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Parry, Edwin Francis - Autobiography

Edwin Francis Parry, Composer and Musician

I, Edwin Francis Parry was born in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, on June 11, 1860, to John and Harriet Parry, both of North Wales. I was born in the Sixteenth Ward of the Salt Lake Stake of Zion, and lived there most of my life.

My father, John Parry was born February 10, 1789, in Newmarket, North Wales. At the age of 19 he married Mary Williams and they had four sons and three daughters, as follows - - Bernard, Elizabeth, Mary, Sarah, John, William, and Caleb. Upon the first opportunity after hearing the gospel as preached by the elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, John and Mary with part of their family were baptized on September 13, 1846. Previously, John had been a Baptist and a Campbellite preacher, respectively. The remainder of the family joined the church shortly after.

February 25, 1849, John and Mary and their son Caleb left Wales and emigrated to Utah. Their sons John and William and daughter Mary followed a few years later. John, Mary and Caleb boarded the ship "Buena Vista" in Liverpool. They were among the 249 Welsh people who were the first company of L.D.S. emigrants from Wales. Dan Jones was Captain of the ship. They came by way of New Orleans and while on the Missouri River, traveling by steamer to Council Bluffs, John's wife, Mary died and was buried at Council Bluffs, Iowa. John and Caleb crossed the plains in the George A. Smith Company arriving in Salt Lake Valley October 27, 1849. Their wagons were heavily laden, and rain, hail and snow storms were encountered on the way.  Their cattle stampeded, and 70 animals perished in a snow storm.


They settled in the Sixteenth Ward.  John Parry was a mason by trade and he worked on the Salt Lake Temple, the old Tabernacle, and public buildings in the city. He was also a professional musician and was leader of the church choir in Salt Lake City when meetings were held in the “Old Bowery”, which stood on or near the site of the Large Tabernacle, and also in the “Old Tabernacle” where now stands the Assembly Hall.  This was the beginning of the Tabernacle Choir.


April 2, 1854, John Parry married Harriett Parry, daughter of William Parry and Ellen Foukes. Harriett was born October 18, 1822, near St. Asaph, North Wales. She was a nurse, and having worked with a number of eminent doctors in England and Wales, had a good knowledge of medicine and nursing.


John and Harriett were blessed with five children, as follows - - Joseph Hyrum and Bernard Llewellyn (twins), Louisa Ellen, Edwin Francis and Henry Edward.  They all lived to a ripe old age, except Bernard, who died in infancy.


On January 13, 1868, my father died at the age of 79, leaving my mother to take care of her four children, the oldest being only twelve years old.  The sustenance of the family, therefore, depended upon my mother, who cultivated the one-and-a-quarter acre lot where the family resided.  The lot and the two room house on it were the sole possessions of the family; yet for several years we derived our living entirely from the produce of that small piece of land.

I was baptized October 1, 1868, by Elder John Cottam, and confirmed into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the same day by Elder William Walker.

Shortly after my father's death, I was sent to school for the first time. My first teacher was a Mrs. Reed who taught a private school in her own home. Well do I remember the many happy days spent in school. I did not realize at that time, that the school was a poor one. My teacher, a kind and indulgent older lady, was not in the habit of punishing her pupils. Attending school was, therefore, to me a continuous holiday. The house in which the school was held was situated on the edge of a lake. When out of school we were in the habit of fishing along the shore of the lake, or taking a cruise in an improvised raft. When school was called we set our lines near the house where we could watch them through the open door, and more of our time was spent in watching our fish poles than in studying our lessons. One day while watching his fishing pole as it bobbed up and down, my younger brother, forgetting he was in school, shouted out "Oh, I've got a bite!" and sprang toward the door to land the fish. The disturbance made by his exclamation brought him to a sense of his situation and he dropped suddenly into his seat. The boys would often present the teacher with some of the fish they caught, and she placed them in a large dish of water in the center of the room. Sometimes the finny creatures would flop out of the dish and several children would eagerly spring forward to replace the unruly fishes. This, of course, added to the merriment of the class. I did not remain at this school very long. My mother found that her boys frequently came home with wet clothing, the result of some adventure on the lake; and she found their progress in school was not very satisfactory. My younger brother had learned the alphabet before entering the school but had forgotten it after attending school for about two months.

I had been taught to read, write and cipher by my father. My father took a great deal of pains in teaching my brothers and sister and myself to read and write, etc., and also in encouraging us to live good and pure lives. The training I received from my father when so young I consider has done me much good. The systematic manner which he pursued in endeavoring to give his children an education I shall ever remember with feelings of gratitude. All he taught me in regards to the things of God and the duties of daily life has been of lasting benefit to me. I was required to spend a number of hours in study and a few hours at manual labor and then I was allowed to play the remainder of the day. Often while amusing myself around the house, he would call me to him and entertain me with scriptural narratives, or would question me on religious matters he had previously taught me. The discipline I then received enabled me to form habits of industry, and create within me a love for home and a desire for knowledge. My mother also taught me the necessity of keeping the commandments of God, of attending meetings and religious duties, of obeying her, and being kind to my brothers and sisters. The best habits of my life are the result of the training and example of my mother, whose watchcare was continually over me as well as over my brothers and sister.

I attended several common schools for short periods, and in January, 1870, I entered Morgan's Commercial College, then one of the leading educational institutions of the Territory, and acknowledged the best commercial school west of Chicago. Here I pursued the common branches as well as book-keeping and penmanship. I attended Morgan's College a little over three years, exclusive of the summer months.

In September, 1874, my older brother, Joseph, before leaving for Great Britian (sic) on a mission, procured a position for me in the Juvenile Instructor Office. Here I learned the printing business and made $3.00 per week. On October 12, 1874, I received my endowments, and was ordained an Elder by Elder Elias Smith. This was in the old Endowment House, which stood on the Northwest corner of the Temple block in Salt Lake City. In the fall of 1875 the YMMIA was organized throughout the Territory. In the 16th Ward I was called to be secretary three different times, and later was made counselor for two years then president for one year. I was also appointed secretary of the Sunday School and the Elder's quorum and organist for the MIA and Sunday School. From January 1872 to December 1886 I had only been absent from Sunday School three times, and attended other meetings about as regularly. I studied shorthand for a year on my own, and learned to write 120 words per minute. I didn't continue with shorthand, but rapidly advanced in the printing trade.

In 1877 I was required to set music type. In order to be an expert at this, a knowledge of the rudiments of music was necessary. I also took a few lessons on the organ and afterwards continued without a tutor. The study of music became quite fascinating to me and I took considerable delight in it. I also made myself familiar with the science of musical harmony, counterpoint, and advance musical composition in general. I purchased works treating upon the subjects and studied during spare moments. I was very anxious to store my mind with useful knowledge, although I had little time to devote to study. I labored nine hours each day in the printing office and often worked extra hours during the first three or four years, sometimes working all night. In the summer I found time to help cultivate the garden and attend to other chores at home. I joined the ward choir and also a musical organization called "Zion's Musical Society."

I purchased a house from my brother, Joseph, for 650 dollars, when he moved to Manassa, Colorado. In January, 1181, I purchased a piano and devoted what time I could to practicing. I had previously taken a few lessons on the organ and learned to play well enough for church meetings. In the fall of 1881 I and a number of young men of the 16th Ward, organized a brass band consisting of 24 members, over which I was chosen president. We purchased instruments at our own expense at a cost of over $650, and employed a teacher to instruct us. We played at dances and other entertainments for the ward. We enjoyed this very much.

On December 22, 1881, I was married to Margaret Smith, the daughter of the late President George A. Smith of the First Presidency, and his wife Susan E. Smith. Six children were born to us. Four of them died in infancy, which was very heartbreaking. Two sons lived to maturity, namely Edwin Francis Parry, Jr., and George Albert Parry. They, with their families, were very active in the church. For more than twelve years I continued to work at the "Juvenile Instructor" Office. During that time I had worked at all branches of the printing trade as well as bookkeeping, reading proof and contributing to the magazine prose, poetry and music.

In 1887 I left the Juvenile Instructor Office to work with my brother Joseph, who organized a printing and publishing company. Joseph had also started a magazine entitled "Parry's Monthly Magazine". About a year later I was selected as manager of the business and editor of the magazine. It was a hard struggle to make a financial success of the magazine, although it was highly esteemed for its literary merits. The second year I had it under my control, I succeeded in making it pay it's own way. In May, 1890, I resigned and went to work again at the Office of the Juvenile Instructor.

In March of 1890, I moved with my family to the 17th Ward area, where for five years we boarded with my wife's mother, as my wife's health was so poor she was unable to attend to keeping house.

In October, 1890, I joined the Tabernacle Choir at the solicitation of the leader Evan Stephens. With the choir I attended the dedication services of the Salt Lake Temple on the first day, April 6, 1893. August of this same year I went with the 250 members of the Tabernacle Choir t the World's Fair held in Chicago. We gave concerts on the way at Denver, Kansas City, and St. Louis. We also visited Independence, Jackson County, Missouri. Here we sang on the "Temple Square" and held a meeting in the "Josephite" Chapel near the temple grounds.

At the World's Fair the Choir sang before an audience of 8,000 people in the competition and the Salt Lake Choir was awarded the second prize of 1,000 dollars. Many people thought they deserved the first prize. I was among the sixty male members of the choir who competed with other male choruses, and we received third place honors. A full week was spent in Chicago viewing the sights at the great fair. The choir gave a concert at a concert hall in the city and one at Omaha on the return trip. We arrived home September 13, 1893.

October 3, 4 and 5, 1895, the Welsh people of Salt Lake city held a grand "Eisteddfod" or musical festival, a custom in vogue among the Welsh people. I was one of the executive committee for this affair and took part in the musical exercises. It was said that this was the greatest "Eisteddfod" ever held in America. The attendance during the four sessions reached nearly 30,000 people.

February 15, 1896, I was called by President Wilford Woodruff, to fill a mission to Great Britain. March 7, 1896, I was ordained a seventy by Edward Stevenson who was ordained by President Joseph Young, who was ordained by the Prophet Joseph Smith. I was set apart for this mission March 27, 1896, by Apostle George Teasdale. On the evening of the next day I left home for Great Britain.

Arriving in my field of labor in Liverpool, I was assigned to the office of the "Millenial Star", as assistant editor, Apostle Anthon H. Lund, the president of the European Mission, being editor. On the arrival of Elder Rulon S. Wells, the successor to President Lund, I was set apart as second counselor to Elder Wells, Elder Joseph W. McMurrin being first counselor. I was away from home twenty-seven months while fulfilling this mission. It was a very busy period of my life, and I enjoyed it exceedingly well. I, as well as my family, was greatly blessed and prospered during this time. I kept a daily journal of my travels and labors. I returned home July 1, 1898.

July 18, 1898, I began work again for George Q. Cannon & Sons Co., publishers of the Juvenile Instructor, at 24 East South Temple St., Salt Lake City. July 29, I was called as a Sunday School missionary in the Salt Lake Stake of Zion. In November, 1898, I was appointed as first counselor to the President of the M.I.A. of the 16th Ward. On August 13, 1899, I was chosen as second counselor to Bishop George R. Emery of the 16th Ward and I was ordained to the office of a High Priest by Joseph E. Taylor.

November 13, 1899, I began work on a book entitled "Jubilee History of the Latter-day Saints Sunday Schools', which the Desert Sunday School Union employed me to write. The book was completed in November of 1900. In November of 1899 I published a little work of my own writing, entitled "Sketches of Missionary Life." Thousands have been sold. I have written and compiled a number of other small books, namely "Simple Bible Stories", "Book of Mormon Stories", "City of Saints", "Dialogues and Recitations", "Moral Stories", "Lives of our Leaders", and arranged the music for "Songs an Hymns for the Young".

In the mission field I wrote the following tracts: "Saved by Grace", "The Beginning of the Gospel of Christ", "Marks of the Church of Christ", "Christ's Second Coming", and "A Prophet of Latter-days". These tracts were translated into several European languages and many thousands of copies were distributed. They were also printed in "Scrap Books of Mormon Literature". Later I compiled and published two pocket sized books especially for missionaries, entitled "Joseph Smith's Teachings" and "Stories About Joseph Smith."

On April 4, 1901, my mother died after a short illness. Speakers at her funeral services included President Joseph F. Smith and Apostle John Henry Smith, who spoke very highly of her.

My son, Edwin F. Parry, Jr., went on a mission to the Eastern States on January 8, 1902, serving over two years. May 15, 1904, I was called as Bishop of the 16th Ward of the Salt Lake Stake. I held this position until October 1, 1922.

September 16, 1907, my son George went on a mission to Great Britain. He labored in the Liverpool conference and returned home on the 25th of October 1909.

On June 18, 1913, my wife died. For many years she had suffered from epilepsy. She was in her 51st year. She was loved and admired by all who knew her. Service was held at the ward meetinghouse. Two of the speakers were President Joseph F. Smith and Elias A. Smith.

On September 2, 1914, I married Ethel K. Turnbaugh, daughter of John B. and Emma Kirkman Turnbaugh, of the 16th Ward. Ethel worked at Keith O'Brien's as a seamstress for several years before our marriage. She and her mother were members of the 16th Ward Camp of the "Daughters of the Utah Pioneers", for many years.

October 16, 1916, my wife gave birth to a girl. We named her Emma Louisa Parry.

November 25, 1918, my oldest son Edwin died from the effects of influenza. The funeral service was held at the grave, as large gatherings were discouraged in public buildings during the terrible flu epidemic of 1918.

December 25, 1918, a son was born to us who we named Ralph Turnbaugh Parry.

Note: This next section appears to have been written by one of Edwin Parry's children

(My father Edwin F. Parry was always a loving and kind father and husband. All his family loved and revered him. He spent many happy hours with his young children romping and playing games at home. As we grew a little older, my brother Ralph and I took long walks through the meadows or hikes up City Creek Canyon with our father and mother. We also enjoyed taking long rides on the old street cars. At the dinner table Father had many stories to tell of interesting things, from religious and scientific subjects to humorous stories. These are all happy memories. Father worked at the Deseret News for many years as a proof reader for Church magazines, and as a type setter. For some time he was the only person who could set type for music in this area. My father had acquired the habit of retaining what he read and as a result, he had a knowledge of many different subjects. Some of his friends referred to him as a walking encyclopedia.

Father was well known in Salt Lake City. He wrote and published the "Bishops Messages" which were distributed throughout the city by the "home teachers" or "block teacher" as they were known at the time. He was always even tempered and many people came to him for his much valued advice. He was very generous and always willing to help people in need. During the depression Father retained his job and so he tried to make work for others. His grandson Vern returned home from a mission in Norway and needed work. Vern's father, George Parry, was in the furnace business so my father hired Vern to dig our basement larger, and than had George install a furnace. Soon after the furnace and the work was paid for, the banks closed and what little money was left in the bank was lost. He also helped

many other people by hiring them to do painting and repairs in our home and helped them to find other work whenever possible.

As Bishop of the 16th Ward my father has many opportunities to help the sick and the needy, which he did with empathy and consideration. As a result he was loved and appreciated by the recipients. He tied to visit every family in his ward at least once a year. This entailed a good deal of walking as he never owned a car and the ward extended from 2nd West to 9th West and from South Temple to 2nd North, at that time.

When he was released as Bishop, he was called to be a member of the High Council of the Salt Lake Stake, which position he held at the time of his death on September 18, 1935. Family, friends and co-workers felt a great loss at his passing. Father was closely associated with George D. Pyper, superintendent of the Deseret Sunday School union, while working on various church magazines. Brother Pyper spoke highly of Father's remarkable knowledge of the gospel. "Brother Parry was not only an accurate proof reader for technical errors," he said, "but was often a shrewd critic of statements of fact, having more than once uncovered errors of such kind."

Over the years Edwin F. Parry has composed the music to many hymns and has written the words and music to a number of hymns and other songs. He has also written several Anthems for choirs.

Listed are some of his best known hymns:

"Hail to the Brightness of Zion's Glad Morning"

"Beautiful Words of Love"

"A Stranger Star O'er Bethlehem"

"I Do Remember Thee"

"Oh, How Blest Will Be That Day"

"To Thee Our Heavenly Father"

"Let the Holy Spirit Guide"

"When Shall We Meet Thee"



Parry, John

Parry, Harriet

Parry, Edwin Francis

Smith, Margaret West

Turnbaugh, Ethel Kirkman


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