John Wright

Samuel Medary (1801-1864)

Territorial Governor from December 1858 to December 1860. John Wright abstained on a vote to override his veto of abolition of slavery. [Kansas State Historical Society]

John Wright (1826-1870) was born near Greencastle, Indiana and moved with his family to Buchanan County, Missouri in 1839. A farmer and mill operator, Wright settled on Stranger Creek in Leavenworth County in 1854. He was a delegate to the Big Springs meeting and a captain in the Stranger Creek company of the Free-State Militia.[Crawford, Biographies, 207] An early Quaker settler, William Coffin, wrote that Wright and his brother were the first settlers south of the Stranger Creek crossing and that they were "strong free-state men and determined fighters." All the men of the area, except for the Quakers, were organized into the Stranger Creek company, eighty in all, and they looked to Wright as their captain. The company saw action in Lawrence and at Hickory Point. [Coffin, Settlement of Friends, 329ff.]

The Stranger Creek company was not always easily mobilized. Free-State captain Samuel Walker was ordered by General James H. Lane to relieve the Manard family, then surrounded in their house at Easton by an estimated 500 Kickapoo Rangers. Although Walker was told 200 men would ride with him, only 20 showed up in Lawrence. The small group rode to Tonganoxie and camped for the night. Walker wrote that:

"In the morning a Mr. Wright came along and urged us for God's sake not to make an attack with so small a force, but to wait for reinforcements from Lawrence. Colonel Dickey called us together and said he did not desire to lead us where the odds were so heavy against us unless we were willing and anxious to go. Every man in the party scoffed at the idea of turning back, and were soon under way again. Arrived at Wright's house, five miles from Easton, we halted for the night, and by the next morning sixty free-state men from the surrounding country had been notified to join us in the attack, but when we were ready to start not a man had reported."

Walker went on to Easton with the men available to him and found the streets deserted. The Kickapoo Rangers had left three days earlier and the 20 men in the Manard house had held the fort against 50 Rangers.[Gleed, Samuel Walker, 257ff.]

Wright was elected to the Territorial Legislature in 1857 and served as a member of the Council. He was a Democrat and joined in a petition, signed by all Democratic members, to President Buchanan, in 1860 to remove Hugh S. Walsh as Territorial Secretary. Walsh had "rendered himself signally obnoxious to the people of the territory of Kansas, and particularly to the democratic party." [Kansas Historical Collection 5:671] The Legislature attempted to abolish slavery in Kansas in 1860 and Governor Medary vetoed the bill, but his veto was overridden. Wright, who abstained on the vote, was one of three Democrats not voting to override, "apparently not wanting to oppose their Democratic Governor." Wright abstained. [Cheatham, Kansans Have Not the Right, 166] Wright was also a delegate to the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention and was a colonel in a Kansas Regiment during the 1864 Battle of Westport. .[Crawford, Biographies, 207]

Wright's grist and saw mill on Stranger Creek was a busy place from 1856 to 1861. In 1861, the steam boiler burst and eight men were killed. Wright had just repaired a belt and was placing it in position when the explosion occurred. Wright was thrown some distance and seriously injured, as were a number of others. The mill did not reopen. [Leavenworth Times, January 15, 1951:]

Charles Clark