Gwenllian Matthew Marley (1818-1905)

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(This is a bonus chapter excerpt from the eBook Women of Faith in the Latter Days: Volume 1: 1778-1820.)


Biographical Sketch

Gwenllian Matthew, daughter of William and Sarah Williams Matthew, was born June 7, 1818, in Llantrisant, Glamorgan, Wales.1 She was a small, dark-eyed girl. In 1840 Gwenllian married John C. Marley, an Englishman, in Bethany Chapel at Cardiff, Wales. Gwenllian and John would later be sealed in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 24, 1870.2 After their marriage, John joined the family trade of coal mining with Gwenllian’s father. Sometime later, John was introduced to the gospel by a fellow collier. In early 1849, Gwenllian and John joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Gwenllian had a strong desire to journey to Utah to gather with the Saints there. Before being able to leave, the Marleys needed to save money, as well as wait for John to serve a mission in Wales. Finally, in March 1860, Gwenllian and her family left from Liverpool, England, on the Underwriter for New York City. The journey to Utah was a long one for the Marleys. Little by little they saved money to move to the next town westward, stopping in New York City; Minersville, Pennsylvania; and Florence, Nebraska. They left Florence July 1, 1861, with the Joseph Horne Company in one of the first wagon trains furnished by the Church to transport what would otherwise have been handcart pioneers.

After arriving in Utah in September 1861, the Marleys lived in North Ogden. Gwenllian learned to card cotton and spin yarn and became quite skilled at making both men’s and women’s clothing. In 1865, she and John moved to the Bear Lake area of Utah and Idaho as some of the founding settlers. While there, Gwenllian began a service of midwifery that she continued for the next forty years.

About a decade later, the Marleys moved to Robin, Bannock County, Idaho. There Gwenllian spent the rest of her days, raising her children and then some of her grandchildren who lost their mother when they were young. She died December 5, 1905, and was buried in the Robin cemetery, next to her husband, who had preceded her seven years earlier.

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1. The source material for this chapter is taken largely from two histories written by Lydia Marley Weston, a granddaughter of Gwenllian Marley: “The History of Gwenllian Marley: Daughter of William Matthew and Sarah William Matthew,” retyped by Jarette Lykins, April 9, 1997, available at Romeril, Romriell, Romrell Family, www.romrell.net/Bio/GwenMarley.doc; “A History of John Chinn Marley,” retyped by Jarette Lykins, April 10, 1997, available at Romeril, Romriell, Romrell Family, www.romrell.net/Bio/JohnMarley_w.doc. All information comes from these two histories unless otherwise noted.

There is some debate over the spelling of Gwenllian’s name. Though her gravestone spells her name Gwenlion, Welsh orthographic rules and naming practices suggest that her name was most likely spelled “Gwenllian.” Since her name is not common even in Wales, it is hard to say for sure, but all Welsh records with this name have the spelling used in this chapter.

2. Before the Salt Lake Temple was completed in 1893, several buildings were used for the administration of temple ordinances. In Salt Lake City one such building was the Endowment House, which was in operation from 1855 to 1889. Lamar C. Berrett, “Endowment Houses,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 2:456.

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