In The Bishops Boys, Tom Crouch writes, "The depth of Reuchlin's isolation and estrangement from his family would become painfully obvious at the time of Wilbur's death of typhoid in the spring of 1912. Reuchlin, Katharine, and Lorin each received a bequest of $50,000. As useful as the money was, Reuchlin apparently did not believe he deserved an equal share and returned $1000 to his father...The bishop would have none of it. The money was returned to Reuchlin with the comment that Wilbur's last will and testament was to be regarded as 'sacred writ'." (1) (With deep respect for Tom Crouch, I question his conclusions of those items above I've placed in bold type.)
Ian Mackersey in The Wright Brothers, writes, "Reuchlin had begun to rebel against his father's domination. Of all the children, he would be the only one successfully to cut loose from its pervasive power." Later he writes, "Susan habitually complained about her daughter-in-law, claiming that her relatives were 'sponging' off Reuchlin. It was the beginning of his more or less permanent disengagement from his own family." Mackersey then later writes, "Only a few of Susan's letters to Milton have survived....they report regularly on the debt-ridden, jobless Reuchlin's unhappy marriage to Lulu Billheimer….". And finally, "Eternally criticized by Lulu for his lack of drive and success in life, he appears by now to have developed a permanent sense of inferiority."(2) After which the author then tells the account of Reuchlin selling the Iowa farm and feeling responsible for paying too high of a commission. How Ian concludes that Susan "habitually complained" when only a few of her letters survive, he doesn't explain. I speak to this line of reasoning in my post Five Copper Cents, where I suggest that Susan was just blowing off steam in this letter because she was suffering from a cold, and upset Milton was away from home. Mackersey's comment that Reuchlin was "Eternally criticized by Lulu" is as I understand it, based on events during an extended family visit in December 1900/January 1901. Imagine if each of us was defined for life by the comments on a given day by a loved one in a bad mood? (Fantastic book on the Wright Brothers, but I simply question the conclusions concerning Reuchlin, and the use of the words "habitually", "permanent disengagement", and "eternally criticized" etc.)
The sources (6) and accounts used by others to portray Reuchlin in this way can be summarized as follows:
September 20, 1888 letter from Susan to Milton in which Susan complained about Reuchlin's lack of employment and about his In-laws.
June 18, 1901 letter from Wilbur to Lulu stating he entirely agrees with her that the boys of the Wright family are all lacking in determination and push.(7)
September 17, 1901 letter from Reuchlin to Milton where Reuchlin provides news of selling Milton's Iowa farm and that he feels bad for paying high commission.
September 25, 1902 letter from Katharine to Milton stating there is no pleasing Reuchlin; he is suspicious of everyone.(8)
October 3, 1907 letter from Milton to Wilbur and Orville mentioning Reuchlin sought independence as a teenager similar to what Reuchlin was now experiencing with his daughter Helen.
October 6, 1912 letter from Reuchlin to Milton concerning Reuchlin's inheritance of equal share of Wilbur's money, and Reuchlin sending Milton $1000, which is later returned.
From these few letters and events mixed with the interpretation that Milton was a domineering father, and Reuchlin's move to Kansas was to escape Milton and family, Reuchlin's life has been defined.
Was Reuchlin a restless young man? Did he fail twice at college? Did he move to Kansas City to distance himself both physically and psychologically from the family? Did he remain estranged from the Dayton clan? As an adult, did Reuchlin grow distant from his father, brothers, and sister in Dayton? Did they not get along with Lulu? Did Reuchlin feel undeserving of the $50,000 inheritance? Was he rebuked for offering $1000 to his father? Let's look at all the evidence.
Milton Wright in his diary entry of Sunday, March 17, 1901, wrote-
"Arose at 6:00. This is the fortieth anniversary of my son Reuchlin's birth, and he was born on a clear, but quite cool Sunday forenoon. He has been a good and dutiful son....."
Reuchlin went through a stage in his late teenage years, seeking his independence. This is not unusual as many of those who have raised children can attest. Asserting oneself and seeking independence is a normal process of transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Milton wrote to Wilbur and Orville October 3, 1907, as they were involved in negotiations in Paris and London "...Reuchlin has much appreciated Wilbur's descriptions of what he has seen, and so do I. This morning I have a letter from Reuchlin, which says that they are all in usual health. Herbert and Bertha are in school. Helen has declared independence, and has gone to town to work. Probably he has about the same experience with her that I had with him when he was about the same age (Helen was 18 years old at this time), only I managed to not let him break away. After a year or two he became and remains most dutiful. He asks whether you have dropped your negotiation with Washington....".(6) Helen eventually became engaged to George Russel, and Reuchlin was opposed to the couple marrying, wanting them to wait till George was educated and settled in his career. They did marry when Helen was 19, George 20. Family relationships improved, and Reuchlin and Lulu enjoyed their daughter, son-in law, and grandchildren. Helen grew out of her "rebellious" stage, as did Reuchlin in his younger years. This natural stage should not define either of them for life.
Many people have attended college, taken courses, changed majors, discovered their interests lay elsewhere, and left without earning a degree. Reuchlin attending college courses without ultimately earning a degree is not "failure" as the Smithsonian website claims. Failure could perhaps be attributed to the individual who attended college, did not apply themselves, were not successful at learning anything, received low grades, and wasted money better spent elsewhere. Applying this same standard to Wilbur and Orville, an historian could label them as "High School dropouts" as neither graduated. This label would be totally inappropriate, as would be the use of the word "failure" concerning Reuchlin's college attendance. Milton Wright in a positive way, shares with a friend that Reuchlin "nearly graduated in College, but prefers a farm....".
In 1901, Reuchlin negotiated the sale of Milton's Adair County, Iowa farm property, and felt that he had paid a higher commission to the land agent than he could have otherwise. The money from the sale was to be divided equally among the brothers, Reuchlin, Lorin, Wilbur, and Orville; a gift from their father Milton. Reuch wrote to his father Sept 17 of 1901, "Yes, we sold the farm. The price obtained was very good, though I paid an exorbitant commission to the land agent. The farm sold for $11,000 cash on 1st of March next, but I pay $400 in commission.....I think probably I did injustice to the other boys in allowing them & I expect to make it up to them in March when we divide up.....I shall therefore make up this hundred dollars to the children in our settlement for I don't want them to feel that their interests have been sacrificed by anything I did..." Sounds pretty honorable to me, an attitude that Reuchlin should be commended for, taking responsibility for his own actions. Yet, historians have used this event as another example of Reuchlin's feelings of inadequacy. Would a better response from Reuch to this father have been "..but I pay $400 in commission, and if you have a problem with that, you sell the next property. I want my full share!" ?
When Wilbur died of typhoid fever in May of 1912, he willed $50,000 each to Reuchlin, Lorin, and Katharine. He willed $1000 to his father as he knew Milton had other financial resources, and that he was secure under the care of his daughter and sons. To Orville, he willed his share of the aeroplane business and patents, knowing that Orville would reap financial reward eventually. Wilbur wrote his will as he was fighting typhoid, and therefore Reuchlin suggested that perhaps if his brother had had more time to think through things, he might have distributed the inheritance differently. This is a reasonable thought to have. A portion of the letter stating this follows:
Reuchlin, writing to his father October 6, 1912-
".....I am enclosing a draft for a thousand dollars. This is not intended exactly as a gift. It is some of Wilbur's money and I am inclined to think perhaps if he had had more time for deliberation he might have made some provisions differently in his will. Anyhow, this is yours to use or give away or do whatever you desire with it- that may give you the most pleasure. Hoping this may find all the folks well. Affectionately, Reuchlin Wright." (6)
In lieu of "The bishop would have none of it", Milton explains that he, Lorin, Katharine, and Orville all wish to honor the will as written, and then expresses his gratitude in his response to his son's offer:
"I return you the check. Your sending it is proof of the reality of your generosity. It is appreciated by us all. But I have plenty of funds to live on, and want nothing. With kind wishes to you all, I am Your Father, Milton Wright." (6)
As far as the suggestion that "...Reuchlin felt inferior to his more famous brothers; he believed that he did not deserve all of the $50,000 he inherited from Wilbur...", consider what Reuchlin wrote to his father in the letter sent prior to the October 6th letter:
Reuchlin to his father July 22, 1912- (6)
Milton Wright, to Mrs Wyatt, September 6, 1914,
|Reuchlin Wright, around 1919.(3)|
January 10- "At home. Not well. Have an influenza cold. Receive telegram from Reuchlin, at Kansas City, saying Catharine Louise, was hopelessly sick (diphtheria) and for me to come immediately. Cath. died that evening."
January 11- "Start about 7:45 A.M. via Hamilton & Indianapolis to Danville. Take Wabash train about 6:30 for Kansas City.....Cath. L. was buried this afternoon."
January 12- "I staid at Mrs. Spohr's, as Reuchlin's beds were not disinfected."
January 13- "We move somethings to Thirty-eighth Street, No 1908....Reuchlin determined to remove to another house."
January 14- "Family are moved. We are busy. Jessie Reeves comes to help Lulu."
January 15- "I help a little on moving. The doctor came. We Go to the cemetery in the afternoon, to see Cath. L's grave."
August 29- "My daughter in law Lulu, Reuchlin's wife, & daughter Helen came Friday."
|Reuchlin and Lulu Wright's son Herbert Abeckett Wright, and their grandson Wilbur Herbert Wright, likely at 2923 Kansas City, Mo, winter of 1920. (3)|
September 17, 1901- Letter from Reuchlin to his father- "Dear Father: I received card from you....We are glad you keep such good health. We are all anticipating much pleasure from your visit. The only complaint is that your stay is so short...." (6)
August 28, 1902- Letter from Milton to Wilbur- "Dear Wilbur: I reached Center Hill Church, 5 miles west of Mt. Carroll, last evening at dark, where Rev. A.X. Harrison handed me your letter and some other letters.....I will go to Reuchlin's if connections are good, and then to Roscoe Church in Washington Co., Kansas....." (6)
September 2, 1902- Letter from Milton to Katharine- "Dear Daughter: .....I do not know whether I can get time to visit Reuchlin till after the Arkansas Valley Conference. It may be that I will omit attending the Oklahoma Conference, & will spend the time at Reuchlin's....I suppose the boys have reached Kitty Hawk by this time. I hope Wilbur will recuperate nicely...." (6)
September 26, 1902- Letter from Milton to Katharine- "Reuchlin says that with some colds, they are all well. Bertha is much pleased with going to school. His oats are thrashed and yielded 35 or 40 bushels to the acre- not measured. He invites me to spend the week with them if I do not go to Oklahoma...." (6)
September 6, 1904- "Herbert meets me and I go in the buggy to Reuchlin's. We went in the afternoon to Turner's after Bertha. I lodge at Reuchlin's."
September 7- "I staid at Reuchlin's till 4:35..."
September 8 letter from Milton to Wilbur-"I visited Reuchlin's....They are all well.....Reuchlin's corn and wheat were pretty good- what was not destroyed by the waters. He will cut up his corn and have enough fodder for winter. Two of the heifers they raised are giving milk, and promise to be good cows...I hope your aeranautical plans and experiments may be successful and accomplished without accidents...." (6)
September 12- "I went to....Reuchlin's."
September 13- "I remained at Reuchlin's."
September 14- "This was Helen's 15th birthday anniversary."
December 20- "I went to town this afternoon and bought Helen a red mohair dress and Bertha an oil cloth blackboard.."
December 21- "We sent a Christmas box to Reuchlin."
January 4, 1905- "Write Reuchlin much gossip & get his letter."
January 26- "Got a letter from Reuchlin and answered it..."
June 28- "I wrote to Reuchlin a long letter on the vitories of General Conference."
July 15- "Wrote to....Reuchlin."
March 17, 1906- "It is 106th anniversary of my Mother's birth, and the 45th of my son Reuchlin's. I wrote him, and sent him five dollars, as a present."
March 18- "A letter came from Reuchlin and one for Horace, enclosed. Horace thought that 'Grandpapa made it', but Milton told him that Uncle wrote it."
August 18, 1907- "I wrote to Reuchlin."
September 5- "Write letters to Reuchlin and Wilbur from whom I received letters this morning..."
October 26- "I wrote letters all day. Wrote to ...Reuchlin...and others."
December 24- "I subscribed for 'The Circle', Magazine, for Reuchlin- $1.50."
January 15, 1908- "Letters received from Reuchlin and from Flora M. Glass. Write several letters."
February 21- "Wrote to Reuchlin."
May 7- "Letters from Reuchlin, and Elmira Koerner."
May 9- "I wrote Reuchlin."
May 19- "Wrote Reuchlin and Barkly."
July 8- "Received a letter from Reuchlin. Wrote to him and to Wilbur."
August 28- "I wrote to Reuchlin and to Bertha Glaze."
September 17- "Orville injured. Orville's disaster at 5:00; Selfridge's death."
September 19- "I wrote Reuchlin."
October 13- "I write Katharine and Reuchlin."
November 18- "I received a letter from Reuchlin, enclosing one from Bertha."
December 30- "I wrote letters to Eva Gray and to Reuchlin."
March 21, 1909- "Received letters from Reuchlin, Bertha Glaize and Clara Gilbert.
May 14- "I send papers to Reuchlin and Clay."
June 3- "Wrote letters to Reuchlin and to...."
June 15- "Reuchlin came at 6:00 p.m."
June 16- "Mayor Burkhart came at 3:30 and took, in his automobile, me and Reuchlin and Katharine and Nettie all over the show ground...."
(June 17-18, Wright Brother Dayton Home Celebration, and Reuchlin attends with Wilbur, Orville, Katharine, Lorin, Lorin's family, and Milton. June 19, Wilbur and Orville leave for Washington.)
June 24- "Reuchlin and I went to Buck Island, and Loos shows the High School building."
June 26- "Lorin and family came up for ice cream. He and Reuchlin opened the art treasure from Sarthe. An Angel of aviation pointing Wilbur & Orville to an eagle."
June 27- "Reuchlin & I hear Rev. Camp, at Summit Street United Brethren Church.....We start at 5:58 p.m. for Washington City, Reuchlin & I."
June 28- "We arrived at Washington at 1:00 p.m. Orville met us and took us to the Raleigh House, were we took rooms in the 8th story. The Senate adjourned & Congressmen came to Witness a flight.."
June 29- "We (Reuchlin & I) went to White House & to the Washington Monument Park. Heat was very oppressive. At 5:00 went to the Fort. Orville flew short distances only. He had an electric fan put in my room."
June 30- "Reuchlin set the fan in motion- a great help. We went to the Smithsonian Institute.....In the evening at Ft. Myer, Orville flew better but broke a skid."
July 1- "Went to Ft. Myer. Orville flew 5, 8, and 9 minutes. We start home, Balt & Ohio, at 12:42."
July 3- "Reuchlin left at 9:55, via Pennsylvania for Tonganoxie, Kansas. Tr. late starting. He went away much improved in health and looks."
September 23- "Letter from C.L. Wood and from Reuchlin..."October 4- "Wilbur flew from Governor's Island beyond Grant's Tomb & back in safety. He had a canoe attached."
December 22- "Wrote Reuchlin..."
February 7, 1910- "I mailed a letter to Reuchlin."
April 5- "Wrote a letter to Reuchlin."
May 2- "I wrote letters, to Reuchlin and others."
July 27- "Letter from Reuchlin says that Herbert has engaged to teach six months at fifty dollars per month- five miles south."
August 24- "I wrote to Reuchlin...."
November 22- "Wilbur came home at 6:00, evening, having visited Reuchlin yesterday."
February 1, 1911- "I got letters from Jess Lefforge and Reuchlin."
March 2- "Wrote to Reuchlin."
August 18- "Reuchlin and Bertha came from Kansas."
August 19- "We all took supper at Lorin's. It is Orville's and Katharine's 40th and 37th birth-day."
August 20- "Reuchlin and I attend the Park Presbyterian Church and hear J.G. Huber pr Phil. 4.8. It was a good sermon."
August 23- "Reuchlin and Bertha go to Aunt Bedell's for supper. Bertha stays here."
August 25- "Reuchlin and I supped at Lorin's."
August 26- "Wilbur meets the Ten Dayton Boys at his office. Reuchlin takes supper at Mrs. Ramsey's."
August 27- "Reuchlin and I attended Grace Lutheran Church and heard H.B. Burkholder pr, Mark 2.1-12.....The granddaughters, Ivonette, Leontine and Bertha dine with us. Reuchlin, Bertha, Ivonette, Leontine and our folks, take an auto ride to Milton's School-house and up Xenia Pike."
August 29- "Lorin's and Reuchlin and Bertha and Orville and Katharine go out to Simms and the three girls fly with Orville. They all sup with us."
September 1- "Reuchlin went to Simms and flew with Orville some half an hour. They rose about 1600 or 1800 feet high. They shut off the motor and sank some hundreds of feet."
September 2- "Ed Sines came to see Reuchlin and talked an hour or so."
September 4- "Reuchlin and Bertha started to their home in Kansas, at 8:45. Lorin, Orville, Katharine, and Lorin's girls go to the depot with them."
October 2- "I wrote to Reuchlin, of my trip to Indiana."
October 11- "I wrote to Reuchlin."
December 3- "I wrote to Reuchlin."
December 23- "Recieved and answered letters from J.L. Buckwater, Reuchlin...."
January 3, 1912- "Wrote to Reuchlin...."
January 27- "I wrote to Reuchlin..."
April 4- "Wrote to Albert Koerner in forenoon and to Reuchlin in Aftn."
May 7- "Letters from Reuchlin and Emma Dennis. Katharine mailed letter to Reuchlin, informing him of Wilbur's sickness."
May 24- "Reuchlin came from Kansas, to-day."
May 27- "Reuchlin saw him in the afternoon. I slept with my clothes on. We thought him near death. He lived through till the morning."
May 30- "This moring at 3:15, Wilbur passed away..."
June 4- "Reuchlin was with me in afternoon."
June 5- "Reuchlin started home at 8:50 forenoon. Perhaps it is our last meeting on earth."
July 25- "Received, letter and wrote Reuchlin."
October 18- "I wrote letters to Reuchlin (card)..."
December 4- "Received a letter from Reuchlin. He seems pleased with Baldwin. They approved of Helen's removal to Cottonwood Falls."
January 27, 1913- "Wrote to Reuchlin in answer to a letter from him."
February 20-"I received letters from Reuchlin, Helen and S.A. Stemen. Wrote to Reuchlin."
March 4- "I received a letter from Reuchlin, and answered it."
March 24- "I apprehended a flood. Felt the danger of it."
(1913 Flood occurred)
March 30- "I wrote to Reuchlin. Curfew came before I mailed my letter."
March 31- "I went to the School-house and mailed letter to Reuchlin..."
April 4- "I wrote to Reuchlin.."
April 24- "Received a letter and write one to Reuchlin."
June 19- "Wrote to Reuchlin..."
July 16- "Wrote card to Reuchlin in Sayner, Wis..."
September 24- "Received a letter from Reuchlin."
October 23- "I get letters from Reuchlin and Ellis Wright."
December 16- "I got a letter from Reuchlin..."
April 9, 1914- "Reuchlin came before noon. He came at Orville's request to consult about their business."
April 11- "Reuchlin supped at Lorin's."
April 13- "Reuchlin started home about 9:00 A.M."
May 5- "I wrote to Reuchlin, mailed to-day."
May 30- "It is just two years since Wilbur died. Oh, why did he go so soon?
May 31- "I wrote to Reuchlin."
August 6- "A letter from Reuchlin came. I had mailed one to him. Wrote one more."
September 7- "A letter from Reuchlin, the 4th, says that his motherinlaw Billheimer was that day seventy-nine years old. She is actively keeping house for Reuchlin while Lulu is visiting Herbert in Colorado."
March 17, 1915- "I wrote to Reuchlin on his fifty-fourth birth-day anniversary."
August 6- "I wrote Reuchlin."
August 18, 1916- "Letter or card from Reuchlin's, who are moving from Baldwin City to 639 Freeman Ave, Kan. City, Kan."
September 27- "I wrote a letter to Reuchlin. Sent him a copy of John Philip Freyer's old register..."
October 19- "Reuchlin and Lulu came about six o'clock....Reuchlin and Lulu appeared to be in good health."
October 21- "Reuchlin's were at our house. Reuchlin went with Lorin to town."
October 22- "Lorin's family, including Ivonette, dined with us. Reuchlin's also. They staid through the afternoon. John Wright came. Ivonette sung and Lulu played for her. We had many 'Victor' songs."
October 23- "Reuchlin and Lulu went to see her Aunt Ramsey, at Mrs. Bartle's."
October 24- "Reuchlin's went to Aunt Ann Ramsey's for supper & staid till bed-time."
October 27- "Reuchlin's went out to Orville's flying grounds."
October 28- "Lulu went to her Aunt Lizzie's, at Ravenna, Ohio. Reuchlin went to Lorin's and remained over Sunday, till eve."
October 29- "Reuchlin came home at night."
October 31- "Reuchlin went home this morning."
November 16- "Received letters of congratulation from Reuchlin, Herbert, and Bertha."
November 22- "I learn from Lulu, that her brother Frederick had a little boy who died at a week old. Mark Wood's widow is married again to a nice man. She has a little Billheimer girl about 9 years old."
November 23- "The women went down town."
November 24- "Lulu went to Netta's. Orville brought her home in the evening."
November 26- "Lulu started for home this morning."
December 25- "Lorin's whole family, Bertha Elwyn, Wright, and Jay R. Petree dined with us and staid till 6:00.."
December 28- "Mrs. Justina Stevens and Bertha Elwyn were with us for supper. Orville and Katharine took Mrs. Stevens home, and Elwyn to Lorin's. She is very fond of the ukulele, which Orville and Katharine give to her."
December 29- "Elwyn came & dined with us."
December 30- Bertha started home. She is a good looking, smart girl, 20 years old."
|Bertha Ellywn Wright, daughter of Reuchlin and Lulu Wright, 1915, courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University Libraries.|
Milton's diary entries continue through early 1917, with his last entry April 3. He was 88 years old.
1917 letter from Reuchlin to Cousin Estelle, Kansas City, Kans.- "I suppose you have learned of the death of my father, your Uncle Milton. It occurred some time early Tuesday morning April 3rd. He was about the evening before as usual seemingly feeling as well as usual. He read the evening paper, wrote at his desk, was back and forth in Katharine's room talking to her and went to bed as usual. In the morning, he not coming down to breakfast as usual they went to his room and found him lying seemingly asleep in one of his favorite positions & covered. Touching him they found he was dead but the body not yet quite rigid. He must have died while yet asleep, there being no indication of suffering or struggle. A more peaceful death could hardly been imagined, and we are grateful for that. He was buried Thursday P.M. at the Woodland Cemetery beside Mother & Wilbur..." (12)
|Lulu and Reuchlin Wright, around 1919.(3)|
Orville Wright visited the Kansas family during the summer of 1919, of which Bertha writes, "The summer of 1919, Uncle Orv came through Kansas City, on a trip west. I introduced him to my fiancé, Harold Steeper, cashier of the Bank of McLouth, McLouth, Kansas.....On October 8th of that year, Aunt Katharine and Uncle Orv came from Dayton for our wedding. This was a triple wedding with two of Harold's sisters being married in the same ceremony. The wedding was performed in McLouth, Kansas, where Harold was born and reared and where my sister Helen and her family were living. Mother, Papa, Uncle Orv and Aunt Katharine drove out from Kansas City for the wedding." (4) Orville and Katharine did not realize at the time that this would be their last visit with their brother Reuchlin.
From the Kansas City Times, Mo, Monday, May 24, 1920, "Reuchlin Wright, 59 years old, died yesterday at his home, 3836 Euclid avenue, following a stroke of apoplexy. Mr. Wright was first stricken last Monday morning but seemed to be on the road to recovery when he received a second stroke from which he failed to recover. He was a brother to Wilbur and Orville Wright, the inventors of the first successful heavier-than-air flying machine..." Unfortunately, Orville was suffering from sciatica (13) at the time of Reuchlin's strokes and eventual death, and therefore neither Orville nor Katharine was able to visit Reuchlin during his final week. From the Dayton Daily Journal, May 24, 1920, "Information of a previous stroke which he suffered one week ago today summoned his younger brother, Lorin Wright, to Kansas City, where he and his wife now are. Orville Wright is ill with sciatica at his home in Oakwood, so neither he nor his sister, Miss Katharine Wright, will be able to go west..."
After Reuchlin's death, Lulu's relationship with Orville did not diminish, but grew fonder with the passing years. Bertha Ellwyn wrote of a visit to Orville's vacation property at Lambert Island in Georgian Bay, Canada, "We had two children, Margaret, age six, and Charles, two years of age. On this trip, in May 1934, we took Mother (Lulu) with us, thus providing Uncle Orv with a sparing partner. They had many heated but friendly arguments which Uncle Orv dearly loved." (4)
Orville would continue to be involved with Lulu and her children and grandchildren throughout the rest of his life. Financially he assisted with college education expenses. When the Wright's 7 Hawthorn home and the 1127 West Third Wright's Cycle Shop were relocated to Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan by Henry Ford, Lulu attended the celebration event in 1938 along with her daughter's families (the Steeper and Russel families), and her grandson Wilbur H. Wright, Herbert's son. When Herbert's daughter Katharine married Edward Dugald Chaffee on May 29, 1943, Lulu, Bertha Ellwyn, and Orville attended the wedding. Bertha Ellwyn's daughter Margaret married Robert Edwards on June 23, 1946, and Orville was invited to that wedding. Bertha wrote "Uncle Orv and Mother (Lulu) drove to the church together and had a little trouble finding the church, so they were almost late. As Uncle Orv was the last of the Bishop Wright's children and Lulu Billheimer Wright was the last of the in-laws, they seemed to especially enjoy this opportunity to talk about the old and familiar things in regard to the family....." (4)
For more on Reuchlin Wright's family, please read my posts:
Five Copper Cents- The True Account of Jacob and Amanda Billheimer- Reuchlin Wright's In-Laws
The Story of Herbert and Irene Wright
Raising Wilbur Herbert Wright
Index of topics
1. The Bishop's Boys- Tom Crouch, 1989, one of the best books on the Wright Brothers ever written.
2. The Wright Brothers- The Remarkable Story of the Aviation Pioneers Who Changed the World- Ian Mackersey, 2003, also one of the best books on the Wright Brothers ever written.
3. Picture from Author's collection.
4. From Wright Reminiscences- Compiled by Ivonette Wright Miller, 1978
5. Yet this June 18, 1901 letter from Wilbur to Lulu has been quoted by others as evidence to support that the Dayton family did not get along with her. I believe, as I've stated, it shows the relationship was strong enough to endure honest criticism.
6. From Library of Congress Wright Brother archives.
7. This is a neat letter in which Wilbur offers wise council to his sister-in-law in such a loving way. Basically, when Reuchlin, Lulu, and children were visiting Dayton family for Christmas of 1900, Wilbur witnessed how whenever there was a disagreement between Reuch and Lulu's son Herbert and his sisters Helen and Bertha, the parents would always side with the sisters. Wilbur points out that Herbert "is by nature a little quieter in his disposition than most children. He is not at all aggressive even in maintaining his just rights." Herbert's parents were wanting him to choose business as a career, and so Wilbur continues, "When I heard that you intended to put him into a business early I could not help feeling that in teaching him to prefer others to himself you were giving him a very poor training for the life work you had chosen for him, for in business it is the aggressive man who continually has his eye on his own interest who succeeds. Business is merely a form of warfare in which each combatant strives to get their business away from his competitors and at the same time keep them from getting what he already has. No man has ever been successful in business who was not aggressive, self assertive and even a little bit selfish perhaps...." He then writes, "If Herbert were less retiring and more assertive than he is I would entirely agree to putting him into business early....I agree that a college training is wasted on a man who expects to follow commercial pursuits. Neither will putting a boy, who has not the aggressive business instinct, to work early, make a successful business man of him. I entirely agree that the boys of the Wright family are all lacking in determination and push. That is the very reason that none of us have been or will be more than ordinary business men.......We ought not the have been business men...." This letter has been quoted as Wilbur agreeing that the boys of the Wright family are all lacking in determination and push. But in the context of the letter, Wilbur is not saying this is a bad trait. He is simply saying that in the business world, to paraphrase, it is dog eat dog, and only those who are aggressive and a bit selfish are successful in that field.
8. This line concerning Reuchlin is not the main focus of the letter, but simply one comment. Katharine mentions Lorin will be heading for Kitty Hawk, and then says, "He (Lorin) intends to start next Monday morning. He is better but needs the rest and change so much. I gave him a check for $25. Reuch and Lorin have kind of a hard time, it seems to me. I'd like to do something for Reuch but a person can't do anything to please him. He is suspicious of everything." That's it. Should one statement from a sister define a man for all time?
9. From Wright Reminiscences compiled by Ivonette Wright Miller, "The City of Dayton celebrated...Uncle Reuchlin Wright from Kansas came for the festivities. Mayor Burkhart took grandfather, mother, Uncle Reuch and Aunt Katharine for a trip in his car, going all over the show areas at the Fairgrounds, the Cash Register, Dayton View and the Soldier's Home. There were fireworks the next night at the Miami River bank, and Uncle Reuch went over with us to see them...The bronze statue 'The Muse of Aviation' arrived from France and my father and Uncle Reuch unpacked it. It had been presented to Orville and Wilbur by the Aero Club of LaSarthe….When Uncle Orv made his flights in Ft. Myer they sent for grandfather and Uncle Reuch to come to Washington. Orville met them and took them to the Raleigh House....After several days of sightseeing, grandfather and Uncle Reuch came back to Dayton and Reuchlin on to Kansas."
10. From Wright Reminiscences compiled by Ivonette Wright Miller, "In August of 1911, when Uncle Reuch and his daughter (Bertha) Ellwyn were visiting us, Uncle Orv took us up, all three of us. Leontine was first, Ellwyn being our guest was second. Then it was my turn."
11. Ohio Home of the Wright Brothers, by Louis Chmiel- Louis writes, "Later in the year near the end of August Reuchlin's wife Lulu along with their daughter Helen came back to Dayton to visit....When Lulu left Dayton in early September, to return to Kansas City, Katharine Wright accompanied her back home. When Milton arrived in Kansas City on September 19, Katherine was there staying with Reuchlin's family. Milton was at Reuchlin's over the course of four days relaxing and visiting with Katharine, Reuchlin, Lulu, and his granddaughter Helen......Milton departed...on an excursion of over fifteen small Kansas towns....met up with Reuchlin at the train depot....they stayed over together at the home of a church elder....A week after Milton arrived home in Dayton he was at the Union Depot....to meet Katharine coming in......she had been in Kansas City with Lulu and Reuchlin for about two months..."
12. From WSU Wright Brother Archives.
13. Orville suffered from bouts of sciatica for the rest of his life due to injuries received in September of 1908 at Ft. Myer. Travel during his times of illness was not possible due to extreme pain.
14. Reuchlin's Family Tree- I will add to this or make corrections as needed. Any family input would be welcomed. Additional names are listed in Family Tree pictured below my summary.