Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy 193rd Birthday, Martin Heiner (1818-1897)!

Gawain's second-great-grandfather

Martin is a German pioneer, whose faithful service baking the Sacrament bread every week for 31 years inspires me.
Martin (also called Johann Martin and Johann Martin Daniel in some accounts) had several siblings and was born in the same house in Germany as his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.  The blue-eyed boy started school at age four.  As he grew up, Martin enjoyed singing and serenading neighbors with his zither; by age ten he was accompanying dances.  At fourteen, Martin went to live with his uncle to be apprenticed in the weaver’s trade.  When he completed his training, he was employed by Michael Dietzel, where he fell in love with the man’s redheaded daughter Adelgunda.  She was attracted to his honesty and steadfastness, but one time he got in a fight over her and was jailed over night.  Because of that he was fired, but soon rehired.  Adelgunda’s father felt that Martin wouldn’t provide enough for her, but they married despite his objections.

Martin’s older brother Heinrich refused to share inherited property, the land and home belonging to their great-great-grandfather.  Heinrich bought tickets for the couple and their four children to emigrate to America to solve the problem and avoid a lawsuit.  They took three chests and two bags aboard the ship Eutaw (the name foreshadowing their future destination).  In America, Martin did odd jobs until hired by a weaver at his woolen mill in Pennsylvania.  Martin learned English by comparing German and English versions of scripture side by side.

A neighbor’s brother came as a Mormon missionary, and the Heiners felt the gospel was true.  Ice was cut to baptize them.  However, the next day Martin was fired due to his new Church membership.  Fortunately, he was soon hired by a farmer at higher wages.  Martin was always very honest.  One time, he had promised to repay someone the next evening. It was raining hard and his wife tried to discourage him from going.  But Martin was determined to keep his promise, so he walked seven miles in the rain.

Martin served as a branch president and the family saved money to move west.  He made and sold baskets especially for that purpose.  In 1859, Elder Karl G. Maeser visited Pennsylvania and prophesied of the coming Civil War. The Heiners left and came to Utah only a few years before the Battle of Gettysburg was fought near their former home.  En route in Cincinnati, they visited Martin’s childless sister Mary, who wished to raise some of their ten children, but having learned the eternal nature of the family, the Heiners “had none to spare.”

They finished the trek to Utah with two yoke of cows and $1.60.  The next few years were full of hard times, living in a dugout and struggling for food.  The Heiners hired their children out, and employer Daniel Wells sent a food wagon every month to help.  Martin raised sheep, chickens, and bees, wove cloth, and built the first rock house in Morgan.  When he was ready to put the roof on, counsel came from Brigham Young advising everyone to build two stories, so Martin added two rooms upstairs.  This was the first rock home in Morgan.  Their home was always cheerful, bright, and full of inspiration.  Martin also planted the first fruit trees in Morgan.

Martin was active in civic and Church activities, and was ordained a patriarch in 1893.  His own blessing, interestingly enough, says that he is of the mixed seed of Ephraim and Manasseh.  He and Adelgunda deprived themselves of many comforts sending money to Germany to obtain genealogical records, and spent many hours performing temple work.  Martin played the zither and in the evenings the family would sing while he played before they lit the candles.  Martin baked the sacrament bread every week for thirty-one years, followed in the task for decades by his son and grandson.  He was always exact and kept his promise.  He had a mild temperament and gave noble advice.  In 1928, thirty years after his death, it was calculated that the Heiners had seven hundred descendants and all were active Church members.

Martin’s own patriarchal blessing, given by his son-in-law Arza Hinckley, promised that his sons and daughters will be numbered among the prophets, which was literally fulfilled: the Heiners’ oldest daughter Mary was the third wife of Arza Hinckley, Gordon B. Hinckley’s uncle, making Martin the great-great-uncle of President Hinckley.  You can read more about him at this link here and here.

I would give Martin a family recital, with everyone making beautiful music in his honor.


  1. Fascinating information. So glad to know all of this. Interesting that the bread making was a male and not female tradition. We should take a trip to Morgan to see the house, cemetery, etc.

  2. I would give him a bread maker or a Bosch.

  3. I'd give him you, Mom, to help with the genealogy for free!

  4. love the ideas! especially the bread machine!

  5. I'm sure it's not really possible, but something about him reminds me of Rachel and one of her boys....

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  7. Jacob Secrist was the missionary who baptized the Heiners. I have the actual quotes from his missionary journal - very inspiring and faith promoting. Also, a great article in the Ensign "Grave on the Little Blue", tells of Jacob's death because of cholera on his way home. He left a young wife and family in Cache Valley. Makes one very grateful for his sacrifice.
    Laurel Lee Pedersen

  8. My grandmother Wanda Ovard Sundberg was born in that rock house and I haven't visited there yet. My next trip will be to Morgan. Does anyone know of related Heiner's in Star Valley Wyoming? Vicki Nelson Bownds

  9. I grew up in Morgan, 2 houses away from that old rock house. It was occupied by the family of Daniel’s oldest son, Nephi Heiner. It laid vacant for some years and as a teenager, I sometimes explored there. The property was finally sold and, sadly, the house was torn down in about 1966. The homes built by Martin's sons, Daniel and George on either side are still occupied.