WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT IRISH JOHN WRIGHT

(This article was written by George F. Wright, M.D.  Any specific comments, corrections, etc. should be sent directly to Dr. Wright.  His email address is at the bottom of this page.  The standard disclaimers regarding total accuracy of this account apply:  you should use this information as a basis for further research but don't accept everything here as "fact.")

Most of the material concerning the immigrant John Wright comes from the "Biography and Genealogy of the Blackburn Family" by Dr. Isaac Wright Blackburn written in 1911. It was brought up to date by his niece, Lavina Alice (Blackburn) Ralston, in 1933 and at that time she had the original copy of the manuscript. My copy is paper bound and typewritten, dated 1933, 96 pages. It was given to me by my aunt, Agnes Davis Sherwood, in 1986.

In the manuscript, a letter from Mary Alice Wright Griest is quoted concerning the Wright genealogy. John Wright and wife, Elizabeth, from Castleshane, County Monaghan, Ireland, settled in Menallen Township, York, now Adams County, PA as early as 1748, and
were members of the Warrington Monthly Meeting. A certificate for John Wright and children (Elizabeth not mentioned) was granted at New Garden Monthly Meeting, Chester County, April 28, 1746. Their daughter, Rachel, as stated in her memorial, was born in Castleshane in Ireland in the year 1737, and removed to PA with her parents, John and Elizabeth Wright, who, after some years, settled in York county within the compass of Warrington Monthly Meeting. This letter then goes on to list all of the children of John and Elizabeth, who the children married, etc. Isaac Wright Blackburn states that the origin of the Wright family is uncertain, as the family emigrated to America early in the 17th century, but this must have been an error as the first children were born in Ireland in the early 1700's. He quotes a tradition that the earliest known ancestor fought (on the Irish [?] side) in the Battle of the Boyne and that he was of English origin. He was not permitted to return to England and eventually married a French refugee. While the battle was raging, a man passed carrying a ten gallon keg of whiskey. Wright ordered him to stop, but he refused to do so, saying the whiskey was for General _____, whereupon Wright reached down from his horse and took the keg and drank from the bunghole "until his ears cracked".  Dr. Blackburn theorized that the tradition may have had no basis in truth but perhaps showed that Wright, having by his fighting and this second achievement demonstrated his peculiar fitness for Irish citizenship, concluded to remain in Ireland. Obviously, it must have been some years before the Wright who came to America became a Quaker and "left off the militant for the spiritual".

Dr. Blackburn also states that he had heard that Samuel Wright, son of John from Castleshane, County Monaghan, Ireland, was of Welsh descent. This must have been a mistake unless he emigrated to Wales from Ireland before coming to America. Samuel married Gertrude, daughter of William and Hannah Wierman. The Wiermans were of Dutch descent, or at least he had been informed that Hannah (Sietman) Wierman, mother of Gertrude, Samuel Wright's wife, was a native of Holland. Judging by the names, both William and Hannah may have been from Holland. Dr. Blackburn concludes that John Wright was possibly of English descent and that he probably fought in the Battle of the Boyne (1690). He was not permitted to return to England so he settled in Ireland, marrying a French refugee (Elizabeth). After some time he became a Quaker. Then, as a result of religious persecution, John and his family came to America, leaving Castleshane, County Monaghan, Ireland. They eventually settled in Menallen Township, York (now Adams) County as early as 1748. The earliest record is the previously mentioned certificate granted 28-4 mo-1746 for John Wright and children at New Garden Monthly Meeting, Chester County, PA. One problem with this story is the date of the Battle of the Boyne. 168_, so John would have been in his late teens or early twenties at that time and thus, his birth date would have been much earlier than any reference suggests. Perhaps the person who participated in the Battle of the Boyne was actually the father of our John Wright.

A book titled "Wright - Aron & Mary Wright" by Mary (W. Chapman), NY, Francis Press 1942, of 105 pages and illustrations, was discovered in the Allen County Public Library and this book gives a little different version of the above, although many of the details remain the same. The following is quoted from that source. "Wright is a common name in Scotland and the north of England and our grandfather used to say his family came from Scotland by way of Ireland. John Wright, our ancestor, the records say (?), was born in 1701 and was living in Castleshane, County Monaghan, Ireland, in 1737, the family having come from north of England, probably to escape the unpleasantness of being a Quaker in that country. His wife was named Elizabeth and was born in 1706.

Sometime between 1737 and 1740, John, with his family of five children, sailed from Londonderry to Philadelphia, being one of the many Irish Quakers who emigrated to America at that period. A few years later, in 1746, we find him settled in Menallen, Adams County, Pennsylvania, not far from the present Gettysburg. The family increased, five more children arrived, and Joel, our ancestor, was the youngest child, born in 1750."   Thus, this source suggests that not only John Wright was born in England, but also his wife was born there and that they were married when they arrived in Ireland. Later this reference states that the first three children were born in England, not Ireland and that Mary and Rachel were born in Ireland, suggesting that John and his family did not arrive in Ireland until around 1730. This also would not fit with this John Wright being a veteran of the Battle of the Boyne.

Menallen Tax Records (PA Archives, Series 3, Vol 21) lists John Wright in 1779, Irish John Wright in 1780 and widow Wright in 1781, 1782, and 1783. John Wright is also listed in 1781, 1782, and 1783, the last being John Wright, Sr. From these records, one might assume that John Wright, the immigrant, died in 1780/1781 and his widow kept the land at least for a few years. Son, John Wright eventually became known as John Wright, Sr., since he had a son who was also known as John Wright, Jr.  Also, earlier tax records compiled by the South Central PA Genealogy Society indicate that in 1762, John Wright, Joseph Wright and Samuel Wright were listed in Menallen Twp. In 1779, an alphabetical Listing of the Assessed Inhabitants of York County, PA for 1762 and 1779, lists Benjamin, Henry, James, John, John, Jonathan, widow, and William in Menallen Twp. This would seem to indicate that our immigrant, John Wright, died before the census was taken in 1779.

In "A History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, PA, Chicago, Warner, Beers and Co., 1886, p 482, the following was written in a write up of Albert S. Wright and his father, Thomas H. Wright: "Mr. Wright's ancestors were Scotch-Irish, and first came to America about 1691-1692, or shortly after the battle of the Boyne, in which some of them were participants. The first of the family, however, that it is possible to identify by name was John Wright, who was a member of the Society of Friends, a farmer. He lived many years in this county and died in 1821/1822, age about eighty years. His wife was Elizabeth Hammond, a native of the county, born near the Friends' Meeting House; She died in 1823/1824. William, their son, was born September 29, 1778 in Menallen Twp., this county; November 30, 1803, he married Rachel Thomas, a daughter of Abel and Ellen (Roberts) Thomas, natives of Berks County, and who came to Adams County in 1801. William, who had been a farmer all his life died March 8, 1853; his wife was born March 8, 1778 and died April 19, 1836. They are both buried in the Friends' burying ground in Menallen Twp. Their children were Ellen, Thomas H., Elizabeth, Abel T., Isaac J., Savannah R., all now deceased, except the youngest two." Note that this is the first time we see a date of arrival for John Wright in America of 1691/1692. This is probably in error because of the birth dates of the older children.

In attempting to obtain records from Castleshane, I received a letter from Theo McMahon, Monaghan Ancestoral Research Group, 6 Tully, Monaghan, County Monaghan, Ireland, 29 Sep 1993: "You are correct in stating that there was a Quaker meeting house in the Castleshane area which is about five miles from Monaghan in the direction of Castleblayney. There is now no record of where the meeting place was located and no known records of a Quaker congregation exist or are listed in any of the repositories. The best and most relevant work that I know of is 'Immigration of the Irish Quakers into PA 1682-1750" by Albert Cook Myers'. I know of no other records that I can recommend for cross-referencing as no early census data survives for the 18th century for County Monaghan."

Dallas Bogan, of the Warren Co. Historical Society, P.O. Box 223, Lebanon, OH 45036, sent a copy of a news clipping concerning Joel Wright and his family and in it she states that John and Elizabeth Wright emigrated from Ireland between 1737-1740. She states that they belonged to a colony of Friends who emigrated from England to the north of Ireland about the close of the 17th century. Joel was the youngest of ten children, five born in Ireland and five in America.

I obtained a copy of a manuscript from the Warren County Genealogy Society, Warren Co., OH, on the Wright family - "Family from 1680 on to present date 1935", transcribed and indexed by Atheline B. Wold and copyrighted 1973 by Atheline B. Wold, Box 112002, Salt Lake City, UT 84111. In this manuscript the Wrights are said to be of English descent. "The family of Wright moved from England to Castleshane, County Monaghan, Ireland. John Wright born in this Co. in 1701 and married Elizabeth _____, born in the same Co. in 1706. They moved to Adams Co., PA about 1740. They were both Quakers. They both died in Menallen, Adams Co., PA."
Both of the above references suggest that John Wright was born in Ireland and that perhaps it was his father who was the original veteran of the Battle of the Boyne.

In the "History of York County" by Gibson, 1886, a John Wright is mentioned prominently in connection with Wright's Ferry, one of the first ferrys on the Susquehanna River. He is mentioned as coming to the east bank of the Susquehanna in 1726 and several years later took up land on the west side of the river. The ferry was established around 1733 and his son, John Wright continued to run the ferry and had a public house on the west side of the river. John Wright, Jr., was a member of the Assembly for York County in 1749 and continued till 1759. John Wright, Jr., died about 1763. John Wright, Sr. was a Quaker but it does not tell from where he came in Europe and the times are not right for our John Wright. We know that Rachel, daughter of our John Wright, was born in Ireland in 1737 and that the family did not get here until after that year so there must have been two John Wright families in York County, one who lived in Menallen Township in the western part of the county in what was to become Adams County and the other who lived in the eastern part of the county near what is now Wrightsville.

Send Comments and/or Corrections To:

George F. Wright, M.D.

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