Skip to main content

Joseph Leland Heywood

Question: In 1849, was Joseph Leland Heywood appointed to be the first marshal of the newly-born Utah Territory?

Answer: Joseph Leland Heywood was born August 1, 1815, at Grafton, Worcester County, Massachusetts. His parents were Benjamin Heywood and Hannah Rawson Leland. He attended college at Cambridge where he studied law, surveying and literature. When he returned to Grafton he studied merchandising and also served as County Clerk of Worcester County.

At the age of 23 Joseph had acquired sufficient funds to go into business for himself. He chose the occupation of merchant and moved to Illinois. At Quincy in 1839 he became partner to his brother-in-law, Oliver Kimball. They were in the mercantile business. In 1840 he made a business trip to New Orleans. At St. Louis a charming and beautiful lady boarded. She was Sarepta Blodgett who became his wife on June 25, 1841.

Joseph received the Gospel immediately upon hearing it. Speaking of his conversion he says: “In December 1842, I visited the Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois and after listening to his preaching by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, I was converted and asked for baptism the same hour. I was baptized by Elder Orson Hyde in the Mississippi River in December, 1842 with the Prophet Joseph assisting in cutting the ice. I was then confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under the hands of Elders Orson Hyde, Joseph Smith, and Jedediah M. Grant.’

At this time he was 27 years of age. Early in the succeeding year he was ordained an Elder and soon after a Seventy. On October 8, 1844 he was ordained a High Priest and Bishop under the hands of Heber C. Kimball, Brigham Young and Parley P. Pratt and appointed Bishop. Before his ordination to the office of Bishop he had been active in the Branch at Quincy, Illinois.

While in business at Nauvoo, Joseph made frequent trips East to purchase goods and to preach the gospel. On one of these trips and while at Salem, Massachusetts, he accompanied Brigham Young, Erastus Snow, Orson Prat, and Lyman Wight to the station where they were to take the train for Boston. It was here that the news reached them of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum Smith. He said that the gloom which was cast over that little party cannot be described.

Before they left Nauvoo, Joseph and Sarepta were endowed in the Nauvoo Temple. When the Saints were forced to leave Nauvoo, Joseph Leland Heywood with Almon W. Babbitt and John S. Fullmer were chosen trustees of the Church to help sell houses, farms, city lots and other possessions of the Saints in preparation for the great exodus a few months later. Joseph L. Heywood was also a participant in the three-day battle to defend Nauvoo.

In the spring of 1848, Joseph left Nauvoo for Winter Quarters, arriving there in time to join the last company of that season’s emigration under the command of President Willard Richards. The company arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on October 19,1848. The first U.S. post office was established on March 1, 1849, with Joseph L. Heywood as postmaster. Many roads were built under the supervision of Joseph L. Heywood, who was the first road commissioner.

On the 5th of March, 1849, a convention was called for the purpose of organizing the State of Deseret. Joseph L. Heywood was one of the committee chosen to draft a constitution. This constitution was accepted by the people, and on March 12,1849, a state election was held and he was chosen as surveyor of highways. The Bishops of the different wards were elected as magistrates. They acted as magistrates for more than two years before the people had another form of government. Joseph was the first Bishop of the Seventeenth Ward of Salt Lake. He was appointed to that position on February 22, 1849, and served for six years.

In the autumn of 1849 he was on his way East, on a dual mission: to purchase merchandise for the Church and to assist John M. Bernhisel in his attempt to have Utah admitted as a state into the Union. The mission was unsuccessful, and with the passing of the government of Utah from the “Provisional State of Deseret’ to that of a territory, Elder Heywood was appointed by the federal government to be the first marshal of the newly-born territory.

As Marshal, brother Heywood showed considerable courage and ability in the affairs of his calling. In 1851 Joseph, with a company of Elders, formed a settlement in Carson Valley, Nevada, where he served as U.S. Marshall. Again in 1851 he went to Washington D.C., to arrange his business with the government as Marshall of Utah and Nevada.

Joseph had four wives: Sarepta, Blodgett; Martha Spence; Sarah Symonds, who was known as Nana and never had any children; Mary Bell, who was taken into his home when orphaned and whom he married when she was 17 years of age. There were eleven children by this latter marriage, making a total of twenty children for Joseph.

Joseph was then called to settle Salt Creek, later Nephi, in the year 1851 and presided there for three years. He was called in 1861 to locate in Utah’s Dixie and lived there for three years. In St. George, he was ordained a Patriarch by President Brigham Young. Joseph then moved with his wife Mary to Panguitch, Garfield, Utah. He was appointed to preside over the High Priest’s Quorum in the Panguitch Stake in April 1877 which position he held until September 1898 when he was 83 years old. Joseph died on October 16, 1910, at age 95 in Panguitch and was buried in the Panguitch City Cemetery.

Source: Excerpts from “History of Joseph L. Heywood,’ and “Research on Joseph Leland Heywood,’ by Cecil P. Reid,;

No Comments yet!

Your Email address will not be published.