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Wright, Claiborne (ca. 1779–1829)

Skipper Steely Biography Entry

Claiborne Wright, pioneer, probably the son of William and Henrietta (Claiborne) Wright, was born around January 5, 1779, possibly in Surry County, North Carolina. As early as 1798 Wright lived briefly in a bend of the Cumberland River. In 1802 Wright married Elizabeth Travis, and in 1804 they settled on the Cumberland River east of Carthage, Tennessee. The Wrights had six children, including George W., Travis G., and Henrietta, who later married Gabriel N. Martin. Wright began a mercantile trade service up and down the Cumberland as far west as Nashville. Later he poled a keelboat back and forth to Louisville on the Ohio River. Family legend says that in 1811 Wright traveled on the steamboat New Orleans from Louisville to New Orleans, that he visited a kinsman, Governor W. C. C. Claiborne, and that he was with Gen. Ferdinand Leigh Claiborne, the governor's brother, in an attack on the Creek Indians in Alabama on December 23, 1813. In the spring of 1816 Wright sailed on a keelboat named the Pioneer with his family for the Red River region of what would become southwestern Arkansas. On September 5 they landed at the Wetmore and Mabbit Trading Post at Pecan Point. The Wright party included five children and six slaves, among them Hardy Wright. Claiborne Wright initially lived near the trading post, but soon moved west to property in present northeast Red River County, Texas. About 1819 he crossed the river and settled in the Shawneetown (later Clear Creek) Settlement in Hempstead County, Arkansas Territory. He served on local juries and in August 1819 was named one of four county magistrates. Soon after the establishment of Miller County on April 1, 1820, Wright's home was used as the county seat. He was county coroner from 1821 to 1823. In 1821 Miller County elected Wright its first member of the Arkansas Territorial Assembly; he was reelected in 1825. He was also Miller County sheriff from 1823 to 1827. His first wife died in 1820, and in 1823 Wright married Harriett Brown. They had two sons. In 1828 Wright moved south of the Red River, settling near his first home between Jonesborough and Pecan Point. In January 1829 Wright sold his six slaves, including Hardy, to his son Travis for $2,000. Claiborne Wright may have owed money to the Arkansas state government from tax collections as a sheriff. On November 17, 1829, legend says that two men started a fight at a Jonesborough saloon. When J. G. W. Pierson tried to break it up, Wright intervened and was stabbed in the stomach. He died four days later.


  • Founders and Pioneers
  • Pioneers

Time Periods:

  • Mexican Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Skipper Steely, “Wright, Claiborne,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 15, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: