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1907 Past and Present Biographies

Rev. Ervin Wright

Rev. Ervin Wright, a retired farmer who for many years was identified with agricultural in terests in Greene county and is still living upon a farm in Jackson township, is perhaps even better known as a minister of the gospel, for through many years he has proclaimed “the glad tidings of great joy” and has been a most influential factor in the moral and religious development of the county. He was born in Putnam, Indiana, in 1831, and was of Scotch-Irish descent, his parents being Elijah and Susanna (Parish) Wright, both of whom were natives of the Carolinas. The parents went to Indiana about 1823 and settled upon a farm, establishing their home there when it was still a pioneer district in which the work of improvement and progress had scarcely been begun. They aided in the reclamation of the wild prairie for the purposes of cultivation and experienced many of the hardships, privations and difficulties in cident to pioneer life. In their family were ten children, five sons and five daughters, all of whom were reared in their cabin home of one room with a bedroom among the rafters above.

Rev. Ervin Wright pursued his education in a log school house, but his opportunities were somewhat meager, for the father was in limited financial circumstances and, having a large family, he could not afiord to send all of his children to school at any one time, usually only four attending. However, in the school of experience, Mr. Wright has learned many valuable lessons and has constantly broadened his mind by reading and investigation. He has ever been a student and in fact is a man of more than average education, giving careful consideration to the great questions of the day affecting the welfare of the race and the moral development of the country.

In Indiana, at the age of nineteen years, Ervin Wright was united in marriage to Miss Delilah M. Beck, a daughter of William and Susan (Allen) Beck, representatives of an old time German family of Indiana The young couple began their domestic life in the Hoosier state, where they lived for about four years, and at the age of twenty-three Mr. Wright came with his family to Iowa, settling in Dallas county, where he lived for a year. He then removed to Greene county, taking up his abode upon a farm north of the place upon which he now resides. Here he built a cabin which was the only one for several miles around. It is a fact which history proclaims and yet to which the world has given little attention, that America is the only country in which the pioneer is found. Even in the eastern section of the United States settlement was made by colonization, but since that time brave men and women have made their way to the very borders of civilization, establishing homes far removed from neighbors, facing dangers and enduring hardships, and to this class the country is indebted to her development and her growth.

Rev. Wright is numbered among the honored pioneers of Greene county. Around him stretched the trackless and windswept prairie, over which elk and deer roamed at will, while turkey, prairie chickens and other wild game were to be found in abundance. Wolves, too, were numerous and often made the nights hid eous with their howling.

Of strong and determined spirit, Mr. Wright established his home on the frontier and broke the prairie with a team of six oxen, doing this work not only for himself, but for others who would employ him. Often after plowing all week he would preach four times on Sunday, delivering his gospel message from the school houses in thinly populated communities, but to a people who were eager to hear. He has always felt that his farm work and business affairs were but using the talents that were entrusted to him and that his real life work was carrying the truths of religion into the homes of the people of the district that they might go forward the stronger therefor. In 1855 he or ganized the congregation of Short Bend and a log church was built to provide a place for worship. Later a new frame edifice was erected and renamed Highland. In this church Mr. Wright has always engaged in preaching and through this means has been a potent influence for good in the community. He also organized a church in Greenbrier, in which he preached for twenty years and established a church in Boone county. He “rode the circuit” in an early day and did much to influence the lives of the pioneers toward righteousness, leaving the impress of his individuality for good upon nearly all with whom he came in contact. He taught by example as well as precept and his life is indeed worthy of emulation. The church which he organized is called the Church of Christ. They use no musical instruments, have no Sunday school nor young men’s Christian association but make it their purpose to cleave to the Bible truths and to follow closely the teachings of the Divine Master.

As the years went by thirteen children were added to the Wright household but only six are now living: William; Louisa, who became the wife of W. C. McClurg; John H., who is living upon a farm near his father’s home; Hester A.; Sarah A.; and Ervin O., who is living upon the home farm.

For many years Rev. Wright was actively associated with general agricultural pursuits but is now living retired, leaving the labors of field and meadow to his sons. He is still the owner, however, of ninety-three acres of land, which was entered by Mr. Clopton from the government in Jackson township, and the old home of the family - a log cabin - stood upon the farm until a few days ago, when it was torn down. For many years it was a mute reminder of the changes which have occurred and by contrast indicated the progress made by man.

In his political views Mr. Wright was for many years a democrat but believing the temperance question to be a paramount issue before the people he now gives faithful allegiance to the prohibition party. For one term, in 1857-8, he served as justice of the peace. In every relation of life he has commanded the confidence and respect of his fellowmen and, honorable and upright at all times, has enjoyed to the fullest extent their confidence and regard. His influence for good is immeasurable. He has steadfastly proclaimed the truth as he has understood it and his word has been as the echo “which rolls from soul to soul and grows forever and forever."


Transcribed from "Past and Present of Greene County, Iowa Together With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Prominent and Leading Citizens and Illustrious Dead,"
by E. B. Stillman assisted by an Advisory Board consisting of Paul E. Stillman, Gillum S. Toliver,
Benjamin F. Osborn, Mahlon Head, P. A. Smith and Lee B. Kinsey, Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1907, pg. 246.

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