James W. Wright

James W. Wright

James W. Wright was born February 8, 1840, at Little Crab, Fentress County, Tennessee, and died April 30, 1900, at his home in Cookeville, Putnam County, Tennessee. He was the oldest son of Mathias Austin Wright and Elizabeth Jane (Wright) Wright. His paternal grandparents were Matthew W. Wright and Margaret Am (Ritchie) Wright. His maternal grandparents were John Wright and Elizabeth (Lindley) Wright. Matthew and John were brothers. So, Mathias and Elizabeth Jane were first cousins. During the Civil War, James W. joined the U.S. Army, September 25, 1863, at Jamestown, Fentress County, Tennessee, as a private in Co. D. First Tennessee Mounted Infantry. And, on March 24, 1864, he was appointed Sergeant Major (Master Sergeant) of his regiment. He was mustered out, April 14, 1865, at Nashville, Tennessee.

In November 1865, he married Sarah (called "Sally") Hunt, at Carthage, Smith County, Tennessee. She was born in 1845; and died July 22, 1912, at age 67. I don't have any information on her ancestors. They had one daughter, Lizzie J. Wright, who, obviously, was named after her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Jane Wright. Lizzie J. was born August 12, 1866; and died February 1, 1887; at 20 years of age. She never married.

After the war, James W. studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1870. He practiced law and dealt in real estate a while in Livingston, Overton County, Tennessee. Later on, he moved to Cookeville, Tennessee, to help organize the Bank of Cookeville, of which he was made cashier. And, at Cookeville, he got into polities. From April to November, 1873,he was Attorney General of the 16th Judicial Circuit. From 1876 to 1881, he was Chairman of County Court, Clerk and Master of the Chancery Court. And, from 1885 to 1887, he served in the Senate of the 44th Tennessee General Assembly, representing the following counties: Clay, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Fentress and Pickett. He was a Republican, just as most in our Wright line have been down through the years; including my father, myself, and most of my contemporary Wright relatives.

Back about 1981, when I learned that my great-uncle James W. Wright, his wife and daughter are buried in the Cookeville Cemetery, I wanted to go down and visit their graves. In October 1984, I got a chance to do so. I was enjoying a a-day visit in the Fentress County area. So, early one day, Tuesday or Wednesday, I think, I drove from Jamestown, via Highway 52, to Livingston; then on down to Cookeville on Highway 42. I spent about 3 hours in the cemetery (which is a large one) searching for their graves. I looked all over the cemetery 2 or 3 times, and was very disappointed when I failed to locate them. I found 14 other Wright graves, but not the ones that I sought. I started out to find other cemeteries to search, but I changed my mind, as I am not familiar with Cookeville, which is a fair sized little city, and I didn't have a map.

Then, on Friday, I went over to Overton County to spend 2 days with my second cousin Anna Lee Smith and her husband Wilbur. On Saturday afternoon, they were to attend the wedding of one of his great-nieces in Cookeville, and asked if I wanted to go along. I decided to do so and search the cemetery again for the graves while they attended the wedding. So, I went along and they let me out at the north end of the cemetery. During my first visit there, I had looked for the care-taker woman, but failed to find her. On my second visit, I located her, and she told me that there wasn't any James W. Wright buried in the cemetery. But I didn't believe her, and I continued my search. For she had talked with me through a fastened screen door, and she hadn't checked her cemetery records. Besides, two of my cousins - Thomas Mackey, in Delaware, and Wilma Pinekley, in Jamestown -- had told me that James, Sarah and Lizzie were buried there. I think that the woman just told me that they weren't to get rid of me.

About an hour before sunset, I still hadn't found the graves, and had about given up hope of doing so. But I thought that it was about time for Wilbur and Anna to be back, so, I headed back to the north end of the cemetery to wait for them -- still searching as I went. About four-fifths of the way back, I stopped and looked all around me, in a circle. About 40 feet back, on an angle, and a little Lower than I was, I saw a rock with "Wright" on it and went hack for a closer look. It was the double (granite) rock of John E. Wright and his wife Virginia (Coe) Wright. He was a first cousin to James W. and my grandfather. Their son was buried on one side of them, and their daughter on the other. I didn't know that they were buried down there. I wrote down the inscriptions, took pictures of the grave rocks, and went on back. At about the same time where I had been before, I stopped and looked all around me again. This time, I saw a tall rock with "Wright" on it, close by, near a big white oak tree, and almost in line with the John E. Wright rock. I walked over and examined it, and lo! and behold! and eureka! -- I had found it! -- the grave rock of James W. Wright, his wife Sarah, and their daughter Lizzie J. Wright. Imagine my joy, my delight, and my excitement! My persistence had finally paid off.

About ten minutes later, before I had finished copying the inscriptions, Wilbur and Anna came cruising through the cemetery, turned onto the cross drive beyond me and stopped, "Did you find it?" one of them asked. I said, "Yeah!" "Where?," he or she asked, as they looked all around. "Right there!," I replied, as I pointed to it. The names on the rock were not very conspicuous. That is why it had been so hard for me to find it. I finished copying the inscriptions, took a picture of the rock, and had Wilbur to take one with me standing beside it. By then it was only about 20 minutes till sunset.

Lizzie J. is buried straight in front of the rock, with a parent on each side of her. Her inscription is on the back of the rock, while those of her parents are on the sides. Each of the 3 has a 1-line verse. James W.'s and Lizzie's each has a line that is phrased wrong. Here is what was intended to be expressed. James W.'s: "To those who for thy Loss are grieved, This consolation's given; Thou art from a world of woe relieved, And dwelling safe in heaven." Sarah's: "Thou best Left us many tokens, Of they perfect trust in God. And we feel that thou art Living, Though they form lies 'neath the sod." Lizzie J.'s: "List! father, mother, list! A harp to me is given. Although I touch its softest strains, 'Tis heard all over heaven."

James W.'s brothers and sisters were as follows: Joseph Harrison Wright, Sept. 9, 1842 - Nov. 19, 1865; Margaret Ann Wright, born in 1844; Nancy Wright, Feb. 7, 1847 Jan. 17, 1881; John Taylor Wright, my grandfather, Mar. 13, 1849-Jan. 22, 1917; Jacob R. Wright, born in 1851, died Oct. 27, 1924; A still-born male infant, May 13, 1854; Samuel Winfield Wright, born July 16, 1856, died in 1903; and David Millican Wright, Dec. 2, 1858- Mar. 14, 1920. Joseph never married; Margaret married Isham Hinds; Nancy married Joel Lucy Reagan; John married Elizabeth Ann King; Jacob married Jane Smith and Sarah Jones; Samuel married Naomi Choate; and David married Celesta Bowden, Samantha Bowden, and Flora Abbiline Bilbrey.

by Roscoe Hollis Wright
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Posted with permission from Curtis Media Corporation
This page was last updated on 09/19/98.