Mary Jane Neeley was born on October 8, 1833, in Vermillion County, Illinois, to Lewis and Elizabeth Miller Neeley. The family was acquainted with Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith while living in Nauvoo, and Mary Jane would run to greet him when she saw him on the street. Joseph Smith would hold her little hand as they walked together, then he would say, “Now, run along Mary.”
After the Prophet and his brother Hyrum were killed, the Neeleys joined the exodus of Mormons from Nauvoo to Utah in 1846. During the journey, Mary Jane’s mother died after giving birth to a girl, leaving her father to care for eight children. He remarried a woman with four children.
On February 25, 1852, Mary Jane, who was 19 years old, married 42-year-old Jonathan Calkins Wright. Mary Jane said she did not love Jonathan, but married him to get her little sister Harriet away from a stern stepmother and to help her husband raise his four motherless children. Mary Jane learned to love her husband because he was so kind to her little sister and his children.
Mary Jane and Jonathan settled in Brigham City. Jonathan was educated and taught his children “higher learning” at home. When telegraphy was brought to Utah in 1861, the children were taught Morse Code.
After Jonathan died in 1880 and her children went in different directions to work and to enter the mission field, Mary Jane, at age 47, learned how to write so she could send them letters of encouragement.
Mary Jane died in 1909 after a fall from a cart. When visited by a granddaughter shortly before her death, Mary Jane said, “Look at your old Grandma. I’m all busted up!”
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