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Champaign County, Illinois

Biography of Mr. Wright

SOURCE: "History of Champaign County, Illinois with Illustrations," 1878


MR. WRIGHT. The subject of the following brief biography was born at Briar Ridge, Adams county, Ohio, on the 5th of August, 1843. His father, James S. WRIGHT, was a native of the same place. He was of Scotch descent, his father having emigrated from Scotland and settled in Ohio at a very early date in the history of that state. Here he married Elizabeth COPPLE, who is of German parentage. Her father and mother emigrated from Germany and settled in Pennsylvania where the mother of the subject of this sketch was born in the year 1809, but subsequently with her parents removed to and settled in Adams county, Ohio, where she still resides.

Mr. James S. Wright was a blacksmith by trade but subsequently abandoned it and engaged in farming as more congenial to his tastes, in which occupation he was engaged at the time of his death, which occurred on the 31st day of December, 1854.

Mr. Wright was attached to the M. E. Church, of which organization he was a prominent member, holding for many years the responsible position of class leader and Sabbath school Superintendent.

He never accumulated much of this world's goods and therefore the subject of our sketch fell heir to but a meager legacy upon the demise of his venerable parent. But thanks to our noble ancestors who looking ahead into the future made a far richer provision for their children, in that they bequeathed to them a far nobler and more enduring legacy than hoarded wealth, the inestimable boon of a superior system of common school education, which Mr. Wright seems to have appreciated and of which he availed himself. He not only became thoroughly drilled in the common branches of education, but studied the more difficult branches of higher mathematics, thus while a mere youth laying the foundation upon which to build his future moral and intellectual edifice. And such was his proficiency that at the age of seventeen years he was qualified to accept the position tendered him as a teacher in one of the schools, an achievement that few boys of his age could boast of. He had hardly entered upon his new duties when there came an entire change in his life. The lightning flash that gleamed across the sky and lit in its path the angry gleams of war, the deep reverberating roll that told the patriot living and the new patriot dead that the struggle had commenced, awoke him and thousands of others from their semi-lethargic and pleasant condition to put aside their books and don the armor of patriotism and go forth and do battle for their country. The ever memorable year of 1861 witnessed the inauguration of the most formidable rebellion of ancient or modern times. Scarcely yet eighteen years of age he put aside his scholastic duties and responded to the call "to arms." The youth through whose veins coursed the blood of German and Scotch ancestry must needs be a patriot. His heart beats in unison with the tap of the martial drum and he keeps step to the music of the union. He then left his books and enlisted as a private in the famous 39th Regiment of Ohio Volunteers, known then as the Groesbeck Regiment, on account of the liberality of John Groesbeck of Cincinnati, who raised and equipped it at his own expense. Col. Groesbeck commanded the Regiment for a short time but was, on account of failing health, forced to resign, whereupon General Noyes, present Minister to the Court of St. Cloud, took command. The regiment participated in innumerable battles until it became the most noted regiment during the war, and one of the historic organizations of the rebellion. It was always in the front. When the bugle blast sounded the advance it was in the front and facing the enemy; when the tide of battle was turned and success crowned the day the gallant 39th had planted their battle-scarred flag high on the ramparts or waved it proudly over the field of the foe. Through storms of shot and shell it bore aloft the banner dyed in the blood of its patriotic members, and wherever it was planted there rallied around it hearts of oak with sinews of steel that knew no fear nor claimed greater merit than to die beneath its folds. It was a grand old regiment. It never knew what headquarter duty was. It guarded no lines of retreat, it only asked to be placed with the face to the foe and then God help the right. The history of the Regiment is the history of every member of it. Mr. Wright passed successfully through the grades of Corporal, Sergeant, Orderly-Sergeant, Sergeant-Major of the Regiment and Second Lieutenant. He participated with the Regiment in twenty-nine pitched battles besides numerous skirmishes. He accompanied the gallant Sherman in his march to the sea, and he carries to-day on his person a souvenir of his military life, an honorable wound received before Atlanta, Georgia, in the same battle and within fifty feet of the spot where fell that brave and lamented hero, Genl. McPherson. At the expiration of his first three years' enlistment he re-entered as a veteran; in fact the entire regiment was veteranized, and he continued in active service until the end of the war, when he was mustered out with his regiment. Four years to a day measure the term of his military services.

Were it possible to transfer to canvass and depict in all their detail, with an exactness and vividness true to nature, all that transpired within those four eventful years upon the tented field, when steel met steel and eye met eye with fiercest hate---the privation and suffering, the hope and fear, the joy and despair, as they alternated with the fortunes of war or tide of battle, as the fate of our beloved country hung suspended tremblingly in the balance. What a dark, dark picture, what a strange commingling of lights and shadows would it present.

While in the service a treatise on elementary law accidentally fell into his hands and in which he became deeply interested, and thus while in the camp of Mars he became a disciple of Blackstone, and amidst the booming of cannon and bursting of shells he acquired the rudiments of his present profession. At the close of the war he entered the Cincinnati Law School, from which he was graduated April 3d, 1867, receiving the degree of L. L. B., and upon the same day he was admitted to practice in the courts of Ohio.

He commenced the practice of law in Brown county, Ohio. On the 15th day of July, 1868, Mr. Wright was united in the banns of matrimony to Miss Elizabeth WEST of Decatur, Brown county, Ohio, daughter of John WEST, Jr. By this union there were two children.

In 1868 Mr. Wright with his young wife removed from Ohio and located in his present home in this city, where he opened a law office and commenced the practice of his profession. In April, 1859, he formed with Hon. W. D. Somers a law partnership which still continues. They have an extensive practice both in the state and supreme courts of Illinois. In politics Mr. Wright is a Republican, and cast his first vote for the martyred Lincoln while encamped with his regiment at Camp Smyrna, near the Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia. Mr. Wright though young in years stands already as a lawyer deservedly high in the estimation of his confreres.

He possesses in an eminent degree those qualities, which as factors are so essential to success in any department of business life, namely, industry and a very large share of common sense, coupled with an indomitable will. In possession of these sterling qualities, the problem of success is easily solved. And it need not be considered as evidence of an unusual degree of foresight to predict for him who possesses them a successful career in the future. For they are as indissolubly linked with success, and naturally and of necessity follow each other as cause and effect.

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