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C. J. Wright
Pioneer Northwest Church Planter
By Charles Dailey - February 2002
|Cyrus Jefferson Wright at a Glance: |
||Cass Co. IL 1840 |
|Moved:||Coyville KS by 1874 |
|Married:||Nancy Parr in 1863
Hannah Margaret Beals in 1874
|Emigrated:||To the Northwest in 1878 |
|Settled 1st: ||Potlach ID |
1878 -- Potlach ID
1878 -- Eden Valley WA
1878 -- Palouse WA
1878 -- Farmington WA
1880 -- Four Mile ID
1883 -- Latah WA
1880 -- Spangle WA
1887 -- Corvallis MT
C. J. Wright|
Cyrus Jefferson Wright was a man of decision. His father, Cyrus, was a Baptist minister from South Carolina. But C. J. switched to the Christian Churches. When he was 23 he married 38-year-old Nancy Parr, a widow with two daughters and a son. After two sons were born to C. J. and Nancy Wright, she died of tuberculosis. Her death was sometime after the 1870 census.
Mr. Wright had learned the fine art of preaching from his father. A father passing on his skills to his son was common in that era. In 1869, C. J. was ordained to preach the gospel and later moved to Coyville, Kansas. There he married 18-year-old Hannah Margaret Beals. They had four more children, making a family of nine, if they all lived at home. However, C. J.'s oldest step-daughter Catherine was older than Hannah, so she may not have been with them.
Before the last two children were born, the family had emigrated over the Oregon Trail, settling first at Potlach, Idaho, then moving in to Palouse, Washington. There were about 30 wagons in the party of travelers, including Hannah Margaret's parents, David and Margaret Ann Beals. Palouse had about six houses at the time the Wrights arrived.
Hannah, Bertha, Mary and John|
Mr. Wright immediately began planting churches and we cannot always separate churches where he settled for a while from those he planted and moved on.
There are several records where a night-to-night gospel meeting was being held and if C. J. Wright dropped in for a few days, the main speaker deferred to Wright. Clearly, he was a persuasive preacher.
The Eden Valley Church of Christ, west of Palouse, flourished in 1878 when C. J. Wright arrived and services were held in the Turnbow Flat School. Mr. Wright was still working with the church in 1881 when the group built their own building, located five miles west of Palouse on the Colfax Road. One historical source says it has the distinction of being the first Christian Church in Whitman County.
We can sense first-hand some of Mr. Wright's enthusiasm for the work of preaching:
Nez Perce county- (now Latah) Idaho Territory, Nov 22-- I left my former home in Wilson county, Kansas, on the 14th day of May last, to move to Idaho Territory hoping for a more healthy clime. We had a very pleasant and prosperous journey, crossing treeless prairies and bare mountains. We stopped and held meetings occasionally on the road. About a day's drive west of Boise City, we stopped in Boise River Valley, and found a little band of Disciples organized and in good working order. Brother David Fouch and Joel Jones were preaching for them. They requested me to stop and preach a few discourses for them, which I did, ane Lord blessed us. Two additions were the result - - 1 reclaimed and 1 by confession and baptism.
They showed our whole company no little hospitality and kindness, and manifested much zeal for the good cause, abounding in brotherly love and kindness. We arrived at Palouse River, in Nez Perce county, on the 22nd of September, our company numbered about forty, having enjoyed very good health and our teams in good plight, all things considered.
Perhaps a little out of place, I will here state that we stopped on Grand Ronde Valley, at Union City, held a meeting, and solemnized matrimony for a couple. We are well satisfied with this country. We found the cause of our Saviour partiality represented in this Far West land. At the request of the good brethren, I commenced preaching for them. With signs of good. Since then I have immersed nine, and organized three congregations-- one at Moscow, in Nez Perce county, two in Washington Territory, in Whitman county, one at Farmington, and one in Eden Valley, and anticipate organizing one in my own neighborhood soon. . . .
We are meeting soon to organize a District Missionary Society. The brethren here seem quite free and liberal and although a new county, they are holding up my hands so that I can devote all of my time to the preaching of the word.
(Editorial note: We used a secondary source for this quote and made some minor changes that seemed obvious to us.) It was printed in the Christian Standard of December 21, 1878, page 409.
Amos Phillips, writing to the Christian Standard in 1879 reported:
Moscow, Nes Perces Co. , Feb. 14. -- A three weeks' meeting has lately closed here conducted by our beloved Bro. C. J. Wright, and assisted by Bro. Amos Buchanan, both able proclaimers of the word, and workmen that need not be ashamed. Immediate results 50 additions -- 20 by commendation, 5 from the sects, and 25 by baptism. The church much encouraged and now numbering 100 members. Just previous to this meeting Bro. Wright closed a meeting on Four Mile with 31 additions, 6 from the different sects and 25 by baptism. . . "
Mr. Wright finally broke off going to Moscow as seen in this report that he filed with the Christian Messenger, published by T. F. Campbell in Monmouth, Oregon. This was December 17, 1880.
We have retained the spelling, type size and punctuation of the original article.
. . . Have immersed thirty-one and have received six from the Baptists and two from the Methodists, making in all thirty-nine additions. The congregations are all in peace and harmony, as far as I know except Paradise, I. T. Not withstanding all our labors to build up at that place, the church became disorganized, and one party has organized what we consider a faction. So we have discontinued our labors at that place. I have organized two congregations, one at Four Mile, I. T. with thirty-nine charter members, and one at Hangman Creek, W. T., at Wimpy school house with thirty-one charter members. I have changed my address from Palouse City, Whitman County, W. T. to Spangle, Spokane County, W. T.
I. T. is brief for Idaho Territory and W. T. stands for Washington Territory. Hangman Creek is modern Latah, Washington. The Paradise congregation seems to designate the Moscow Christian Church. A section of town is called Paradise.
Camp meetings in the summer were an important part of church development in those years. The camera was present to capture C. J. Wright at a camp meeting. About 2,000 were in attendance at the last day of preaching.
We can sense the importance of C. J. Wright to the newly-formed church at Palouse, Washington in this quotation by F. L. Bell in the Christian Standard of Ohio in 1885:
Palouse, Feb. 16. -- The church at this place has been enjoying a glorious feast for the past four weeks. Bro. E. A. La Dow began a series of meetings here four weeks ago and was joined by Bro. C. J. Wright, who did most of the speaking until the 9th inst., when the meeting adjourned with 27 additions, 12 by confession and immersion, the remainder being in part by relation and a number of wanderers returning. Some six years ago Bro. C. J. Wright began his labor here when about only a dozen members were enrolled, but our numbers have increased to eighty-two at present.
Another article from the Christian Standard reads:
Palouse City, July 7. Our annual camp meeting here just closed. It began on the 18th of June and extended over two Lord's days. Bro. C. J. Wright, of this place, presided, assisted by Bro. R. H. Moss, of Centerville, Oregon. The meeting was the best we have ever had in this part of the Territory, and the result was 18 additions to the Church of Christ. -- A. J. Green
A. W. Dean, himself an excellent church planter, wrote in the January 1887 issue of the Christian Standard:
We were greatly assisted by Bro. C. J. White, who lives in the town (of Palouse) and who has for many years been evangelist in Whitman and adjoining counties.
These were the days of hand-written reports and the typesetters misread Wright as White. Such misreadings were common in that time.
We assume that a man of such travels and effectiveness was blessed with a strong body and and limitless energy, but consider this story from his daughter Bertha:
Our father, in his short life, met with a great many exciting incidents, his life was filled with accidents. The most serious happened at age 27 when he, together with a friend and Thomas Fracher, a cousin, were captured by Indians, streched upon the ground, their hands and feet tied to stakes. They were rescued by a searching party, but only after a hard fight in which Father was seriously wounded. From the effects of the bullet wounds he always walked with a cane. He was six foot and one inch high and weighed 200 pounds.
Margaret Lemper, a great-granddaughter, writing from Moscow, Idaho said:
In the ten years that Cyrus was to live in this area, he organized 10 congregations and baptized 1,600 people. . . . Because of ill health he accepted a calling to Corvallis, MT. He died there a year later.
C. J. Wright's daugher, Bertha Belle, wrote that he suffered from a heart condition and that he actually died of dropsy (currently called edema).
Thomas McBride Morgan wrote later that Mr. Wright died with his "armor on." A family story has it that he died while preaching. He is buried in Corvallis.
Also living in Corvallis at the time were Charles and Robert, children of C. J. Wright from his first marriage. Later, they moved near Spangle, Washington.
To DOCHS 2/02
Cyrus Wright & Sarah Whiteley
| Cyrus Jefferson Wright* (1840-1888) & Nancy Parr (1826-)
| | Charles Amos Wright (1863-) & Jennie Baker
| | Robert Lee Wright (1865-) & Zulu Chase
| Cyrus Jefferson Wright* (1840-1888) & Hannah Margaret Beals (1856-1935)
| | John Goodin Wright (1876-) & Martha Harper
| | Mary Mabel Wright (1879-) & Isaiah D. Arrasmith (1854-)
| | Bertha Belle Wright (1880-) & William Hackett
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