THOMAS WRIGHT

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 26-27

THOMAS WRIGHT was born at Branston, Leicestershire, England, May 2, 1820.  He is a son of John and Elizabeth (Grudgins) Wright.  The father succeeded his rather as gardener at Branston Hall, but after reaching middle age resigned that position and was placed in charge of a section of highway lying between Leicester and Hinckley.  He continued in that occupation until old age unfitted him for further labor, and died at Branston at the age of ninety-three years.  Mrs. Elizabeth Wright died at the age of eighty-nine years.  She was born at Ratby, Leicestershire.

Of the ten children born to this worthy couple, Thomas is the only one who came to America. From the age of seven years he was accustomed to assist in earning his livelihood by tending cows upon the highway.  Though he never received more than six months' schooling, he was a bright and ambitious lad and acquired studious habits. At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a tailor at Marborough, serving at that trade until he reached his majority.  While employed in this manner, working sixteen hours per day at some seasons of the year, he divided the balance of the time between study, sleep and extra work, by the latter means earning pocket money. He had a commendable desire to better his condition and to become better informed. Of the first six shillings which he earned after completing his apprenticeship, five were spent for a copy of Walker’s Dictionary, and he managed to become the possessor of other books from time to time, gaining a stock of information upon matters of public interest. The next twelve years after becoming a journeyman were spent at his trade in Leicester and Ratby, most of this time carrying on a shop of his own and gaining a flattering patronage.  During this time he took considerable interest in the labor question, and made several futile attempts to improve the condition of his fellow-workmen.  In 1855, through the advice and assistance of a friend who had preceded him to Chicago, he came to this city, ten weeks being consumed in the journey by sea and land.   He arrived here with a sick wife and three small children, having fifteen cents in his pocket and being indebted to his friend to the amount of $150.  For a few days after his arrival he was detained from labor by illness, after which he began work for the Chicago Gas Light and Coke Company, and has been regularly employed by that corporation to the present time, a period of forty years.  He began as a lighter of street lamps, but after a short time won the confidence of his employers to such an extent that he was appointed a Collector, and continued to work in that capacity, in connection with office work, for the next thirty years.  He now holds the position of Recording Clerk in the office of the company, having made his services almost indispensable to the business by his habits of industry, integrity and punctuality.  His first residence in Chicago was near the corner of Washington and Jefferson Streets, but he soon afterward removed to the corner of Monroe and Aberdeen Streets, which was then on the extreme outskirts of the city. As there was abundant pasturage upon the surrounding prairies, he kept several cows after moving to this location, finding a ready market among his neighbors for the milk they produced, and thereby adding materially to his income.   At that time the only sidewalk on Madison Street, which was then, as now, the principal West Side thoroughfare, consisted of two planks laid parallel. On July 3, 1843, at Friar Lane Church, Leicester, occurred the marriage of Thomas Wright and Sarah Hemingway.  The latter, who was born June 14, 1814, at Brumsgrove, Worcestershire, was a daughter of Joseph Hemingway, who was for many years a sailor in the British navy, and in later life a wool-comber by occupation.   Mrs. Wright died in Chicago March 13, 1881.  She was a devout member of the Western Avenue Baptist Church, and for nearly forty years had fulfilled in a most exemplary manner the duties of wife and mother. Mr. and Mrs. Wright were the parents of three children, named in order: Emma Keturah Hemingway, now the wife of Charles Carhart; Ernest J. H., who is Secretary of the Suburban Gas Company of Chicago; and Margaret Ellen Hemingway.  Both the daughters reside in Wilmette.

Since 1881 Mr. Wright has dwelt in Wilmette. While a young man he joined the Baptist Church, but has never been connected with any religious organization in this country.  He was also connected with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in England.  He is a close student of public questions, and is independent in his opinions and actions.  Since coming to this country he has incurred no political obligations, and is governed solely by his own judgment and conscience in the support of candidates for public suffrage.

                                                -- Submitted by Sherri Hessick   (thessick@flash.net)