MARY JANE BEZZANT WRIGHT
by Donald Wright—1955
The poet cried out in the rapture of his soul, “Oh what is so rare as a day in June.” The nineteenth of June 1876 was a rare day for the family of the English immigrant Matthew Bezzant and his good English wife, Maria Ann Cook. They were welcoming that day a newcomer to their home. Although Matthew had nine times before welcomed a new little spirit into his home and although this was the fifth time the mother had gently snuggled a newborn gift by her side, their joys were unbounded.
They seemed to realize, as often parents do, that this new one was the last treasure that they would be permitted to create a mortal body for. Hence, their love for the little girl was unstinted.
Now was the joy of her brothers and sisters, who were to be her playmates and companions through life, limited. For Alfred, Emily Ann, Martha, and even little Joseph could hardly contain themselves. Her two half-brothers, Mark and Sam (her two half-sisters had died in England), made themselves special messengers to spread the good work that, “It’s a girl.”
So in a little two-room lumber house in the west part of Lindon (then called Stringtown) Mary Jane Bezzant made her appearance on the world’s great stage. Today the address where this frame house stood would be about 753 West Lakeview Drive, in Lindon, Utah.
Had she been able to talk, little Mary would have said as Nephi did, “I was born of goodly parents.” Her father was a solid farmer, who had sacrificed much to make a home for his family near the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, to which he had been converted and which he loved.
Her mother, too, had made a sacrifice to come to “Zion.” She had been driven from her home by her father because she had courage to join a church that was not popular among the people of England.
Mother’s younger days were spent in a fashion common to the time. Much time was spent in work as she helped, along with the other members of her family, to wrest a livelihood from the fifteen-acre farm her father owned. Mother remembers helping her father plant and pick up potatoes and doing other farm jobs. She helped her mother gather and dry fruit for the family’s winter use. With the other girls her age, she would gather cherries, scald and dry them and take them to Provo to sell to help buy her winter clothes. She says they were happy days, for they found joy in the companionship of one another as they worked.
But all was not work. Happiness and fun had a choice place in the humble home and in the pleasant neighborhood. Speaking of her father, Mother says that he was always good to the children. She remembers him taking the family on outing to Utah Lake to swim and have a picnic and fishing trips to Provo River. There was bobsledding in the winter and hay rack rides in the summer. Her father used to store apples in the ground and then open one pit each month during the wintertime and Mother remembers the gay occasions it was for the whole neighborhood when the pits were opened.
Just below the family home was a big sand hill. There in the evening, crowds of all ages would gather. There were the Wrights, the Pierponts, the Gillmans, and the Dittmores; friend of Alf, Emily, Marth, Joe, and Mary ready to join in the games around the big bonfire. Above all, Mother remembers the wonderful celebrations that were held on the Fourth and Twenty-fourth of July with their speeches, games, parades and lemonade. Mother says, “Oh, what fun we used to have.”
The church was an integral part of this home. There was no ward in Stringtown then, so Grandfather used to load the family wagon and take them four miles to the Pleasant Grove Ward, where John Brown was Bishop. Grandmother would pack a lunch to be eaten after Sunday School and then the whole family would stay for Sacrament Meeting in the afternoon. Then it was hurry home, so that, with all the family pitching in, the chores could be done before dark. Later a ward was organized in Lindon, with James Cobbley as Bishop, and the Bezzants lent their strength to that organization.
Mother remembers some of those who taught her in church. There were Martha Wooley and Robert Cobbley in Sunday School; Suzanna Wooley, the Primary President; and Harriet Cullimore, the Mutual President (“Oh, she was so good!”).
There was schoolwork, too. Oftentimes the winters were very bad. Then Grandfather would bundle up Mary and Joe and take them to school. But in the fall and spring the two happy youngsters would load on their favorite horse, Old Puss, and ride to and from school.
Her teachers were May Robinson Driggs, Della Winters, Augusta Winters (Mrs. Heber J. Grant), Addie Stewart, John Dalley and D. H. Robinson. Her favorites were May and D. H.
At the age of twelve, Mother contracted Typhoid Fever. She was very ill and lost much of her hair as a result of the fever. Her hearing was also impaired. Although her hair grew in again, her hearing remained poor for the rest of her life.
When Mother was fourteen, sorrow came to the home with the death of her father. However, after the first deep sorrow had passed, Grandmother insisted that life should go on much the same as it had done before.
Mother worked out during the summer months and continued her school in the winter. She worked in the homes of L. O. Taft and Roy Barney in Provo and for Dr. Steel, R. S. Richards and John Evans (father of Richard L. Evans) in Salt Lake. Mother has always enjoyed doing house work.
But with all the work and school, there was still time for pleasure. Her girl companions were Bessie, Annie and Clara Pierpont, Eva Keetch, Sara Ashton Emily Cobbley, Ellen Banks, and Eva Dittmore. They enjoyed basket parties, dances at the Lindon Hall and dramatics. Her brother Joe used to be in the plays quite often. Mother used to recite during the intermission.
There were parties in the young people’s homes and out in the sand hills. There were candy pulls and visits around the community. There was a large group of young people Mother’s age, but of them all she seemed closest to the Pierpont girls. They spent much time in each others homes until the Pierponts moved away. (Mr. Pierpont was a polygamist and on the underground.) The person nearest to Mother, of this young group, was her sister Emily. They remained very close all through life to the time of Aunt Em’s death.
Just across the field from the Bezzants lived Hyrum I. Wright, his wife and family of ten children. On 13 May 1902 his wife, Annie Harper, passed away leaving him with a family to raise. Mother had known Father as a neighbor for many years and on June 10, 1904, she married and was sealed to him in Salt Lake City. In doing so she took over the responsibility of a family, four of them six years old or younger. Many young women would soon have tired of such a burden, but Mother made a good home for this family as well as her own. Father’s first family come to hold Mother in the highest esteem and reverence.
Six more children were added to Mother and Father’s family. They were Clifford LeRoy, Joseph, Mary Lucille, Harold Mathew, Emily Marie, and Isaac Donald. (Clifford LeRoy was Mary Jane’s child and brought to the union with her.)
Mother and Father always provided a happy home for their children. Until 1919 they lived on a farm in Lindon. In that year they moved to a small fruit farm in Pleasant Grove. Both Father and Mother loved to have company, and it seemed that people liked to come to their home, for company was always there. We children always felt free to bring our friends and knew that they would be welcomed. Many people who were friends of the children remember trips they took with the family or the dinners they ate at Mother’s table. Mother and Dad loved it.
Indicative of this attitude was the fact that the folks had one of the first phonographs in the community. It played cylinder records and had a long horn on it and a handle on the side. It had to be wound to make it play. The neighbors would come in to listen to it and enjoy an evening with the Wrights, Grandmother Bezzant, who spent her last years in Mother and Dad’s home, never ceased to be impressed by the talking machine. “Well,” she would say, “what will they do next and how will they do it?”
Father and Mother also had one of the early cars in the area. It was a large seven-passenger Studebaker. All of the children remember it and the rides they took in it. They used that car until 1924, when they sold it for something more modern.
After her marriage, Mother continued to be active in Church work. She was a member of the sunshine committee in Lindon Ward for about four years. Others on that committee were Aunt Annie Wright, Eva Thorne and Annie Anderson. They used to go about visiting the shut-ins and taking them something. It was a service Mother enjoyed doing. She also busied herself at quilting around the community, thus combining her social activity with something practical.
When she moved Pleasant Grove, Mother became a Relief Society teacher. Her first companion was Mrs. Rosetta Weeks, with whom she served for about twenty years. Since then she has continued to serve in this capacity with different companions. This work in which she is still engaged also has brought her much joy.
She served for a time as a member of the Relief Society refreshment committee. Father and Mother were called to a temple mission to do endowments for the dead for six months in January of 1934. They completed the assigned work and were given an honorable release in July of that year.
Mother always enjoyed Church activity and meetings, especially funerals. We children joked with her some about never missing a good funeral. She has liked to attend her Relief Society and Sunday School classes. After Father’s death she attended every general Conference until television made it easier for her to hear by staying home.
After moving to Pleasant Grove, Mother took great pride in the lovely home Father provided for her. While Dad had the “green thumb” and did the gardening, Mother found deep satisfaction in its loveliness. She helped in picking the fruit and berries and seemed to find pleasure in doing so.
Mother says of these years, “They were wonderful years. My husband kept our fruit farm beautiful. There were no weeds and he was a wonderful gardener. We had the most beautiful flower garden and thought it was a paradise. We were so happy and loved our home. We wished it could go on and on. But things don’t work out that way.”
In 1937 Father died. All of the children were then married, with families of their own. Mother could never have been happy living alone. Caring only for her own needs. She sold her home to her daughter, Lucille, and has spent the last eighteen years going from one of our homes to the other as we have called her to help us in our hours of need. Even as I write this she is preparing to go to Harold’s place to take care of his children while he and his wife go to San Francisco on business and pleasure.
In my own home, I don’t know how we could have managed without her so many times during these years. She has laughingly said, that as she goes from home to home, she has baked enough bread to go around the world. She often says that she couldn’t live without being busy. She says that when the day comes that she isn’t needed she will die. Judging from the great demands we children make of her now, she will live forever.
All of Mother’s life has not been smooth. Since her early years she has been handicapped with her hearing. Shortly after moving to Pleasant Grove she had a second serious illness of her life. Her hearing became worse as a result of this. Since 1938 she has worn a hearing aid. Although almost totally deaf without it, Mother has never complained and has adjusted her life beautifully to her disability.
Only one other time did she ever have a serious illness. She was spending the Christmas season with Margaret and me in Tooele in 1947. Shortly after the first of the year she became ill and had cramps in her stomach. She refused to let me call a doctor for a day or two, until finally I insisted.
We took her to a clinic. Her appendix was ruptured and had been for some time. She was then approaching her seventy-second birthday. The doctors were so concerned with her condition that they would not delay the operation even long enough for any of the other children to get there.
She asked to be administered to and President Alex F. Dunn was called in. Mother says of this occasion:
“He was one of the most spiritual men I have ever been around. He came just before I went to the operation table. When he started to administer to me, all fear left me. He told me I would go through the operations safe and be made well and strong again. When he stopped praying, I thanked him for coming and said, ‘It is wonderful to feel your influence.’
“He said, ‘Now, don’t worry, you will come through it all right.’
“Then she said, ‘I know I will if you say so.’
“‘It isn’t me saying so,’ President Dunn replied, ‘It is the voice of the Lord, so you will be made well.’
“I never felt a bit afraid after that, I wasn’t afraid at all. Every night I was in the hospital I was administered to for the first week. I surely do believe in administration. I know what it means. I got well, and my chances were not too good either.”
Mother has told me that she firmly believes she was healed by the power of the Lord. I testify that the doctors expressed very little hope of pulling her through by their own skill.
After Father’s death, Mother did some traveling. She made three trips to Denver with Aunt Em to visit Gene, Aunt Em’s son. She and Aunt Em also made a trip with Harold to California and up the Pacific Coast. She has been to Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Boulder Dam and all over southern Nevada and to southern California. She made the latter trip with Aunt Josephine and spent a month in and around Los Angles visiting relatives. It was in her words, “a most wonderful trip.”
Mother has always had a wonderful ability to make friends. I suppose it is because she is so friendly herself. She is always sending cards to people she knows on their anniversaries, when they are sick, or bereaved. Her friendliness, kindness, and thoughtfulness have repaid her many times over, for there are people scattered in many cities where she has been who hold her in respect and love.
And now, eighty years have passed since that rare day in June in 1876. Many changes have taken place in her full life. indicative of these is the fact that in her life, Mother says she has “ridden behind ox teams, horses and wagons, one- horse buggies, two-horse surreys, and automobiles.”
Mother has wept at the bier of all her family who were present on that June day long ago. She has wept at the death of her husband, two sons, five stepchildren, and two grandchildren. Many of the old friends, too, have passed beyond.
As she prepares to greet her friends on her eightieth birthday, what is her philosophy of life? it is simple: “Live each day and get all the joy and happiness out of it you can.”
What word would she leave to us today? I’ll let her say it:
“I am so thankful for my family and I know how really blessed I am to have them. All of my children attended BYU, and my grandchildren are now in the colleges. I hope and pray that they will continue to live and appreciate the gospel because I know that it is the only thing that will bring true happiness.
“I appreciate my membership in the church more than anything in life. I have a strong testimony of the gospel.”
And I add the Savior’s words recorded in Matthew, the namesake of her Father: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)
by Emily Wright Tyler—her daughter
Mother always worked hard. She would get very tired. She dreamed one night that she washed all night long.
Mother made eight loaves of bread every morning while the family lived on the farm. This she did while Lucille and I washed the breakfast dishes. She would can about 1000 quarts of fruit a year, using rubber rings on the bottles and aluminum lids that had to be tightened by hand.
Mother was an excellent Relief Society visiting teacher. While on the farm she went in a horse and buggy. After moving “uptown” she would walk. She dearly loved Relief Society day, which was usually on Tuesday. She and Father were called to do a certain number of temple endowments in a year. They would travel to Salt Lake on the interurban—an electric streetcar, which ran on rails from Payson to Salt Lake City.
Mother was an industrious person. In later years if she sat down, she had needlework or crocheting in hand. She made many temple aprons for the stake when stakes handled temple clothing. Her children and many of her grandchildren have temple aprons she made.
Mother had her own cow. She was extremely fussy about the cleanliness of her food and, in fact, everything around her. She would not use milk that anyone else milked. She milked her cow herself and kept this milk to use in her home. On the farm they had many cows, but Mother always had her special one. When we left the farm and moved uptown, she took her own cow. She could be seen twice a day going to milk her cow with two buckets and some clean cloths. One bucket for the milk and one with warm water to wash the cow down and the cloths to wipe the cow clean. When she returned to the house, the milk was carefully strained using the regular milk strainer, plus a clean cloth for any other impurities. The milk was then poured into shallow pans and placed in the cool basement room. Next day thick cream was skimmed off with a cream skimmer. Most of this was churned into butter. If ever there was extra butter, it was in demand by the neighbors.
Mother was ill, bedridden with a heart condition for some time. It became harder and harder for her to get around and it was finally necessary to take her to a rest home, where she could be bathed and cared for properly. She died at the Utah Valley Convalescent Center, where she resided until she passed away on 26 March 1965.
Patriarch Warren B. Smith promised her, as he laid his hands on her head on 26 February 1921: “I seal you up against the powers of darkness and unto eternal life to come forth in the morning of the first resurrection holding a queenly position in thy family in the eternal world. . . . Thy name will be honored through thy children from generation to generation.”
She gave each love and support. With this came a feeling of security. I grew up feeling good about myself, and when I left her, I was able to face life’s problems on my own. During my growing up years, I was as happy as a child could be. Almost all my memories of this time revolve around her. This is tribute to her. I grew up with a strong, healthy body, love for the gospel, faith in myself and what I could do. She was indeed a good mother.
Don Wright—her son
We think food storage is a new idea. It was just part of life for Father and Mother. Each fall they would get a supply of flour in fifty-pound bags and sugar in hundred-pound sacks. They stored these over the cellar stairway in Pleasant Grove and in the pantry in Lindon. When I was young, I used to play “Jack in the Beanstalk” and climb over them.
They also stored apples, potatoes, squash, cabbage, and carrots in the cellar under the shanty. Father raised all these. Mother bottled fruit that was stored in a cupboard in the same cellar.
They also put in a year’s supply of coal in the coal-shed. There was always a large wood pile to use as fuel.
Father always raised one or two pigs each year. We would feed them in the summer and they would feed us in the winter. Dad raised chickens mostly for our own use and a few eggs to trade at the store. He liked to try various kinds of chickens. I remember an incident connected with this. He had some Partridge Wyndottes, a large meat-type chicken. He had a couple of roosters of which he was especially proud. One day Mother opened some bottled beets that were spoiled. Not thinking, she put them in with the other scraps and threw them into the pen with the roosters. Next morning both roosters were dead, poisoned by the beets.
Mother was a good cook. The food she prepared was wholesome and tasty. She was meticulously clean and set a nice table.
Mother, with the whole family involved, would clean the house twice each year, although the house was always clean. This was a big project. As children we dreaded housecleaning time. The curtains were taken down and the carpets taken up from the floor. Every piece of furniture was moved. The contents of every drawer dumped out. The drawers, along with everything else in the room, were scrubbed clean.
Oh, what a clean fresh smell came from a room after it had been house cleaned. How proud all the women were when they finished their spring and fall house cleaning. Then was the time to invite company and celebrate.
My job was to pull the tacks out of the carpet so that they could be moved. The carpets were taken outside and placed over the clothesline. The dirt was beaten out of them with sticks or rug beaters that looked something like tennis rackets.
Lucille W. Walker—her daughter
I remember Mother carrying water from the well in Lindon. All water for house use was carried from a pump well by the side of the house. I remember the large amount of water Mother carried in a bucket in both hands on washday.
We had an apple orchard in back of the house in Lindon. Nearly every summer the neighbors would gather around big tables under the apple trees and all would peel and quarter apples for drying.
Another big day was the day we threshed grain. Mother would cook for a week before the men came, making tables of pies and cakes. They sometimes were there for two days and Mother prepared all their meals, including breakfast. She worked hard and never complained.
It seemed like everyone in the family that died was brought to our house for the viewing in our parlor, and how frightened I was of that room when I was small.
Mother use to read to Father in the long winter evenings. They would sit around the stove and Mother read while Father was busy doing something with his hands, maybe making the children whistles or tops or a tippie.
Jerry Walker—a grandson
She didn’t know how not to be doing something or to be idle. I can still see her sitting in the kitchen with the large ten-gallon bread mixer gripped between her thighs as she turned a large batch of dough that would soon be put into the oven and baked in loaves of delicious bread. No one, it seemed in those days could make bread as good or tasty as she.
I remember her as a very patient, gentle, and compassionate woman. She loved to visit, just talk with neighbors, friends, relatives, or even us unimportant kids—but it didn’t seem we were unimportant to her but very important. We got her full attention!
She believed in the mission of Joseph Smith and of Christ and of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Being a true mother in Zion, she is worthy of the highest esteem and honor and reverence that can be given her by her children and grandchildren.
Lamont Tyler—a grandson
One of my vivid memories of Grandmother is of her telling me about the coming of electric power to the family home in Lindon. Grandfather negotiated with the power company, who wanted to string lines across his farm to the sugar beet plant west of his home, to bring power to his house. She told me often of the many things they acquired as a result.
Marilyn W. Krantz—a granddaughter
I remember holding out my arms to hold her yarn as she rolled it into balls and watching her quilt with such perfect stitches. She had great pleasure in making and presenting us with aprons, especially temple aprons in our teens. She just couldn’t do enough for her family.
Norman E. Wright—a grandson
When I think of Grandma, I think of books, good books. This was often her gift to her children or grandchildren on those very special occasions when she wanted to give something lasting or that would have uplifting impact. And impact it had, particularly on me. A good book is, indeed, a treasure in one’s life, and to have the note inside “From your Grandmother on your graduation” penned in the flyleaf made it doubly so.
Glen Walker—a grandson
I can still see her sitting on the couch knitting. I even use to help her roll yarn. I remember her reading her scriptures. She did a lot of it. I have her book. It is well used.
Beverly W. Merrill—a granddaughter
I always remember Grandma and Aunt Em coming to dinner, especially their visits on Memorial Day. Grandma always had lovely dresses and as a young girl I loved her beads and earrings. I can never remember her dirty in appearance. She was always clean in attire, hair neat, and always wore a clean apron. She was the only person who called me by my full name, Beverly Ann.
James Walker—a grandson
I remember the raspberry patch and early mornings. I remember Memorial Day and the washtubs of flowers and taking them to the cemetery with her and Aunt Em. I especially remember the mouse in the root cellar under the old shanty.
LeGrand Wright—a grandson
The greatest friend of a grandson. I remember her going to town and always upon returning she gave out her favorite surprise, orange slices. It was always a great occasion when she visited. She was a great checker player!
Richard Wright—a grandson
She would come to Salt Lake City from Pleasant Grove on a bus. Many times we would not know when she would arrive and she would just walk up to the house with her suitcase. When I had my tonsils out, she was there and read Janet and me stories until it was our turn to go into the kitchen and have the operation on the kitchen table. She took the best of care until we recovered. She was always where she was needed.
Austin Tyler—a son-in-law
I remember Grandma Wright telling of her parents going to the temple. They drove from Pleasant Grove to Salt Lake City by ox team—two days to go to Salt Lake, one day spent at the temple and two days to return.
(from the files of Mary Jean Caldwell)