Sunday, May 22, 2016

Manliff Jarrell Wrenn (1858-1934)

Portrait from the History of North Carolina: North Carolina Biography, 1919.

   Very likely the only "Manliff" ever to be elected to public office in the United States, Manliff Jarrell Wrenn was for many years a leading figure in the business and political life of High Point, North Carolina. A wealthy furniture manufacturer, banker, and telephone company executive, Wrenn served four years as Mayor of High Point and in 1928 was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention held in Houston, Texas.
   The son of Merritt and Nancy Jarrell Wrenn, Manliff Jarrell Wrenn was born in Randolph County, North Carolina on August 25, 1858.  A descendant of a family long prominent in the history of Randolph County, Manliff J. Wrenn's unusual first name also has a variation in spelling, being recorded as "Manleff" in addition to the spelling given here. 
  Left fatherless at a young age, Wrenn removed with his mother and siblings to High Point, North Carolina in 1865 and until the age of twenty-one resided with his maternal uncle and namesake, Manliff Jarrell. Wrenn would attend school in that city and as a youth worked in his uncle's hotel. He would later leave that employ to take work as a clerk in a grocery store and for two years continued in that profession, eventually accumulating enough money to go into business for himself.
   Wrenn's grocery business later saw his brother Thomas join as a partner, and this partnership continued on for nearly a decade. Thomas Wrenn would later turn his attention to establishing a furniture store in High Point, a business venture that greatly interested Manliff, who would join his brother in the High Point Furniture Company, a business noted for being the first of its kind in the city. After become "financially interested" in that company, Manliff Wrenn bought out the shares of the business's other partners and saw the company expand significantly, seeing the original buildings replaced by "modern brick structures" outfitted with then state of the art machinery. Wrenn would also serve the company as it's nightwatchman during its formative years.
   By 1900 Manliff Wrenn had become the sole owner of the High Point Furniture Company and in the succeeding years had made his name known in other commercial areas of High Point, including service as a director for the Atlantic Bank and Trust Company, the owner of the Union Brokerage Co. and was a half owner of the Wrenn-Columbia Furniture Company, established in the early 1900s.
  While a leading figure in High Point business circles, Manliff Wrenn also made substantial headway in that city's political life. He would serve as a member of the city's Board of Aldermen for several years and in 1904 was elected to the first of two terms as Mayor of High Point; his four years in office being noted as ones of "substantial municipal progress" for the city. 
   In the years following his time as Mayor Manliff Wrenn continued with his earlier business pursuits and married on June 11, 1918 to Elise Louise Clinard (1880-1948). In 1921 he took on the position of President of the North State Telephone Company, continuing in that office until his death. Around this same time, Wrenn became active in the construction of the Southern Furniture Exposition Building, being both a stockholder and vice president (holding the latter until his death.) In the 1928 election year, Wrenn served as part of North Carolina's delegation to the Democratic National Convention that nominated former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith for the Presidency.
   After many years of prominence in High Point, Manliff Jarrell Wrenn died in Florida on February 18, 1934. He was survived by his wife Louise, who succeeded him as head of the High Point Furniture Company.  In 1937 Louise donated funds to establish the M.J. Wrenn Memorial Library, located on the campus of High Point College. Following her death in 1948 Louise Wrenn was interred alongside her husband at the Oakwood Cemetery in High Point. 

Manliff J. Wrenn, from the High Point Enterprise, Sept. 4, 1938.

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