Mary Wright: A Wild Ride of a Life

This article first appeared in the Broomfield Enterprise, March 16, 2008.

The original Broomfielders were a rugged lot, and one of the most durable was a pioneering lass named Mary Meikle Wright, whose wild ride of a life began in Scotland and ended on the west coast of the United States.

Mary Meikle’s family back in Scotland were in the cheese and dairy business and at the age of 15, Mary won first prize in a cheese-making contest. She met and married Robert Wright in Scotland and they immigrated to the States in 1883 with three young children. A fourth daughter was born in Ohio before they moved to Lafayette. Mary somehow ran a boardinghouse and cared for the four children while Robert labored in a Lafayette coal mine.

Making cheese the old way

According to Silvia Pettem’s “Broomfield: Changes Through Time,” the Wrights then moved to Broomfield, where Mary became the first citizen to purchase a small chunk of the vast Zang holdings in 1892. There, she and Robert started a cheese and dairy business, where they produced cream cheese, buttermilk, and butter.

The year 1895 was a rough one for Mary. On June 12, she was driving a wagon when her team went into a washout at a bridge. According to the Boulder Daily Camera, “Mrs. Mary Wright, proprietess of the Henderson and Broomfield cheese factories, while driving today from Henderson, was seriously and possibly fatally injured by being run over with a loaded wagon.” (June 13, 1895).

Despite the dire prediction, the run-amuck wagon did not kill the indefatigable Mary. However, only three months later the Camera announced another bad break: “The butter and cheese factory at Zang’s Spur, operated by Mr. Wright, was destroyed by fire this morning…[t]he loss was total.” (Boulder Daily Camera, Sept 27, 1895).

This second tragedy within such a short period of time did not keep Mary down. In January of 1896, the Camera noted: “Mrs. Robert Wright, proprietess of the Broomfield creamery, was in town today. Mrs. Wright is rebuilding, their creamery having burned last fall. It was a successful enterprise.”

In 1899, a third calamity struck the Wrights when their 18-year-old daughter, Mary, died suddenly.

Despite these setbacks, Mary was a survivor and a woman of considerable energy. She was, for a time, a “committeeman” for the Populist political party. The short-lived Populists had considerable support among western farmers, who were generally among the first to suffer from the nation’s unstable economy during those years.

In 1902, Mary Wright gained the distinction of becoming the state’s first female Dairy Commissioner when she was appointed by Governor-elect James Peabody.

In 1905, the cheese factory declared bankruptcy and Mary and Robert later divorced. She married Walter Baker in 1911 and they soon moved to Long Beach, California. Robert Wright also remarried but committed suicide in 1915 in Lafayette. After a rough-and-tumble but impressive run at life, Mary died in 1921 at the age of 66.

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6 thoughts on “Mary Wright: A Wild Ride of a Life

  1. this is my great grandmother. it is amazing that this foreign born female was capable of becoming the first dairy commission in the state of colorado prior to her being able to vote. she was also an origiinal member of the broomfield grange. her life story can best be appreciated at the railroad depot in old broomfield.

  2. yes, i am. i liked your article. hopefully i will be able to get back to the denver area to do some more research, even though my main interest is the husband of mary’s daughtger (ella). obviously, he is my grandfather. do you happen to know how peggy at the depot is doing?

    • Yes, she is fine. We finally met last summer. They had a big party because they moved Shep the dog’s grave over to the depot museum (a lot of highway construction going on where he was buried before). It was very busy and quite fun.

  3. i remember the story of shep. the details are quite fuzzy. do you have any idea how many other women were paid political leaders while mary wright was dairy commisioner. i saw a photo of populist political party and there is not a woman amongst them. i have some of her reports. she was a very good writer.

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