Wright Families in Pownal: Main Street and Beyond
Between 1763 and 1765 Charles Wright (1716-1793) and his brother Samuel came to settle in the area known as Pownal. Both brothers were born in Northampton MA and were sons of Samuel Wright and Jemina King. Charles is on the list of freemen on page one of Pownal town records. When the 2nd division of lands took place Charles and his brother received two 180 acre lots running eastward from the Hoosic River for a mile. These lots were located just north of south Pownal.
Charles had previously been the licensed tavern keeper, beginning in 1761, at Fort Massachusetts (N.Adams, MA.) and in Pownal he again built a tavern on what was near the junction of two “roads”: high road and the river “low” road. These trails were traveled if going to New York state, south to Massachusetts or north into Bennington. The placement of the tavern (Mooar-Wright House) became the beginnings of a village and a main street in Pownal. Being one of the earliest frame buildings it undoubtedly was also a meeting place in the early years of the town. Charles and his wife Ruth Boltwood (1721-1806) had 3 sons: Samuel, Josiah and Solomon.
Samuel moved to Canada and later died while visiting his own son in Ogdensburg, NY. In one researcher’s list he was listed as a Tory. Josiah and Solomon stayed in Pownal.
Josiah (b. 1752) fought in the Battle of Bennington and then was called Gen. Josiah. Later he was elected Judge of the Probate Court, State Councilor, Judge of County Court and president elector of 1805 and 1813. He voted for both Jefferson and Madison and opened the first post office of Pownal in a small room on the east side of the tavern. He was elected representative of the town in 1792 and each year after until 1802, with the exception of 1796. One of his sons, Captain Samuel, also a judge, was one of the delegates to the General Convention in Dorset. Josiah was first married to Anna Alger, daughter of one of first selectmen of town, and after a divorce married second to Susanna Pratt. He had nine children. Josiah died in 1817 at age 65 due to a carriage accident caused by an unmanageable horse near his home as he was traveling to court. He was buried in the Lovett yard.
Vermont Gazette notice: “List of letters remaining in the Post Office at Pownal for Apr. 1, 1817” (32 letters) signed by Josiah Wright, P.M. (post master)
Solomon, born 1763 in Fort Massachusetts, was too young to serve in the Bennington Battle but he served at Rutland and Pittsford at the end of the war. He was listed as a farmer and member of the Baptist Church. He became a Federalist, in opposition to his brother politically. Not only were they rivals in party affiliation but frequently rival candidates. Solomon was chosen Judge of Bennington County in 1789 and Chief Judge in 1814 and member of the legislature in 1796, 1803-4, 1815-17, 1821 and 1823.
Hiland Hall (U.S. Representative and 25th Vermont Governor 1858-1860), described Solomon as a “man of unsurpassed eloquence and personal attraction”. “Judge Wright did not have the advantages of an early education, but had acquired extensive knowledge by reading and observation and was quite familiar with legal proceedings.” He was often called upon to counsel in law matters.
Solomon married Eunice Jewett, born in Weybridge, Vt and they had 11 children. Their home was on Main Street (Rightholme) across from the tavern. This home, on a large lot on the corner of River St. (now Lincoln) and Main St. was still being inhabited many years later by daughters Sarah and Ruth (1880 Gazeteer listing). It was recognized then as the second oldest house in town and had not been changed from its original plan including the old oaken bucket in the well. Solomon died in 1837 in Pownal at the age of 74. Note: Rumor that house was taken apart in a fashion to be rebuilt at another location, but not ascertained , nor where it went. Area residents attest to house was taken down, not saved and foundation was bulldozed and covered. (2013) More modern style houses are located there now on the north side of Main Street. Solomon had built a home on Orchard St.
Children of Solomon & Eunice:
1. Charles W. (WC 1803) lawyer; married dau. of Moses Robinson &__ Dewey.
2. Thomas Jewett (WC n1807) ; War of 1812 d.1834
3. Solomon b. 27 Jan 1785, married Seeley, died 1865 age 80
**4. Pliny married Finette Wadsworth
5. Eunice married Lovett; 2nd married Gardner
7. Lephy (His estate was probated in 1843, Bennington)
8. Sophia ( buried Pownal Station cem.)
9. Isaac Tichenor (1802-1862) bur. in Old First Church cemetery
10. Sarah Russell m. ___Lincoln
11. Elvira W. m. Hoxie
During these early years of town history the already large Wright families were farmers, politicians, lawyers and businessmen. Early Vermont Gazette newspaper ads were advertising “carding and cloth dressing” by Solomon Wright Jun. On June of 1822 he advertised that he employed “experienced workmen, and flatters himself that he will not be out done by any in the county. Most kinds of produce received in payment.”
The Wrights through the numerous grandchildren of Charles (1716-1793) are related to many other large settler families in Pownal and later Bennington, North Adams, MA and adjacent New York towns.
Pliny, son of Solomon and Eunice Jewett (b 19 Mar 1789) was born in Pownal. He became a farmer and a large landowner. He was a Whig in politics and served with the Vt. legislature in 1856. Pliny was on the 1st board of the Oak Grove Seminary built by the Pownal Literary Association in 1853. This was at first a private academy and it employed Williams College students as some of its first teachers.
Pliny married Finette Wadsworth (b. 1800) of Pittstown, NY, dau. of an innkeeper Joseph Wadsworth. She died 12 Feb. 1872. He died in April 1864.
Children of Pliny & Finette : (order may not be correct)
- Pliny Jr.
- Joseph W.
- Charles, Esq. died Pittsfield, MA of typhoid fever age 29, 11/2/1848
- **Solomon (b.1837)
- Mary Ann
- Jane E (all three dau. died young)
Illustrating some of the large landholdings of the Wright family (ies): In the 1880 Bennington County Directory a Pliny Wright (Jr?) was listed as postmaster, selectman, dealer in general merchandise, owned a farm with woodland in New York, 500 acres in Williamstown, 250 acres in Stamford and 150 acres in North Adams.
Solomon Wright born 9 Sept 1837, attended school in Pittsfield, MA and graduated from Williams College in 1859. His commencement oration was “Labor” (no copy found). His Senior year portrait was accompanied with his faith listed as “Baptist”, his politics as Republican with his future profession unknown. In the 1903 semi-centennial celebration program for Pownal’s Oak Hill Seminary he was listed as one of the first teachers and had a Masters’ degree. He returned to Pownal after college and was married 16 May 1860 in No. Pownal to Mary Angeline Brimmer (b. 1843 in Petersburg, NY). Mary was the dau. of Green Brimmer and a descendant of one of the Dutch families who predated the English settlers in the area.
During the Civil War, in 1863, “Sol” built a “4 set mill” and engaged first in woolen manufacture in Pownal and later in Troy, NY. The mill was built at one of the two places on the river conducive to a water powered business and situated on the south side of Main Street next to the covered bridge. Letters to his college class secretary tell of his mill’s production of No. 1 “cassimere”s (closely knit smooth woolen fabric) imitating very closely the French product and turning out about 800 yards a day. Solomon also owned substantial amount of property in the area and built a new home for his family in 1867 (this home may still be extant and on a large lot on Orchard Street behind the town library). In an alumni letter of 1867 he invites his classmates to visit his “commodious” house.
According to the North Adams Transcript,December 8, 1886:
“Glad to see an improvement in the appearance of Solomon Wright; though he still complains of his lung giving him trouble, but hopes it will soon be strong again.”
In 1891 Solomon and family moved to Troy, NY. He then organized and was president of a corporation which incorporated several mills in Troy, Cohoes, and Pownal’s Hoosic Valley mills for the American and China trade. Both of Mr. Wright’s sons (Solomon Jr. & Wilkinson) were also associated with the business. The Hudson-Mohawk Valley New York genealogy source describes Solomon as a man of force and character and commands respect of his associates. He was a member of the Ionic Club of Troy and was a representative for Pownal in the Vermont legislature. The Pownal mill burned in 1905 and was not rebuilt. On the 2nd of April 1912 Mr. Wright died in Troy. His wife Mary had died at Luxor, Egypt in 1895 on a trip up the Nile.
Children of Solomon (b 1837) and Mary Brimmer:
- Hattie (b. 1862, d. 1865)
2. **Solomon , Jr. born October 24, 1864
- Silas (b. 1869, d. 1869)
- Wilkinson DeForest b. June 30, 1871/2
Oak Hill Cemetery Association was incorporated November 21, 1872 in an act of the Vermont Legislature. Graves from the Lovett Yard by the railroad track and the highway were moved to Oak Hill thus explaining many earlier gravestones. In the list of names of the Act No. 136 of incorporation were: Joseph W. Wright, John W. Mooar, Solomon Wright and Pliny Wright.
According to an article in the North Adams Transcript for1887,
“The Wright brothers are erecting a fine granite obelisk in Oak Hill cemetery”
The Reporter, a journal for “marble and granite” (i.e., the quarry trade) reported that “North Adams. C. Niles Pike of this city has the contract for building a large gateway at Oak Hill cemetery, Pownal, VT. The gate will be the gift of S.D. Wright as a memorial to his wife, who died in Egypt. It will be an extensive piece of work and will be built of Fitchburg granite and iron.” May 1898, Vol. 31, page 11.
Wilkinson DeForest was educated in Pittsfield and Springfield, MA. He was Secretary of the Wright Health Underwear Co. He married Emily Higenbotham on May 1, 1897 in Trenton, NJ. She was born Oct. 31 1878.
1. Wilkinson Deforest Jr. b. 12/2/1902
2. Emily Welles b.8/12/1904
3. Janet b. 2/12/
4. dau. died in infancy
Solomon Wright, Jr. b. 24 October 1864 in Pownal, Vt was educated in Bennington schools and was valedictorian of his class. He attended Williams College for two years as a member of the Class of 1887 but due to poor health and on doctor’s advice he withdrew. While at Williams he lived in Morgan Hall which still is a dormitory on campus. He then traveled and spent the winter in southern France. Upon his return he was a salesman then treasurer of the Wright Underwear Co. He and his brother operated a commission house in NYC for his father and other companies. After the turn of the century he organized his own company and remained president until 1945 when he sold the business. Solomon died Dec. 13, 1952, in Glen Ridge, NJ with his wife, 1 son and 5 daughters surviving as well as his brother Wilkinson DeForest Wright. His obituary makes note that he was an ardent sportsman (fishing and golf) and a member of the Sons of the Revolution, Union League Club, Merchants Business Club and Westhampton Beach (L.I.) Country Club where he maintained a summer home. Following in his father’s footsteps of remembering his earlier home, his will awarded monies to charities, Williams College and the Pownal library which was then housed in the basement of the Baptist church on Main Street.
1947 newspaper clipping:
“Soloman [sic] Wright Visits Here”: Soloman Wright, Jr. of Montclair, N.J. called in the village briefly yesterday and viewed again the scenes of his childhood and youth. He evinced special interest in the mill property and land owned by his ancesters from the settlement of the town until sold to Archer H. Barber of North Adams about 30 years ago. This Mr. Wright is the fourth to bear the name of Soloman. The first was the builder of “Rightholme” 150 years ago—and fifth in descent from Charles Wright and his wife Ruth Boltwood who came from Amherst in 1763 the year the first Soloman was born, as the first English setters in town. Their home was on the site of the present Van Steemberg residence and in it the first post office was opened. The caller of yesterday is alert and vigorous despite his more than eighty years.”
Bulletin from the Pownal Public Library, 28 Dec 1948:
“Furthermore, many improvements have been made possible by the generous gifts of Mr. Solomon Wright, Jr. and the Baptist Church.” The library area in the church benefited from a new furnace, fluorescent lights, new paint, floor sanding and new furniture. “Mr. Wright” renewed 19 magazines and the New York Herald Tribune weekly.
Solomon Wright Jr.:
m. 1. Ida Reamer Pierce April 1892 in Danbury, CT., she died June 9, 1921 in Montclair, NJ.
- Mary Brimmer Wright, b. 10/1896 ; d. 12/1895 Naples,FL -(Mrs. Clifton Turner (dau. Janet, Mary Ann & Audrey)
- Caroline Wright -Mrs. G. Brown
- Dorothy Wright-Mrs Frances Earle
- Solomon Wright b.1900 ; d. 1904
- Mitchel Wright b.1904; d.1908
- Ida Wright-Mrs. Robert Moore
m.2nd Lucy Marion Bosworth (dau. of Millard and
7.Millard Bosworth Wright
8. Lucy b. 6 Sept 1931; m. 1952 to Peter Tyler Case b.11 Nov 1929.
Children of Lucy AnnW. & Peter T. Case
- Robert S.W. Case
- Peter T.Case Jr. (dec)
- Stephen T. Case (dec)
- Elizabeth A. Case MacFarlane (Michael)
- John B. Case (Jenny)
- Jennifer A. Case-Pouliot (Suzanne)
The above mentioned S.W. Jr. gift would be added to funds raised by library supporters in Pownal. With no tax dollars they would match the government Library Construction Act funds to build the Solomon Wright Public Library. The library’s collection which had been housed in the Baptist Church, then “Rightholme” and back to the Baptist church again was finally moved across Main St. to new shelves in 1966.
The descendants of the Pownal’s Solomon Wright families have generously continued to support the library and its efforts over the years to serve all the residents of Pownal young and old. The latest “investment” by Peter Case and family in the future of Pownal is the Lucy Wright Case Reading Room. This will be a place to enjoy the beauty of the Vermont valley, take pleasure in reading/learning and enjoy the activities held there which will impart knowledge to enhance one’s life journey beyond Main Street, Pownal, Vt.
America’s Historical Newspapers (database)
Beers Atlas Bennington County. Map of Pownal c. 1869., reprint of 1969 by Tuttle’s of Rutland, VT.
Child, Hamilton (comp.), County Gazetteer and Directory: Bennington, c1880
Durfee, Biographical Annals of Williams, Boston, 1871
Hall, Hiland- Biography of Josiah and Solomon Wright, compiled by T. E. Brownell, Esq.
Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, Vol. 4 c1911
Letter, Lynn Scott October, 2003 re: Descendants of Solomon Wright
Listing (partial) Burial records Pownal, VT.
North Adams Transcript–Visit of Solomon Wright in 1947
Notes from Bennington Museum re: holdings on Wright family
Reports of the Pownal Public Library and Solomon Wright Public Library, 1948-
Obituary: Solomon Wright Jr., 1952
Parks, Joseph, Pownal: a Vermont Town’s two hundred years and more, c1977.
Pownal Sketches by William B. Browne, newspaper article, 1944
Society of Mayflower Descendants: application by Lucy W. Case # 9394
Solomon Wright Public Library: Wright family file.
Williams College Archives and Special Collections, Biographical file:
Solomon Wright, Class of 1859.
Online resources: digitized journals (Reporter) and Acts and Resolves of the State of Vermont, 1872.
August 12, 2012, lghall
Updated: September 6, 2012
2nd September update 9/15/2012
On a snowy day: December 29, 2012