Our Family Legacy
1. Idaho State
Journal 11 Jan. 1963
George Foster was our ancestor who immigrated from Ireland and became a Utah pioneer. He was the son of George Foster and Mary Wallohene, who was the daughter of Thomas Wallohene and Mary McCullough. Young George was born in Castlederg on the river Derg, Tyrone County, Ireland, August 1810. At the age of 22 in the year 1832, he went to a ship to bid good-bye to a friend who was sailing for America. At sailing time, the friend changed his mind about going. George took his ticket, went to America, never to return to his family or his native land. He married Jane McCullough, 25 July 1835. She was a daughter of Joseph and Mattie (Mary) Hutchinson McCullough. To them were born eight children. (Although Jane was born in the same county of Ireland as George, research (1969) has not yet discovered whether their families were acquainted at an earlier time.)
George was a blacksmith by trade, and owned a foundry in Cincinnati, Ohio. While forging there a piece of hot iron hit one of his eyes, and he lost the sight of that eye. Soon after, he sold the foundry and bought a farm in Ohio. The family was well-to-do financially at that time.
It was while living on the farm in Ohio that George heard the missionaries preach the Restored Gospel, which he embraced in 1842, at Hamilton County, Ohio. It was not until the following year, in September 1843, that he entered the waters of baptism and was confirmed by Elder Andrew Lamoreaux, also was ordained an Elder. This was the time of persecution of the Saints when baptism was prohibited. Because of persecution inflicted upon members of the church, the family was almost without funds or property. They had lived in Illinois on a farm for a while, but had to leave their comfortable home in the dark of the night and they settled in Nauvoo in the spring of 1844. Here George was ordained a Seventy by Elder Roswell Hyde. He served as a guard for the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The family enjoyed living in Nauvoo very much. Mary Ellen Foster writes how they heard the Prophet Joseph Smith "thunder forth the gospel in plainness and convincing argument, as he stood under some trees in a bowery near the Temple."
George and his family were in Nauvoo when the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum were martyred, and went through the trials of expulsion from their beautiful city. George was now only 36 years old when they located in Winter Quarters, Nebraska. George helped erect houses which formed a square, in the center of which the animals were kept, to protect them from the Indians. His wife and children helped dig for suitable roots, which formed part of their diet. One baby, Thomas James, the sixth child was born here in 1847. It was while living here that George and Jane were sealed for time and eternity by Brigham Young.
In 1849 the family crossed the Missouri to Pottawatomie County, Iowa, and built a three room log cabin at Kanesville, now Council Bluffs. At one time when the family was all ill with ague in Kanesville, a mob came to the house with blackened faces and handkerchiefs over their mouths. They threatened to burn down the house and barn if the family didn't leave in 24 hours. Jane commenced to cry, "Oh, George, what shall we do? Where shall we go," she asked, "with our little ones?" "Nowhere," answered George. "We will go nowhere," he said quietly. "They will never molest us." The mob never did come back. George opened up a farm and he helped erect a school house. It was here that he accumulated sufficient means to undertake the long and weary journey across the plains.
In 1852, the family left for the Great Salt Lake Valley with Captain Tidwell's company. George's greatest trial came to him while on this journey. Cholera broke out in the company with which the family was traveling, and Jane, his beloved wife and mother of his eight children, died 10 July 1852, of this dreaded disease at Plum Creek, 350 miles west of the Missouri River. George had to move on with eight motherless children. Jane, the baby, was only four months old. They arrived in Salt Lake City in 1852. After the death of his first wife, Jane, a blow from which he never recovered, George went through life a quiet man. He passed through much affliction.
For years after arriving in Salt Lake, the family experienced all the hardships of early pioneer life. Bread was seldom included in the menu. Thistle and sego roots became the staff of life. Only the four month old baby had milk. George took a cow with him all across the one thousand miles of plains. The milk Old Cherry gave saved the life of his baby daughter, Jenny. The cow lived long after their arrival. She was a pioneer also. George was ordained an High Priest 8 Apr. 1853 by R. Cahoon and G. B. Wallace at Sale Lake City. (Bk F, p. 11)
On 30 Nov. 1858, George Foster was married and sealed in the Endowment House to a young lady from Switzerland, Verena Fischer, daughter of Johann Jakob Fischer and Anna Barbara Schaufelberger. She had formerly been married 26 Nov. 1855, to a German Immigrant, Peter Hofheintz. This turned out to be an unhappy plural marriage, which ended in divorce. One child was born to this couple, Ellen Hofheintz, 17 Dec. 1857, at Salt Lake City, Utah. After Verena married George, he raised Ellen as his own daughter. The family moved to Provo, Utah, where Verena bore three children, two of whom died, the first and third. By 1863, the family was fixed to the pioneer mother. However, since three of the older girls (by the first marriage) were living in Logan, they pulled up stakes and moved to Logan in 1863, and started all over again. Three more children were born here.
In the fall of 1873, they moved to Whitney, Idaho. Joseph, the son by George's first wife, Jane McCullough, had also moved to Whitney prior to this, he being one of the very first permanent settlers in 1869. Joseph and his wife, Clarissa Birdno had only lived here for four years, when she died, leaving two motherless children.
Whitney was still a very primitive pioneer town as the railroad came only to Franklin. These farmers raised only their butter, eggs, and vegetables and a little livestock. They had no irrigation at this time and the Fosters were very instrumental in bringing the essential canals to this valley. The son, George Benjamin (1864) worked to help his father. Winnie Foster Reese writes, "When father was a boy he worked with pick and shovel digging the canal that brought the irrigation water from the canyon. Grandfather was getting along in years and had poor health, so at a very young age, Father had the responsibility of his father's family and farm, being the only son." No doubt the fact that George had pioneered in so many early settlements, Provo, Logan, and now Whitney, contributed to the early decline of his health.
The first community school in Whitney was held in a granary in 1877, in a log cabin owned by Robert Hull. The teacher was Verena Foster, George's daughter, age 16, and she held classes until there was too much snow for the children to attend. The first public schoolhouse was built in 1879. Verena later married Joseph Smith Wright.
George was a devoted husband and father. He was a man of faith and integrity, faithful to every trust, a true Latter Day Saint. He sacrificed much his religion and would cheerfully have laid down his life for the Prophet Joseph Smith. He was a charitable man in his views. He served as ward teacher, but poor health prevented him from participating in much public or church activity after he reached the west. George died at his home in Whitney, Idaho, in 1888 at the age of 78.
It is interesting to note that George did temple work for both the living and the dead, from his youth to his old age. In Nauvoo in 1844, he did baptisms for his father and brothers. (Bk K, p. 114) In the early days it became customary for holders of the priesthood to have women sealed to them, both living and dead, in order to give them a chance for exaltation in life after death. George followed this custom and had several women sealed to him at various times, two of them being his wife's relatives from Switzerland. George, his son Joseph, daughters, Sarah Blair and Mary Ellen Cluff and possibly others did quite a lot of temple work in 1884 and 1885 at Logan for Jane McCullough's ancestors as well as his own.
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