William Johnson Wright

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WILLIAM JOHNSON WRIGHT, late of Kittanning, Armstrong county, was an old and honored resident of that borough, where he had been engaged in the general mercantile business for some years. He was born Jan. 12, 1832, in Metal township, Franklin Co., Pa., on his father's farm near the old Carrick Furnace.

Isaac Wright, his father, was born in 1807, in the County of Kent, England, and came to America with his father, William Wright, in 1828, first locating near Fort Loudon, in Franklin county, Pa. Three of his brothers had preceded him to this country, viz: Jonathan, who came first, was a wagonmaker, and settled in Fort Loudon, Franklin county; he was twice married and left several children. Dr. Joseph K., another brother, came after Jonathan, studied medicine at Shippensburg, Pa., and for a time traveled over the country, selling notions, but eventually, about 1836, settled in Kittanning, where he practiced medicine and had a drug store, being the second druggist at that place; later he also had a general store; he had two children. Benjamin F., the third brother, settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, and left a family; he was a carriage maker by occupation. Mary, sister of Isaac Wright, married Thomas Johnson, a farmer in Metal township, Franklin Co., Pa., and had a large family. Benjamin Wright, uncle of Isaac Wright, also preceded him to this country, and settled in Bath county, Va., living to be 105 years old. He had many descendants in that place.

After living near Fort Loudon for a while Isaac Wright purchased a farm at Carrick Furnace. Soon afterward he married Mary Ann Mackey, daughter of William Mackey, a native of the North of Ireland. Mr. Mackey subsequently moved west to Ohio, settling in or near Bucyrus, where he died at the age of seventy-five years. He was married twice. Mrs. Wright died in 1845, when only about thirty-five years old, a member of the United Brethren Church. She was the mother of five children: Sarah, who married Wilson Burgstresser, a gristmiller; William Johnson; Jonathan, who died unmarried (he was a member of the 19th United States Infantry, regular army, during the Civil war, was wounded at the battle of Shiloh, and died of his injuries in a hospital at Washington, D.C.); James R., a farmer of Kittanning township, Armstrong county, who married Elizabeth Baker; and Joseph M., who never married (he had served during the Civil war as a member of Company C, 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, under Captain Skiles and Colonel Rosecrans, the late President McKinley also serving in that command). Isaac Wright, father of this family, died in 1882, in Metal township, Franklin county.

William Johnson Wright received his education at Kittanning, where he attended common school and tended store for his uncle, Dr. Joseph K. Wright, who then had a general mercantile business. He well remembers the famous snowstorm of September, 1843, when there were six inches of snow on the ground. Remaining with his uncle until he was nineteen, he started for California in 1851, going by water to the Isthmus of Panama, over the present canal route to Panama City, and thence again by water to San Francisco, where he bought goods for a man who had several stores in the mining regions. At that time D. O. Mills had a small bank on J street, and Mr. Wright sold him gold dust for coin; he also did business on K street with C. P. Huntington, who then had a little hardware store. In 1855 he returned home and opened a general store at the corner of Jefferson and Mulberry streets which he conducted until 1859, that year moving to the country, going to live on the farm of his father-in-law two miles east of Kittanning, where he remained for fourteen months. Coming back to Kittanning, he again clerked in the store of his uncle, Dr. Joseph K. Wright, until Sept. 12, 1862, the date of his enlistment in Company I, 78th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, under Col. William Sirwell. He saw active service in all the battles and skirmishes of his command, including Stone River, Tullahoma, Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge. He was discharged in June, 1865, at Nashville, Tenn., and returned home June 26th, with the record of a brave man. Until the following October he clerked in the McIlwain store, after which he was ill until May 1866, and when able to take up work again he entered the planing mill of Heiner Brothers. Later he became an employee in the planing mill of Cook, Henry & Steel, who had extensive interests in that line, and afterward worked in the office of Cook & Henry. His next change was to Samuel Brown's insurance office, where he was at first bookkeeper and later head man. In 1880 he engaged in the iron ore business at Kittanning, continuing there until 1885, when he moved to Riverview, this county, and took charge of the Riverview Coal Mining Company's store. Afterward he went into the office, taking charge, and remaining there until 1898. That year he opened a store at Kittanning, moving into a building (his late residence), which he had erected in 1877. He carried on this store until his death, which occurred Jan. 13, 1913.

Mr. Wright belonged to the I.O.O.F. and G.A.R., being particularly well known in the latter organization; he held membership in Post No. 156, in which he filled all the offices, and was buried with military honors by his comrades, among whom he was universally beloved. For six years he served as one of he school directors of Kittanning borough, taking particular interest in the question of public education. A man whose mind was broadened by travel and observation, an excellent judge, and one whose own life commanded the respect of his fellow men, his opinions were sought and valued by those who knew him and he occupied an enviable position among the citizens of his community.

On Jan. 8, 1857, Mr. Wright was married to Charlotte Hannegan Nulton, daughter of John Funk and Margaret R. (Lemmon) Nulton, and granddaughter of Col. Daniel and Charlotte (Hannegan) Lemmon. Mr. Wright was a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, to which his widow also belongs. They had four children:

(1) John F. died when five years old.

(2) Joseph died when two years, nine months old.

(3) William J., a tinner, slater and furnace builder, now lives in Kansas City, Kans. He employs fourteen men. He married Lena Thorpe and they have one son, George T., now (1913) twenty-five years old.

(4) George S., a tinner and plumber of Kittanning, Pa., died Aug. 2, 1910. He married Ina Z. Steltzer, daughter of Jonathan and Ellen (Kester) Steltzer, both of Clarion county, Pa., and they had three children, Walter W., Margaret C. and Sarah Frances.

Source: Pages 548-549, 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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