Martha Ann Truman (1850-1892)

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Martha Ann Truman Ashby Powell
Martha Ann‎
Born: 2 May 1850 Cottonwood, Utah
Died: 26 Feb 1892 Utah
Father: Jacob Mica Truman
Mother: Elizabeth Boyes
Siblings: Martha Ann Truman
John Franklin Truman
Emma Maria Truman
Jacob Boyce Truman
George Almus Truman
William Thomas Truman
Lucius Truman
Lucy Elizabeth Truman
Albert Henry Truman
Mary Lois Truman
Lacina Almena Truman
Esther Priscilla Truman
Spouse: (1) Nathaniel Ashby
Married: 11 Aug 1870 Utah
Children: Richard Truman Ashby
Jacob Henry Ashby
Elizabeth Ann Ashby
Alice May Ashby
Emma Luella Ashby
Rodney Carlos Ashby
Spouse: (2) John Powell
Married: 20 Mar 1885 Utah
Children: John Franklin Powell
Jesse Truman Powell
Nathaniel Ashby Powell

Martha Ann Truman was born Thursday, May 2, 1850, at the Cottonwood, Great Salt Lake County, Utah Territory, home of Jacob Mica and Elizabeth Boyes Truman. She was the oldest child of the family. She was named for her Grandmother, Martha Spencer Truman.

By the time she was a teenager, her father answered Brigham's call to go south, where the family settled in the Mountain Meadows country of Washington County, Utah Territory. It was in that area that she came to know the Ashby family, probably when the Trumans would travel in to St. George for supplies and trade.

Martha married Nathaniel Ashby, on Thursday, August 11, 1870. The couple was sealed in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. Nathaniel was a newly called Bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He had been sustained as the Bishop of the St. George 4th Ward the previous November. 20 year-old Martha joined his family as the second wife. Nathaniel had previously married Mary Virginia Garr and she was not quite 10 years Martha's senior. Nathaniel was almost 15 years older than Martha.

Nathaniel and Martha had 6 children together. Their first child, a son, was born at the home of Martha's mother, in Mountain Meadows. The rest of Martha and Nathaniel's children were born in St. George. They were: Richard Truman, Jacob Henry, Elizabeth Ann, Alice May, Emma Luella, Rodney Carlos Ashby.

Tragedy struck the Ashby home in 1881. Martha’s granddaughter records that diphtheria broke out in their home that summer. The death of 3 children in less than a week would have been a hard trial for anyone to bear. Martha's sister wife also lost a child that same summer. It was a period of great tribulation for the Ashby family.

It appears that the family turned to the Gospel of Jesus Christ for comfort. Martha received her patriarchal blessing later that year on December 4, 1881 from William G. Perkins. Nathaniel had received his blessing three days earlier. Martha's blessing gives us a small glimpse into her life and character. It states: "Thou art an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile...You will go to the central stake of Zion. There you will have a house built unto you in the name of the Lord. You will keep that as a paradise. Your neatness will be admired by all that see it, for the glory of your Redeemer will be there, and you will see as you are seen and know as you are known." She was also blessed that "your children will grow up as men and women in the gospel and accomplish a great and glorious work."

Nathaniel was suffering from tuberculosis at that time. His illness was of such concern that the Brethren agreed to send him on a mission to the Sandwich Islands, in part to help him recover his health. Martha and Nathaniel's oldest son by his first wife accompanied him on that mission. Martha's blessing also stated: "You will go with your husband and help him bring many souls to a knowledge of the truth. You will return home with your husband bringing many sheaves with you." They left for the Hawaiian Islands about two weeks after Martha's blessing.

The change of climate didn't have the desired results and the Ashby's decided to return home early in 1882. Nathaniel's health took a turn for the worse on the trip home. In probate court Martha testified that she "was with him at the time of his death, that he died on the Nineteenth day of March A.D. 1882 near San Francisco while sailing from Honolula, Sandwich Islands to San Francisco on his way to his home in the City of St. George, County of Washington, Territory of Utah".

The story has been passed down of Martha's feelings of loss and helplessness when she arrived in San Francisco. She was distressed that she had no money or means to convey her husband's body to their home for proper burial. Family history relates that she was met by a stranger on the docks of San Francisco. He shook her hand and there she was given an envelope that contained sufficient funds to purchase tickets for herself, her step-son and to ship her husband's body to St. George. Martha's patriarchal blessing also suggests the identity of the stranger that provided her with such timely assistance. Her blessing states: "You will shake hands with John the Beloved, disciple of Jesus. Then and there you will get the renewal of your strength". Other family tradition suggests she was assisted by the Three Nephites.

In the 1880's plural marriage had been outlawed. Martha is listed as the guardian of her children, but she is unrecognized by the court as Nathaniel's wife. Mary Virginia Garr Ashby was listed as Nathaniel's widow and only after Mary passed away in 1886 were Martha's surviving children given a portion of his estate.

Martha found some solace in temple work. Again, her patriarchal blessing states: "You will do a great and glorious work for your dead." That work would provide blessings for more than just the people Martha served by proxy. Indeed, it was probably at the Temple that sometime between late 1884 and early 1885 she met an Englishman named John Powell. John had been sent to St. George from Fillmore, Millard County, to serve a mission in the Temple. He recorded in his journal that they were married on Friday, March 20, 1885.

This marriage necessitated great changes in Martha's life. John was 28 years older than Martha and he lived over 160 miles away from St. George. They had three children, boys, together. The first two were born at Gunlock, probably on the Truman ranch. The last son was born in Fillmore. They were: John Franklin, Jesse Truman and Nathaniel Ashby Powell.

When John had completed his mission, Martha sold her home in St. George, packed up her children and moved north. By that time her oldest son, Richard, was a teenager and able to help with driving the wagon and cattle. The Powell's settled in Fillmore. Martha was John's plural wife and because he married her, he was arrested, convicted of cohabitation, and spent several months in the State Penitentiary.

Martha and John lived for over 6 1/2 years as husband and wife. She was given the opportunity to decide how she would pass beyond the veil. Her patriarchal blessing states: "if you desire it with all thy heart, your body shall never die. You will go through that change that shall be equivalent unto death." The choice she made is detailed in John Powell's journal:

December 10th [1891], Martha was troubled by reason of a swelling on her neck. We thought it was an abcess and poulticed it. It became very painful. Henrietta came and applied onions with lard and course flour, which gave great relief.
Xmas Day [1891], Henrietta still attending to Martha's neck.
New Year's Day, Martha and I went to Henrietta's and I had dinner. Beautiful, bright day.
Saturday, Jan 9th, May Powell married to Lars Rasmussen, by Bishop T. C. Callister. Martha very sick. Therefore we did not go to the wedding.
12th, The Dr. attending Martha, also Jessie Huntsman, also Jesse Frye. The weather very cold.
Jan 31st, Snowing. Martha still sick. Sister Jackson, our neighbor came many times and made the bed for Martha.
Feb. 7th, Martha still sick. Been snowing.
Feb. 14th, Martha still sick. Bright day.
Feb. 21st, Martha still sick. Beautiful morning. Martha had Richard telegraph to her mother, return telegram: "How is your mother?" Answer, "Worse."
Martha died Friday evening Feb. 26th, and was buried on Sunday the 28th. I took little Jesse and Nat to my daughter's Jessie Huntsman, Saturday the 27th and stayed there.
... Martha was buried on Sunday the 28th Feb. Her mother and sister, Hester, came on the following Sunday, March 6th and was disappointed in not having the pleasure of seeing Martha alive.

Martha's future with her family is also described in her patriarchal blessing: "You will hear the sound of a great trump. You will look and see Jesus and all His holy Saints with him. You will be caught up to meet Him and go with them to that great feast, the supper of the Lamb. You will sit down with your children and partake of its rich bounties. There you will see the Lamb of God, in the power of His glory, and you will partake of part of his likeness."

Her gravestone records: In Memory of Martha A. Beloved wife of Nathaniel Ashby. Born May 2, 1850 Died Feb. 28, 1892 [sic]. She was a kind and affectionate wife a fond Mother and a friend to all.


  • 1870 Federal Census, Utah Territory, Washington County, Mountain Meadows, Page #1 , Dwelling #1, Family #1:
Martha, 20, f, w, No occup., Utah, att school
  • 1880 Federal Census, St. George, Washington, Utah
Ashby, Nathaniel, head, married, male, white, 45, MA, Stock Raiser, MA, MA
, Mary V., wife, married, female, white, 39, IN, Keeping House, VA
, Martha A., wife, married, female, white, 35, UT, Keeping House, NY, MI
  • Black, Susan W. E. Early LDS Membership Data (Infobases, 1995).
  • Fillmore City. Fillmore City Cemetary, Volume 1, p. 62, no. 11.
  • Fillmore City Corporation, Cemetery Single Line List, by Deceased Name, 22 Apr 1990, p. 38.
  • Lichfield, Beulah Menlove. Cemetery Records, Fillmore, Millard County, Utah, p. 53.
  • Perkins, William G. Patriarch Blessing of Martha Ann Truman Ashby. 4 Dec 1881, St. George, Utah, Volume 30, p. 597.
  • Robison, Lindon Joel, ed. Autobiographical Notes & Diary of Alice May Ashby Robison. Typewritten Manuscript.
  • Robison, Wayne Ashby. Interviews. 16 Apr 1995, 13 Jan 2002.
  • Rogers, Sadie, ed. John Powell’s Journal, 1849-1901. Typewritten Manuscript, 1942.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ancestral File, data as of 5 January 1998, Salt Lake City, UT: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
  • Washington County, Utah, Probate Record, Estate of Nathaniel Ashby, Volume F, pp. 72, 74, 75, 77, 79, 107-111, 120, 126, 131, 132, 489, Volume G, p. 242, FHL Film #484836.
  • Washington County, Utah, Probate Record, Guardianship of Richard T. Ashby, et al., Volume F, pp. 131, 136, 147, 203, 212, 213, 220, 457, 461, 613, 619, 639, 645, FHL Film #484836.