Mary Ann Weston Maughan

Mary Ann Weston Maughan (1817–1901) 
(Utah State University, Merrill Cazier Library,
Special Collections & Archives,
A-Board historical photograph collection,
1817–1984, USU_ABoard1, Drawer 16, A-4667.)

“When we got to the mouth of the Canyon we stopped to look at the Beautifull Valley before us my first words were O what a beautiful valley.”

—Mary Ann Weston Maughan, 1841

Persecution and Perseverance 

Born in 1817, Maughan grew up during the last years of the Second Great Awakening, a religious revival movement that began in the United States and then spread to Europe. Many new churches and religions were established during that time, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (formerly known by nicknames like Mormon and LDS). Maughan joined the LDS Church in England in 1840. Established by Joseph Smith Jr. in the United States in 1830, the beliefs of the new religious organization “had provoked ridicule, animosity, and persecution” both in America and in Europe.[1] Those who opposed Mormonism often disrupted baptisms, firesides, and other religious meetings. For example, Maughan explained that in order to avoid harassment, her baptism had to take place “at midnight in the pond in the centre of the Village we could [not] be Bap[tized] in the daytime on the account of persecution.”  

Frequently, the interactions between Mormons and those who opposed their beliefs became violent. Mob violence played a role in the death of Maughan’s first husband, John Davis. Shortly after their marriage in 1840, Maughan and her new husband resided in Tirley, a village near Gloucester, England. As the only Mormons in the small community, Maughan recounted, “Brother Richards counciled us to open our house for Meetings.” Doing so would provide Richards and other missionaries a place to preach and worship. On the day of their first meeting, a mob “led by a Apostate Methodist made a disturbance.” Maughan noted that the mob “threatened the Preacher with violence.” The visiting preacher got away, but “the Mob then turned on” Davis and brutally beat him. Davis never fully overcame his injuries. His doctor instructed him to “remain in Bed and be kept very quiet no noise or excitement alowed near him.” However, a few weeks later, Davis “had a dispute with his mother about Mormonism.” The disagreement “excited him” and Davis fainted. Mary explained that “from this he took a relaps. and commenced to bleed at the lungs again.” Confined to his bed, “quick Consumption set in and he gradually failed from this time.” Davis succumbed to his condition on April 6, 1841. Maughan was married and widowed in less than four months. Despite the trauma of brutal mob violence and the ever-present religious persecution that resulted in the death of her husband, Maughan remained devoted to her new faith. In 1841, a few months after the death of her husband, and against her father’s wishes, Maughan decided to leave England and join “the saints” in Nauvoo.

[1] Marie H. Nelson, “Anti-Mormon Mob Violence and the Rhetoric of Law and Order in Early Mormon History,” Legal Studies Forum 21, no. 2 (1997): 358.


“Now I had left all and was traveling alone to a land unknown to me, but I had cast my lot with the people of God and in him I put my trust.”

—Mary Ann Weston Maughan, 1841

[Click image to browse all pages.]
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collection & Archives, Joel E. Ricks Collection of Transcriptions, 979. 2 R426 v. 1.)

Documenting Life

Maughan documented her journey across the ocean and travels to Nauvoo, Illinois. While in Nauvoo, Maughan met her second husband, Peter, a widower with five children. Together, they had eight more children. Because of the death of Joseph Smith Jr. and increasing persecution in Illinois, the saints left Nauvoo and surrounding settlements. Led by Brigham Young, the Mormon pioneers crossed the country and eventually settled in the Salt Lake Valley. Due to Peter’s Church assignments and responsibilities, the Maughans were one of the last families to leave Illinois.

Maughan’s diary detailed the hardships, dangers, and trials pioneers experienced as they made the treacherous journey to the West. Pioneers struggled through outbreaks of disease, inclement weather, accidents, and other various dangers. For example, on June 25, 1850, Maughan wrote about an outbreak of cholera among the camp:

started early this morning, the cool and windy so many together makes slow going at 2 o clock it comenced very hard and a storm followed with thunder Lightning, some Bretheren had to stand before their team as the Oxen would not face the wind and rain the Mother of five children spoke of yesterday, died this afternoon. she will be Buried this evening. we have passed five fresh graves to day. the road is good but crooked following the ridges. we are camped on a creek which we call pleasant point. it is a pleasant place and here we have Buried Sister Spofford the Mother of nine children. there are no more sick in camp and we hope the worst is over.

Mary Ann Weston Maughan, Midwife record.pdf
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(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, Peter W. Maughan papers, ca. 1848–1892, MSS 037, Box 001 Folder 016.)

Midwifery and Record Keeping

As the official midwife in Cache County, Maughan had a responsibility to keep vital records.[2] The journal provides a snapshot of early Cache Valley history from the perspective of a midwife. Maughan recorded the names, dates, and parents of babies she helped deliver (or gave birth to herself) after arriving in Cache Valley. For instance, just a few days after Maughan led her wagon through Wellsville Canyon, she gave birth to the first child born in Cache Valley, Elizabeth Weston Maughan. Sadly, not all of the children listed on Maughan’s record survived infancy. For example, Maughan noted the birth of Friedrick Goodwin, born to Fried and Milinda Goodwin on February 26, 1873. The entry concluded, “lived 8 hours.” Her simple midwife’s journal documented life and death and legitimized Maughan’s work.

[2] Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), 40.

“The Women of Utah today occupy a position which attracts the attention of intelligent, thinking men and women everywhere. They are engaged in the practical solution of some of the greatest social and moral problems of the age.”

Prospectus of Woman’s Exponent, A Utah Ladies’ Journal, 1872

[Click image to enlarge.]
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, Peter W. Maughan papers, ca. 1848–1892, MSS 037, Box 001, Folder 18.)

Leadership, Women’s Rights, and Civic Awareness

In 1868, Maughan was called to serve as the Relief Society president for the Cache Valley branch of the organization. The Relief Society, an LDS Church organization, concerned itself with both religious and social issues like other women’s volunteer and reform groups of the time. The Woman’s Exponent, a newspaper established in 1872 that was “controlled by and edited by Utah ladies,” kept women informed about topics such as the current state of the suffrage movement, the right to practice polygamy, and the activities of Relief Society groups throughout the state. As such, the Relief Society became an important communication network, especially for women in rural Utah communities.[3]  

As a presiding officer within the Relief Society organization, Maughan was tasked with “supervising the work of all the wards in Cache Valley that comprised the Cache Valley Stake.” Maughan’s community work extended beyond her duties as a midwife and spouse of the bishop. In her position as a Relief Society president, she oversaw the implementation of “programs originating on the general level” and promoted “the work that the local societies identified for themselves.”[4] This included seeing to the physical and spiritual welfare of the women and children within their communities, providing aid to the poor, protecting the constitutional religious rights of their unique community, and participating in the fight for women’s rights and suffrage.[5]

On February 1, 1870, Maughan presided over her first “mass meeting” of Relief Society women. To her surprise, “the Bishop and his counselors and others were on the stand. the Brethren were feeling good thinking they were going to hear the Sister speak on Polygamy.” Maughan, however, had other plans. "[M]y Instructions were to Copy after the Mass Meeting held in Salt Lake and there was not one Man present. was sorry to disapoint the Brethren of their fun bit I intended to obey my Instructions. so on Entering I tool a sear in the Congration. the Bishop came to me. I told him what my Instructions were and wished him to hold his meeting and we would wait and then hold ours. he returned to the stand spoke a few words to the Brethren and they all withdrew except the Sec and Decon. I now Comenced, the first Mass Meeting over which I was called preside. [sic]” After that first meeting, she attended three more in quick succession. At these meetings, she spoke about “injustice, Cruelty, and Persecustion of the Bills before us. [sic]” Mary made it clear that the women of Cache Valley were capable of governing themselves. They did not need nor want men’s supervision as they made important decisions that pertained to LDS women in Utah.

[3] Carol Cornwall Madsen, “Creating Female Community: Relief Society in Cache Valley Utah, 1868-1900,” Journal of Mormon History 21, no. 2 (1995): 131.
[4] Ibid., 131–132. See footnote number 16.
[5] Lola Van Wagenen, “In Their Own Behalf: The Politicization of Mormon Women and the 1870 Franchise,” Dialogue 24, no. 4 (Winter 1991): 31–34, 40–42; “Woman’s Rights and Wrongs,” The Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, UT), June 1, 1872.