Jonathan Wright

The signature of Jonathan Wright from an 1820 letter.

The signature of Jonathan Wright from an 1820 letter.

Jonathan Wright, son of John and Elizabeth Wright, was born probably in Castleshane, Ireland, where it is known his sister Rachel was born.  He was brought to America as a small child by his parents and grew up near Menallen Meeting, York County, Pennsylvania.  On May 16, 1770, he married Susanna Griffith also of Menallen.

In 1771 the minutes of Warrington Monthly Meeting record that Jonathan and his wife request a certificate to Fairfax M.M., Virginia.  From there they went to Pipe Creek, Maryland, and there three children, Thomas, Rachel and Phebe, were probably born.  In 1777 the little family returned to York County, as recorded in the Warrington records and settled on a farm in the vicinity where they also ran a tanyard.  Here the remaining children were born.  In 1797, the entire family, now consisting of parents and nine children returned to Maryland and settled within the verge of Gunpowder M.M., just 14 miles outside of Baltimore.  Here they lived until 1805, the father running a small farm, grist mill, saw mill, oil mill, and limkiln.

In 1795, Jonathan Wright is mentioned in the proceedings of the Baltimore Committee of the Yearly Meeting on Indian Matters, as being a member of the first committee on Indian Affairs.  This is the first indication we have of the interest of this family in the Indians, and the date indicates that Jonathan attended Baltimore Yearly Meetings while living at Menallen.

In 1801, while her family lived at Gunpowder, the daughter, Elizabeth attended Westtown Boarding School.

When the westward migration of Quakers was at its height, the Wright family en masse removed to the Miami or Western Country.  This was in the year 1805, and the departure is graphically told by the daughter, Rebecca, who was twelve years old at the time:  “We left our former home on the 10th of the 12th month 1805, and proceeded to a wood, through which we had been accustomed to walk to meeting, where (it being about noon) we found baskets of provisions, brought by our neighbors and friends who had spread cloths on the grass and leaves, and laid out refreshments.  We sat down and partook of a parting meal.  It was to us a solemn passover of which we never partook again in mutability–many tears were shed and that spot was long rendered memorable.  We bade a long farewell to our dear friends, and proceeded 40 miles to Pipe Creek to the residence of our brother-in-law, Benjamin Farquahar.  We were here joined by his family, making in all 21 in number.”

The little band crossed the mountains safely, the mother, Susanna, riding all the way on a gentle pony, purchased especially for the journey.  The eldest son was left behind in Maryland, and was never seen again by his family, for he died in Mississippi while filling the government post of Agent to the Chickasaw Indians in 1808.  He had spent two years there, accepting the appointment in 1806.

After two months of travel, the Wrights reached Green County, Ohio, and there renting a cabin for the winter, set about selecting a spot for a home.  It was decided that they settle between the two Miamies, on Todds Fork, where there was water power for the grist and saw mill which later were erected.  The farm contained 300 acres of rich land, five of which were cleared of timber where a one room cabin had been built.  It was on this property that the first saw and flouring mill were built in Clinton, Ohio.  The property was near Center Meeting which the family attended.

After ten years, Jonathan and his wife moved with the unmarried children to Cincinnati, and after a few years traded the house and lot they owned on 4th Street for 160 acres in Fayette County, Indiana.  Here they established a meeting called Poplar Ridge, and here it was they passed their last days, Jonathan dying at 81, and Susanna at 78.  Both are buried in Poplar Ridge burial ground.

Rebecca writes of her father’s character:  “My father was a man of good understanding in things natural and religious.  His judgment was sound and discriminating; his deportment grave, affable, and hospitable — to those particularly who were drawn to visit us in gospel love, his heart and house were ever open and his sympathies enlisted to afford them all the aid in his power — He was for many years Elder in our Society, and peculiarly qualified for the exercise of its discipline.

In the government of his family there was a firmness and dignity that insured obedience, and his steady, upright walk was an example worthy of imitation.  He departed this life in his 81st year with a short but severe illness which he bore with great fortitude and resignation, not having been heard to utter a groan, or complaint of any kind.”

— — —

This short biography of my fifth great grandfather, Jonathan Wright (1748-1827), was among our family papers.  It was likely written by either my third great grandfather Edward Shaw or his granddaughter Cornelia.  

To see more about Westtown Boarding School (which was founded in 1799 and is still in operation) see www.westtown.edu

To read more about him, see my blog posts Hospitality and A Father’s Concern for His Daughter

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3 Responses to Jonathan Wright

  1. Hi Kevin — it’s great to see you back blogging again! (I just resumed as well.) I hope you and the family are doing well, and enjoying a beautiful summer. I see in the footnotes of this post that the biography came from one of two people — did they write every word in this post? Or did they write the account of his passing at the end, in quotes? I’m asking because it is so detailed! Take this line, “1771 the minutes of Warrington Monthly Meeting record,” when I saw that — I wondered how you were able to come by such a particular document. As always — an interesting and thorough account. Thanks for sharing!

    • ArborFam says:

      Thanks Melissa. I am blessed to have had ancestors who were interested in family history. They preserved and even compiled lots of detailed information about the family. All the words in this post were directly written by my ancestor (except for my note regarding that at the bottom). Because this part of my family is Quaker, there are lots of documents available. The Quakers were meticulous about recording information. There are Meeting Records preserved in various historical archives around the country that hold wonderful details about Quaker families, it’s just a matter of finding them. Thanks for reading!

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