Some Notes about Wright Historical Roots


   William Wright (1707-1776), the original immigrant of our twig on the massive Wright genealogical tree, was a well established presence in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia by the 1740s. The Beverly Manor Patent was officially confirmed in 1732 and by 1749 William owned 425 acres land within that land grant. He was a charter member in the historic Tinkling Springs Presbyterian Church, which was formed in 1740-41 (picture of monument). In 1741 William, with 32 other citizens, signed a document appointing a committee to choose land for the First Tinkling Springs Church. So we may assume that William arrived in the Shenandoah Valley sometime prior to 1741, possibly around 1735 during the first great wave of Scotch-Irish immigration. Family tradition states that he was from Northern Ireland. It is probable,that, with the vast majority of Scotch-Irish, he came from Northern Ireland and landed in Pennsylvania or Maryland and migrated into Virginia. However, it is also possible that he could have come through some other port in Virginia. During this time period, Captain James Patten made numerous trips from Virginia to Northern Ireland and back, bringing to Virginia numerous Ulstermen of Northern Ireland. William may have come on his ship. In any event, he arrived before 1741 as a young man in his late twenties or early thirties with, as tradition asserts, seven maiden sisters. What prompted him to emigrate from N. Ireland was probably a combination of factors. The linen trade, a mainstay of Irish economy collapsed. Landlords were demanding increasingly exorbitant rents. And famine and hardship was never far from the lot of the Irish/Scottish farmer. Stories of the greater opportunities and abundant land in the colonies may have stirred the imagination of William and his sisters. Whatever it was that prompted William to emigrate, he, and seven unmarried sisters, followed a horde of Scotch-Irish to the American colonies and into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where he settled. William and his wife "Margaret" (probably "Malcolm"), worked the rich farmland. He taught school and raised a family of at least five sons and four daughters. William's will names his five living sons; Samuel, John, Williams, James, and Alexander and mentions four unnamed daughters.

    Who were William Wright's ancestors? We don't know them as individuals. However, being of a strict Presbyterian persuasion, his ancestors are identified with that ethnic group now called "Scotch-Irish," or, more properly "Scots-Irish." Northern Ireland was largely colonized by Lowland Scots in the early 17th century at the urging of the King James I (King James VI of Scotland) who wanted a British presence in Ireland to counterbalance the dominant Irish Catholic population. So, by historical extrapolation, one can infer that our "Wright" roots are in Scotland. Saying more than that about the Wrights is pure speculation. However, for what it's worth, there is a Scottish Clan called the "MacIntyres", who claim the Wrights as a sept of their clan. In fact the Gaelic form of MacIntryre, "an-t-Saoir", is translated "son of the wright or carpenter." It is possible that, as some of these Scottish MacIntyres dispersed into English territory (whether to England, Wales, N. Ireland, or the Colonies), many of them Anglicized their MacIntyre name into Wright. The Scottish "MacLean Clan" also claims a "Wright" sept.

    Projecting further back into history, we find that the Scots themselves were originally Irish. Around 500 AD, an Irish group, who called themselves "Scoti," descended on the western shores of modern day Scotland and established the Kingdom of Dalriada. From that base, the Scots eventually subdued, either by warfare and/or intermarriage, the native Picts. By the time of the 17th century the genetic make-up of the Lowland Scot was a biological mixture of many strains, including Pict, Gael, Briton, Roman, Angle, Saxon, Scoti (Scots), and Norse. To a lesser degree we need to throw into the pot a few Norman and Flemish genes. Most of these ethnic groups (except Roman) fall under the banner of the "Celts", an ancient culture that once extended from over most of Central and Northern Europe....even as far east as central Turkey (Galatia). Politically, the Celtic lands were eventually assimilated by the Roman Empire, except for isolated areas, such as Ireland and Scotland.

   Of course we know much more about William Wright's descendants than we do of his ancestors. We know, for example, that the five male children of William and Margaret migrated with their families over the mountains into Kentucky sometime after the Revolutionary War, probably about 1787. After a stay of 10-12 years in Bourbon Co., Kentucky, they went north into Ohio, settling in present day Brown, Adams, and Highland County by around 1799-1800. At the time they moved into present day Ohio, it was land claimed by Virginia and known as the Virginia Military District. These were bounty lands that were set aside to reward Revolutionary War veterans for their service. Since several, if not all of the five brothers, served in the Revolutionary War, they may have claimed lands in the Virginia Military District as their due for serving in the war.

  Anyway, from this base in Ohio the succeeding Wright generations spread westward and southward so that, today, the descendants of William Wright are found Texas, Kansas, Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, and probably every state in the Union. A number of present day Wrights still remain in Ohio near their ancestral lands. Many of the 19th century Wrights were probably frontier farmers, but there were also a number of ministers, railroaders, artisans, businessmen, and even a few politicians. Most retained their Scottish Presbyterian roots, but, by the 20th century, many have branched out into other denominations and faiths.

Generally, the Scots-Irish are a "conservative people". Historically, they are clannish and have fought against the English for generations. And when they weren't fighting the English, they were fighting each other. Their fierce streak of independence made the Scots-Irish valuable soldiers in the Revolutionary War and on the westward expanding frontier. Given their historical experience, possession of land was their wealth, farming was their dominant occupation, and resentment of governmental intrusion was their political philosophy.

  So what can we say about the Wrights? Well, we're quite a mixture of "bloods." By the time we reached America we were given the designation "Scots-Irish" to indicate a people basically of Scottish origin and culture. This group colonized much of N. Ireland. Most of us are fiercely independent, and many of our descendants followed the frontier as it moved westward. But we're also generally good citizens who value our democratic way of life. True to our Scotch-Irish background we can be, at times, strong-headed, temperamental, contentious, and stubborn, but we are proud of our heritage, even though we bear the common, widespread name of "Wright."


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