James Wright's father, John was born August 7, 1840, in Tennessee and came to California at age ten with his family as a part of the the Gold Rush. By the time he was twenty he and his mother had a sheep ranch in Paskenta (a very small community, about 33 miles west of Corning).
His mother, Mary Ellen Marston, was born December 21, 1840 in Bridgewater, New Hampshire. One ancestor, a Puritan minister was first citizen or Hampton, New Hampshire in 1638. She married in 1860 and had a child two years later but, in 1870, lost both husband and child to illness. Five years later, she sailed to Panama, crossed the Isthmus on a primitive train, then came north by ship to visit relatives in Healdsburg, Mendocino County, California.
John was a dreamer and poet, who was not good with finances and enjoyed a little whiskey now and then, while Mary Ellen, a staunch Baptist, had good business sense and was musically talented. How they met is unknown, but they married and started life together on the sheep ranch at Paskenta.
Mary Ellen returned to New Hampshire for the birth of their first son, Albert but Jim Wright was born March 9,1881 In Paskenta,Tehama County. A year after Jim's birth, Mary Ellen purchased in her own name 640 acres on Cottonwood Creek where Gas Point and Happy Valley Roads intersect. Possibly she felt this area was more civilized; it was much better for raising sheep. Jim and his brother had both enrolled In Kimball Plains School and Mary Ellen had helped establish the Kimball Plains Baptist Church before she tired or living in the country and moved herself and the boys to Redding.
From the Mayor, A. C. Brigman, she bought a boarding house just south of City Hall. Mary Ellen cooked and kept house for her boarders while Albert and Jim attended Little Pine and then Big Pine School. After ninth grade, the boys went to work at various jobs around town. Eventually Jim hired on with Mountain Copper Company. He rode horseback seven miles to work where he trained as a machinist and then he rode seven miles home. This training enabled him to get a machinist job with the railroad at its Roundhouse in Dunsmuir in 1903.
Laura Eliza Acord was born january 26, 1883, in Spring City, Utah. Abram Acord, her father was a Mormon and a polygamist; Laura was the third child born to his third wife, Martha. She was the nineteenth child of twenty-nine fathered by Abram.
When Utah applied for statehood and Congress insisted that the Mormon Church give up polygamy, Abram moved his family to Colonia Diaz in Mexico. Abram died when Laura was twelve. The boys In the family continued operating the ranch but there were no jobs for the girls in Mexico so Laura came back to the United States to work as a Harvey Girl somewhere on the Atcheson, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad.
She moved from there to Yuma where Jim Wright who had taken a trip on his Railroad pass found her working at the ESS PEE Restaurant. It was love at first sight. The pair corresponded until Jim proposed and Laura accepted and they were married in Dunsmuir, January 2, 1905.
After their marriage Jim continued to work as a machinist and Laura
took a job as waitress in the Palm Cafe, near the depot. A year later Jim
found a better paying job in Oroville. Their first child was born there,
the others in Redding. The couple had four children:
|Alberta Ramona||b. Feb. 8, 1907||d. May 22, 1999||m. Carl A. Williams|
|Nellie Louise||b. June 2, 1909||d. Nov. 23, 1973||m. John Alward|
|James Acord||b. Oct. 28, 1910||d. Aug. 15, 1937||m. Inez Brown|
|Mattie||b. June 25, 1914||d. May 25, 1985||m. Richard Charles|
Dr. Saylor's one cylinder three-wheeler was the first automobile Jim serviced, but it was followed by Henry Clineschmidt's Dusenberg, Walter Boggs' Stutz, Stoddard Dayton's Apperson Jack Rabbit, Harvey Sallee's Locomobile, Carl Baker's Winton and George Charles' all steel Hupmobile. Jim, himself owned a Jeffrey. Jim bought the Olney home on Pine Street and tore down the boarding house to build Redding's first auto garage.
Jim had joined a fire company before he left town and rejoined when he returned; in 1912 when Redding bought its first motorized fire truck Chief Louis D. Poole appointed Jim Wright as Driver. Jim could both drive and repair the truck and his garage was next door to the fire hall. Jim drove until a young boy ran out in front of the truck and was killed. Though he continued to service the truck and serve in the fire company he never drove to a fire again.
Business continued to grow and by 1920, the garage occupied three lots
on Market Street with a warehouse at the N.W. corner of Pine and Tehama.
Through various business and residence improvements, Wrights eventually
owned the present site or the Stardust Motel (which the family sold) and
the three lots on Market Street and four lots on Pine Street now leased
Thunderbird Motel. Jim invested his profits in the stock market and sold before the 1929 crash so he was wealthy. He decided to retire and play golf with Laura. He sold his garage to John Nielsen.
Jim retired from business, but he increased his public duties; already serving on the Shasta Union High School Board of Trustees, he was elected to the Redding City Council. He was president of the Redding Golf and Country Club and an active member of the Elks and Masons. In the midst of this very active life he developed stomach trouble and in spite of the specialist in Sacramento, he died of cancer July 1, 1933.
Laura would continue to live in the family home with her children near by; though Jim had only known his namesake James Williams, Laura knew all nine of their grandchildren. For many years she fed the large family on holidays, golfed, hunted and supported the Redding Browns during the few years that Redding had professional baseball.
Though she had supported the Presbyterian Church while her children were growing up, Laura reaffirmed her faith in the Mormon Church before her death November 26, 1953.
Source: Shasta Historical Society