Alexander Wright born 1842

Alexander Wright was born about 1842 in Carclinty, County Antrim, Ireland.  On 2 October 1863, Alexander married Eliza Harkness in Rasharkin, Co Antrim.  The record lists his father as Matthew, and the bride’s father as William. 

Alex and Eliza had a large family, of at least 11 children.  William was born in 1864 in Portglenone.  Matthew was born in 1865 at the same place.  Mary was born in 1867 in Galgorm, followed by Sarah in 1868.  Eliza was born in 1869, James in 1870, and Jane in 1871 all in Portglenone.  Alex was born in 1872, Robert in 1874, John in 1876 in Ballymena, and Anne in 1879.  Since the first two sons were named for Alex and Eliza’s fathers, I suspect that the first two daughters, Mary and Sarah, are the names of their mothers. 

The locations mentioned are all within about 10 miles of each other, all villages in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.  The family may or may not have moved as much as is indicated by the birth locations. 

Eliza died in early 1880, and Alexander married Mary Elizabeth Smyth in about 1885.  They had two daughters born in Ballymena, Emma born in Feb 1886, and Caroline in April 1888. 

Alexander and most of his family left Ireland, probably from Moville (although the ship also collected passengers at Glasgow, Scotland.)  The family arrived in Philadelphia on 9 October 1888.  His age on this record was 50, giving him a birth year of 1838.  The family included his children William, Matthew, Mary, Lizzie, Jane, James, Alex, Robert, John, and Emma.  Missing from the group are Sarah and Anna.  I found a death record for a Sarah Wright, who died in the fall of 1888 in Ballymena.  I don’t know if this is Alex’s daughter as the parents were not listed in the index.  Sarah would have been 20, so also could have married, although I did not find a marriage record for her.  Annie would have only been nine so wouldn’t have been married then.  The Wrights travelled on the SS Scandanavian, which was built in 1869, as part of the Allan Line Royal Mail Steamers.  The ship was 340 feet long and 40 feet wide and the manifest for that trip listed about 160 passengers. A drawing of the ship shows that it also had sails.  Alex said his occupation was farmer, and his destination as Milwaukee, WI.  The record shows Alex intended to settle in the US. 

Alex’s second wife Mary and younger daughter Caroline came two years later.  I have not yet found their ship manifest.  It is possible that Anne came with her stepmother and stepsister.    

Alexander Wright had a homestead of 160 acres in Dickey county, described as being at Township 129N, range 66W, the south half of the north half of section 22, which is just south of the community of Spring Valley.  Visiting via Google Earth, I found an area that had lots of small ponds and lakes, important for someone with livestock.  Now it has wind-powered generators. The only other Wright who had a homestead in Dickey County, was Robert, near his father, in section 28, also with small lakes, and now with wind-powered generators.   

Alex and Mary were counted in the 1900 census in Spring Valley, Dickey County, ND.  He was a stock farmer and owned his property free of mortgage.  The family included his daughters Emma and Caroline, and Lavenia who had been born in North Dakota in 1897.  His sons Robert and John from his first marriage also lived with them.  I have not yet located his children William, Matthew, James, or Jane.  Daughter Mary had married Thomas Shimmin in 1891, and they later lived in Minneapolis.   Eliza married Charles Saunders, and they lived in Ellendale, ND at least until the 1920s.  Son Alexander married Lillian Hodges, and ran the local Ellendale newspaper.

Alex, Mary, and the three youngest children moved to River Falls, in Pierce County WI and were counted there in the 1905 state census.  Alex was listed as not working (he was 66).  Mary was a housewife, Emma was an office girl, and Carrie was a student.  He owned the house free of mortgage.  Emma married Myron Lloyd Kimble in 1907 in River Falls.

Alex, Mary, Caroline, and Lavinia were in the 1910 census in River Falls.  Alex’s occupation was “own income”, and Caroline was a school teacher. 

A book called “Ellendale Pioneers” had this listing:   “Alexander Wright came from Scotland. He had a cousin who owned land north of Ellendale, and it was probably through him that Mr. Wright got the notion of coming to Dakota. He secured land seven miles northwest of Ellendale and brought his large family out to the new country where there was plenty of room for everybody to work. Mrs. Chas. Saunders, who came after the family was located, and Mrs. Shimmin were two of the daughters, Alex Wright Junior, one of the sons, was with the Dickey County Leader at Ellendale for some time and for many years was publisher of the Oakes Times at Oakes, where he is now (1929) postmaster. His brother, Robert Wright, and family, also reside in Dickey County near Forbes.”

Alexander died in 1913, and his wife Mary in 1925.  Both are buried at Greenwood Cemetery in River Falls, WI. 

More about Alexander’s son Alex is available at 




  1. Debra said,

    June 3, 2012 at 15:09

    Mary Wright, daughter of Alexander Wright and Eliza Harkness was my great-grandmother (Married to T.R. Shimmin). I’m interested in learning more about the Wright family in the River Falls, WI area. I live in River Falls, WI and just recently founded out about your blog. Please email me at

  2. Eileen Mabee said,

    February 5, 2014 at 13:39

    My grandfather, John Wright, was the son of Alexander Wright and Eliza (I was always told it was Elizabeth) Harkness. He died in 1938 and is buried in Primrose, NE along with his wife Una and son, Robert Lawrence. They had 5 children, Hugh Alexander(1908-1910 in Philadelphia at James wright home), Margaret Theresa (1912-1996, my mother), Elizabeth Harkness ( 1914-2009), Mary Ethel (1916-2010) and Robert Lawrence (1918-1923)

  3. Debra said,

    February 12, 2015 at 22:25

    Hi, this is Debra Bilbrey – great-grand daughter of Mary Wright. I’ve been trying to complete my research on the Wright family tree. The only family members I am unable to locate is William (born 1864), Jane (born 1861), Anne (born 1879) and Lavenia (born 1897). While reading his obituary on FindaGrave it states ” He leaves his daughter Ruth, four grandchildren, two brothers, R.G. Wright of Ellendale and Matthew Wright of Philadelphia and four sisters, Mrs. (Elizabeth) C.L. Saunders of Ellendale, Mrs. Margaret Harkness, Belfast, Ireland, Mrs. Caroline Baer, Whitle Bear Lake, Minn., and Mrs. Glenn Holcomb, Newport, Ore.” I have no idea who Margaret Harkness is because he has no sister named Margaret and Harkness is his mother’s maiden name. Mrs. Glenn Holcomb could be either Jane, Anne or Lavenia. Thanks!

    • Debra said,

      February 12, 2015 at 22:27

      I should have stated that the obituary was for Alexander Robinson Wright.

  4. Debra said,

    February 12, 2015 at 23:51

    I finally located Lavenia. Her husband’s name is Horace Glennwood Holcomb, and I think his nickname must be “Glenn”. The only three members I haven’t found is William, Jane and Anne. My guess is that they must be in Pennsylvania since they are not listed in the 1900 North Dakota Census, only Robert and John. I have located Matthew and James in Pennsylvania.

    • sooze471 said,

      February 13, 2015 at 16:56

      Hi Debra – I’ve spent the day looking for Wrights. I did not find William, Jane, or Anne. Anne did not come on the ship with her father, but I have not yet found her stepmother’s arrival. It is likely that she died in Ireland. The last records I have for William and Jane is the passenger list. Regarding Alex R’s sister Margaret Harkness, the list I have of his siblings comes from the passenger list. If she was older, and married and stayed in Ireland, I wouldn’t have known about her. Since his mother was a Harkness, we know that family name was in the area, so it certainly is plausible that a sister could have married another Harkness. I just have not yet found the documentation for that.

  5. Debra said,

    February 14, 2015 at 14:55

    Hi – one bad thing for us researchers, is that there is no 1890 census records, because they were burned in a fire. I have no idea how one can track the family from their arrival in Philadelphia in 1888 to Dickey County in the 1900 Census? I did find a Anne Katherine Wright in San Francisco from the 1910 Census – the birth year is correct (1879) and the immigration year (1889) might be correct. But I do not know if that is the Anne we are looking for. As for Jane Wright, I found a Jane Wright in the 1920 Census living in Detroit. Again, I don’t know if that is the Jane we are also looking for? Both Jane and Anne never married. When I read information that Alexander came to Ellendale ND because of his cousin, I don’t know if it’s a Wright cousin or one of his mother’s cousins? I don’t have a clue as who is his mother or her maiden name. This part of the family is like a big puzzle, waiting to be solved. I guess if we knew when William, Jane and Anne died, their death certifications would give us clues. Like I said, I found Matthew and James in Pennsylvania from their death certifications and they both list Alexander and Eliza as their parents.

    • sooze471 said,

      February 14, 2015 at 18:04

      I looked at the BLM Homestead records and although there were several Wrights along with Alexander and Robert, I could not cross-reference any of them with the 1900 census to determine that the others came from Ireland. Wilson Wright had 3 claims, but he was born in NY. His daughter Jessie also had a land patent. There is a Charles E from 1890, but I didn’t see him in the 1900 census. City directories are a good way to track a person’s arrival and departure at a particular town. But of course not every town had directories, and those that exist are not all on line. There is an 1851 Ireland census entry for Alexander Wright, age 12, which means b about 1839, which is correct, and his father is Matthew, which matches Alexander’s marriage record. He had sisters Elizabeth b 1831, Sarah b 1833, Jane b 1835 (d 1848), Alex, then Margaret b 1839, and Mary b 1842. Matthew and his wife Sarah were married in 1828. Matthew was b 1798 and Sarah in 1806. Alex’s sister Sarah m Robert Graham – which matches the name of Alex’s son. But then I also found a nearby family of William and Eliza Wright, who had children John, William, Eliza, Alex, Jane, Mary, etc. Looks like those sets of names got used a lot.

  6. Debra Bilbrey said,

    June 27, 2017 at 12:30

    I found some more information on Alexander Wright on If you put in the family tree, it will automatically fill in. Here is what was written in Life Sketch. “Alexander Wright was born on December 10, 1836 the only son of the seven children of Matthew and Sarah Rankin Wright, at Mill House, in Craigs, Co. Antrim, N. Ireland.

    In 1863 he married Elizabeth Harkness, (born 1845), daughter of William and Molly Ann Harkness of Carclinty, about a mile and half from Mill House. Alexander moved to live in the Harkness home, and took over the farm there of some 189 acres, one of the largest farms in the area. They had 13 children. William died young. Matthew, Mary, Sara Rankin, Elizabeth, James, Jane (Jennie), Alexander Robinson, Robert Graham, John, Maggie Tweed. Twins Anne and Thomas, died at birth. Another was expected, but died with the mother in as result of an accident involving a cow on Feb. 27, 1880.

    Alexander married secondly to Mary E. Smyth, of Carclinty, born 1865, on Nov. 9, 1885. Two daughters, Emma and Caroline were born in Ireland. When Caroline was an infant, in October 1888 Alexander emigrated with eight of his first family, and Mary and her two children. They first sojourned in Wisconsin where Alexander had cousins. In December 1888 they moved to Ellendale, North Dakota, where he farmed for six years. Then he moved farther west to Forbes to run a horse and cattle ranch. In 1900 he sold out to his son Robert.

    He then returned to River Falls, Wisconsin with Mary and their three children, Emma, Caroline and Lavinia, where he died on February 18, 1913. He was interred in Greenwood Cemetery, River Falls.” It was written by Sam Reid.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: