Monday, July 25, 2016

Pitkin Cowles Wright (1834-1896)

Portrait courtesy of

     An attorney and Masonic leader in Clinton County, Iowa, Pitkin Cowles Wright was a transplant to that state from Connecticut. Following his relocation to Iowa in the mid-1850s he set up a law practice and during his residency in Clinton County served as Mayor of the town of De Witt and later, County Judge. Attaining high rank in the Masonic fraternity, Wright served as Grand Commander of the Knights Templar of Iowa, holding that post from 1871-72.
   Pitkin C. Wright was born in Canaan, Connecticut on May 17, 1834, being the son of Dr. Albert Alfred and Frances Anne Cowles Wright. Young Pitkin was afforded "the benefit of an excellent education" and would be a student at the Williams College in Massachusetts. He graduated in the class of 1852 and shortly thereafter began reading law. After three years of study, he was admitted to the bar and in 1855 relocated to Binghamton, New York, where he joined the law firm of Hotchkiss and Seymour.
   Wright's time in New York lasted only a year, and, seeing a bright future for himself in the American West, began a lengthy trek to Iowa. By the fall of 1856 Wright had established himself as a lawyer in the town of Camanche, then just a small village in Clinton County. He resettled in the town of De Witt in 1857 and soon began to establish roots in that community. Wright married in September 1861 to Clara Edwards (born 1839), with whom he had three children: Julius Albert (born 1862), Katherine (born 1867) and Pitkin (born 1870).
  With a few years of resettling in De Witt, Pitkin C. Wright had made headway into the political life of that town, being elected as its Mayor in 1862. He was returned to that office in 1870 and from 1864-65 served as Judge of Clinton County, an office "whose duties he acceptably performed for some time." In addition to politics, Wright was a leading light in Iowa Masonic circles for over a decade, first joining the De Witt Lodge No. 34 in May 1863. He would advance to Warden a few years later and by 1870 was serving as Worshipful Master of the Right Hand Lodge No. 281. The following list is but a brief snippet of the advancement Wright made during his time as a Mason in Iowa.
   In 1874 Pitkin Wright and his family removed from Iowa and resettled in Nashville, Tennessee. Wright dabbled in insurance for several years and by 1884 was employed as an agent in the Tennessee agency for the Hartford Life and Annuity Insurance Company, based in Nashville. In 1887 Wright began service as Secretary of the Tennessee Press Association, and following his removal to Memphis, the following year continued in that office. 
   Following his move to Nashville Wright is recorded as doing "special work on the Appeal and other local papers" and in December 1888 suffered an attempt on his life when unknown assailants fired a pistol shot through the window of his room at the Fransioll House, the bullet subsequently splintering the headboard of Wright's bed (within two inches of his head) and burying itself in a wall! Wright is reported to have been unharmed in the incident.
   After many years of public prominence in both Iowa and Tennessee, Pitkin Cowles Wright died in Somerville, Tennessee on September 14, 1896 at age 62. He was still serving as Secretary of the Tennessee Press Association at the time of his passing and was survived by his wife and children. He was later interred at a cemetery in Somerville, its exact name being unknown at this time.

From the Johnson City "Comet", Sept. 24, 1896.

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