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Champaign County, Illinois

Biography - Randolph C. Wright

SOURCE: "The Biographical Record of Champaign County, Illinois," The S. J. Clarke Publishing company, Chicago, 1900


Hon. RANDOLPH C. WRIGHT, one of the best-known members of the Champaign county bar, is now living practically retired, in Homer, which pleasant village has been his place of abode for many years. The history of his life is extremely interesting, in detail, as the struggles and triumphs of a self-made pioneer lawyer are shown forth, and as nearly all of his career has been intimately identified with that of Champaign county. From time to time he has been honored with responsible official positions by his numerous friends and acquaintances, and never for a moment did he falter in the execution of the duties and trusts thus confided to him. He has passed the three score and ten milestone of the Psalmist, as his birth took place November 3, 1829, in Randolph county, Indiana. His paternal grandfather, John B. Wright, a native of Virginia, was one of the pioneers of Randolph county, Indiana, and of Vermilion county, Illinois. In the last mentioned county, where he arrived in the fall of 1830, he entered land from the government, and cultivated the tract until shortly before his death. In his early manhood he followed the trade of a blacksmith, but in later years he was exclusively devoted to agriculture. To himself and wife nine children were born, Jesse B., father of our subject being the eldest. He learned the blacksmith's trade of his father, and also cultivated land, but his career was untimely ended, as he enlisted when twenty-five years old in the war with the Blackhawks, and while stationed in Rock Island, Illinois, died of cholera, then prevailing. He had married in the Hoosier state, Mary DRAPER, who like himself, was a native of Ohio, and of their four children, the two younger ones, Mary J., and Sylvester, died in infancy. Eliza, who married Alvah HUBBELL, now deceased, resides in Decatur, Illinois. The mother became the wife Henry SWISHER, and nine children were born of their marriage. She departed this life in 1882, when seventy-two years of age, and Mr. Swisher also is deceased. R. C. Wright was quite young when he was brought to this state, and after his father's death, the family removed to Champaign county. Here he attended the primitive district schools of the period, but being eager to obtain better advantages, he did not rest content with this. He continued his pursuit of an education in the Randolph county, Indiana, Academy, for about two years, after which he went to the Urbana schools for some time, and to the Georgetown Seminary in Vermilion county. He then taught school in Homer for two terms, and had charge of schools in Vance township, and St. Joseph township, Vermilion county, for two terms. After his marriage, in the spring of 1853, he was occupied in farming for several years. The energy and ability of the young man, as well as his integrity and excellent reputation, led to his being called upon to occupy public positions in his own community at an early date. He served as justice of the peace for several years and was county surveyor for twelve years, and in 1860, while still acting in the latter capacity, he was elected as sheriff of Champaign county, and served for the term of two years. His first presidential vote was cast for Winfield Scott, and since the organization of the Republican party he has been loyal to its principles. In the fall of 1870 he was elected to the legislature, where he acted as a member of the judicial committee, and on other important committees, during the long ten monthsí session. At the end of that time, he was so wearied with his protracted experience in the assembly that he would not permit his name to be announced for re-nomination. The admission of R. C. Wright to the bar of Champaign county, in 1863, was preceded by an examination, so-called, which, as compared with that to which the candidates of today are subjected, was decidedly amusing. Upon a very sultry summer day, in Urbana, Mr. Wright met William N. Coler and William B. Webber on the street, and, as he had learned that they, in company with "Uncle Billy" Somers, were to examine him, preparatory to his admission to the bar, he requested them to go with him to the office of Mr. Somers. They complied, and the young man, addressing Mr. Somers, told him he had come to be examined, and, that as he, "Uncle Billy," was the eldest one present, he might begin the quesitoning. That worthy gentleman replied that he knew that Mr. Wright was d----d good lawyer, and he didn't care to bother with questions. The others on being appealed to, in turn, made substantially the same answer, and agreed that if he would make out his own certificate they would sign it. Thus was Mr. Wright launched upon a legal career which covered a period of about thirty-five years. While his residence continued to be in Homer, he had an office in Urbana, also, and his practice was not confined to this county, but embraced Vermilion, Ford, Douglas, and other neighboring counties. In the autumn of 1884 he was elected to the office of states attorney, and served acceptably to all concerned for the term of four years. Later he opened an office in Danville, conducting a large amount of legal business in that locality, yet paying due attention to all of his other clients elsewhere. During the past year he has been practically retired, his long and arduous service, both as a professional and public man, justly entitling him to rest. With all of the varied demands upon his time and sympathy, he has not neglected the special duties which devolve upon the citizens of a community, and as a member of the town board of Homer, he has loyally aided in the progress and maintenance of his home village. The first marriage of Mr. Wright took place May 18, 1853, the lady of his choice being Jane E. MOORE, a native of New York state, and daughter of Enoch MOORE, who came to Illinois at an early day, settling in Vermilion county. A tailor by trade, he followed that calling in Indiana for a number of years. He had seven children, Mrs. Wright being the first born of his second union. Nine children blessed the marriage of R. C. and Jane Wright, namely: Otto, who died at the age of six months; Alice, who only lived to reach eighteen months; Freddie, who died when five years old; Bruce, who died unmarried, when in his thirty-first year; Mary, wife of Edward BEAMER, a prosperous farmer and stock-raiser of South Dakota; Maude A., who married William SPLAWN, now engaged in agriculture and stock raising in Washington; Edwin R., who married Edith BLUE, and now is employed by the Big Four railroad as a painter in the shops at Urbana, Illinois; Belle, widow of Wm. SAUSAMAN, and now living in Homer; and Jesse, who, like his next older brother, is a painter by trade, and is occupied in that calling at present in the Big Four shops at Urbana. Mrs. Beamer has one child; Mrs. Splawn has five children; Edwin R., is the father of two children, and Mrs. Sausaman has three children, one of whom, Eugene, makes his home with our subject, his grandfather. Mrs. Jane Wright departed this life, June 20, 1889, after having faithfully performed the manifold duties which had fallen to her as the "home maker" for her large family, during the thirty-six years of her married life. Mr. Wright married his present wife, formerly the widow of James Thompson, and in her girlhood, Evaline C. BAUTLER, May 25, 1890. Her father, Thomas L. BUTLER, was one of the honored early settlers of Champaign county, and, in company with the father of our subject, served in the Blackhawk war. He was engaged in farming in Sidney township, this county, until within a few years of his death, which occured at his residence in Homer, where he was living retired from the active cares to which the major portion of his life had been given. Both our subject and his wife were members of the Methodist Episcopal church for many years, he serving as secretary of the church board. There were loved and highly esteemed by every one who knew them, and their memory is cherished in the hearts of scores of their old-time friends.

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