Within the Wright Archives I found a crumbling leather wallet filled with small scraps of thin paper, mostly covered with ornate script. Most of these scraps contain financial records of debts owed, bills paid, and monies received spanning the decades from the 1810s into the 1850s. I have digitally scanned these delicate fragments and placed them in storage, but have yet to spend little time deciphering them. This example suggests a claim deed exchanging hands in western Tennessee in December 1818.
Dr. Ebenezer Wright, great-grandfather of Neill (Doc) Wright, wrote a series of letters to his son Moses while he was a cadet at West Point. Each letter is filled with fatherly advice and reflects the pride with which he viewed his son's appointment. Below you will find a partial copy of the original document as well as the transcription.
My Dear Son, Huntingdon, TN June 21, 1854
Your letter of the 8th instant came to hand by the mail this morning, and you may rest assured, that its perusal gave me most unmingled pleasure ~ I have read it over and over again ~ I have previously written two or three long letters to you, which you must have [received] ere this ~ My feelings are greatly relieved now ~ Your letters to me and your sister had caused me to feel the most anxiety on your account. Not that I feared really for your welfare, but I did fear that in a moment of haste and despondency you might break up your connexion with the Academy, and return home ~ From the tone and spirit of the present letter, these fears are entirely removed, and I feel certain now that you will remain, and if so, I consider the foundation on which your hopes for fame and fortune may securely rest ~ I am much gratified to hear that you have a son of [Dc A] White for a room mate ~ I think I knew his Father well many years ago ~ Give my respects to him & ask him if he is not a grandson of James Shelton, who formerly resided on Round Lick in Smith County ~ If so, his father & mother were both old friends and & acquaintances of mine, & for both of whom I have always entertained the greatest respect ~ You will soon get acquainted to the military etiquette and discipline, so that it will be rather a relaxation, & amusement, than a burden to you ~ It will bring into exercise every muscle of your body, & by that means cause a more complete development, and a vast increase of strength, your chest will become expanded, your growth promoted & a great increase of physical power will result.
In all of your letters hereafter, I trust you will avoid every thought or expression that can be construed into a reflection upon the character of the place, its officers, discipline, etc. and also your associates, the “Cadets.” ~ The reason and propriety of this will at once occur to you ~ You can write privately to me the truth, & all the truth; but in your general correspondence here, let no word or expression escape you, that if all the world were to see it, you would shrink, or have cause to blush on account of it ~ “Old documents are dangerous things,” and there is no knowing what may in time come to pass. ~ Suppose some member of the class, or officer of the academy, were by accident to become possessed of the fact that in some of your letters, you had said things in derogation of their character, as Christians, & moral men, the very least that could come of it, would be, the want of respect from your superiors, & associates, that they might otherwise cheerfully accord you ~ The rule is, “if you can say nothing in their praise, say nothing to their prejudice.” You will find this to be an excellent rule through life ~ It does not follow that a thing may with safety and propriety be told, because it is the truth ~There are many, very many cases, where its very truth is the most cogent reason why a thing should not be told. For instance, where a disclosure would destroy the peace of individuals, the harmony of families, the respect of pupils for their teachers, or of the people for any public institution ~ in all such & many other cases, that will readily occur to you, silence is the true policy, & and should never be broken, except high moral reasons, or public good imperviously demand it ~ You will not understand from all this, that I would have you on any accident stoop to the baseness of falsehood! Heaven forbid the thought, but I wish to impress upon you the vast importance of a prudent reserve in all your correspondence, and never disclose anything unnecessarily, upon any human being, the promulgation of which could cause a pang of remorse, or a feeling of resentment in any one, should it come to their knowledge ~ In all your intercourse with your associates, you should be frank & liberal ~ But remember this, “Keep your own secrets” & never reveal those entrusted to you, as such, by others ~ Be extremely cautious how you make “confidants.” Remember that you are always to a greater, or less, extent, in their power, & you should never lay open your whole heart to any one, until you are sure from a long and intimate acquaintances, that he will hold your honor as sacred as his own life ~ This is a poem by Burns called an “Address to a Young Friend” which contains most excellent counsel ~ I will quote a verse or two from memory. [note: Robert Burns, 1786]
“Conceal yourself as weel’s ye can
Frae critical dissection
But keek through every other man
Wi’ sharpened, sly inspection etc.
As you can read in his works at your leisure ~ In another verse he says,
Aye free, aff-han’ your story tell
When wi’ a bosom crony
But still keep something to yourself
Ye scarcely tell to ony
So much for a kind word of worldly prudence, which it stands every man in hand to observe ~ yet nothing should be done, or left undone, at the expense of truth and honor ~ Nothing but truth should ever be told ~ But it is often very unwise and very improper to tell a thing, simply because it happens to be true ~ My son ponder well of these things ~
You wish my opinion with regard to the way the Sabbath is kept at West Point ~ It pleases me greatly to learn that your conscience is tender on that point as yet, as I told you in one of my former letters, it matters little in what manner or dress you get to church, so that you go with with a chastened spirit & pure & contrite heart ~ So that you worship in spirit and truth ~ The parade is probably necessary, in order to secure the attendance of all the cadets, & to prevent the confusion which would be likely to ensue under any other mode ~ Remember, my son, God is not mocked ~ He knows the heart & the hypocrite in religion or anything else is detestable ~ As for the recklessness shown by any one, or all, after service I conjure(?) you to keep aloof from any thing of the kind ~ In the words of the commandment, “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy,” you need not attack, or inform on others, who break these solemn injunctions ~ Let all such things be attended to by those in authority, whose business it properly is ~ As for yourself avoid everything of the kind ~ If your companions laugh & sport at your strictures in this matter you can reply, that you have been educated to honour & keep holy the Sabbath Day, and that your conscience will not permit you to violate the solemn injunctions of the Bible ~ We are all well, & all send their love to you ~ May God prosper & have you in his holy keeping ~
From your Father, E. Wright
The November 1886 report card for Thomas McNeill Wright, 4th grade, at Huntingdon High School. Too many tardies???
The handwriting on the back of this undated photograph reads only "Mother." Cross-referencing other photographs found with Wright archives might reveal her identity. Any guesses?
The following excerpt is from an 1840 letter regarding the fraud perpetuated against Charles Hanna, forebear of the Wright family (see previous post). Transcription of some words and phrases has proven difficult, Any thoughts on the sections underlined in red? I have attached a partial transcription below.
Your favor of 3 inst. in this moment rec’d, informing me that you had understood that I was about to follow our ____ friend James to Texas, for the purpose of getting the arrest owing me by the late ___ concern. In reply, I have to inform you, that I have no intention, at present, of pursuing him to Texas. If, however, I get judgment against him, and my attachment, at the Natchez Circuit Court, this fall, I should fail to collect the money from the securities on the ____ bond, I may take a trip to Texas to look for something more tangible. But, I am in hopes – very faint, tho’ – that I may get my money without the trouble of such a jaunt.
I am apprehensive that Mr. Toby was mistaken in writing to you, ___ ___ ___ sent me “all ___ information,” etc. I have not had the pleasure of receiving a line from him, since the explosion of the ___ ___. If he has written, his letter has either miscarried, or is still on the way.
This picture, showing Olive Wright as a child, is one of my favorite historic photographs from the Wright collection. Olive was the only daughter of Dr. W. M. Wright, and he named the hotel he built on the Huntingdon Court Square after her.
While researching another writing project, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of archival materials safely stored within the vault of Carroll Bank and Trust. The Wright family is known for its generous contributions to the growth and development of the town of Huntingdon, Tennessee. With archival materials stretching back to the early 1810s, the Wright family will make a significant contribution to local and regional histories as well. These letters and photographs and personal memorabilia have a story to tell. Join me as we take a closer look.
Uncovering the Wright Archives
History comes home to Huntingdon, Tennessee
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Huntingdon, TN 38344
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Huntingdon, TN 38344