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1936 George W. Wright Last Survivor of Civil War Regiment Still Farms at 91 in Martinez California


George H Wright of Martinez, California Civil War Vet 1936 member of the Oakland Post No. 8 of the Grand Army Republic. A retired policemen and farming at age 91 in 1936.

From "History of Contra Costa County, California: With Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men and Women of the County who Have Been Identified with Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present." P. 564-565

A well-known rancher of the Pacheco district, where he has lived since coming to Contra Costa County, on January 24, 1910, George H. Wright comes of old American stock, and in his life has adhered to the principles instilled through generations in the traditions of his family. Born in Elkhart, Ind., March 2, 1845, he is a son of Henry S. and Orilla (Smith) Wright, the former, who lived to be eighty-seven years old, being a native of Cattaraugus County, N. Y., and a founder and iron worker by trade; the latter, who lived to be seventy four years of age, being a native of Geauga County, Ohio, of English extraction. Her ancestors settled in Massachusetts in 1620, and some of them served in the Revolutionary War. Grandfather Wright, father of Henry S. Wright, was of Welsh stock, and took an important part in the industrial life of New York in the early days. Henry S. and Orilla Wright moved to Elkhart, Ind., in 1842, and there our subject's father built the first blast-furnace in northern Indiana. This furnace was located on the banks of the St. Joseph River, upon which stream Charles Crocker, the father of the family of California Crockers, boated iron ore to Wright's furnace; and Mr. Oliver, of the great Oliver Plow Works, there served his apprenticeship in the iron works. It was there that Henry S. Wright discovered the art of putting cold chilled points on cast iron, an art which was further developed by Mr. Oliver, who became the patentee and manufacturer of the celebrated Oliver Cast Chilled Plows, and thus became one of America's foremost millionaire manufacturers. In that vicinity the Studebakers started their first wagon shops, which during the Civil War grew to such importance that the plant covered ten acres of ground, and is now one of the great automobile manufacturing plants of this country.

George H. Wright received his schooling in a little log schoolhouse, rough as well as rustic, and studied his early lessons out of the New Testament and Webster's spelling book. He grew up in an abolitionist neighborhood, and when the Civil War broke out he volunteered at Kalamazoo, Mich., enlisting in Company B, 11th Michigan Infantry, in March, 1863, his younger brother, Edwin, then but fifteen, enlisting with him. Being a fairly good penman and scholar, he was detailed to do office work at headquarters, serving under both General Thomas and General Sherman. He was mustered out at Nashville, Tenn., at the close of the war, and honorably discharged at Jackson, Mich., in September, 1865. Returning home to Indiana, the young soldier realized his lack of education, and entered high school at Bristol, Ind. There he was married on June 13, 1869, to Miss Annie Williamson, a native of Columbiana County, Ohio, and daughter of William and Ellen (Neidig) Williamson, the former a wagonmaker and millwright of note, who helped to build the Pillsbury Flouring Mills, at Minneapolis, and lived to be past eighty years of age. Satisfactorily passing the examination for a teacher's certificate in 1868, Mr. Wright taught three winter terms in Indiana, and then, in 1871, with his wife, first child and meager belongings, moved out to Sumner County, Kans., and there homesteaded 160 acres in South Haven, where their second child was born, the first white child born in that vicinity. The Indians were hostile, however, and the blizzards and scourge of grasshoppers so discouraged the young pioneers that they abandoned their homestead and came to California in 1873. Locating in Oakland, Mr. Wright engaged as a clerk for Gurnett Brothers, and later became an employee of the West Coast Manufacturing Company, in San Francisco, though still residing in Oakland. This firm manufactured furniture from white mahogany for the old Palace Hotel, and also made the seats for the old California Theater, two chairs of which were presented to Mr. Wright, who remodeled them and has them in use in his home. He next became manager of Kimball's horse and dairy ranch at San Rafael, for Mr. Kimball, of the then prominent and wealthy firm of Kimball & Ralston, at that time one of San Francisco's wealthiest companies. They failed, however, and Mr. Wright went across the Bay to San Pablo and there, after 1876, was with Henry Benson for three years. He then engaged successfully in the grocery business in Oakland for one year. About this time, Mr. Wright interested himself in the candidacy of J. C. Mellen for councilman, and after his election Mr. Mellen appointed him a member of the Oakland police force, where he was soon detailed to do office work. This position he held for three years, after which he served as deputy license collector for one year, and then for the next two years as deputy county assessor for Alameda County, under Tom Malloy. Following this, he went to South Berkeley, and successfully conducted a grocery business for fourteen years. At the end of these various activities Mr. Wright decided to retire to ranch life, and in 1910 came to his present home place of some twelve acres on the Pacheco Road, two and one-half miles south of Martinez, where he has a comfortable home, built by the former owner, then a banker of Martinez. He devotes his acreage to fruit-growing, raising peaches, pears, apricots, grapes, and olives. With his family he has resided here for the past sixteen years, dispensing true California hospitality and taking an active part in the community life. Five children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Wright: Lillian I., wife of G. J. Icard, residing at Baguio, P. I.; Minnie Alice, widow of William Kirkman, residing at Tacoma, Wash. ; Albert P., who married Daisy J. Baird and resides in Martinez; George O., who married Genevieve Cornwall, and resides in Berkeley; and W. Merrill, who served in the navy during the World War and is now in charge of a Standard Oil station at Martinez. There are nine grandchildren in the family. Besides their own children, Mr. and Mrs. Wright reared Fred LeMar, now employed with the Shell Oil Company in Martinez. Mr. Wright is a charter member of Lyon Post No. 8, G. A. R., of Oakland. A Republican, he cast his first vote for General Grant, and his last vote for La Follette.

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