the toothache pretty severe the last day and night. I received a letter from Mrs. Strong and one from Mrs. Leamond in the city.
[p.28] Was not able to attend meeting or Sabbath School yesterday on account of my baby being sick. He has the canker together with his teething seems to keep him down very much. My own and Sister Bryan’s health is but poorly since our visitors left. Bro. Johnston has been here with his wife Harriet and has decided on bringing his oldish wife and her children to come here instead of Mary Anne.
August 30—Mondays—Resumed school today after a week’s absence on account of ill health. Heard from Mr. H. on Saturday who has been ill since his return to the city. Mailed two letters last week for Rochester to Mr. Hayes and Mrs. Strong. Sent 16 caps to the city and also 14 the week before. Yesterday spent the day to Clover Creek. Took the ride with the object of receiving benefit to my health.
September 19—Sunday—This last week the flooring has been laid in the school-house and hearth set and tomorrow I again resume my school. My own and my baby’s health being but poorly I suffer much in trying to teach school but being Mr. H.’s wish to do so I make the attempt.
October 17th—Saturday—I was again obliged to adjourn school last Wednesday noon on account of poor health. Just completed weaning my baby and find him some better by so doing but my own health is miserable.
October 31—Sunday—Mr Heywood returned here about ten o’clock last night after we had retired to bed and Judge Snow a few hours previous, who preached for us on the subject of education, schools and school houses and I enjoyed his remarks much. This evening I had a very agreeable visit with him while the brethren were engaged in a business meeting.
December 5th—We had the first dance for this season on Friday night as a reward for getting the school house repaired. School commenced last Wednesday—Brother Spencer teacher.
February 20, 1853—Sunday—We have had good meetings in this place and a good spirit seems to prevail among the people generally. Mr. Heywood has given two historical lectures that have been well received and proposes to get up a literary society which I think will go. Brother Spencer as a teacher is generally liked. Yesterday had a meeting for the Indians who had been baptized last summer and the old captain whose name is Pooro was ordained and made known some [p.29] interesting facts to the brethren by means of Bro. Hold who is the interpreter concerning his faith and doctrine.
March 6th—Sunday—The California mail passed through on Friday the 4th and stayed over night, bringing the news of General Pearce being elected President of the United States.
January 1st, 1854—My little daughter [Sarepta Maria] was born August 8th, a very healthy child. Mr. H. was not here at the time but arrived two days after her birth.
April 24th—Monday—Rain continued very steady all day and night which prevented our men working in the field and instead thereof worked heartily in clearing away our chip piles and Frith from out the Fort and will give the people a start to keep their door yards in better order. There is a disposition on the part of the people to have me teach school. Mr. H.’s health is not very good. I also begin to feel the influence of the weather and the damp of our rooms.
May 14th, 1854—Sunday—… Commenced my school on Monday, May 15th with 27 scholars and in the afternoon of the same day Sisters Julia Leroy and Henricks arrived which was a great advantage to me as I hardly knew what to do for help.
July, 16th—Sabbath—During the week there was considerable excitement and Mr. H. was very much prostrated in strength of body. Also on Monday morning the school hour was missed which called out some remarks from Bro. Bryant as one of the trustees, that caused me to speak to him at noon time when I learned that there was considerably hard feelings against me as a school teacher. On my reporting to Mr. H. he desired me to ask them to liberate me which I did and closed the school, being about eight weeks of the quarter.
October 1854—Commenced school second Monday in December with about twenty scholars which I found to be of much benefit to me as the activity of the operation and its responsibility prevented lonesomeness that otherwise would have been disagreeable.
Just at this time Maryanne Scriggens left me which I realized to be a great blessing tho I endeavored to have her father leave her longer for the benefit of schooling but he would not and it seemed as if the Lord had said “I had borne enough.” Dancing, school, weekly calls, feasting and visiting continued all winter with an unsparing hand, as also an unusual liveliness in religious devotion in public meetings.
July 20th—Friday—On my returning [from Salt Lake City visiting husband and his first wife] I found my house and its contents all safe but very full of dust. Spent next day cleaning and putting to rights and in so doing I realized a remarkable improvement in my physical strength. And as I had predetermined to keep a select school I gave it out accordingly. I found that several of the scholars I had depended on were signed to Bro. Love, he having gone round the settlement the day previous to my getting here. There were a few who urged me to commence my school and I did so the following Monday morning with 17 scholars but could easily sense the general opposition to my doing so.
[Her husband fell from favor with the local Mormons and was replaced as president of Nephi. Her daughter died 19 March 1856; Martha returned to Salt Lake City after the funeral.]
April 27, 1856—Sunday—I prayed my Heavenly Father that I may receive it [Brigham Young's sermon] in honesty and that it may [make] an impression on my mind and more especially the principle that a woman be she ever so smart, she cannot know more than her husband if he magnifies his Priesthood.
June 23rd—Monday—Had a family group taken at danguarean [daguerreotype] room of Sister Vary, Ida, Nealy and Benny, which consumed the forenoon. Started from there and made some calls, first on Mrs. Howard where I stayed near an hour. Next on Sister Zina Young who chaperoned me through Brigham’s new house, commencing with the school where Sister Pratt presides. The scholars are all from Bro. Brigham’s family and I like her system if she can carry it and advance her pupils in scholastic learning. Went all through the house10 but a few rooms finished and occupied. A large number of workmen to work. Visited his other house11 and Sister Maryanna received me very warmly. Tarried about half an hour and had an interview with Brother Brigham who spoke kindly to my little boy and kissed him. Called on Sister Emeline and Sister Wells,12 also on Bro. Barlow’s family and fi-[p.31]nally found myself at home with a mind full of new thoughts and plans. One of the latter was embroidering. Tuesday after the morning duties started to Sister Leawood’s and had a few hours delightful visit and felt strengthened in my purpose of accomplishing something.
3. In Louisa Pratt’s journal, she notes on 28 May 1846 the following event in Nauvoo: “I went direct to Brother Haywood’s where I was surprized in finding a pleasant company assembled to celebrate the fifth anniversary of their marriage” (237).
6. The LDS church is headed by a president and two (sometimes more) counselors who are advised by the Quorum of Twelve Apostles the most powerful men in church hierarchy. The Seventies, a group under the Twelve, supervise local and regional activities as well as missionary efforts. To belong to the Seventies was an honor; worthy men had to pass through several steps to qualify for this group, including membership in, first, the Aaronic priesthood, then the higher or Melchizedek priesthood, which is subdivided into elder, seventy, and high priest (Arrington and Bitton, 206-207).