Tom Ross: Georgia family pulled up stakes and moved to Steamboat Springs in 1919
September 27, 2013
Steamboat Springs — Visitors come to Steamboat Springs to ski, bike and hike. And sometimes they gather here to rediscover their pasts.
The five surviving grandchildren of William "W.O." and Lucile Wright, were in town for a reunion this week and to learn more about their grandparents who came to Steamboat in 1919.
"We were motivated to find out why our grandparents in Rome, Ga., moved to a place that was so remote," Sue Wright Fackler said Friday. "Your newspaper was the source of the answers we've been looking for all these years."
Along the way, the Wright grandchildren learned something new about the role their great-great-grandfather played in the Civil War back in Georgia.
Fackler, who lives in Topeka, Kan., was joined here by Dick Wright, of Ridgecrerst, Calif., Bill Wright of, Gresham, Ore., Ken Wright, of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and Pat Wright, of Denver. They are the children of Joseph, William and Griffin Wright who came to Colorado with their parents, W.O. and Lucile
Steamboat may have been remote in 1919, but it wasn't as remote as it once had been. Regular railroad service had begun a decade earlier, but the trains still ran over Corona Pass, which sometimes was blocked by impassable snowdrifts.
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When the Wright family moved to Steamboat, it may have needed its own box car.
"We all have pieces of our grandparents' European furniture today," Dick Wright said. "It's amazing, marble topped dressers, buffets and bedroom sets."
Lucile Wright taught piano lessons for most of her adult life and one can infer she might have brought her own piano on the train. It's also likely that the interest they shared in the piano could have made Lucile Wright a friend of Steamboat's founding mother, Margaret Crawford, but that is unconfirmed.
What is certain, according to news items in the Steamboat Pilot, is that W.O. Wright came to Steamboat and purchased the Steamboat Transfer Co. in partnership with his nephew Thomas Allin, who already was managing a store in Hayden.
It turns out that Wright had owned a similar business in Rome. So what is a transfer company? In Steamboat, they met the passenger train every day (presumably in a horse-drawn freight wagon) and delivered freight, along with the passengers' luggage, to its ultimate destination.
The Wrights also were among Steamboat’s first real estate speculators. They bought three homes in Old Town including 427/429 Oak St., which houses Mountain Brew today, 331 Pine St., now the Robert DeVries home, and 219 Missouri Ave.
The Wright family descendants gave this newspaper credit for providing them with the answers they sought. But in reality, it was the reference staff at Bud Werner Memorial Library that showed them how to research their family's name at the website of the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection. The site is ideal for people working on genealogy because it allows them to print out clear copies of newspaper articles.
Lucile Wright was a fixture in Rome, Ga., society, and that makes her descendants wonder why she ever left.
Rome has a rich Civil War history of its own. The city was burned by Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in November 1864, marking the beginning of his march to the sea.
And the Wright family has a connection to Civil War history, too. Ken Wright told me that one of his great-great-grandfathers who was a congressman signed the articles of secession for the Confederacy.
That piqued my interest, and I set out to see if I could keep up with the reference librarians at Bud Werner and tell the Wrights something they didn't already know about their ancestors.
I did a quick search of the history of Rome, Ga., and found my way to an informational page about Myrtle Hill Cemetery. It's right there in Rome near the confluence of the Etowah and Oostanaula rivers. From there, I skipped over to http://www.findagrave.com and located a portrait and a biography of Augustus Romaldus Wright, born in 1813 and elected to the U.S. Congress as a Democrat in 1857. The Web page also contains images of his grave marker.
Ken Wright confirmed to me that Augustus was his ancestor.
The Wrights told me that although their great-great-grandfather was loyal to the Southern cause, he was actually opposed to the south seceding from the Union. What they did not know was that after the Georgia Secession Convention in 1861, he was offered the provisional governorship of Georgia by President Abraham Lincoln.
Augustus Wright went on to form Wright's Legion, which became the 38th Georgia Infantry during the Civil War. After the war, he practiced law and was a member of the Georgia Constitutional Convention of 1877.
The Wrights sold their business and left Steamboat in 1928 but made their place in local history. It's amazing what people can learn about their ancestors during a family reunion in Steamboat Springs.