JOHN AND CHARLOTTE SMITH WRIGHT
by Emily Wright Tyler
John Wright, son of William Wright and Catherine Hare, was born 8 October 1832 in Thorney, Cambridgeshire, England. During his youth, whenever possible, John attended school. He was required to pay two pence each week as tuition. If the parents could not raise that amount the child would have to miss school that week. John first worked long hours on farms, and at the age of fourteen he became an apprentice to learn the mason trade. Always after he was able to hire out as a mason. On 26 October 1850 he married Charlotte Smith.
Charlotte Smith was born 20 March 1830 in the town of Winwick, Huntingshire, England. She was the daughter of John Smith and Hannah Sutton. Charlotte grew up in the Methodist Church.
After she and John were married they rented a small house and John worked as a mason. The first two children born to them died as small children. William was born in 1851 and died in 1852. Jane was born in 1853 and died at the age of three.
John and his wife, Charlotte, were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on 5 February 1854 by Elder Moses McHarms and were confirmed the same day by Elder John Richmond.
The next child that was born to them was a son and they named him Hyrum Isaac. These three children were born in Thorney, Cambridgeshire. When Hyrum was a year old, John moved his family to Bolingbroke in Lincolnshire to secure work in a cotton factory. A son, John, Jr. and a daughter Sarah Ann, were born to them while they lived here.
These cotton factories were dependent upon cotton from America. Which was raised in the southern states. At this time the Civil War was raging between the northern and southern states of America. In 1862 the northern forces completely blockaded the southern ports, not allowing any cotton to be sent to England. This brought about what was called “the Cotton Famine” in England. The result was closed factories.
During the following winter months there was a lack of food and clothing in the area. Much suffering and hardship resulted. As soon as the necessary arrangements could be made, John moved his family to Liverpool, in 1863.
John and Charlotte’s greatest desire was to take their family to America and on to Utah, the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. charlotte’s parents, John and Hannah Sutton Smith had sailed from Liverpool for America several years before and were well established in Utah. Charlotte longed to join them.
Through the Perpetual Immigration Fund, their journey began early in 1866. John, thirty five years old; Charlotte, thirty-six; Hyrum, ten; John, Jr., seven, and Sarah Ann, not yet three; left Liverpool and sailed on the ship Arkright. After seven weeks and five days on the ocean they arrived in New York. They traveled by railroad to Omaha, Nebraska. The company of Saints remained at Omaha three days to prepare for the journey overland by ox team.
While in Omaha, Sarah Ann died. Sarah Ann had been sick since she had come down with the measles while on the ocean. Charlotte sat in the shelter of some trees and held the dead child in her arms until morning, when she was buried in a board coffin, that had hurriedly been made. There were many graves there and along the route across the plains, graves of those who could not stand the hardships of the journey.
The next morning the family left Omaha to travel west in the Andrew H. Scott company. They arrived in Salt Lake City on 8 October 1866. They continued their journey southward to Pleasant Grove, where Charlotte’s mother lived.
Andrew Jensen, later assistant Church Historian (1917) crossed the plains in Captain Scott’s train. The following account of the journey is culled from Brother Jensen’s journal:
Thursday, August 9 (1866). “We broke camp at 8 o’clock a.m. and traveled till noon. Then we stopped about four hours, during which time provisions were distributed to the passengers. The rations consisted of 1 ½ pounds of flour and one pound of bacon per day for each adult, besides sugar, molasses, coffee, dried fruit, etc., all of which we were to cook and prepare to suit our respective tastes.
“Some of us found the baking of bread and the cooking of meals in the open air a very difficult task, but after a few day’s experience we mastered the situation quite satisfactorily. The life on the plains and our daily travel soon became quite natural and pleasant to those of us who were young. To the older members of the company and to such as had large families of children, the experience was a hard one indeed.
“Our general daily routine was something like the following: We generally broke camp at 8 o’clock in the morning to travel from fifteen to twenty miles a day. As a rule, we stopped about two hours at noon to rest and feed ourselves and animals. The task of walking as much as possible was enjoined upon ever young and able bodied person. Only the old and weak were permitted to ride to any great extent. Of course, I was numbered among those who walker nearly all the way and I rather enjoyed it.
“When camping we had our busiest time. First, we pitched our tents and gathered fuel and fetched water. Then we made fires, baked bread and cooked food, and finally ate our meals around our campfires on the grass. It was indeed a new life to lead but we soon got used to it and acted our different parts tolerably well, though we often found our energies taxed to the utmost.
“Fuel was frequently a scarce article and we resorted to the use of cattle chips in such cases. They served as a very good substitute and when we got use to them we never complained, if we could only find enough of them.
“Often we cooked our meals when the rain poured down in torrents and drenched us to the skin and put out our fires. Other times the wind blew so hard that our tents fell and our food became spiced with sand. We looked upon these things as unavoidable difficulties and bore them without murmur or fault finding.
“In making our camps, the usual Mormon method of forming two half-circles with the wagons was observed, so that a corral was made into which oxen could be driven to be caught and yoked anew. Our tents were pitched outside the enclosure, each tent opposite the wagon to which it belonged. Regular night watch was taken in turn by immigrating brethren. We traveled today about twenty-two miles and encamped about 6:00 p.m.
“Saturday, August 18th. We broke our encampment at 7 a.m. and traveled six miles, which brought us to Fort Kearney. This fort is situated on a broad plain about a mile from the Platte River. About two miles west of the fort is a trading post, where we took in some provisions, which Captain Scott’s company had left there on their journey out.
Monday, August 20th. We traveled about twenty miles and crossed Plum Creek. This evening one of the brethren who had traveled with the mule train died, and during the day two died in our own company. As they were English, I did not learn their names; yet it cast a gloom over us all, and when we witnessed their earthly remains deposited in mother earth in the wilderness we all wept or felt like weeping, for the thought of burying dear ones in this manner, when friends and relatives must immediately hasten away, without hopes of ever visiting the resting places of their dead again, was sad and trying indeed.
“Yes, there thy rest, where the wild Indians sing their war songs and where the buffalo and other wild animals roam at large; but their graves will be found when Gabriel sounds his trump in the morning of the first resurrection. These departed ones laid down their bodies as they were marching towards Zion. The Lord called them home before they reached their destination; they were not permitted to see Zion in the flesh; but they shall receive glory and rejoice hereafter; they died while endeavoring to obey God and keep his commandments and blessed are they who died in the Lord.
“These were the feelings of us survivors, who buried our brethren and sisters in the wilderness. Those who died today were only the beginning of the mortality in our company, for I believe nearly thirty of our number died before we reached Great Salt Lake City.
“Friday, August 24th. We traveled about twenty miles in the forenoon and camped for noon near the river, close to an Indian camp. About one hundred Indians were encamped here and some of their tents were large and comfortable.
“These were the first Indians we had seen on our journey, and after we had subdued our fear and timidity they became the object of our greatest attention and curiosity and as they were a friendly band, a number of them soon appeared in our camp. Some of the young warriors entertained us by showing us their skill as marksmen with their arrows. Most of them were scantily clad and some of the young boys were entirely naked, a feature which was rather shocking to us people from the North, who had never seen anything like it before. Some of them who made themselves more free with us than the rest partook of our food and seemed to be particularly fond of our bread and pancakes.
“Tuesday, September 4th. We saw a number of Indians who appeared to be hostile and bent on mischief. In the afternoon we crossed Laramie River and encamped for the night about a mile from Fort Laramie. Fort Laramie is about midway between the Missouri River and Great Salt Lake Valley and the most important military post on the road.
“Wednesday, September 12th. We reached Platte Bridge, near which there is quite a trading village. The few people who constituted the inhabitants of Platte Bridge Village were of the rough western type, and not much like Christians.
“At this point our train took in a supply of provisions which the train had left when it journeyed east, but thirty-eight head of cattle which had been left here at the same time, for the purpose of strengthening the ox force on the return journey were lost, most likely stolen.
“Saturday, September 15th. We traveled about fifteen miles and passed Devil’s Gate in the forenoon. It rained briskly and continued all night. Besides the rain, we were annoyed all night by the howling of wolves, which approached our camp in large packs.
“Devil’s Gate station was established by some mountaineers many years ago and is especially known for the events of 1856, when a terrific snowstorm overtook some of our hand-cart immigrants.
“Wednesday, September 19th. When we awoke this morning the ground was covered with about six inches of snow and it continued to snow all forenoon. It was cold indeed and we all suffered in consequence severely. What added to our discomfort was the scarcity of fuel. There was no timber near and the snow covered the sagebrush and everything that could burn.
“The snow continued all forenoon and we made no attempt to move. It was truly the coldest and most unpleasant day on the whole journey. Toward noon, the teamsters succeeded, after much labor, to get the hungry, half-frozen oxen hitched up to the wagons, and we traveled a few miles. But as the snow was deep and more kept falling, we only made very slow headway and soon found it necessary to form as encampment in a snug little valley. This is a cold country, the altitude being high and the country very windy.
“Monday, September 24th. Traveled about twenty miles and reached the Green River. Camped about sundown near the east bank of the river.
“Sunday, September 30th. Made an early start and traveled fourteen miles; encamped for the night in a beautiful place near Fort Bridger. We are now 112 miles from the Great Salt Lake City.
“Tuesday, October 2nd. Crossed Bear River; traveled fifteen miles and encamped for the night in a beautiful valley.
“Wednesday, October 5th. Passed through the little settlement of Coalville. Day’s journey, twenty miles.
“Sunday, October 7th. Made an early start and passed over the summit into Parley’s Canyon. We traveled slowly down through Parley’s Canyon, passed Hardy’s Ranch, and reached the mouth of the canyon late in the afternoon. Climbing a hill on the right, I obtained my first view of Great Salt Lake City. it appeared grand and beautiful, as it nestled in the full blaze of the afternoon sun. with my companions I almost shouted with joy at the realization of our fondest heart’s desire. As long as I can remember I had prayed and hoped for this opportunity. Now at last, the city lay there, exposed to our gaze. Our dreams were about to be realized, in entering the chief city of the Saints—the home of Prophets and Apostles. After getting out of the mountain pass we traveled through the Sugar House Ward, crossed the State Road and encamped for the night on the Church Farm.
“Monday, October 8th. We traveled about four miles and arrive in Great Salt Lake City. the train went into the Tithing Yard, where everything was unloaded, and then left again taking along only the immigrants expected to locate in Utah County, whence nearly all the wagons or teams had come.
“Our family which had not decided what part of the territory to locate in, remained in Great Salt Lake City, that is, in the Tithing Yard. Consequently, we said good-bye to many of our fellow travelers, with whom we had crossed the plains and mountains. They scattered to different parts of the territory, where they had friends and relatives. We, who remained in the Tithing Yard temporarily were well treated and fed at the expense of the church. We slept under sheds.”
We are grateful to have these excerpts from Andrew Jensen’s dairy, for we know that John Wright and his wife, Charlotte, and sons, Hyrum and John experienced the things written here, including the great thrill of arriving in Great Salt Lake Valley.
Hyrum and Andrew Jensen remained lifelong friends. Andrew Jensen was often spoken of in our home. Hyrum always enjoyed visiting with Brother Jensen, which was usually at conference time.
The Desert News notices the arrival of Captain Andrew H. Scott’s train into Great Salt Lake City from the Missouri River with a company of immigrants, as follows:
“TRAIN IN—Captain A. H. Scott’s train of forty nine wagons and about
three hundred passengers got in on Monday morning, the cattle of the
company looking well and the passengers as a general thing in good health, although a few were sick. This company of people is reported as one of
the finest that has got in for a long tine. They are mostly from Norway,
in Europe, from a highly respectable class of society and have a fine choir
of twenty-five voices.”
Two days later, John and Charlotte and their two sons, Hyrum and John, Jr.
arrived in Pleasant Grove, Utah. Charlotte was overjoyed to again see her mother and to have her mother see her two fine sons. There was happiness and also sorrow because of the death of Charlotte’s father, who had died on the 16 October 1862, before Charlotte could get to Utah.
The Wright’s first home in Utah was a one-room dugout with a willow and dirt
roof. Later they moved to a one-room log cabin.
John worked in a sawmill up in American Fork Canyon. He also sold lumber and
logs to the settlers, hauling them from the canyon with a span of mules.
In 1871 they moved to Lindon, bought a farm and here made a permanent home. At first they lived in a dugout or half cellar, but soon John built an adobe and rock house. He was a good mason and he hauled sand and clay, built molds, and made his own adobes. No mansion was more homey or more appreciated.
Three more children were born to this family: James Thomas, Harriet Charlotte, and Catherine Latisha. They also cared for a granddaughter, Charlotte Wright Harris, whose mother (Harriet Elizabeth Lords, wife of John Wright, Jr.) had died soon after Charlotte was born.
They joined the United Order. This was an organization in which all property was held in common as a community family. It was later found to be impractical and discontinued.
John was ordained a High Priest in 1891 by Bishop James Cobbley of the Lindon Ward. He was a progressive and successful farmer.
John and Charlotte lived together for forty-three years. They were the parents of nine children, five living to maturity. On 9 May 1893 John died, at the age of sixty-two. Three years later Charlotte followed him in death, on 25 September 1896. They are buried side-by-side in the Pleasant Grove City Cemetery.
May Bezzant Harris (Charlotte’s granddaughter) said of Grandmother Wright: “She was a very industrious woman. After churning all morning she would walk to American Fork with her butter and eggs to trade for groceries. She walked along the railroad tracks. She always had peppermint candy for her grandchildren as they ran to meet her. She was a pleasant person and very beloved.”
May also said of her grandfather, John: “He was pleasant and everyone loved him. The day he took sick he came over to his daughter Harriet’s after taking his cows to the pasture. He asked me for a drink of water. He went home ill and never got out of bed again. He was noted for having delicious apples, beautiful flowers and was very industrious.
(from the files of Mary Jean Caldwell)