Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mary Ann Fryer Wright (1838-1931)

The following is an autobiography of Mary Ann Fryer Wright, entitled "Life of Mary Ann Fryer (Wright)". The autobiography indicated that it was collected by dictation and written by her granddaughter Carrie Wright Probet.

At the request of my children, I shall try to give my history as near as I remember it. I was born September 8, 1839; at Stroxton, Lincolnshire, England. My father, William Fryer, son of John and Elizabeth Smith Fryer, was born March 9, 1813. My mother was Ann Colton Fryer, daughter of Francis and Mary Colton, born at Corby, Lincolnshire, England, on May 5, 1810.

When I was about six years of age my father moved to a place called Spittle Gate, near Grantham. In the fall of 1846, my father, being at Grantham, met up with two men, William and Charles Palmar, from Australia. These two men were looking for a place to board, so father allowed them to come and stay with us. One of these men proved to be a Latter-Day Saint. He explained the principles of Mormonism to my parents and they believed and were baptized in January of 1847.

At this time there were no Mormons in the place where we lived. After Father was baptized, he was ordained the Presiding Elder and he, together with local Elders sent from a nearby Branch of the Church, began preaching the Gospel. They held meetings at our home and also on the street corners. Before long a number of people were converted and a Branch of the Church was established. The First Mission President that came to our place was Simeon Carter from America. (We always took care of the visiting brothers when they were in that neighborhood.) The people were very bitter towards the converts and did many things to persecute them. My father did most of the baptizing and was called “John the Baptist” by the people. I was baptized by my father when I was eight years old.

As time went on more people were converted and a building was rented for the use of the Saints. It was at this place that my father gave his farewell address to the Saints before leaving for America. They all thought a great deal of him, and were deeply touched when they listened to his farewell speech.

We left our home in England in January 1849 and sailed from Liverpool on the ship Zetland. Orson Spencer was President and there were 358 souls aboard. We landed in New Orleans. It was here that my father contracted the disease and on May 5, just three weeks after we arrived, he died. My mother was left with eight children, and the baby, which had been born on the ship, died that summer. I was the only girl in the family.

After Father died we didn't have the means to come to Utah but it was my mother's desire that we should gather there as soon as possible. In 1853 we were living six miles from St. Louis when the following incident happened. Two of my girl friends wanted me to come and spend an evening with them, so they sent some boys to ask me to come. I asked Mother if she was willing for me to go. At first she felt that she would rather not have me go because it was so dark, but she asked me if I would like to go and when I said I would she consented. As soon as the boys heard this they ran back to tell the girls I was coming. When I got ready to go Mother told me to take a light because it was terribly dark and the many deep open coal pits in the area would make the way very dangerous. I took my light and started out. I hadn't gone very far when the light went out and I was left to find my way in the dark. I finally saw a light over to one of the neighbors and thought I knew just where to go. I started on what I thought was the right path; coming to a slight raise, I remember thinking I had never been that way before and then I knew no more. When I came to I was in the bottom of one of the coal pits, laying my hand on my arm.

When I didn't reach the girls’ home they went to my place to see what the matter was. When Mother found that they knew nothing about me she was very much alarmed and immediately began to search for me. My brother, William, went to the neighbors and they told him they had heard a voice in the direction of the coal pit. He ran to the pit and heard me calling. He came to the opening and called, “Oh, my sister, my sister!” Then a crowd came and they let a man down to bring me up. He asked me if I was hurt and I told him I didn't know. He put a rope around me and they drew me up. When I got nearly to the top the man leaned over the pit for fear that contact with the air might cause me to faint again.

It was surely an exciting time, one woman fainted and another went into hysterics. My mother was almost wild because she didn't know how I would be. I had no broken bones, but was badly bruised. The next day some of the men measured the pit and it was fifty-five feet deep.

I will record here two other accidents which happened to me in later life. The first of these occurred while we were on the move south. I was driving one of my husband's teams, following just behind a neighbor (Bro. Helm), when we came to a bad place in the road. He didn't have time to warn me before I came to it. The wagon was heavily loaded with flour and I had nothing to hold to when the wagon went over the bad spot. I fell out and one of the wheels ran over me.

The second accident happened when I was coming from Dixie to Hinckley on a visit. We decided that by driving a little after night we would be able to even up each day’s journey. As we were doing this we came to a washout in the road. I was sitting close to the side of the wagon and the jolt threw me heavily to the ground, hurting my head and shoulders; however, I was not seriously injured and soon recovered.

While we were at St. Louis, Horace S. Eldredge came there on business along with Alonzo Buckland, a returned missionary. These brothers came often to visit us at our home and there was a branch of the church there. When they saw how anxious Mother was that we should gather in Zion, Brother Buckland offered to take my younger brother and me with him. He had a team and wagon all fitted out. He was also going to take a sister whose husband had emigrated the year before and was then residing at Salt Lake. This lady, he said, would be company for me. Mother asked counsel of Brother Eldredge, and he advised her to let us go. It was then decided that two other brothers should go, so that I would have one of the older brothers with me.

We boarded a steamboat with Brother Eldredge and Brother Buckland on the 4th of June, 1854, Brother Eldredge being in charge of the Church Train. We went to Fort Leavenworth and then went to the camp ground where Saints were camping. We traveled together for some time and were divided into companies with a captain over each company.

When we were organized into companies, my younger brother and myself were in one company while my two older brothers were left behind to come in the Church Train. I didn't see them again until some time after we reached Utah. Just before we started on our journey, Brother Buckland took sick and died. His sister and her husband and a younger brother by the name of James were in the company, so the brother took charge of the teams. There was danger with the Indians that year as the prior emigrants had had trouble with them.

The journey was long and tiresome. We used to start out and walk ahead of the train as it was too hot to ride in a covered wagon.

On our journey we met Orson Spencer and Ezra T. Benson, who were going back to St. Louis on business. I made myself known to Brother Spencer and asked him to go and see my mother when he reached St. Louis and tell her where he had met us. Brother Spencer promised to do this and said, “So you have left your mother and are going to Utah alone?”

He blessed me and asked me to go and visit his family when we reached Salt Lake and tell them where I had seen him. He told us about the roads and journey ahead of us. I must mention here that Brother Spencer did not live to return home; he died while away and his body was afterwards brought home for burial.

On one occasion on the road, we met an independent company known as the “Land Company,” named this because they were traveling all the way from St. Louis by land. There was a man named Thomas Harry with them, whom I knew in England. (He later settled in Provo and his daughter married William Farrar of Provo.) We stopped and talked to them for a while and then our company decided to move on as it was advised the trains be some distance apart.

There was a camp of Indians just back of us, across the creek. While the men were hitching up, another girl and myself started out ahead. We went for some distance. It didn't seem so far to us but when we listened we could not hear the wagons coming. Finally we started back but still could not see or hear anything of them. We kept going until we reached the “Land Company” which had camped for the night; still our company was no where in sight. We stayed with them; they made us a bed on the ground. Just after we had gone to bed a Brother and two Sisters from our company came and asked the people if they had seen two strange Sisters who had turned off some distance from the main road and had missed their camp. They mentioned they had looked everywhere to find them but to no avail. We then arose and went back with them.

As we traveled along we could often tell just how far ahead another company was by the remains of their camp fires. Sometimes they would put the skull of an animal with the name of the Captain of the company written on it.

We arrived in Salt Lake, September 21, 1854. I made my home for awhile with Brother Buckland's family in what was then called Session Settlement (now Bountiful) and then with Horace S. Eldredge's family in the 13th Ward.

In the spring of 1855, I was rebaptized in City Creek, east of Eagle Gate by Brother Horace S. Eldredge. I then made my home for awhile with Zina D. Young, who lived east of the Eagle Gate and a little south of the log row. I was living there when the Beehive House was being built. In those days a girl was glad to have a place to call home without receiving wages.

In 1855 came the grasshopper famine. In 1857 I was married to Joseph Wright of Mill Creek who had crossed from England on the same vessel with us. He had arrived in Salt Lake in the fall of 1849. We were married (and sealed) by President Brigham Young in his office at the Beehive House.

My husband was in President Young's company celebrating the 24th of July at Big Cottonwood Canyon when the news came that Johnston's Army was coming. He afterwards was called to Echo Canyon to help keep the army from entering the Valley. While he was there we were busy preparing to move, if necessary.

We moved with most of them from Mill Creek to Spanish Fork. We went prepared for whatever might happen but we didn't know what it would be. We took all the provisions possible. President Young advised us to grate our potatoes and make starch of them which we could keep and which would be equal to arrow root. A treaty was made with Johnston's Army and we were very glad when word came that we go back our homes.

In March, 1861, I received my endowments in the Endowment House. My mother emigrated in 1859. I was then living at Mill Creek. My brother William came from Salt Lake City and told me that the company my mother was with would arrive the next morning. I went to Emigration Square, where a company was camped and was told the company would not arrive until afternoon. After dinner we were sitting in the wagon watching the company pass. I couldn't sit there so I got out and started down the street looking in each wagon as it passed. Finally I caught sight of mother walking behind one of the wagons. I rushed into her arms and called out, “Oh, my mother, my mother!” It was indeed a happy meeting.

During this occurrence a girl was standing by the fence watching us. When she saw the meeting she said, “Do stop and talk to me.” I stopped and talked to her and found that she, like myself, had left her mother as I had done. She had been very touched by the meeting between me and my mother.

Many girls had made this sacrifice in those days and it was indeed a sacrifice. My mother died August 13, 1867 and was buried in the Salt Lake Cemetery. In the fall of 1862 at the October Conference my husband was called from the stand in the Old Tabernacle to go on a five year mission to help settle Dixie. On the 11th of November we left Mill Creek to go to Dixie. We were three weeks on the journey. We stayed awhile in Virgin City and finally moved to a place called Duncan's Retreat.

On account of the Black Hawk War in 1866, we were compelled to move from Duncan's Retreat, which was a branch of the Virgin City Ward, to the fort at Virgin City for protection. During the war my husband was a home guard and used to fit the men out with horses. During this time of the Indian troubles, a band of horses were stolen by them from my husband. Most of those horses were made up to the people after the trouble was over, but we never received any recompense for the loss of our horses. My husband helped in building the Washington Factory in Dixie and the store in Virgin City. My husband died June 12, 1873 at Duncan's Retreat, leaving me with six children, four boys and two girls. I lived in the United Order in 1874 and 1875. I was set apart as second counselor in the Duncan Relief Society by William Haslam on May 4th, 1884. In the year of 1887 two of my sons moved to Hinckley on account of the high water washing so much land away. The water began washing away my orchard and vineyard. It came so close to my house that I was compelled to move. This we did, arriving in Hinckley January 9, 1893.

On January 12, 1896 my youngest daughter died, leaving two children, the younger being only 12 days old. After her death, I cared for the children. At the age of 10 years the girl was taken home by her father. I kept the boy until he was married. In December 21, 1900 my youngest son Edwin died of pneumonia, leaving a wife and three children, two boys and a girl.

On January 4, 1894 I was set apart as a teacher in the Hinckley Relief Society by Bishop William P. Pratt. On February 7, 1904, I was set apart as treasurer of the Hinckley Relief Society by Bishop William P. Pratt.

I have twenty-seven living grandchildren, seventeen boys and ten girls. Five of my grandchildren are dead: four boys and one girl. I have at present twenty-three great grandchildren.

Six of my grandsons were in the late World War [I], three were in France and three in the United States.

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