Poems from the Past in Honor of National Poetry Month

Voices from the past speak to us through autograph albums, letters, and diaries. In honor of National Poetry Month, we’ll be sharing poems and sayings found in our collections.

Susan Koerner Wright Autograph Album 1853

Susan Koerner Wright at age 27 (1858)

Susan Koerner Wright was the Wright Brothers’ mother. Born in 1831, Susan was the daughter of a Virginia carriage maker. The family moved to Indiana in 1832. Susan joined the United Brethren Church in 1845 at the age of 14. She attended Hartsville College in Indiana. She studied literature and came within three months of meeting the requirements for graduation, but did not finish, apparently more interested in scholarly study than obtaining the degree. Susan met Milton Wright in 1853 at Hartsville. Milton proposed marriage in 1857, just before he was to head to Oregon Territory on a missionary trip. Susan agreed to a future marriage, but not to the mission trip. She remained in Indiana and the marriage was delayed. Milton Wright spent the next 2 years in Oregon. They were married on November 24, 1859, within a few weeks of his return to Indiana. If you’d like to learn more about Susan Koerner Wright, visit Special Collections and Archives on the fourth floor of the Dunbar Library at Wright State University.

This verse is from Susan’s autograph album dating to 1853 when she was at Hartsville College. It was written by a classmate, Isaac Branson.

 Friendship 

Autograph Album, 1853

May sweetest blessings crown your hand 

In traveling through this lonely land, 

Such may your fortune ever be  – 

Smiling on the greatest of plenty. 

Could I my wishes have come true 

Time long and peace I’de wish for you 

And while these blessing were extended 

As a friend of yours I’de be remembered. 

-Isaac H. Branson

Autograph Album Cover, 1853

 

 

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Rest in Peace: Milton Wright, November 17, 1828-April 3, 1917

One hundred years ago today, Milton Wright, father of Wilbur and Orville Wright, died in his sleep at Hawthorn Hill, the family home he shared with his son Orville and daughter Katharine. He was 88. Milton’s passing was described in a letter written by his oldest son, Reuchlin, shortly after his death.

Dear Cousin Estelle.    

I suppose you have learned of the death of my father, your Uncle Milton. It occurred some time early Tuesday morning April 3rd. He was about the evening before as usual seemingly feeling as well as usual. He read the evening paper, wrote at his desk, was back and forth in Katharine’s room talking to her and went to bed as usual. In the morning, he not coming down to breakfast as usual they went to his room and found him lying seemingly asleep in one of his favorite positions and covered. Touching him they found he was dead but the body not yet quite rigid. He must have died while yet asleep, there being no indication of suffering or struggle. A more peaceful death could hardly been imagined, and we are grateful for that. He was buried Thursday P.M. at the Woodland Cemetery beside Mother and Wilbur.

Your Cousin,

Reuchlin

Page 1 of Reuchlin Wright Letter, April 1917

 We’ve been sharing Milton’s diaries with you since 2013.  His diaries are part of the Wright Brothers Collection and span the years 1857 until his death in 1917. They provide a detailed chronicle of Milton Wright’s dynamic and sometimes controversial ministry and leadership in the United Brethren Church, and his role as a father, husband, uncle, grandfather, grandson, and brother. The diaries demonstrate Milton Wright’s awareness of local, national, and world events, as well as his political allegiance and support of progressive movements. Probably the most important contribution the diaries make to scholarship on the Wright Brothers is the greater knowledge we gain about the dynamics of the Wright Family on a day to day basis and we are able to get a glimpse into the past, of generations gone by, and learn how they shaped the future of this family.

Milton Wright Diary, January 1916

Special Collections and Archives is currently working with the WSU Libraries’ Digital Initiatives and Repository Services to digitize the original diaries and place them in CORE, the Campus Online Repository. We hope to have them online later this year.

 Milton Wright was an also avid genealogist. He wrote many letters in an effort to find out as much as he could about his ancestors. There are hundreds of letters in the collection to friends, family members, and even strangers, in an attempt to learn as much as possible. Mixed in with the exchange of genealogical information are scattered reflections and memories of family gatherings, impressions of people, events, and life in general. We’ll be sharing some of his writings with you in the months ahead.

The photographs of Milton Wright in this blog post were taken by Dayton photographer, Jane Reece, in 1914.

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April 2, 1917: the Miami Valley Prepares for War

On the evening of April 2, 1917, one hundred years ago today, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war against Germany. The Senate and House passed the resolution in the following days with Wilson signing the official declaration on April 6. Residents of the Miami Valley would soon be serving overseas in Europe and aiding with the war industry here at home. Here are a few reflections of Miami Valley residents, both home and away, on the eve of war.

Dayton Daily News, April 2, 1917

Alice Carr, a Yellow Springs native, Antioch graduate, and nurse at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, described the scene there in an April 1, 1917, letter to her cousin, Bessie Totten of Yellow Springs:

“Well I guess we are going to take the plunge. The Red Cross is hustling & Hopkins is a base hospital. They say if War is declared that all the pupil nurses who have not been here 18 mos [months] will have to go home. Will have to work like dogs. There are soldiers everywhere_ in the streets, cars, theaters, on ammunition wagons running like mad out to the forts & it seems very military these lovely spring days.”

Carr sailed for France with the Red Cross in June 1917 and served at a base hospital near Verdun. A blog entry on Carr’s World War I experience and life in Europe can be read here.

John Hopkins, circa 1919, Alice Carr Papers (MS-135), box 1, file 2

Joseph Graham Crane Schenk, Sr., a resident of 228 N. Ludlow and cashier with NCR, opened his April 5, 1917, diary entry with, “U.S. Senate at 11PM last night voted 82-6 – War,” before recording his day. Then on April 6, 1917, he wrote at the top of the day’s passage “At 3am -Congress Voted To Have War.”

Joseph G.C. Schenck Diary, April 5-6, 1917 (MS-284, box 1, file 5).

The First World War would greatly impact the Miami Valley and from now through Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day), November 11, 2018, we hope to share the thoughts, feelings, and accounts of those from the Miami Valley who witnessed “The War to End All Wars.”

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