James R. Wright

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JAMES R. WRIGHT (deceased) was a resident of Armstrong county for over half a century, and for many years he was one of the active men in public life, holding various offices in his home township and for seven years serving as county auditor. He was born May 17, 1836, in Franklin county, Pa., where his father, Isaac Wright, settled many years ago.

William Wright, grandfather of James R. Wright, lived in the County of Kent, England, until he came to America in 1841. He settled in Franklin county, Pa., making his home there for the rest of his life. By occupation he was a farmer. He married and they had a family of five children: Jonathan, who was a wagonmaker by trade, came to the United States, settling in Franklin county, Pa., where he died; Joseph K., M. D. (known as "Dr. J. K."), also learned wagonmaking, but later studied medicine and obtained his degree, engaging in practice the remainder of his life (he came to America about 1820, located at Kittanning, Armstrong county, Pa., and died there; he became a well-known and leading citizen of his locality; he also owned a farm); Isaac is mentioned below; Benjamin, who was like his brothers a wagonmaker by trade, lived in Oxford, Ohio; Mary married Thomas Johnson, of Franklin county, Pennsylvania.

Isaac Wright, father of James R. Wright, was born in 1805 in the County of Kent, England, and there received his education in the common schools. He was a man of unusual intelligence, a deep thinker, and read more than the average. Like his brothers he learned the trade of wagonmaker, but after coming to America, in 1826, he was principally engaged in farming, having a farm in Franklin county, Pa., eight miles from Loudon, which he improved greatly during the many years he resided there. He died at that place in 1879. Mr. Wright was a Democrat in politics.

His first wife, Mary Ann (Mackey) , of Franklin county, daughter of William Mackey, of that county, died in 1874, at the age of thirty-five years. She was a member of the U. B. Church. For his second wife Mr. Wright married Jane Harris, of Franklin county. There were five children by the first union: Sarah, born in 1830, is the widow of William Bergstrener, of Fulton county, Pa.; William, born in 1832, lives in Kittanning, Pa.; Jonathan, born in 1834, lived in Washington, D. C., and died in May, 1910 (he was in Company B, 19th Kentucky Regiment, during the Civil war, and was wounded at Shiloh); James R. is mentioned below; Joseph, born in 1840, was reared by his uncle, Dr. Joseph K. Wright, entered the service during the Civil war, as a member of the 23rd Ohio Regiment, and was killed at the battle of South Mountain, where he is buried. By his second marriage Isaac Wright had children: Henry, Benjamin, Isaac, and several that died young.

James R. Wright is practically a self-taught man, as he went to school for only nine months during his boyhood, and he had few advantages at the beginning of his life, but by hard work and application he had made up for many things he lacked then, and his success is all the more notable. Leaving his native county in 1857 he went west to Knox county, Ill., where he worked out for a while, and he was there during the exciting days preceding the breaking out of the Civil war, listening to Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln make their famous joint speeches, in 1857, at Springfield, Galesburg and Quincy, Ill. He remained a year in Knox county, Ill., in 1858 returning to Pennsylvania, joining his uncle, Dr. J. K. Wright, at Kittanning. The latter owned the land in Kittanning township upon which Mr. Wright lived until his death, and he settled there at once, though it was then all wild and heavily timbered. It is ten miles southeast of the borough of Kittanning, on Cherry run, and he continued to make his home on the place ever after, engaging successfully in general farming. He made numerous improvements on the property, which is now valuable. In 1887, through his influence, the postoffice of Pyrra was established there, and Mr. Wright served as postmaster two years. The office had been filled by some member of the family ever since. Mr. Wright held various township offices, among them that of overseer of the poor, and was honored with election to the position of county auditor, which he held continuously for a period of seven years, giving the highest satisfaction. He became very well acquainted all over the county in his different official connections, and was well informed on local conditions and matters of general interest. He was a most respected citizen, a member of the Lutheran Church, and well liked in every relation of life. In politics he was always a stanch Republican. His death occurred Dec.16, 1913.

In October, 1862, Mr. Wright enlisted for service in the Union army, becoming a member of Company B, 168th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, was sent to Yorktown, and was with the Army of the Potomac, taking part in several raids and skirmishes during the nine months of his service He was discharged July 26, 1863.

On March 22, 1860, Mr. Wright married Elizabeth Baker, of Westmoreland county, Pa., daughter of David and Susanna (Bowman) Baker, farming people of that county, who were of German stock. Peter Baker, her grandfather, was of German extraction, and his wife Priscilla (Coiley), was of Irish stock. They came to Armstrong county, Pa., and settled in Kittanning township in 1845, and all died there. David and Susanna Baker had children as follows: Priscilla is deceased; Mary J. is deceased; Frances is the widow of George W. Heffelfinger, a farmer, of Kittanning township, who died in 1910 (he served in the Civil War as a member of Company H, 51st Pennsylvania Regiment); John is living in Pittsburgh, Pa.; Elizabeth is the widow of James R. Wright; Nancy is the widow of Simon Beck and lives with her children; Amanda is deceased; Peter is deceased; Samuel is a resident of Apollo, Pa.; Sarah married Benjamin Baker of Manorville, Pa.; Susan married August Bouch, of Ford City, Pennsylvania.

Mr. and Mrs. Wright had the following children: Sarah Jane married Edward Boarts, a farmer of Kittanning township; Charles, who married Susan Schall, is a carpenter and blacksmith of Pittsburgh, Pa.; Joseph, a carpenter and farmer, living near Houston, Texas, married Lavinia Reefer; Benjamin F., who married Mary Ferguson, became postmaster at Pyrra at the age of twenty-one and held that office for many years, remaining with his father until he went to Colorado, where he died in 1906; William W., twin of Benjamin F., married Mary Foster, and is a merchant and postmaster at Pyrra, Pa.; Henry, who married Mollie Schall, is engaged in sawmilling, carpenter work, blacksmithing and farming in Kittanning township; Barkley O., who is employed in the glass works at Ford City, married Emma Kunkle; James, who married Harriet Heald, is with his father, following farming and mill work; Ella is in Los Angeles, Cal.; Clara is the wife of Charles Pitt, of Little Washington, Pa.; Dora married Charles Dickey, and lives at Vandergrift Heights, Pennsylvania.

Source: Pages 541-542, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed September 2001 by Nancy Cain Knepper for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)

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