Wright, George Washington (1809–1877)

By: Skipper Steely

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 4, 2019

George Washington Wright, merchant and legislator, was born near Carthage, Tennessee, on December 11, 1809, the son of Elizabeth (Travis) and Claiborne Wright. In 1816 Claiborne brought the family by keelboat up the Red River, landing at Pecan Point trading post in the northeastern corner of what is now Red River County. About 1831 George Wright bought Kiomatia Plantation on the south bank of the Red River in Miller County, Arkansas. On February 3, 1834, he married Matilda Holman; they eventually had six children. At the outbreak of the Texas Revolution, Wright took his wife and two daughters to his father-in-law's home and reportedly rode south to join the Texas cause. He may have sojourned with a group camped between Robbins's Ferry on the Trinity River and San Jacinto before returning to the Red River. On July 6 Wright enlisted in Capt. John Hart's company, which was stationed at Dimitt's Landing on Lavaca Bay. On September 5 Wright was elected one of three Red River delegates to the first session of the Congress of the Republic of Texas. For his military service Wright received a 320-acre grant, which he located in what became Hunt County. Returning to Arkansas at Christmas 1836 for his family, Wright learned that both of his daughters had died. In 1837, when Red River County was organized, he offered his home at Kiomatia as a land office for the Red River district. In the fall of 1838 he was elected to the Third Congress. Because of recurring bouts with malaria, in 1839 he sold his Kiomatia farm and other properties to his brother Travis G. Wright and bought 1,000 acres in the center of what became Lamar County. He built a house and opened a store in what is now Paris. On December 21, 1840, Lamar County was established, and on February 1, 1841, the first county court met in the Wright house. Wright was chosen the first county coroner, and on March 20 he was elected justice of the peace. During the 1837–43 Indian campaigns in the region, George and his brother Travis furnished supplies for various expeditions.

As sites for the county seat proved unsuitable, Wright offered fifty acres in his tract for the seat, soon to be named Paris. On April 29, 1844, Lamar County officials met in his store. In the fall Wright served as a senator in the last session of the Texas Congress, which met at Washington-on-the-Brazos. He represented Lamar, Red River, Fannin, and Bowie counties. He was also a member of the Convention of 1845. Matilda Wright died on October 4, 1848, after the birth of their sixth child. On March 13, 1850, Wright married Sarah Jane Mebane. She died in childbirth on May 22, 1853. In 1854 Wright became an officer and investor in the Memphis, El Paso and Pacific Railroad, projected to run through North Texas. He married Sara Ann Wingo in 1860, and they had two daughters. In January 1861 Wright, Lemuel H. Williams and William H. Johnson represented Lamar County at the Secession Convention. Wright was an old-line Whig and Unionist, and all three voted against secession. At the time, he was worth $75,000 and owned thirty-five slaves, but he saw no sense in leaving the Union. When secession came, he supported the Confederacy. He was appointed county provost marshal and arranged shipments of arms, ammunition, and powder from New Orleans for Lamar County units. Wright moved his family southwest of Paris in 1868. In the summer of 1871 his house burned, and he bought some land on the west side of town. That year artist William Henry Huddle painted Wright's portrait, his first commissioned work, which now hangs in the Capitol. Wright attended the Democratic National Convention in St. Louis in 1876. He died in Paris on August 2, 1877, from a hemorrhage of the stomach. He was a Methodist, a Mason, and an Odd Fellow. He and his three wives were buried in the Old Paris Cemetery.

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

Skipper Steely, “Wright, George Washington,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 27, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/wright-george-washington.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 4, 2019