Excerpts from Milton's Diaries
Thursday, July 4, 1889
“About 4:00, I found Susan sinking and about five awakened the family. She revived about 7:00 somewhat, but afterward continued to sink till 12:20 in the afternoon, when she expired, and thus went out the light of my home.”
Thursday, January 1, 1891
“I have seen sixty-two New Years Days. Mine has been a long life, yet brief span. On the whole it has been a happy one, especially from my fifteenth year till my Susan’s death. In those sixty-two years, how much of life, joy, & success. How much of labor and sorrow. How busy, many of those years, yet how much time lost. What a multitude of heavenly mercies. Many trusts and honors have been accorded. Duty has been feebly done.”
Wednesday, July 4, 1894
“This is the fifth anniversary of the death of my dear wife. In intellect, in sensibilities, and in disposition she was all that heart could desire. At home her shining was gentle and pure as the glory of a pearl, and she had no ambition to shine anywhere else.”
Monday, April 5, 1909
“Called for my envelopes at the Post Office. They recognize and honor me as father of the Wright Brothers with considerable ado. “Do they discard all use of tobacco,” asked Withoft? “Yes, and all whiskey!” I replied.
Monday, July 4, 1910
“Twenty-one years ago this afternoon, this forenoon, Susan died. She was “the sweetest spirit earth ever knew.”
The Bishop spoke of having trouble in the lower channels…..perhaps this next entry will explain:
Sunday, August 14, 1910
“I had a little continued operation of the bowels. Was slightly sick. I used a piece of bread, cream of wheat, and coffee without sugar, unusual. I then resumed milk diet. I felt well, but slept half the time. At table, at 6:30. Slept half the time. Had a strange dream about conflict of conservation and Mormonism.”
Saturday, April 6, 1912
“I count this day the last of the week. Letter received from J.M. Johnson. In afternoon, Wilbur and Katharine go out to Oakwood to the lot. Katharine and Orville go to Miss Myer’s to a party, against my protest. I hold late hours an infringement of the Sabbath.”
On another Sunday, Milton writes that he spent the day organizing and working on his papers and books. He then comments, “I forgot it was the Sabbath!”
Sunday, March 14, 1915
“Horace came as usual. I rode by Lorin’s, Orville’s lot and the old home. We found that Mr. and Mrs. Dix had called to see us. Lincoln Beachey fell 7,000 ft to his death in San Francisco Bay, today, in his second flight, on a monoplane. Alas, that he should fly on Sunday! A monoplane cannot be as strong as a biplane.”
Monday, June 3, 1912
“Wilbur is dead and buried! We are all stricken. It does not seem possible that he is gone. Probably Orville and Katharine felt his loss most. They say little. Many letters. Ezra Kuhns comes, reads Wilbur’s will, and leaves copies. I ride 20 miles with Orville in auto.”
The Special Collections and Archives in the Wright State University Libraries was chosen in 1975 to be the repository for an extensive collection of Wright Brothers’ material. Among the thousands of photographs, books, technical journals, correspondence, financial records, and memorabilia were the diaries of Bishop Milton Wright. These diaries of the father of Wilbur and Orville Wright record the full range of experiences of his adult life from 1857 to 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 the father of the famed inventors of powered flight.
The diaries demonstrate the Bishop’s awareness of local, national, and world events, as well as his political allegiance and support of progressive movements, such as women’s suffrage. Probably the most important contribution the diaries make to present scholarship on the Wright Brothers is the greater knowledge we gain about the dynamics of the Wright family. Through his daily writings, Milton Wright allows us to know him as husband, father, and grandfather. Taken as a whole, the diaries provide an essential resource in the study of the Wright Brothers’ career in aviation, the history of the United Brethren Church, and the life of a man dedicated to his family and his church.
Bishop Milton Wright recorded his life experiences in forty-one small, black and brown, leather-bound volumes. His handwriting was superb! While most entries are brief, some are detailed. At the end of each year, Milton wrote several paragraphs about the year’s events. He lists expenses and his salary for the year, family history and genealogy, remedies for his aches and pains, and important milestones in the lives of his children and in the church he served.
So what treasures can we find within the pages of Milton’s diaries? The diaries are full of stories about the congregations and families that the Bishop visited. And in amongst the everyday entries about going to the dentist or picking up a new hat or coat, or writing sermons and reading, are those entries which reveal a little more about Milton and the Wright Family. Visit the Wright State University Special Collections and Archives for more information.