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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bishop Milton Wright, Editor of Religious Telescope and Father of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

(Revised March 9, 2019) The Wright Brother's father, Milton Wright, was editor of the Religious Telescope from 1869 through 1877. The Telescope was the organ (newspaper) of the United Brethren and was printed at the UB Publishing House in Dayton, which is still standing, now known as the Centre City Building. He continued to contribute submissions to the Telescope up to the split of the church in 1889. Contrary to some fictional writer's portrayal,  Milton Wright was a loving father and husband, and was greatly admired by his children. 

Father of Wilbur and Orville Wright
Members of the Twentieth General Conference, Old Constitution UB, 1889. Bishop Wright top row, third from left.(1)

January 5, 1876 Dayton Ohio issue, United Brethren
January 5, 1876 issue, Milton Wright and W.O. Tobey, Editors.(1)

 Milton provides a summary of his ministry with the United Brethren in a letter dated June 22, 1909, just prior to heading to Ft. Myer to watch Orville fly. "Yes, I am the student at Hartsville, of 1853. I have since served as presiding elder ten yeas (years), as editor (1869-1877) eight years; as bishop twenty-four years, beginning in 1877. I  am in the last half of my eighty-first year....."

Bishop Wright, father of Wilbur and Orville Wright letter
Portion of Milton Wright letter to L.N. Countryman, June 22, 1909 (1)

 In 1877, Milton was elected bishop, as recorded in the Proceedings of the Seventeenth General Conference, of the United Brethren in Christ, Held in Westfield, Illinois.

Milton Wright elected Bishop of UB church
May 1877 Proceedings of the 17th UB General Conference (1)
Milton Wright, father of Wright Brothers
From the 1877 Proceedings, Milton Wright elected Bishop.

Milton's mission work took him to the Pacific coast to Oregon. In May of 1886, Milton wanted to relocate his family, but because of poor health of his wife Susan, and his son Wilbur, and because of the expense, he had to leave them in Dayton. Per his diary, he left for Portland May 24th. The Religious Telescope records in the May 26th, 1886 issue, "Bishop Wright said he had a desire to have his family on the coast, but it was a great undertaking while they were in present ill health. It was not thought best to remove Sister Wright over the mountains...." 
Tom Crouch in "The Bishops Boys" pg 75, writes of Wilbur's accident, being injured while playing a game on ice skates. Tom indicates the winter of 1885-86 is the likely period for the accident to have occurred, and also shares Milton Wright's words of what happened: "In his nineteenth year when playing a game on skates at an artificial lake at the Soldier's Home near Dayton, Ohio, a bat accidentally flew out of the hand of a young man...and struck Wilbur, knocking him down...a few weeks later, he began to be affected with nervous palpitations of the heart....The family insisted on a period of extended rest for Wilbur when the first sign of serious complications developed."

Bishop Wright move to west coast
Religious Telescope, May 26, 1886- Wright's desire to move family to coast, but they were in ill health. (1)
The May 5th, 1886 Telescope makes mention of Milton and Susan's son Reuchlin's marriage. 

Brother of Wilbur and Orville Wright
May 5th, 1886 Telescope, Marriage of Reuchlin and Lulu Billheimer. (1)

Dr. L. Davis officiated in the ceremonies of the occasion, marriage of Reuchlin Wright and Lulu Billheimer.

The October 6, 1886 Telescope reports that Susan Wright's mother fell on the stairs, breaking one of her thighs. Several years later, January 23 1889 issue reports Susan's mother has died. Susan would also die that year, on July 4th.

Wright Brother's grandmother
October 6, 1886 Telescope, news of Susan Wright's mother's accident. (1)
The differences of opinions between the Radicals (Conservatives) and the Liberals within the Brethren Church that eventually led to the split in 1889 are recorded for history in the Telescope, with many articles written by Milton Wright arguing against proposed changes to the Church Constitution, and against the relaxing of the restrictions of membership of Brethren in secret societies, of which Milton was opposed. Wilbur was much involved with assisting his father in this battle, and the story is told well in Tom Crouch's "The Bishop Boys", and Ian Mackersey's "The Wright Brothers". Milton's Telescope articles and responses by others appear through the years, a sample as follows:

June 15, 1881, pg 597, A Card- Richmond Indiana, "I idea of either abandoning its principles or its laws on secrecy."
April 7, 1886- Communications- article by Milton Wright
April 21, 1886- The Real Issues- Response to Bishop Wright by W. J. Shuey.
May 12, 1886- A Card, Response to Shuey's article by M. Wright.
August 4, 1886- a.The Real Situation, Gen'l Conference of 1885 explained by Shuey. Controversy over secret societies. b. L. Davies article stating that he didn't say specific things attributed to him. c. Reuchlin Wright confirms this account. d. Conference minutes from Walla Walla by Bishop Wright.
May 30, 1888- a. A New Bishopric Proposed- Bishop Wright as candidate for new Episcopal dignity over genuine United Brethren. Told he needs to disavow himself from this, to correct it. b. A Few Things- Men who separate themselves from a J. Weaver.
June 4, 1888, Comparison- Amended & Old Confession of Faith & Constitution. 
June 27, 1888- a. The Amended Constitution- Shuey. b. The New Bishopric- Bishop Wright, why did he not give Brother Dillon the spanking he deserved? Give the writer of such "gossipy" "anonymous" articles a spanking. Give him a good one.

United Brethren, Milton Wright friend
1889 photo of William Dillon, editor of the Christian Conservator
By 1888, the articles begin to get very personal. Susan Wright had had enough, and writes a letter to her husband, dated June 1, 1888. This letter is held in the WSU Special Collections & Archives.  
Susan writes "Hott has held in as long as he could and has now commenced on you. In the last Tel he has a note entitled a New Bishopric proposed, and then goes on to quote what Dillon wrote in the last Conservator about your last visit to the coast.....I have it in my mind to write him a note thanking him for the interest he takes in your welfare and that of your district and suggest that Judas also took quite an interest in his Lord...." (Susan was so shy in nature, it really is funny that she wrote that line. Matt Yanney)
Susan was referring to the following article, written by editor J.W. Hott:

Religious Telescope, May 30, 1888, page 344, Editorial Notes- A New Bishopric Proposed. It is understood that a few of our brethren who are leading in the opposition to the action of the General Conference and the church-commission are planning a threat of separation from the Church after the next General Conference in the event that the Church and General Conference should approve and adopt the revised constitution. Though a year has yet to elapse before the sitting of the General Conference, last week the following paragraph given in their paper indicates the plans of the distant future in so far as to put Bishop Wright forth as the candidate for a new Episcopal dignity. ("Their paper", the Christian Conservator, began publication soon after the General Conference of 1885) It reads: "Bishop Wright will leave for his district on the Pacific coast, May 28th. This is his last trip to the coast under this election. The next quadrennium he will likely serve as bishop over genuine United Brethren in the eastern states." The item being reasonably suspected to come from an intimate friend of the bishop, deserves his prompt attention and disavowal in the same medium which proclaims it.....It ill becomes a bishop to travel under such a banner of division, no matter by whom lifted above him. We have that high regard for the bishop which prompts us to believe that he will correct this compromising statement at the earliest opportunity. (If the author had a high regard for the Bishop, he would have written directly to Milton, and not made the issue a public one- Matt Yanney).
This article is followed by another in the Religious Telescope, June 27, 1888, pg 408, Editorial Notes, That New Bishopric, written by James Hott- Bishop Wright in cleansing himself of the aspersion cast upon him by Brother Dillon, also devotes himself to a castigation of the Telescope for calling his attention to such an offensive statement as we could not in justice to the Church overlook. Why did he not give Brother Dillon the spanking he deserved? He lets him off as a mere writer of "anonymous" and "gossipy" articles. That we tried to throw suspicion on the bishop's official integrity and hinder his usefulness on his district is not at all correct. When we quoted the paragraph which stated that Bishop Wright "would likely serve as bishop over genuine United Brethren in the eastern states" after the next General Conference, we kindly called his attention (Give me a break!) to a public menace of division in the Church.....Bro. Wright thinks the article first giving forth the announcement "gossipy" and "anonymous". His facilities were better than ours for knowing that it was written by Bro. Dillon, the editor of the paper and the leader of the movement it represents. It has since been defended as such. Nor was it a private matter which the editor of the Telescope was under bonds to see the bishop about. It was before the public a week before his departure, and he had received the "stab in the back" from Brutus. It was a "stab" in the breast......Let him see Bro. Dillon concerning the matter. Give the writer of such "gossipy" "anonymous" articles a spanking. Give him a good one. (William Dillon was editor of the Christian Conservator).

Spoke at funeral of Susan Wright, mother of Wright Brothers
The Christian Conservator edited by Revs. W. Dillon and H. Floyd. Bishop Floyd spoke at Susan Wright's funeral.

Telescope, July 2, 1885, Christian Conservator succeeds Richmond Star (1)

Susan wrote another letter to Milton, dated July 25, 1888- 
"Dr Hott lets Will off pretty easy. He calls him nothing worse than a fool but don't deny a word he says. He says wise men sometimes change their minds, but fools never. He says some have recently spent much breath and ink in trying to make it appear that there was some monster crime in the church commission because the members spoke their minds freely and did not always agree to every thing proposed." (The comment from Dr. Hott, editor of the Telescope up to 1889, about Wilbur being a fool is in reference to Wilbur's "Scenes in the Church Commission During the Last day of its Session", Wright Printers, Ohio 1888.)
Religious Telescope July 25th, 1888, Differences of Opinion- Men do not always think alike. Wise men do not always think the same things. It is an old adage, "Wise men sometimes change their opinions; fools never." There are those who are always hunting for differences, and with a view to magnify them. Recently some (Wilbur Wright and his "Scenes in the Church Commission...") have spent much breath and freely shed ink to try to make it appear that there was some terrible monster crime in the church-commission... 

Milton Wright recorded in his Diary July 6, 1889 "D. K. Zeller and Emma came & Daniel Koerner, and our son Reuchlin. Funeral at 2:00 afternoon. Bp. Halleck Floyd (pictured above) pr. Ps. 116:15. 'Precious in sight.' Bury Susan in Woodland Cemetery about 4:00 pm. Daniel Koerner & Emma Zeller stay with us." 
Susan K. Wright had passed away July 4, 1889. Milton had written "and thus went out the light of my home." In the June 22, 1909 letter pictured at the beginning of this blog, nearing the 20th anniversary of his wife's passing, Milton wrote "..Susan Koerner, 'the sweetest spirit earth ever knew', who left us July 4th, 1889...."
The responsibilities of the church struggles continued, and Bishop Wright worked on the new Discipline, indicating in his Diary July 11th, "Worked on preparing copy for the next Discipline all forenoon & part of the afternoon with Rev. Wm. Dillon (pictured above)..."
Below is pictured the 1889 Discipline as assembled by Bishop Wright. I have read that "Wright's sons Wilbur and Orville provided publishing services for the new organization until a publishing house could be established in Huntington, Indiana"- I have wondered if Wilbur and Orville may have printed the 1889 Disciplines. Anyone with information one way or the other on this question- I would appreciate any comments.  

Edited by Bishop Milton Wright
Two Disciplines were published in 1889, one from the New Constitution UB Church, and this one compiled by Bishop Wright, for the Old Constitution UB Church.(1)

In the Introduction, Milton writes that during the May 1889 General Conference, "a portion of the General Conference abandoned the Confession of Faith and Constitution of the United Brethren in Christ and organized a new church having new articles of faith and a new constitution. As that Church has seen fit to issue a book of seems necessary to state that the book of discipline here presented is the Discipline of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ..." (1)
This 1889 United Brethren Discipline was signed by Rev. J. K. Nelson, pictured in the members of the 20th General Conference. (1)
Maryland Conference
1889 picture of J. K. Nelson of the Maryland Conference.

The dispute between the Radicals and the Liberals is documented in the Telescope over the next number of years, through 1894, with many negative comments by W. J. Shuey concerning Milton Wright, as the court battles continued over ownership of church property.
Two decades later, Shuey and Wright are honored on the 80th Anniversary issue. Time and forgiveness heals wounds.
In 1899, Dr. Hott's wife died, and Milton records in his diary-
Monday, August 7, At home. Mrs. Martha Hott died at 8:00.
Wednesday, August 9, Attended the funeral of Mrs. (J.W.) Hott at 12:00. W.J. Shuey and J.Weaver officiated. 
In 1902, J.W. Hott died and Milton wrote-
Monday, January 13, ....Attended Bishop Jas. Wm. Hott's funeral at 1:00, at Oak St. U.B. Church.
In 1914, Milton writes in his diary "Monday, February 9, Rev. W. J. Shuey was born in Miamisburg, Feb 9, 1827. He is now 87 years old...." 
And in 1917, he writes "Friday, February 9, This is W. J. Shuey's Birth-Day Anniversary- the ninetieth. Orville told me that I had an invitation to attend it...."

Bishop Milton Wright, father of Wilbur and Orville Wright
December 31, 1914 issue of The Telescope, 80th anniversary issue, Author's copy.
 From the 1917 issue of "The Ohio Blue Book- or Who's Who in- The Buckeye State", Milton Wright is listed "Teacher- Clergyman: born, Rush Co., Ind., Nov. 17, 1828; son of Dan Wright and Catharine (Reeder) Wright; educated: Rush and Fayette counties common schools; Hartsville College. Married, Susan Catharine Koerner, Nov. 24; 1859. Clergyman, 1853; ordained by Bishop David Edwards, Abbington, Ind., 1856; had charge of Indianapolis Mission Station, 1855-1856; elected editor of the Religious Telescope, 1869; served 8 yrs.; elected Bishop, 1877; served 24 yrs. Positively and publicly declined again to serve in 1905. The United Brethren in Christ. Encouraged his sons, Wilbur and Orville Wright, in their invention of the aeroplane and helped them with means by which they accomplished it. Home address: Oakwood, Dayton, O."

Dayton Daily News, April 4, 1917

Milton Wright died April 3, 1917, and is buried at Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio in the family plot shared with his wife Susan, sons Wilbur and Orville, and daughter Katharine.

Father of Wilbur and Orville Wright, 1917
The Ohio Blue Book, 1917, Author's copy. Milton Wright listed, "Encouraged his sons, Wilbur and Orville Wright, in their invention of the aeroplane and helped them with means by which they accomplished it." My Great Uncle, Benjamin Franklin Yanney, shares this page with the father of the Wright Brothers (lower right hand).(1)

See also "Christianity Amongst the Wrights" for more on Bishop Wright. 

 Index of Topics

3/9/19 added April 4, 1917 Death notice.

1. From author's collection.

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