Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Rev. Tyrannus Augustus Wright 1779-1863

Despite his Caesar-like name, my three times great grand uncle, Tyrannus Augustus Wright, does not appear to have been any kind of a despot. He was the son of Captain Charles and Ruth Wright, and with his brother, Charles Jr., was the first of the family to go the Black River country of upstate New York to scout out a new lands to settle. He is significant to me in my genealogy research because his relationship with my three times great grandfather, Stephen Hart, in Pinckney, New York, described in History of Lewis County, New York by Hough, helped me to make the connection between the Wright family and the Harts. That is, this helped me to ascertain that it was his niece, Sally Wright Merriam, a.k.a. Sarah, who had married Stephen Hart’s son, John Hart. Tyrannus had his own “firsts” in Lewis County, and was also the father of a couple of sons who had claims to fame, albeit tragic ones. He was a pioneer, a teacher, a farmer, militia man, hotel proprietor, Justice of the Peace, Town Supervisor, and clergyman during his life.

Tyrannus Augustus Wright was born on February 6, 1779 in Winchester, Litchfield, Connecticut, the sixth child in a family of twelve. He was named after an older brother who had died in infancy. As mentioned previously, he came to what is now Lewis county with his brother in 1801, and then settled in the area with his extended family in 1802. He first lived in Denmark village with the rest of the family, and then in 1810 moved to the closeby town of Pinckney. He taught the first school in Copenhagen, New York around 1810, and was also a lieutenant in the local militia. He married Mary C. Fitch, likely after the move to New York state, and had probably eleven children: Amanda, Chester, Ella, Emeline, John, Lucius, Elijah Tracy, Stephen Smith “Sylvanus”, Mary Irene, Augustus Tyrannus, and Solon (not necessarily in this order). I originally could only identify two of Tyrannus’s children, Lucius and Sylvanus, and only by reading Hough’s book, as it was not until 1850 that family members were listed in the census, and I had no other source which included his children. I knew that he had several children, but was stymied in identifying them. The “Augustus Wright” mentioned by Hough, was a suspect due to his name, and I was able to confirm that he was a son of Tyrannus through connecting him with a sister, Mary Irene, in a newspaper account, and then connecting the sister with Tyrannus through the sister’s husband’s family genealogy. So, I now had four of his children. I was then fortunate enough to receive an article from the Lewis County Historical Society which listed most of Tyrannus’s children: Pinckney Corners--its Settlement, Settlers, Where They Made Their Homes—Recollections by L.F. Wright, in Copenhagen, New York: An American Bicentennial History, 1976.

In Pinckney, Tyrannus built a hotel with his “brother” (likely Nathan), which was the first in the town. He appears to have been a “private” in the militia in Carter’s regiment during the War of 1812. In 1813, he was appointed Justice of the Peace, along with his brother Charles Jr. and Stephen Hart. In 1816, he was elected Supervisor of the Town of Pinckney, and again in 1836, but was not permitted to serve this term due to “ordination”, which means that he became a minister of the church in the intervening time. His son Stephen (Sylvanus) refers to him as a “clergyman” in an account written in 1844 of his own captivity in Canada in 1838 after a failed invasion attempt. It appears that Rev. Tyrannus could be effective in his work:

About this time I received a visit from my dear father—he was the second person permitted to see the prisoners since our capture—and sweet was that interview. The sheriff refused my father the privilege of praying with any of the prisoners, and that (without regard to his age or occupation as a clergyman) in a most insulting manner; he however permitted him to leave me a New Testament. During his stay, he exhorted the Helper of the weak to look down in mercy upon us amid our sore afflictions; he told us of Paul and Silas in the cell at Philipi, and of Peter, whom the angel of the Lord liberated from prison; and though every description of persons were gathered together—the licentious, the profligate, the vile and the profane, all came around and listened to him as one from the dead, (for the world was in truth dead to us), and he was a messenger from the bright earth and blue sky, and our hearts were cheered in this dark hour of our affliction, expecting daily our trials and death, as we had no hope of any other fate reserved for us. And now he departed, and all was gloom and dark forebodings of the future. The interview seemed not over ten minutes, though it lasted a full hour, and we were many in our misery and desolation, incarcerated in the leprous dungeons of Fort Henry.

The Rev. Tyrannus Wright’s other accomplishments included being one of the commissioners for the completion of a state road in 1820; founding the first Methodist Episcopal Society in Pinckney along with Stephen Hart, Nathan Wright and others in 1831; and becoming a trustee of the Methodist Episcopal Society of Deer River in 1852. He died on July 21, 1863 in Denmark, New York. It is not known where he is buried.

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