A Memorial and Biographical Record of
Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1896
Unless otherwise noted, biographies submitted by Dick Barton.
WILLIAM R. WARREN submitted by Richard Kinkead
WILLIAM R. WARREN, Treasurer of Wapello County, Iowa, was born in Salisbury, England, September 21, 1843; and while he is of foreign birth he has spent nearly the whole of his life in the United States. He bravely fought for the preservation of the Union, and there is not to be found within its borders a citizen more loyal than he.
Mr. Warren is a member of a large and highly-respected family and the son of a Methodist minister. William and Maria (Young) Warren, his parents, were both born in England, and of the five sons and three daughters which composed their family all are living except one, and of them we make record as follows: William R. whose name graces this article; George J., a Methodist Episcopal minister; Thomas; Joshua who is engaged in the blacksmith and wagon-making business at Fayette, Missouri; Alfred P. Professor of Languages and Mathematics in Howard Payne College, Fayette, Missouri; Millicent, wife of William Piercen, Fayette, Missouri; Julia, wife of William Vickroy, New Cambria, Missouri; and Mattie deceased, was the wife of James Roberts, of Macon City, Missouri. It was in 1846 that the father left England and removed with his family to this country, locating first in Ray County, Missouri. Nearly all the rest of his life was, however, spent in Howard County, that State, but he died in Ray County while on a visit there in 1892, at the time of his death being a little past seventy-two years of age. He was in many respects a remarkable man and exerted a powerful influence for good. For over thirty years he was in the regular work of the ministry. On coming to this country he became a member of the Missouri Conference of Methodist Episcopal ministers, and of his class all have passed away except two. He and Mr. Dockery, father of the present Congressman from the Third Missouri District, were old comrades. Mrs. Maria Warren, the mother, survives and makes her home at Fayette, Missouri.
From a history of his worthy parents, we now turn for information relating to his grandsires; for the biography of no man is complete without reference to the ancestry from which he sprang. Thomas Warren, the paternal grandfather of William R., was born, passed his life and died in Salisbury, England, and at his death was past ninety years of age. His occupation was that of dairyman. He was a man of sterling integrity, a strict disciplinarian and a Wesleyan Methodist. His family comprised four sons. Of our subject's maternal grandfather, whose name was James Young, be it recorded that he, too, was born and died in England. He was by trade a flaxdresser. He was a devout Methodist and very strict in the management of his business and family affairs.
William R. Warren, whose name heads this review, was reared in Missouri. His boyhood days were spent in farm work and in attending school, his education being attained chiefly in the Macon high school. At the outbreak of the Civil war he was on the verge of young manhood, and we find him among the first to enlist as a Union soldier. That was in 1861, and as a member of company C, Sixth Indiana Volunteer Infantry, he went to the front. In the four years that followed he proved himself a true, brave soldier. He was wounded on three occasions, at Stone River, Hoover's Gap, and at Chickamauga. He was in the first battle of the war and saw the first Union soldier that had an amputation performed. Was at Shiloh, on the Corinth siege, at Perryville, Liberty Gap, Missionary Ridge, and on the Atlanta campaign until taken prisoner at New Hope, Georgia; and was in Andersonville from June 5 to September 29, 1864, and then taken to Charleston; and after that to the Florence stockade, and about the 5th of February left Florence for Libby prison. Altogether he was a prisoner for eleven months.
After the war, Mr. Warren returned to Macon County, Missouri, at Bevier, and clerked in a store for four years. Then, in January, 1870, he came to Iowa and located in Ottumwa, taking charge of a store here for the Union Coal Company, which place he filled five years. Next he went to Cleveland, Lucas County, for the White Breast Coal Company, in whose emply he remained as assistant manager for seven years. In 1882 he returned to Ottumwa and was with George Warden in the news business for three years, and continued alone in the same business up to 1889, when he went into the grocery trade, in which he was engaged for three years, selling out at the end of that time. In 1893 he was honored by election to the office of County Treasurer, which responsible position he is now ably filling.
Mr. Warren has a pleasant home at No. 717 West Second Street, Ottumwa. He was married December 22, 1871, to Miss Emma Waitt, daughter of John T. Waitt, and they have three children: Claude, Charles and Howard.
Mr. And Mrs. Warren are members of theMethodist Episcopal Church, and, fraternally, he is identified with the A.F. & A.M.,Ottumwa Lodge, No. 16; Clinton Chapter, N0. 9; and Malta Commandery, No. 31. Also he is a charter member of Cloutman Post, No. 69, G.A.R., Department of Iowa. His political views harmonize with the Republican party, of which he has long been a stanch supporter.
Thus, briefly, is outlined the life of one of Ottumwa's citizens who has been honored by the people of the county.
Thomas Watters, who is serving as City Auditor of Des Moines, and is the
senior member of the Watters-Talbott Printing Company, was born in Hamilton,
Ontario, on the 18th of June, 1855, and is of Scotch descent.
His paternal grandfather, Thomas Watters, was a native of Sterling, Scotland,
and followed the occupation of farming as a means of livelihood. He died at that
place about 1855, having reached an advanced age. He became a very wealthy man
and owned a large part of what is now called Kelsyth, formerly known as Watters
Land. He had a large family that became scattered over America, India and
Africa. The father of our subject, Alexander Watters, was a native of Scotland,
and in that country married Agnes McKeen, daughter of James McKeen, an
agriculturist, who was born in Scotland and died in Leith, Ontario, when about
one hundred years of age. He was a very pious man and strict Presbyterian. About
1850 Mr. and Mrs. Watters crossed the Atlantic to Canada, and the father engaged
in the dry-goods business in various places, carrying on operations in that line
in Hamilton, Guelph, Stratford and afterward in Owen Sound. He came to the
United States about 1869, and the following year was joined by his family. His
death occurred in Chicago, February 25, 1895. His wife, who was a member of the
Presbyterian Church, passed away at the age of sixty-four years.
Mr. Watters, whose name heads this biographical notice, has inherited the
sturdy independence and reliability of his Scottish ancestors and to-day Des
Moines numbers him among its leading and influential citizens. He attended
school at Owen Sound, and after the removal of the family to Chicago learned the
bookbinder's trade in the establishment of Cameron, Amberg & Company. In
1878 he came to Des Moines to enter the employ of Carter & Hussey, and
continued in their service for three years. On the expiration of that period he
began business in his own interest, becoming a partner in the firm of Miller,
Girton & Watters, job printers and book-manufacturers. This connection was
continued for about six years, after which Mr. Girton retired from the firm and
the business was conducted under the firm style of Miller & Watters for
three years. The junior partner then sold out and entered into partnership with
L.L. Talbott, under the style of the Watters- Talbott Printing Company, of which
he is president, while Mr. Talbott is serving as secretary. They now have one of
the largest printing establishments in the State, furnishing employment to some
forty hands, and doing an immense business. Their office is excellent, well
equipped with the latest improved machinery and appliances, and the superior
work which they turn out insures an excellent trade.
On the 24th of October, 1889, Mr. Watters was joined in wedlock with Miss
Anna Ganz, a daughter of Philip and Augusta Ganz. Two sons grace this union, -
Thomas and Philip Ganz. Their home is pleasantly located at No. 1330 West Fifth
street, and is presided over by the estimable lady who now bears the name and
shares the fortunes of our subject. She is a member of St. John's English
Mr. Watters takes considerable interest in civic societies, being a member of
the Masonic fraternity, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the Knights of
Pythias Lodge. In his political connections he is a Republican. In 1892 he was
elected City Auditor of Des Moines, by a majority of 1,260, and in 1894 was
re-elected by a majority of 2,525, double the number which he had first
received. He had demonstrated his ability and fidelity to duty and his fellow
citizens attested their recognition of his faithfulness by this flattering vote.
He has cultivated and given direction to his native abilities and has made good
use of his opportunities to win success in the business world. In the walks of
life when intelligence, honor and manliness are regarded for what they are
worth, he has by the practice of these virtues attained an honorable position in
the community and won the respect of all who know him.
one of the most prominent farmers and stock-raisers of Lucas county,
residing on section 33, Liberty township, and the efficient County Commissioner,
whose interest and labor in behalf of the public welfare well entitles
him to representation in this volume, was born in Perry county, Ohio,
on the 23d of April, 1840. His parents, Samuel Davis and Elizabeth (Nathis)
Wheeler, had eight children. Our subject spent his boy hood days in
his native State until sixteen years of age and then came West with
his father's family, who made the journey overland with an ox team in
the year 1856, settling finally in Liberty township. He continued under
the parental roof until he had attained his majority and then started
out in life for himself, renting a farm of his father on which he raised
In September of the same year, - 1861, - he enlisted
in Company C of the Thirteenth Iowa Infantry, under Colonel Crocker,
joining the troops at Chariton. The troops were first sent to Davenport,
Iowa, and then transferred to St. Louis and later to a point near Jefferson
City, Missouri, where they were detailed to guard railroads. Subsequently
they followed Johnston, and on the 3d of October, 1862, participated
in the battle of Corinth and followed Price in his retreat, returning
thence to Corinth. Mr. Wheeler was under the command of Grant throughout
the Vicksburg campaign, his regiment being at that time attached to
the Seventeenth Army Corps under General McPherson, who was killed during
the Atlanta campaign. Mr. Wheeler also served through that campaign
and was honorably discharged from the service at Nashville, Tennessee,
in November, 1864, after three years and two months of faithful and
arduous service, during which he participated in a number of hard-fought
engagements and valiantly defended the old flag and the cause it represented.
Though never seriously injured, he passed through many trying experiences
and had many narrow escapes.
Having served his country nobly in her hour of need,
Mr. Wheeler then returned to his home and the duties of civil life and
once more rented his father's farm, upon which he raised one crop. As
a companion and help-meet on life's journey he chose Miss Sarah J. Budd,
their marriage being celebrated in the fall of 1865. The lady was born
in Franklin county, Ohio, and was one of the four children of Abraham
and Eliza (Coon) Budd. They have six children: Charles F., who is now
living in Washington; Elizabeth E., Mintie, Bertha, Harvey and Samuel
D., who are all yet at home.
In 1866 Mr. Wheeler purchased a farm four miles north
of his old homestead, where he lived for four years, when he sold it
and purchased the farm of his father, upon which he has since been actively
engaged in agricultural pursuits. He has been uniformly successful and
from time to time has added to his possessions by the purchase of more
land until he to-day owns a splendid farm of 420 acres, all of which
is included in the home place save a tract of eighty acres. He has for
some years been extensively engaged in stock-raising, his farm being
very favorably situated for that purpose, the White Breast river running
through it, giving at all times an abundant supply of water for the
stock. He has on hand over twenty head of horses, seventy-five head
of cattle and an equal number of hogs. He makes a specialty of shorthorn
cattle and Clyde horses, and has some very fine specimens of these upon
his place, while his efforts have done much to advance the grade of
stock raised in this locality. His farm buildings are substantial and
commodious, and are models of convenience peculiarly adapted to the
uses to which they are put. Nearly all have been placed upon the farm
since the present owner took possession and indicate his characteristic
thrift and enterprise. He is well known as a practical farmer whose
success in life is the result of his own energy and able management.
In politics Mr. Wheeler has always been a strong and
able adherent of the Republican party and has been honored with many
offices of trust. He has served for many years as Justice of the Peace
in his township and for more than twenty years has been a member of
the School Board, while for several years he has acted as Assessor of
Liberty township. He is a warm friend of education and gives his support
to all measures calculated to prove of public benefit. The position
and standing of Mr. Wheeler in Lucas county are well shown by his long
continuance in office. In 1888 he was elected County Commissioner, and
has ever since creditably and acceptably filled that position, involving
much arduous service. During his term the splendid court-house has been
built, at a cost of $59,000, whereby $1,000 was saved, the appropriation
having been $60,000. He labors for the best interests of the community
and is well known as a valued citizen as well as prominent farmer and
an honored man.
Hon. SAMUEL DAVIS
WHEELER, a retired farmer residing in Chariton, is one of the oldest
living pioneers of Lucas county, and one of its most honored citizens.
To a student of human nature there is nothing of more interest than
to examine into the life and history of the self-made man, and to analyze
those principles that have made him pass many on the highway of life
and attain a position of prominence in the community. Mr. Wheeler is
a type of this class. He was born in Virginia, September 22, 1810, and
is the only survivor of a family of four children, whose parents were
Robert and Nancy (Davis) Wheeler.
Robert Wheeler was a native of Maryland, born in 1749,
and was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, serving under General Smallwood.
When the Colonies had achieved their independence he removed to Virginia,
where he lived until 1816, when he became a resident of Pennsylvania.
In 1829 he went to Ohio, where his remaining days were passed, his death
occurring in February, 1843, at the very advanced age of ninety-four
years. Samuel Wheeler, the grandfather, was born in New England, and
died in Maryland, at an advanced age. The ancestors of this family were
English and came to America in early Colonial days.
Our subject was but six years of age when his parents
left the Old Dominion and settled in Pennsylvania. There his childhood
was passed, and at the age of nineteen he accompanied them to Ohio.
He started out in life for himself when twenty-four years of age, and
the success that has come to him is the reward of his own efforts. In
early life he studied law, in the Buckeye State, with Judge Hickman,
and in September, 1854, was admitted to the bar, after which he followed
his profession for several years, but becoming dissatisfied with it
he gave up regular practice and emigrated Westward, taking up his residence
on section 33, Liberty township, Lucas county, Iowa, in the year 1856,
from which time, until his retirement from business life, he was principally
engaged in agricultural pursuits. On coming here he took up 280 acres
of Government land and subsequently purchased forty acres, making in
all a farm of 320 acres, on which he lived for seventeen years. he then
purchased land in White Breast township, where he erected a home, and
resided for seventeen years, when he sold his property, and in 1890
came to Chariton, where he is now living retired. He and his estimable
wife have a large circle of friends and are enjoying life in their pleasant
In April, 1834, Mr. Wheeler was united in marriage to
Miss Elizabeth Mathews, a native of Muskingum county, Ohio, and a daughter
of George and Amy Mathews. They have six children living, - Emily J.,
a widow; A. Mason who is represented elsewhere in this work; Amy A.;
George C.; Sarah E., and Abraham L.
For more than half a century both Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler
have been earnest and consistent members of the Methodist Church, -
a noble record indeed, and their long and well spent lives have gained
them the highest esteem of all who know them. In early life Mr. Wheeler
was a Democrat, becoming a voter under Andrew Jackson, but upon the
formation of the Republican party he joined forces with it and for nearly
forty years has supported its men and measures. In 1860 he was elected
a member of the Board of Supervisors of Lucas county, serving in that
capacity for eight consecutive years, and for many years was Justice
of the Peace. In 1868 he was elected to the Twelfth General Assembly
of Iowa, and subsequently served as Justice of the Peace of White Breast
township. No more capable official for these various positions could
have been chosen, for Mr. Wheeler's trustworthiness and fidelity to
duty are matters of record. A man of liberal education and broad views,
well versed in the law, he was a natural leader. Both in public and
private life his energies were devoted to the best interests of the
county and State of his adoption, while his record, covering a period
of nearly forty years' residence in Iowa, will be a precious heritage
to his descendants long after he shall have gone to reap the reward
of his labors.
Police Judge of Burlington, as his name indicates, is a native of Germany,
but he became identified with Iowa about the time he began to number
his years by the "'teens," and since 1872 has lived in Burlington.
Jacob Julius Wohlwend
was born in Baden, Germany, February 19, 1839, son of Martin and Catharina
Wohlwend, both natives of Germany. Three children, two sons and a daughter,
composed their family, and one of the sons is now deceased. The daughter,
Catharina, is the widow of Kasper Schied and lives in Burlington. Their
father was a forester in Germany, and was a participant in the war in
that country known as the Revolution of 1848. In 1853 he emigrated with
his family to America, took up his abode in Keokuk, Iowa, and in that
city passed the rest of his life, dying there in 1867 at the age of
sixty-seven years. His wife died in 1859. They were Lutherans.
the subject of our sketch, was fourteen years of age at the time he
crossed the Atlantic with his parents and made settlement in Keokuk.
In his native land he had received a fair schooling, and the year following
his arrival in Iowa he began learning the printer's trade in the Gate
City office. He has been a printer and publisher constantly since then
until 1894, with the exception of a short time during the war, when
he was with the Mississippi flotilla. From 1853 to 1872 he made Keokuk
his home, and since 1872, as already stated, he has resided at Burlington.
He established the Keokuk Telegraph, which he published for a number
of years, or until his removal to this place, and here he was at first
foreman on the Iowa Tribune, a German paper; and he also worked on the
Hawkeye. In 1879 he purchased the Iowa Tribune, and ran it from 1880
until 1887, when he sold out and opened up a job printing office, the
latter being conducted in partnership with his sons.
February 8, 1859,
Mr. Wohlwend was united in marriage to Miss Rosa Schied, daughter of
John and Barbara (Smith) Schied; and with the passing years sons and
daughters to the number of nine came to brighten their home, their names
being William J., Edward F., Charles C., George Martin, Henry, Julia,
Emma, Mina and Clara. William J. is now foreman of the Hawkeye. He married
Miss Emma Waldsmith, and they have four children. Edward F. married
Miss Christina Loesch; he also is a printer. Charles is a traveling
man; he married Miss Nellie Lehmann. The other sons are printers, and
are still members of the home circle. While not members of any church,
Mr. and Mrs. Wohlwend give their preference to the Lutheran faith and
attend worship at this church. He is a member of the A. O. U. W. and
also of the Printers' Union; and his political support is given to the
Democratic party. By this party he was in 1894 elected to the office
he is now ably filling, that of Police Judge.
His residence is
at No. 211 Garfield avenue, Burlington.
Sandra Harris Osborne
is the great-great-granddaughter of Jacob Julius Wohlwend. Julia Wohlwend
Hartman is buried in Johnson County, Texas.
JOHN WRAGG, one of the firm of John Wragg & Sons, nurserymen, Waukee , Iowa , is a gentleman whose name is well known all over the State. The visitor to his place will find an enterprise of extensive proportions, and will be agreeably entertained by the Messrs. Wragg, all of whom are enterprising and up-to-date men in everything pertaining to their business. We are pleased to present in this connection a biography of the senior member, and before proceeding to a sketch of his life we wish to refer briefly to his ancestry.
John Wragg's paternal grandfather was born and reared in Leicestershire , England , and was married there to Lydia Ellis, in March, 1794. In the fall of that same year they started to the United States on an American liner, which was overhauled by a French frigate, and Mr. Wragg and his wife, among other British subjects, were taken prisoners by the French and held as such at Brest until the spring of 1795, when they were exchanged. On being released they carried out their original intention in regard to their emigration to this country. The French had robbed them of all their possessions, and on their arrival in Boston they found themselves penniless; but they were fortunate in meeting the celebrated chemist and theologian Dr. Priestley, who installed them on his farm in Northumberland county, Pennsylvania , as his farm steward. In the fall of 1819 they removed to Luzerne county, Pennsylvania , when that region was as unbroken wilderness. They were the parents of five children, of whom the youngest, born January 22, 1808 , was the father of our subject. He was married January 31, 1831 , to Mary Ann Delany Lewis, and on his farm in Luzerne county, December 2, 1832 , John Wragg first saw the light of day. Luzerne county has since been divided, that part in which Mr. Wragg was born now being known as Lackawanna county.
After the death of his parents Mr. Wragg, of this sketch, was engaged in lumbering in Pennsylvania until 1852, when he left the Keystone State and sought a home in Michigan . For one year he was engaged in lumbering in Hillsdale county, Michigan , and from there, in 1853, came to Iowa , first locating in Clayton county, where he entered 120 acres of Government land and farmed the same until 1863. In that year he sold out, and the next two years he spent in various parts of the State, and in 1865 bought forty acres of land in Dallas county, to which he added by subsequent purchase until it was increased to its present size.
On the 28th day of May, 1857, he was married to Hannah McManus, who was born in Indiana county, Pennsylvania , on the 25th of October, 1835 , and the family now consists of three sons and one daughter.
In 1878 he and his sons started a nursery, which they have since conducted under the firm name of John Wragg & Sons, and which from a small beginning they have increased to an enterprise of magnitude. In this connection a few statistics will best serve our purpose in giving an idea of their business:
Nursery stock handled in the spring of 1895........$ 22,000
Freight and express paid........................... 1,500
Postage paid since last November................... 300
Weekly pay-roll.................................... 150
Cars of freight shipped............................ 55
Stock planted this spring and grown from seed...... 500,000
Estimated number of trees and plants salable fall of 1895 and spring of 1896....................... 300,000
Men employed at the packing ground................. 25
With increase of their nursery business they have given up farming almost entirely and now devote their whole time and attention to the former.
Mr. Wragg cast his first presidential vote for Fremont and has maintained his allegiance to the Republican party ever since. At various times he has been honored with local office, has filled nearly all the township offices, and for six years served as District Director in the State Horticultural Society, and both as a Republican and a horticulturist he is widely known. For the past two years his health has been very poor, and his sons have taken entire charge of the business and give a warm welcome to the many friends who from all parts of the Northwest come on visits, of both business and pleasure. Mr. Wragg is also one of the old members of the famous Tippecanoe Club of Des Moines.
Judge George G.
The name of this gentleman stands out in bold relief
against the background of Iowa's illustrious pioneers, many of whom
will go down to posterity as great in the nation's annals as in the
record and traditions of this proud prairie state. Iowa justly boasts
of able statesmen, just judges and fluent orators; of faithful, conscientious
lawgivers, advanced educators and popular lecturers; of zealous promoters
of the agricultural industries of the State; of eloquent platform speakers,
charming after-dinner talkers and upright, successful business men;
but probably no other possesses all these qualifications combined to
such a degree as does the subject of this sketch. His great versatility
of talent has enabled him to fill the multifarious positions in public
life to which he has been called with great credit to himself and the
commendation of his friends, which term probably comes, in his case,
as near to including all who knew him as is ever the case with a living
Little, rock-ribbed Wales, so many of whose children
are naturally gifted with oratory and song, was the home of his ancestry.
His native State was Indiana, whose early inhabitants had a struggle
against miasmatic influences, perhaps not overdrawn in Dickens' portrayal
of the experiences of Martin Chuzzlewit and Mark Tapley, and who may
have been by those very vicissitudes of hardship, homesickness and the
leaden weight of malarial disease, remarkably strengthened in their
love for one another and the homes they wrung from the wilderness in
the face of such difficulties. At any rate, certain it is that the temperament
for humorous and poetic speech, logic and impassioned oratory, with
intense love of home and family, and a feeling for all social and domestic
ties, are characteristic of this honored citizen of Iowa. Something
of all this appears in his very lineaments, and the State is fortunate
in possessing, in the portrait which hangs in the Supreme Court room
at the capitol, a likeness which will convey to coming generations,
if they have insight, a glimpse of the personal qualities which endeared
this eminent man to his contemporaries.
As has been intimated, Judge Wright's parents were of
Welsh stock. To them were born nine children, five sons and four daughters,
of whom one son died in infancy. The father of the family died when
the subject of this sketch was but five years old, leaving a widow with
six children at home dependent upon her and her small estate. It often
happens what within such narrow limits the heroic discipline was received
and the heroic heart awakened which fit one for the highest walks of
life. Of that houseful of children the Judge and two sisters remain.
George G. Wright was born in Bloomington, Indiana, on
the 24th of March, 1820. A lameness, resulting from rheumatism, early
cut him off from the more active sports of boyhood, but did not cause
him to fall into idle moping. He was a diligent student, and was graduated
at the Indiana State University with high honors at the age of nineteen.
Each county in Indiana had the privilege of sending two worthy and prominent
students to the State University tuition free. These chosen sons were
denominated by the other students "charity scholars," and
Judge Wright was one of these.
Upon receiving his degree, the future Judge entered
upon the study of law in his brother's office, in 1839. The brother,
Joseph A. Wright, in whose office young George acquired the beginning
of his lore and erudition, became a very eminent man in his State, serving
in the House of Representatives, in Congress and as Governor of Indiana;
afterward as Minister to Berlin, United States Senator, and again Minister
to Berlin, where he died in 1867.
Judge Wright attained his manhood in this State, having
settled in the then new Territory of Iowa, November 14, 1840. He was
elected Prosecuting Attorney of Van Buren county in the first year of
his stay here, from which post he stepped into the State Senate in 1848.
In 1855 he was made Chief Justice of Iowa, and was almost continuously
upon that bench until 1870. In January of the last year he was elected
to the United States Senate, taking his seat there in March, 1871. For
six years he was a member of that branch of our national council, serving
on the committees on finance and judiciary, and was chairman of the
committee on claims and of the committee of retrenchment and reform.
He declined re-election in 1876.
Judge Wright was five years president of the State Agricultural
Society, and served the Van Buren Agricultural Society in the same capacity
a like term, after having been its first secretary in 1842. He was one
of the organizers of the present law department of the State University
in 1865, since which time he has always been more or less connected
with it as a lecturer and instructor. It is to be hoped he has been
able to indelibly impress his high ideal of moral and professional rectitude
upon the young law students who held him in such high and affectionate
regard, and with whom he is so popular as a lecturer. He did not, however,
restrict his labors in that line entirely to that institution. In the
midst of his busy professional and political life he has responded so
far as possible to every demand on his time and powers. He has delivered
lectures on many topics in a majority of the counties of the State,
before colleges, universities, agricultural associations, in the interest
of schools, churches, libraries and all kinds of benevolent organizations.
In the unstudied utterances thrown off at a moment's
call, Judge Wright is particularly happy. On one occasion, hurried to
a banquet without time to prepare his regular toilet, his daughter being
with him, expressed regret to a friend that he must go in his well-worn
business suit, thinking they were almost certain to call on him for
a toast or a response. Sure enough he was called up to respond to some
sentiment, and, as usual, the bursts of laughter his gay sallies of
wit evoked were quenched in the tears his pathos drew forth so readily
and the tears in their turn evaporated in humorous smiles. As they were
preparing to return, the daughter, while caressing his arm, was heard
to say, "Father, I was not ashamed of the old coat, I was so proud
of the man inside it."
Judge Wright is President of the Iowa Pioneer Lawmakers'
Association, now serving his third term. The recognition of his eminence
as a jurist in the nation at large was shown in his election to the
presidency of the American Bar Association in 1887 and 1888. As a leading
young attorney Judge Wright practiced throughout the Des Moines Valley,
giving and taking hard blows from 1840 until 1855, and with his "honors
thick upon him" returned to the bar in 1877, at his home in Des
Moines. Five years later he accepted the presidency of the Polk County
Savings Bank, and continues to occupy his office and chair in both with
the utmost regularity.
On the 19th of October, 1843, Mr. Wright was married
to Hannah B. Dibble, daughter of Judge Thomas Dibble, who was at one
time a member of the New York Legislature and in 1846 of the Constitutional
Convention of Iowa. This union was blessed with seven children, five
sons and two daughters. One son died in his 'teens; the others reached
maturity, married and all but one are living.
Active as Judge Wright was during all the war period,
when Iowa almost stripped herself of able-bodied men to fight her country's
battles, it was entirely out of the question for him to go personally
to the front, but he gave a gallant soldier to the Union Army in the
person of his eldest born, who attained his majority just about the
end of the Civil war, and whose recent sudden death, while it seemed
so untimely, yet was the earthly close of a life remarkably full and
rounded. The golden wedding of the parents last autumn was the silver
wedding of this eldest son and wife. The silver circlet is now prematurely
severed, but the golden band of the pioneer wedding still endures.
Of religious faith, the foundation and crown of a perfectly
symmetrical character, the stanzas Judge Wright read at Governor Kirkwood's
funeral speak, voicing a recognition of the Omnipotent Hand, which touches
with love and power the course of national and individual life, weaving
all into a wondrous tapestry. The obstacles which beset Judge Wright's
pathway were many. Poor, lame and fatherless, but with indomitable will
and perseverance, he attained to the most exalted positions in this
great State, and furnished an object lesson for all boys of what can
be accomplished in America, unless energy fail.
Since the above sketch was written Judge Wright has
been called away, the "Omnipotent Hand," of which he wrote,
has been laid upon him, and the "golden band of the pioneer wedding"
has been severed. In the different organizations with which he was connected,
the public gatherings where he was wont to be seen in social life and
in business circles, he is missed, but more than all in that home, where
the true, kindly, noble character of the man was best known. His history
is largely that of the history of the State. There is no one who figures
more honorably or prominently in the public affairs of Iowa, which go
to form its annals; and though the friends who knew him find him no
more among them in person he lives in their memory, and his work remains
in the formation of one of the most important States in the Mississippi