Bio: Wright, Henry W. (Commemorative Bio - 1895)

Poster: Crystal Wendt


Hon. Henry W. Wright

Hon. Henry W. Wright. Under different circumstances and in many varieties of human character we find exhibited in biography something to instruct us in our duty, something to encourage our efforts under every emergency, and perhaps there is no combination of events which produces this effect more certainly than the steps by which distinction and positions of honor have been acquired through the unaided efforts of youthful enterprise, as illustrated in the life of Henry W. Wright.

A native of Wisconsin, he first saw the light at Racine, March 10, 1846, and is a son of Thomas W. Wright, who was born in the city of Manchester, England, a son of James Wright, also of English birth, who was married in the Mother Country, some years later emigrating to the New World, and settling on a farm in Michigan where he died. The son Thomas W., however, had come to this continent prior to this, making his first American home in Syracuse, N. Y., where he married Miss Angeline Knowles, a native of New York State, by whom he had a family of eight children: Thomas, James (I), Lydia, Mary, Henry W., James (II), Charles and Belle, all born in Wisconsin except Thomas and James (I). In an early day Thomas W. Wright and his wife came to Wisconsin, at first making their home at Geneva, afterward removing to Racine. By trade he was a carpenter, and was engaged in the manufacture of wagons. In 1854, he went to California, and died there; his wife was called from earthy May 6, 1882, while residing in Racine.

The subject proper of this writing received his education at the common and high schools of Racine, Wis., but at the age of seventeen he laid aside his books for the rifle, enlisting, in 1862, in Company K., Seventh Missouri Cavalry, in which he saw active service two and one half years, when he was appointed second lieutenant of Company H., First Missouri Cavalry, having previously been promoted, while in the Seventh, to sergeant and sergeant-major, respectively. While scouting he was captured by the enemy, but succeeded in making his escape twelve hours afterward. He participated in the battles of Memphis (Mo.), Prairie Grove (Ark.), Springfield (Mo.), Cassville (Mo.), and Helena, Little Rock, Pine Bluff, and Saline River, or Jenkins Ferry (Ark.).  He was mustered out of the service in June, 1865, with an excellent war record, and returned to Racine, Wis., where for a year he was employed on the railroad, afterward keeping books for several prominent commercial firms.

In 1871, Mr. Wright commenced business for himself in Racine, in the manufacture of sash, doors and blinks, and enterprise he successfully conducted until September, 1881, when he sold out and, in company with ex-Congressman Myron H. McCord, commenced business in Merrill, Lincoln County, and laid the foundation for the present vast plant of the H. W. Wright Lumber Co., of which our subject is the chief moving spirit---“the head and front.” The firm have the most extensive plant of the kind in the Upper Wisconsin Valley, consisting of sawmills, sash, door and blind factory, etc., which, combined, give employment to an average of 300 men, at times as many as 640 names being on the payroll. The buildings, which in every respect are first class, are equipped with all modern improvements, and are lighted throughout with electricity. With all his employees Mr. Wright is on the most friendly terms, and if there are many wrongs to be righted or favors granted, he is appealed to individually.

On November 1, 1871, Mr. Wright was united in marriage with Miss Carrie Buchan, who was born in Dover, Racine Co., Wis., daughter of Edward and Jane (Tillie) Buchan, who were the parents of eight children, named respectively: Andrew, Oliver, Mary, Edwin, Alfred, Samuel, Carrie and Thomas, all born in America. The parents were both natives of Scotland, whence, about the year 1840 they came to the United States, and here Mr. Buchan for a time followed his trade, that of miller, but his health failing him, he settle don a farm near Dover, Racine Co., Wis., whereon he passed the rest of his days. He died in 18--; his widow is yet living, now at the advanced age of eight-three years. To Mr. and Mrs. Wright have been born three children: James A., manger of his father’s lumber yard; Alfred H., in his father’s office, and Nettie E., attending school at Kemper Hall, Kenosha, Wis. Mrs. Wright is a member of the Presbyterian Church.

In politics Mr. Wright is an uncompromising Republican, and, as a local paper has said of him, “while he has never sought an office of honor or emoluments in his life, yet he has filled responsibilities of trust, and helped to shape the policy of the Republican Party in Wisconsin.” While a resident of Racine he served as postmaster for nearly six years, having been appointed to that position by President Hayes; he was also alderman and supervisor of that city. Since coming to Merrill he has served as alderman of the Fifth Ward, and filled the mayor’s chair one year, during which administration is was demonstrated that the management of the city affairs could not be improved upon. At present Mr. Wright takes no more interest in politics than any good citizen ought, being too closely engaged in business to devote more than a little time to political affairs. While a resident of Racine he was secretary of the building Committee of that city. In Merrill he is a stockholder in the first National Back; is a member of the Lumberman’s Association of the Wisconsin Valley, and the F. & A. M., in high standing. Mr. Wright is a man of commanding presence, possessed of great force of character, and “when he undertakes to do anything the work is almost done before it is begun. Such men are generally stern men, not easily swayed from any given path, and this can be said of the subject of this sketch. Yet he has a heart as tender as woman, and no man, women or child ever went to good, big-hearted Henry W. Wright with a tale of woe without coming away helped and encouraged.”

---Source: Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Wisconsin Counties of Waupaca, Portage, Wood, Marathon, Lincoln, Oneida, Vilas, Langlade and Shawano. publ. 1895 by J. H. Beers & Co., Chicago 1110 pages, illustrated; Page 78-79


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