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Marshall Wright

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Marshall Wright

Posted: 4 Nov 2007 3:52PM GMT
Classification: Biography
Surnames: Wright, White, Bain, Smith, McGovney, Yontz
From Biographical Memoirs of Huntington County, 1901, pages 290-292

The gentleman whose biography is herewith presented was for many years identified with the mercantile interests of Huntington county but is now enjoying the fruits of a long and successful business experience in a life of retirement. Mr. Wright is an Indiana man, the scenes of his birth and early boyhood being about three miles northeast of Richmond, in the county of Wayne. Paternally he is descended from ancestors that figured in the early history of North Carolina and Pennsylvania. His father, Ralph Wright, was a native of the former state. As long ago as 1816 Ralph Wright was brought by his parents to Wayne county, Indiana, where the family purchased land from the government, being among the earliest pioneers in the vicinity of the present city of Richmond. After passing the greater part of his life in Wayne county, Ralph Wright came to the county of Huntington, where he also enjoyed the distinction which attaches to the name of a pioneer, as he was one of the first permanent settlers in the neighborhood of Mount Etna, near which town he entered a tract of land. He made no improvements on the tract until about 1846, but from that time until his death he was one of the leading farmers and successful men of Lancaster township, and was popularly known throughout county as a gentleman of more than ordinary intelligence and public spirit.

He was a Whig in politics, and like many of his ancestors, prided himself upon his Quaker lineage, being able to trace the family in unbroken succession to a member of William Penn's party in the early history of Pennsylvania. His wife, Ursula White, a native of North Carolina, bore him a family of twelve children, and departed this life in Wayne county about fifty-six years ago. Of their children, ten are deceased, three dying young and nine growing to years of maturity.

Ralph Wright died near Mount Etna, at the advanced age of eighty-two, and is held in grateful remembrance by the people of that part of the country. Our subject's grandfather, also named Ralph, was born near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, moved in an early day to North Carolina, thence in 1816 to Wayne county, Indiana, where his death occurred at the remarkable age of ninety-six.

Marshall Wright was the seventh in order of birth in the family of twelve, and one of the two now living. His early life embraced the experience common to boys reared in the country, and he early learned the true value and dignity of honest toil in the woods and fields. His first educational training was obtained in a subscription school three miles from his father's residence, which he attended during the winter months of each year until reaching the age of seventeen. He then turned his attention to the plasterer's trade, at which he served a three years' apprenticeship in Richmond, receiving the first year three dollars per month and double that amount the second year for his services. After becoming proficient in his chosen calling he located at Centerville, where he worked until 1835, in the spring of which year he changed his residence to Huntington county, and for about two years thereafter followed his trade at Mount Etna. In the autumn of 1856 Mr. Wright engaged in the drug business in the above town in partnership with Dr. Wickersham, and continued that line of trade until disposing of his interest in the establishment in 1861.

In August, 1863, he enlisted in Company H, One Hundred and Eighteenth Indiana Infantry, with which he served until the spring of the year following, participating during that period in the operations throughout eastern Tennessee. Within a short time after entering the service he was promoted orderly sergeant of his company, and continued in that capacity until his discharge.

On leaving the army Mr. Wright returned home and shortly thereafter engaged in merchandising in partnership with Henry Hildebrand, which relationship existed until 1871, when he sold his interest and removed to the town of Forrest, Whitley county, where he opened a general store. During the first four years at Forrest Mr. Wright did a large and lucrative business, but meeting with a severe loss by fire, which destroyed almost all of his earthly possessions, he again turned his attention to the drug trade, which, at the beginning, he was obliged to conduct upon a somewhat limited scale. By successful management, however, and possessing the traits essential to gaining the confidence of the people, he soon widened the area of his trade, and in due time found himself in possession of a thriving business, which, in a large degree, compensated him for his former loss. He continued his establishment with success and financial profit until 1879, when, thinking to do still better in a larger place, removed to Huntington, where he soon was at the head of the largest and best conducted drug house in the city. His career in Huntington from the beginning was satisfactory in every respect, and by 1898 he found himself the possessor of a competence sufficiently liberal to enable him to lay aside the cares and exactions of business and retire to the quietude which only those who have long and arduously battled with circumstances, both favorable and unfortunate, know how to appreciate.

Mr. Wright is essentially a business man, and as such takes high rank among the most successful merchants of Huntington county. Actuated by a determination to succeed, he never became discouraged, however unfavorable his environment, and to this quality is largely due the success which attended him for nearly a half century. Not a little of this success came to him by reason of his eminent social qualities, which have always made him popular with his people wherever he has conducted business; and now that he is no longer in the turmoil of trade, the same characteristics make his companionship eagerly sought by those with leisure at their disposal. His life has been marked by a uniform courtesy and kindness that are in every respect commendable, and his many sterling qualities of manhood have won for him the confidence and esteem of all with whom he has had business or other relations.

Mr. Wright's wife was formerly Miss Mary Bain, also a native of Wayne county, and his home has been brightened by the presence of five children, namely: Josephine, married to T. G. Smith, an attorney of Huntington; Marion Gordon, clerk of the Huntington circuit court; Florence, widow of the late Samuel McGovney; Elizabeth, wife of Emanuel Yontz, of Indianapolis; and Charles L., who is practicing medicine in this city.

In politics Mr. Wright has for years been one of the wheel-horses of the Republican party in Huntington county. He cast his first vote for General Zachary Taylor, and while active in behalf of his party and its candidates, has never aspired to political honors for himself. He belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, La Fontaine Lodge, No. 42, and while not identified with any religious organization, is a believer in churches and a liberal patron of the Methodist congregation, with which his wife is connected. He is remarkably well preserved for his years, possesses a commanding presence and impresses those with whom he comes in contact as a forceful character and a natural leader of men.

Thus briefly have the salient facts of his history been referred to, and it is with pleasure that his biography is accorded a place in this volume as one of the representative citizens of Huntington county.

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