Nathaniel Spens Family Heritage


Margaret Philpot



 Family Portrait

Lizzie (Elizabeth) F. (Philpot) Spens and Robert Chesnut Family

           1920 Lehi, Utah

Back: Irving and Margaret Richens, Willie and Bob (twins) Elizabeth and Everett Payne

Children standing in second row: Clyde, Nat (Nathaniel) and Lillie May;

Seated: Bob (Robert) Chesnut, Elizabeth Philpot Durrant Cullum, and Lizzie;

Children in Front: Edward, Eva and Ester,  and baby? On Grandmother’s lap

Margaret Philpot Spens, Second wife of Nathaniel Spens, and their only child

Elizabeth Philpot (F.) Spens (12 Dec 1866-7 Feb 1933)

By C. Louise Brown, 2004


Margaret  and Elizabeth Philpot were sisters, born in Hemel Hempstead, England, to James and Charlotte Eliza Bean Philpot.  While still single, these two sisters joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and left England to join with the Latter Day Saints in Utah.  The Durrants had also joined the same church and were traveling to America.  Margaret Philpot was born 4 December 1824/34 and came to America, traveling with Edward J. Durrant and family. The E.J. Durrant family and Margaret “Phillpot” (sic.) were in Captain Miller’s company, the fifth church train arriving in Salt Lake City in the fall of 1862.  Their names were published in the Deseret News on September 17, 1862.  The Durrant family and Margaret Philpot settled in American Fork.

Elizabeth Philpot, Margaret’s sister, was born 29 July 1837 Sep Quarter, Vol 6, page 367 in Hemel Hempstead, England.  Elizabeth sailed to America from Liverpool aboard the ship, Manchester” on the 16th of April 1861 in the company of John Durrant, her finance’s brother, (FHL 298,437, p. 10). After arriving in Utah, Elizabeth married Edward J. Durrant on the 8th of August 1863 in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Edward’s brother John Durrant came to Utah October 13, 1862 in the E. R. Wright freight train. John married Jemima Berry Henson (Turner) Dec 24, 1862 in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, Utah. Jemima, born 2 August 1835, was the daughter of James Henson and Hetty Lancaster of Deans Hanger, England.  (Jemima was the widow of William Turner. To that couple had been born a son who had died in infancy.)  Jemima did not have other children but was so respected that Nathaniel Spens, would later name a child after Jemima.

Three years after arriving in Utah, Margaret Philpot, often called Maggie, married Nathaniel Spens, a widower with one small daughter, on the12th of June 1865 in American Fork. To this couple, a baby girl was born, named Elizabeth Philpot Spens after her aunt. Little Elizabeth was born on the12 December 1866 in American Fork, Utah County, Utah.  Margaret and Nathaniel were happy with their two little girls, Isabella and Elizabeth who was called Lizzie. Happiness was fleeting.  Margaret died on the 21st of March 1868, when Elizabeth was about 15 months old. It is thought that Margaret died in childbirth. Nathaniel was again a widower, this time with two little girls.

A few months prior to Margaret’s death, Margaret’s sister Elizabeth or Eliza Philpot Durrant lost her husband, Edward John Durrant, on the 23rd of July 1867.  They were living in American Fork at that time.  Nathaniel Spens asked Elizabeth, his recently widowed and childless sister-in-law to help him with his baby daughter Elizabeth and his little daughter, Isabella, for a time. Little Elizabeth Spens seems to have spent a good amount of time with her Aunt Elizabeth Durrant in American Fork. However, both Elizabeth and Isabella are in the 1870 Census (Isabella age 8 and Elizabeth, age 4) and the 1880 Census (Isabella age 19 and Elizabeth age 14) with their father Nathaniel and step-mother, Mary Campbell, whom, Nathaniel married about thirteen months after Maggie’s death. 

In 1878 Elizabeth Philpot Durrant married Henry Cullum and is in the 1880 Census as Elizabeth Cullom, wife of Henry Cullom. Henry is 40 years old, born in England and Elizabeth is 42, born England. Henry also has a second wife, Martha Cullom, age 35 and born in England, also listed in the same household in the 1880 Census in American Fork, page number 287D.  Children in the household are Henry, age 11; Martha, age 9, both born in England, and Edward, age 4, born in Utah.  It appears that the children were Martha’s children, although Edward has the same name as Elizabeth’s first husband.

According to the death certificate, Elizabeth Philpot Durrant Cullum died January 1, 1921 in American Fork where she had lived for the past 14 months, according to the death certificate. The certificate also indicates she had lived in America for 50 years and that she was 83 years five months and two days old at the time of her death. Her niece, Elizabeth, was the informant.  Elizabeth’s husband was listed as Henry Cullum.  Henry was born 13 Dec 1840 in Richmond, Surrey, England to William Cullum (abt 1814) and Ellen Perfect (born abt 1818), both born Richmond, Surrey, England.  Henry Cullum died 14 August 1925 in Salt Lake City, Utah and was buried 17 August 1925.

The two sisters, Elizabeth and Margaret, were both dedicated to living the gospel.  In correspondence dated 29 August 1885, Elizabeth wrote, “ I came here because I felt it was right to come, not to get rich but because it was just as necessary as it was in older times for Noah and his family to save themselves by going into the ark.  As we have not talk(ed) in our letters about any religion, I am going to ask you have you ever heard the Latter day saints preach the same Gospel that Jesus and his disciples preach(ed) when he was on the earth.  I used to think when I was a girl how I would like to live in those days but now I am thankful I heard the Gospel now as it is the same that it was.  I expect you have heard all the stories about us as a people but we are trying to do what is right and wish to do good to everybody….  Since I joined it, I would not leave it for anything in the world as what I have embraced if I live a life according to it will save me in a world to come and that is everything to me.”

Elizabeth Spens was the only child of Nathaniel and Maggie Spens. According to one of Elizabeth’s daughters, Elizabeth Spens started working when she was young as did many of the children of pioneers. In fact, “She had to stand on a stool to wash the dishes.” Most of the family knew her only as Lizzie, which nickname probably began when she went to live with her Aunt Elizabeth.  She shall be referred to as Lizzie in this history as well.

Lizzie’s aunt, Elizabeth Philpot Durrant, being a widow, sustained herself by raising straw and making braided straw hats. Lizzie recalled having a new hat each year.

A short history of Elizabeth Spens Chesnut  (also known as Lizzie) is in the archives of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. This document reported, “One time Elizabeth helped a neighbor by loaning her a 5 dollar gold piece. She always loved to help some one in trouble or need.  She was a good seamstress and made all their clothes. Elizabeth did a lot of handwork and crocheting. She took care of a woman every day for two years without pay. Her son Bill was paralyzed for two years prior to his death. She took care of him until his death. Elizabeth F. (for Philpot) Spens Chesnut did a lot of temple work in her later years. She was not good at writing so she had to hire it done by making quilts and temple robes.  Elizabeth only went as far as the third grade as there was no money for school.  It was said of Elizabeth Spens Chesnut that she was always to Church and on time, sitting in the front row with her family.

One of Elizabeth Spens Chesnut’s daughters wrote the following, “Mother was working for Dr. Seymour B. Young when she met Father, Robert Henry Chesnut. They lived in Salt Lake City. Father worked and sent for his father, Aunt Ellen, and a niece who had been converted by the Mormon Elders in Scotland.” After their first daughter was born (July 1889), Robert and Lizzie moved to American Fork and lived with Father’s sister Ellen and her daughter who had arrived from Scotland.  Mother was a Relief Society teacher and later did temple work.

Of Robert Chesnut, the daughter wrote, “Father worked as a young man in the shipyards in Scotland.  In American Fork he worked on the railroad and on the power plant in American Fork Canyon.  He worked at the Lehi sugar factory, too. When the family moved back to Salt Lake City, he worked at Salt Air.  He was a good singer and loved to sing Scottish songs.  He always liked to look nice and was very fussy about his clothes. 

“Lizzie (Mother) had to patch his pants because he couldn’t get a day’s work anywhere. When Johnson’s Army went through they had a parade and Father wouldn’t go to the parade because of his patches.  He always had a nice garden.  He had a cow and a horse.

Elizabeth Cullum was in the 1930 census with Lizzie’s family, listed as a widow. It was sometime around the 1930 that the Chesnuts had a family photograph taken and in the midst of the family sat Aunt Elizabeth, holding one of the children on her lap.

Lizzie was a favorite with her father’s children and their children! Her youngest sister Clara looked forward to her visits to Mount Pleasant. Lizzie was the sole administrix of Nathaniel’s will having the full responsibility since her brother James died prior to their father.  Lizzie made sure that Clara who was separated from her husband, had some financial support from the family during the years she was administrator of the will. Sadly Lizzie died before the will was settled.

 Look for marriage of Henry Cullum to Elizabeth Durrant in Utah,  date?

Find Elizabeth in 1870 Census

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