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Reuchlin Wright's Life Story

Reuchlin Wright
March 17, 1861- May 23, 1920
Reuchlin was born near Fairmont, Indiana, the eldest child of Milton and Susan Koerner Wright. Named for German theologian Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522), Reuchlin moved often as a child as his father’s ministerial career with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ developed, arriving in Dayton in 1870. As a child, Reuchlin developed a close relationship with his brother Lorin, the second-eldest of the children of Milton and Susan Wright. After graduating from Coe’s Collegiate Academy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1878, Reuchlin enrolled in nearby Western College, a United Brethren school, perhaps with the intention of studying for the Brethren ministry. However, he left Western College and in the fall of 1880 taught one term in an elementary school near Cedar Rapids. He returned to college, as a sophomore, with brother Lorin in 1881 when they enrolled at Hartsville University in Indiana. Both left Hartsville in 1883 without earning degrees. Reuchlin returned to Dayton that autumn and obtained a job as a clerk for a local lumberyard. He and Lorin lived in a Dayton boardinghouse until their parents and younger siblings returned to Dayton in the summer of 1884.

Reuchlin married Lulu Billheimer on April 27, 1886 in Westerville, Ohio. They welcomed their first child, a daughter, thirteen months later. Finding his young family’s financial situation to be difficult, Reuchlin left Dayton in February of 1889. He found work as a bookkeeper with the South Missouri Lumber Company in Kansas City, where Lulu and their daughter joined him. Reuchlin and Lulu had four children, three of whom survived to adulthood. During his family’s thirteen-year stay in Kansas City, Reuchlin also worked for the Kansas City, Memphis & Birmingham Railroad. In 1901, he and his family moved to an 80-acre farm near Tonganoxie, Kansas, where they raised cattle and seed corn. As an adult, Reuchlin grew distant from his father, brothers, and sister in Dayton, who did not get along with Lulu. It is possible that Reuchlin felt inferior to his more famous brothers; he believed that he did not deserve all of the $50,000 he inherited from Wilbur in 1912 and attempted to return $1,000 to his father. Milton, Orville, and Katharine refused to accept the money. Reuchlin died of a stroke in Kansas City in 1920 and is buried there.

Did You Know?

Paul Laurence Dunbar House

The Dunbar House in Dayton, Ohio, was purchased by Paul for his mother in 1903. On July 23, 1936, the Dunbar House became the first state memorial to honor an African American.