Our Family Legacy
It was the second marriage for both parents. Verena's father, George Foster, born in Ireland in 1810, had first married Jane McCullough, an Irish girl. She died crossing the plains, leaving him with eight children. Verena's mother, Verena Fischer, was born in Switzerland and joined the church there in 1853. After immigrating and crossing the plains she became the polygamous wife of a German, Peter Hofheintz. They had a daughter Ellen, born 17 Dec. 1857. Shortly after the failure of this marriage, Verena Fischer was sealed to George Foster in the Endowment House at Salt Lake City, Utah, 30 Nov. 1858.
One year old Ellen Hofheintz, half German and half Swiss, joined the George Foster family of three Irish children: Joseph age 14, Matilda Ruth age 9, and Jane or Jennie, age 6. The four older children were already married and one boy Thomas James age 1 died that same year. Joseph and Matilda stayed with their older married sisters part of the time in order to attend school in Logan. It did not take long for little Ellen to make a place for herself in George's heart and from then on she was treated like his own child and went by the name of Foster the rest of her life.
They settled in the early pioneer town of Provo. Anna Barbara was born 11 Oct. 1859 and Verena on 31 Mar 1861. Verena was only six months old when Anna Barbara died. George Henry was born 17 Feb. 1863 but he died 13 Apr. 1863 of whooping cough. His death was in Logan as the family had moved there shortly after more children were born in Logan, George Benjamin 1864, Louise 1866, and Josephine 1868. This made a surviving family of four girls and one boy including Ellen.
It is interesting to note that this couple, besides having extreme nationality differences, also had a difference of 18 years in age. This did present a problem in later years as George's health failed, due to the rigors of pioneer life. It was fortunate they had a son George as he had to assume, at an early age, the responsibilities of running the farm. He also helped raise the other children as he seemed like more of a father to them than a brother.
Verena Foster was very much like her mother. Winnie Reese gives us this description of the mother. "She was very strict in her religious teachings and believed in her children and grandchildren receiving the very best possible education." This same description fits the young Verena throughout her lifetime. The two themes of religion and education were the dominating forces which guided her to the end. Verena's generation did not experience the same agonizing problems as did those of the earliest pioneers. However, the mothers of this generation also labored very hard and suffered immeasurably to raise their large families.
Verena moved to Logan with her family when she was two years old. When we consider that only four years before, Logan had a population of 17 families we begin to realize it was still very much of a pioneer situation for the Foster family. They worked hard, and with the help of several of George's older married children, who already lived there, they soon established a comfortable home. Winnie Foster Reese recalls "that grandfather's home was located near 1st North and 2nd West, next door to the home of his daughter Sarah Foster Blair. It was a very neat cottage and must have been well built because it is still standing."
One of Verena's early memories which she often recounted in later years is the experience she had when she fell in the river and kept herself from drowning by clinging to the overhanging branches until someone reached her. Another early experience was helping with the family projects of contributing eggs, produce, etc., towards the Tabernacle expense. Tabernacle work was started in 1865. Thus she learned the spirit of sacrifice as she grew up. They also later donated to the temple, although neither building was finished while they lived there.
All the Foster children received a good education. They attended the first log schoolhouse in Logan until the first adobe and stone school was finished in 1870. Ida Ione Cook, a very outstanding teacher, taught in the first ward stone school. During her school years Verena was stricken with a severe case of typhoid fever and lost her blonde straight hair. When it grew back, it came in dark brown and very curly, which retained its color, with just a slight bit of gray, until her death.
It was in 1873 when Verena was 12 years old, that the family decided to move to Whitney, another pioneer town. They made this their permanent home. When they sold their home in Logan, they took its value in flour. Young George and his father moved this flour, a little at a time, on horseback, from Logan to Whitney. Winnie Reese recalls hearing her father George tell about many trips to Logan with the team and wagon, often in very deep mud. It was 25 miles each way and they had to stop and water the horses and let them rest.
These trips were like those grandfather George made several years later when he did much work for the dead in the Logan Temple. He traveled to the temple many times between July 1884 and Nov. 1885, and he was assisted in this ordinance work by his children Sarah Blair, Joseph, Mary Ellen Cluff, and Eliza Hobson. This work was done for George's parents, grandparents, and their children born in Ireland, and also for his first wife's Irish parents, Joseph McCullough and Mattie Hutchinson, and their children.
The parents were anxious for Verena to have the best education, so she returned to Logan to finish school under the teaching of Ida Cook. She was an excellent pupil and learned her subjects thoroughly. She was a perfect speller even in her eighties. The McDuffy and the National Readers were used at that time in the 4th grade. Today they would be used in the 8th grade. Winnie still has some of these readers and states that they are at least high school level today.
Up to this time in Whitney the only classes had been held in the homes. The parents were anxious to establish a community school so they started looking for a building and a qualified teacher. Verena, age 16, took the school board examination to qualify as a teacher. She told the story that when the applicants wrote their exams there were eight men sitting around the room watching and said she wondered if they thought the girls would cheat.
She was selected as a teacher and taught in a log granary owned by Robert Hull, in 1877. She had about 20 pupils and taught two main subjects, arithmetic and ABC's. She taught the multiplication tables to music and the pupils would sing them and they were required to memorize the tables to the twelves. Most of the students were fortunate enough to have a slate and slate pencil, but they had only two books in the school. This meant they stood in rows and took turns reading. They all looked forward to Fridays when they would recite poems and have spelling matches and sing favorite songs. She taught until the next winter when the snow became too deep.
On 28 Jan. 1880, age 18, Verena married Joseph Smith Wright, a young man from Franklin. He and his mother had been living in a home, on the farm land, which they both had originally homesteaded and the newlyweds lived with the mother. Within a few months after the marriage the mother suffered a severe stroke. She was completely paralyzed for over a year and Verena cared for her until the mother died 18 Apr. 1881. During this period Verena must have learned many nursing skills as her mother-in-law was a practical nurse of many years experience. No doubt the mother taught the young girl many of the finer points of nursing which she remembered and put to good use throughout her lifetime. She was exceptionally good in nursing her children and relatives through severe illnesses which could otherwise have been fatal. The doctor in Blackfoot used to tell her he would far rather have her nurse his patients in the home than to send them to the hospital as they would get better care from her.
Verena's first baby, Joseph Jr., was born in Dec. 1880 while she was caring for her husband's ailing mother. The second baby Charlotte was born Sep. 1882 and while she was a small child they moved to Whitney and took up land about a quarter of a mile from where the Fosters lived. During the next few years there was much hard work getting the farm in running order and establishing a small home.
They lived in a log house with two large rooms, typical of the farms in the Whitney area in the 1880's. There were no conveniences and even the simplest tasks for the wife and mother involved heavy manual labor. The mothers were afraid of the Indians wandering around who would come to the door and beg for "Disket" which meant anything to eat. They would ride their children and try to lock up their stock, as the Indians stole the horses and cattle whenever they could.
Before Joseph went on his mission Verena had three more children, George Carl 1885, Verena 1886, and Arza Elmu 1889.
The first school building which was built shortly after Verena taught in the log granary proved to be impractical because it was too far away from where the children lived. A second district school was built in 1884 in Whitney of logs which had been used for the first Preston school. The building was used for church and all community activities, dances, weddings, etc. It is now the north end of the present home of F. W. Rallison. Annie Hull was the first teacher. She earned $15 a month. A few of the other teachers were Florence Holland, Annie Hopkins, Mary Flack and George Crockett.
In June 1889 Verena's husband became a member of the Bishopric in Whitney ward. When her fifth child Arza was 14 months old, her husband left on a mission to Scotland. During the next two years she was involved in the greatest struggle of her life up to this time, just to survive and support her children. This was also a very severe test of her faith but she never wavered and came through the ordeal in spite of much suffering and many tears. Her faith remained strong and steady and she and the children were strengthened and brought closer together.
In order to keep the farm in production and to have help with the heavy work she and her five children moved into one room of the house and her youngest sister Louise Neeley and her family of two small children moved into the other room and lived there during Joseph's stay in the Mission. Louise's husband, William Neeley, ran the farm with the help of their brother George Foster.
After Joseph returned from his mission there were five more children born in Whitney, Mildren 1893, Hazel 1895, Cecil Foster 1898, Glenn Grant 1900, Ira Louis 1904. While living in Whitney their family enjoyed a close relationship with the Foster relatives as Verena used to run through the orchard very frequently to her parents' home. The three Foster sisters would often take all their children to each other's homes, also to their brother George. They helped each other with their work and the children enjoyed playing together. The children practically grew up with their Foster cousins. They were not quite so well acquainted with the Wright cousins as most of them lived in Franklin at this time, although many moved to Whitney later.
The people of the ward were getting anxious for a larger church and school building as the population was rapidly increasing. In Aug. 1892 they purchased the land for the new building. This was about a mile from where Joseph and Verena lived and all of their children except the three younger ones attended the school that was built.
Bishop Chadwick died 1901 and George T. Benson became bishop and still retained Joseph Smith Wright as counselor. A white rock, two story church was built on the above land, using the basement only, for several years. It was divided into two rooms and was used for classrooms. The upper floor was finished in 1902.
There was no commercial entertainment but people had lots of fun. Dances were held in the rock building in the basement and it took watchful care while dancing, not to bump into the pillars that supported the upper floor. Dances for children were held in the afternoon and for grown-ups at night. Music was by either Baltzer Peterson with his fiddle or Fred Lamoreaux at the organ or an accordion. They danced all the old folk dances, square dances and marches.
The programs for the main holidays were also held in the church building. These were the 4th of July and Pioneer Day celebration, the 24th of July. Every little girl had her heart set on a new dress for these special events. It was not unusual for Verena to sit up well past midnight sewing especially for these holidays. 24th of July was a celebration reenacting the pioneers crossing the plains. The people on the program would dress up in costumes and show how the Indians attacked the pioneers, etc.
There were also horse racing, rodeos, ball games and dances. At this time the entire family packed picnic lunches of home grown food into the covered wagon and drove to Preston for the program and parade. Going on trips in the covered wagon was typical of many family excursions over the years as the father loved to fish and the entire family would camp over night. Togetherness was built into this family as the mother took every one of her children whenever she went anywhere.
Verena's entire life was centered around her home and children. She was a fanatic about cleanliness of all kinds. She saw to it that her children were always dressed immaculately for company and for the public. Her family always described her as "finicky and particular" and many of her children grew up with the same characteristics.
They were a very devout religious family and never missed Sunday School and Primary. Verena always attended Relief Society and did her visiting teaching while Charlotte cared for the children at home. She taught her children Gospel principles as well as sturdy character traits. The family attended church in Franklin, then in Worm Creek Branch and then in Whitney. They were always in touch with the organized branch or ward. Eventually a new house was built which utilized the old house for bedrooms. Everyone enjoyed the new home for by this time there were several children and the space was very welcome.
Verena was a woman of average size, rather short. She had an even disposition, rather quiet, but was a great worrier. She and her brother George were much alike in their personalities and were very close throughout their lives. She had a great deal of patience and forbearance, and was very sympathetic and understanding of other people. She was considered to be a pretty woman with a soft fair complexion and beautiful large gray eyes and brown curly hair. Macel Handy remembers how she liked to comb her hair into a "bob" on top of her head. The children in the home were raised with firm and loving discipline. They all had their chores and everyone helped with the work but had plenty of time to play also.
Verena's brother George always said she was the best cook in the family and her children agreed. She made even the simplest food into a tasty dish. She also made delicious bread out of the flour which was ground from the wheat raised on the farm. In the summer she canned hundreds of jars of fruit. Joseph hauled most of the fruit from Brigham City in the covered wagon. She specialized in preserves, jams and pickles, much of which went into five gallon earthenware crocks.
Verena and her mother were good knitters and knitted many long black woolen stockings of all sizes during the long winter months. Verena was an excellent seamstress and could make clothes of every description. The little girls' underwear usually had rows of embroidery and all the dresses and blouses were frilly and fussy according to the styles.
In Nov. 1904 Joseph Jr. was married to Amanda Monson at the Salt Lake Temple and a reception was held in the new home. Homemade fruitcake (made by Verena) and punch were served. Joseph and his bride Amanda lived in one of the rooms of the old house after they were married, making a household of thirteen. Verena's youngest baby Ira was six and one half months old at this time.
It was about 1906 when her husband was persuaded that Blackfoot was a more favorable area for farming. They moved to a farm "between the rivers" near Blackfoot. This was a severe trial for Verena and a very sad time as she hated to leave her relatives. In the next few years she took every opportunity to put her children on the train and to visit her family in Whitney.
The farm near Blackfoot was a typical farm of the area. Joseph had been spending varied lengths of time away from home for several years before they moved here. He found it difficult to support the family simply from the farm income and since Joseph Jr. and Amanda continued to live with them and run the farm, he was often on the road selling a variety of items or picking up cash jobs. He sold shetland wagons and Singer Sewing machines. One year he worked on the Oregon Short Line Railroad. The crew was snowed in and lived on beans for three months. He was at home once or twice a year for visits.
When the family first moved to the farm they sent the children to the school "between the rivers", a mile or two away. Verena made every effort to see that her children received at least a high school education. Many times this meant renting a house in town and leaving Charlotte in charge of the older children. Mildred tells how "When Clarence came to see Charlotte, they would make all the children go to bed early." Mildred told Clarence years later, after he became her brother-in-law, that as a child she did not like him and hoped he would not marry her sister. The two older children Joseph and Charlotte each managed to attend the academy in Logan for a year or more. Glenn and Cecil both interrupted their high school education and served in the Navy in World War I but returned to graduate. Glenn and Ira eventually became teachers.
During these hard years of financial problems, Verena's health became impaired. When Mildred was about seventeen they moved to town to stay. Verena was nearly bedridden for about a year and Mildred took care of her mother and the family. Verena never had good health from that time on and even had to be taken to Salt Lake for surgery. The fact that Verena's babies were all large was the major cause of her health problems. Macel recalls that she would help with her care on the way home high school. Several of the sisters also required surgery during this time and the brothers assisted a great deal with financial help. The boys all learned to work and help support the family as they became older. It is easy to see why Verena thought all of her boys were perfect. The sisters helped take care of each other and their Mother whenever there was any kind of need and became a very close family. Verena always managed to maintain her own home.
As the young people grew up they were all fun loving and went to all the Mutual and other parties. When a young man would take the daughters out in the buggy Verena was strict about making them come right into the house as soon as they returned home. They had a typical surrey with the "fringe on top" drawn by a matched pair of black horses.
On the doctor's advice, the family moved to southern California in 1929, hoping that Verena's health would improve. They settled in Long Beach, Verena's condition did improve slightly, and she lived until 1944. She died 2 Sep. 1944 and she was buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery. Verena was loved and revered by her many children and grandchildren. They looked up to her as an example of a wonderful mother and fine homemaker.
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