Our Family Legacy
A blue eyed dark haired Scotch-Irish immigrant; usually powerful, yet gentle with his loved ones; a hard working farmer and a man of God at heart; that was Joseph Smith Wright, as known to his family and close friends.
He was born on Christmas Day in 1854, welcomed by a widowed mother and many brothers and sisters. Although she had lost her husband George, just three months before, of the dread disease cholera, Deborah Ann Hazley had already started learning to cope with the difficult problems of life for a widow in those dark days of hard times in Scotland. Joseph was blessed on 25 Feb. 1855 by Thomas G. Taylor.
They lived in Busby, Renfrew, Scotland, near Glasgow. In those days every member of the family learned to work hard and do his share, even the small children. It was a thrifty, God fearing family who had joined the Latter Day Saint church about nine years before Joseph was born. It did not take George and Deborah long to recognize the truth, after they first heard the Elders preach, as they had been reared in Protestant faith in Ireland and were deeply religious. As a child, Joseph attended Sunday School and church meetings with his family who many times would walk several miles to Glasgow for special meetings and parties. Although poor and hard-working, they were a happy family and enjoyed good times together. The parents had somehow managed to educate their children, even though sometimes they had to attend classes at night and work by day.
When Joseph was less than two years old, the oldest son in the family, William Tweedy Wright, and his bride Maria, also a member of the church, emigrated to the United States in the spring of 1856 with a company of Saints. After crossing the plains with Capt. Daniel McArthur's 2nd Handcart Co. and enduring many hardships they finally arrived in Salt Lake. They stayed there only a few years when they moved to Franklin, Idaho in April 1860, among the very first settlers there. From now on every member of the Wright family worked and saved towards the day when the ones left in Scotland could come to America and be united with William. This happy event occurred in 1868 when the widow Deborah and her five children left their home in Scotland and sailed from Liverpool on the packet ship Constitution. Joseph, at ten years of age, worked in a textile factory. He operated a machine which printed the pattern or design on the fabrics.
Joseph told in later years how as a lad of thirteen he walked across the plains with Capt. Gillespie's Co., following the ox-team wagons which carried all their worldly goods. After many hardships and trials they arrived at the home of William and Maria in Franklin where they lived until they could establish their own home. They built a log house on 2nd East where Alonzo Durrant later lived. Each settler was allowed to homestead ten acres of land and Joseph and his mother worked theirs together. They lived together for several years and Joseph owned and operated a threshing machine and helped other farmers.
After the farm was going quite well Joseph was married in Franklin, Idaho (by L.C. Mecham, Justice of the Peace) on 28 Jan. 1880 to Verena Foster, daughter of George Foster and Verena Fischer who had settled in a nearby town of Whitney in 1873. She was the first school teacher in Whitney in 1877. They continued living with his mother who had the misfortune of suffering a severe stroke shortly after their marriage. She was completely paralyzed for over a year. This was a severe test for a bride but Verena rose to the occasion and nursed her tenderly. Joseph and Verena's first baby, Joseph (Jr.) was born in Dec. 1880, adding to her responsibilities. The mother died 18 Apr. 1881, age 63 and was buried in Franklin. Shortly before her death she put her arms around her daughter-in-law Verena and said “There is only one wish that I want God to grant you and that is that your children are as good to you as you and Joseph have been to me. I hated to be such a burden to you.” The sisters and Joseph could not seem to come to an agreement as to how the land should be divided; so shortly after the second child, Charlotte was born in 1882, Joseph and his family moved to Whitney.
They were blessed with ten children: 1) Joseph Smith Jr., 2) Charlotte, 3) George Carl, 4) Verena, 5) Arza Elmo, 6) Mildred, 7) Hazel, 8) Cecil Foster, 9) Glenn Grant, and 10) Ira Louis; the last eight born in Whitney. They worked hard and had a good farm which prospered. At this time all of the settlers in Whitney attended church and Sunday School in Franklin. However, on 9 June 1889, a Ward was organized and named after Apostle Orson F. Whitney with James Chadwick as Bishop and George T. Benson and Joseph S. Wright as counselors. Later that year Joseph was called to go on a mission to Great Britain. He and Andrew Beckstead were the first male missionaries sent out from Whitney. He and his family of five went to the Logan Temple and were sealed 13 Nov. 1889. The family members believe that Joseph was baptized originally in Scotland as a boy growing up but various researchers have never succeeded in finding a record of this in the branch records. The earliest baptism date so far located on Franklin records, is 13 Jun. 1875. There is another rebaptism date given on Franklin records the next year which apparently was rather customary at that time to have various ordinances reconfirmed. This was also done again when Joseph and Verena were sealed. He departed on his mission on 8 Apr. 1890 and labored in Scotland. When Joseph arrived at Liverpool, he realized the family had no picture of him so he had one taken and mailed it to them. He also asked Verena to send him a picture of the family. She had one taken at Logan but was never satisfied with the way she looked and did not like to show it to anyone.
This was a sad time for the wife with five children to be separated from her husband. Her only support was the farm in Whitney. She ran the farm assisted by her brother-in-law William Neeley, and brother George Benjamin Foster and also her children. This was very hard for her but she would not have prevented Joseph from going on his mission for anything in the world. Joseph enjoyed his time in the mission and was quite successful as he had a very strong testimony of the gospel. He sailed for home on the steamship, Nevada, 30 Jan. 1892. After he returned he was again set apart as a member of the Bishopric in Whitney where he served eighteen years.
He was a faithful Bishop's counselor and was very conscientious, especially in helping the sick. When the smallpox epidemic hit Whitney, his home was quarantined, as nearly all of the children were sick. He slept in the wagon so he could be free to tend the sick and deliver them food and other supplies they needed. Verena worked day and night caring for her sick family and all survived, although Cecil nearly died.
Joseph was very well versed in gospel principles as he was always reading and studying. He hated to be late and would leave for Sunday School before the family did, walking a mile in order to get there early. Mildred tells how she loved to go with her father and had to run to keep up with him. He taught Sunday School class for many years. He was very talented in music and had a beautiful singing voice and his sisters also had good voices. He was asked to sing at many social events. He could also play several string instruments by ear. In the early days at Franklin, he and his brother George, played in the 2nd Fife and Drum and led by John Albiston. George played the snare drum and Joseph played the banjo. Although his sisters spoke with a Scotch brogue all their lives, Joseph lost his brogue but frequently gave cleaver authentic imitations. He was a forceful speaker and he helped to elect his brother-in-law, George Foster, to the State Legislature for one term. They both "stumped" or campaigned all over the state which was rather strenuous in those days.
About 1906 they sold the farm in Whitney and moved to a farm in Blackfoot. They were convinced that this was a better farming area by Frank Parkinson, a half brother of Clarence Parkinson. They built a comfortable red brick home with large rooms. In some ways this move was a disappointment as prices for crops were poor and there was much hard work. Some years later they moved into town and Joseph tried his hand at being a traveling salesman. In his later years he became a justice of the peace.
Verena's health became very poor, so, on the advice of a doctor, most of the family moved to Long Beach, California, in hopes of improving her health. She lived until 1944 as her health did improve some. They spent part of the time in Santa Barbara where Glenn and Ira were attending college to qualify for California teaching credentials which they eventually succeeded in doing. Joseph developed cancer of the lip and after an illness of several months he passed away on 16 May 1934 in Long Beach, California, age 79. He was buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, Los Angeles, California.
Joseph was a man who loved his family and his church and devoted his life to both. Of his ten children, two were privileged to go on missions: Joseph Jr. to the Southern States 1901 to 1904 and George Carl to the Central States in 1908. Nearly all of these children remained active church members all of their lives. They were a closely knit family and helped each other through the stress and strains of life's many problems.
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