Mary Townsend Heald


(A sketch prepared by her daughter, Elizabeth Dicks.)


Mary Townsend was born June 22, 1831, a birthright member of the Friends Church, and always showed a strong Christian character. In 1865, at the close of the Civil War, she went south and worked among the negroes. I have often wondered if the people up north realized what this really meant! Her only companions were negroes, and the other teachers. The white population of the south would not recognize in any way any one who went down there to teach the negroes, which they considered only a little above the horses and other dumb animals. As I remember Mamma's talks of her life there, I think one of her greatest trials was this lack of more congenial companionship. She had as the one who was over her a woman by the name of Smiley, whose first name I do not remember.

In about two years at Richmond, Georgia, her health gave out and she returned to her Ohio home. I do not know how many months, or years, invervened between that and her coming to Iowa; but for several years she was engaged in the millinery business at West Branch, in the making of "plain bonnets," in partnership with Mary Ann Albin, dress-maker.

In February of 1874 she was married to Joel Heald of Oak Grove, Jasper County, IA. He was a widower with four sons, vis.: Wilfred J., Alfred W., Edward L., and Richard E. Any one who ever visited at our house, will know something of the relation of boys and mother, and how well she succeeded as a step-mother. The boys all dearly loved her, and she did them; and no one ever heard them speak of her in any way but as "Mother." My youngest brother married a Marshaltown woman, and her aunt said to me one time, "You must have had a remarkable mother. When a man talks of his step-mother as Richard does, she surely must have been a wonderful woman." I was born November 25th, 1874, and any idea that we were not full brothers and sisters never has been shown, and today my brothers are as good and near as any own brother could be.

When they were married my parents first resided at Sugar Creek, ten miles s. w. of Grinnell. When I was nine years old we moved to Oak Grove, three miles west, on the Iowa Central railway, where we remained till after her death.

Altho she never was strong, her death came as a great shock to us all. I really never remember seeing my mother have an entirely well day, and she never did, after she came home from Richmond. She died August 31st, 1894, and is buried at Sugar Creek cemetery, (where Papa and his first wife were also buried.) Papa's step-brother, Greenwood Neville, preached the funeral sermon and his text was "She hath done what she could." The four boys, with cousin T. T. Hathaway and a neighbor, were pallbearers. The boys would not let anyone else do it.

I can not give any further details of her life, I believe. She used to talk a great deal of her home life in Ohio, of the bridge back of the house over the railroad, the first train that ever passed that way, then the bridge where they used to meet Aunt Elizabeth's children to play, and such every day stories, of which I never grew tired of hearing; but I do not think I could put them into interesting words now.


Marshaltown, Iowa, June 14th, 1914.