Tales Behind the Tombstone – Martha Jane McEwen

One of the most remarkable grave markers in the Cedar City Cemetery is that of Martha Jane McEwen. Martha was born on January 22, 1838 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  In 1841 her family moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. After many travels, in 1853 they arrived in the Utah Territory. Martha’s family settled in Fillmore where she met her husband James W. Farrer. After getting married the new couple moved to Cedar City. The early days of Cedar were that of hardships and trials. James had to leave for three weeks because of his job as a teamster and young Martha did not feel comfortable staying alone.  Luckily, her friend Margaret McConnell’s family let her stay with them while James was gone. Early one morning Margaret and Martha awoke to strange sounds out in the chicken coop. They opened the doors to the coop and found a coyote sitting in the corner. Martha made a swatting motion with her hand and the animal lunged at her and sank its teeth deep into her throat. Margaret ran to find her father to get help. He wrapped his hands around the coyotes’ throat choking it until it unclenched its jaw, eventually killing it. After a few days her throat healed and it seemed like all was going to be well. Sadly, Martha soon exhibited signs of rabies. She became violent and unreasonable, and often tried to bite people. The towns-people found it necessary to strap her to the floor so she couldn’t hurt anybody.

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It is uncertain whether or not the disease killed her, or if someone smothered her with a feather bed mattress to put her out of her misery, as recorded on her tombstone. Either way she and her unborn child both died before her husband James returned. There was also some controversy over what name she was using when she passed away. On her grave stone, which is thought to have been written by the Farrer side, they named her Mary Jane McCune, but her family feels that it is important for everyone to know that her name was really Martha Jane McEwen. Martha Jane McEwen was most likely one of the first major tragedies in the newly founded Cedar City.