Thursday, October 02, 2008

What ever happened to Uncle Mike?

Ever since I started working on my family history, there have been certain gaps in the family story that have intrigued me. Usually these mysteries have been compounded by the fact that none of the current generation was around at the time of the event or the stories were simply not handed down. One of those in my family is that of my maternal great-granduncle, Chester Arthur WRIGHT, whose nickname was "Mike".



Chester Arthur WRIGHT was the son of John William and Ellen (KING) WRIGHT, born October 18, 1896 in Orestes, Madison County, Indiana. He was the younger brother of my great-grandfather, Virgil Lee WRIGHT. Why his nickname was "Mike", is a mystery, although I can imagine that it sounds better than being named after a U.S. President named Chester.



One mystery is why would he be named after this particular U.S. President. Although many babies are named after war heroes and politicians, in this case, Chester Arthur was no longer President. In fact, he had been deceased for 10 years by the time "Mike" came around. There is no known family connection to the Arthur family. Perhaps his parents were Republicans, or admired him for some other reason, but either way he was named for the 21st President.



A few colorful stories have been handed down to me regarding Uncle Mike - one of them being that his father, John, ran off his first wife. Apparently, there was some bad blood and he didn't care for his son's choice. Mike's first wife suppossedly burnt the Wright family bible in anger, so she receives the heresay blame for the loss of this treasure. Who knows what family jewels may have been in this Bible?



Recently, I began to try and piece together the story of Uncle Mike and his family. I knew that he had a daughter from his first marriage, Vivian, whose granddaughter I went to school with. But other than that, I didn't know where and when he died, the name of his second wife, or any other children.



Searching out the census records, in the 1920 census, Chester A. Wright, aged 23 years, single, Farmer who could read and write was living in his father's household, the John W. Wright household, in Monroe Township, Madison County, Indiana. The enumeration date of the census was January 15, 1920, and Mike didn't stay single for too long, as he was married March 5, 1920 in Madison County to Erma Violet HAYES, daughter of John and Cora (Reason) HAYES.



By the 1930 census, Chester A. Wright, aged 33 years, divorced, Farmer was again living with in his father's household in Monroe Township. So, sometime between those ten years, he married, had a daughter, and was divorced. The search for the missing years was on - and I still needed to find out how the story would end.



Through newspaper sources, I was able to find the obituary of Mike's daugther, Vivian, in the Elwood, Indiana Call-Leader. In the obituary, it stated that Vivian was the daughter of Marvin and Erma (Hayes) Dailey, and listed her children and grandchildren, some of whom I already knew. One key fact was Erma's remarriage to Marvin Dailey. With this piece of information, I was able to find her obituary as well and learn that she had other children from her second marriage. Erma was born in nearby Frankton, Indiana on May 2, 1902, and would have been only 17 when she married Uncle Mike.



Searching in the Elwood Public Library, I was able to find birth records of the other children of Erma with Marvin Dailey and find out that she and Uncle Mike hadn't been married very long before the were divorced, perhaps only a couple of years. Maybe the story about her being run off by my 2nd-great grandfather was true. I still need to seek out the divorce records in the Madison County courthouse.



After the 1930 census, I didn't have any other records in my database that would shed any light on what had happened to Uncle Mike. I knew that he was still living at the time of his father's death in 1945, as he was mentioned in the obituary. For some reason, I had neglected to retrace my steps, as if I had done that, I would have found that I had his date of death, 1955, right under my nose.



The Alexandria-Monroe Township Public Library has an online database of obituaries from local newspapers, and I was able to find that the obituary for Chester Arthur Wright appeared on June 21, 1955 in the Alexandria Times-Tribune. I was quickly able to locate not only his obituary, but funeral notices over the next few days to piece together the end of the story. Interestingly, though he lived his entire life in the area, he was rushed to a Columbus, Ohio hospital where he died. The State of Ohio has many death certificates online, but they stop in 1953, just shy of the year I need to see this one, so I will have to write to them to obtain more details.



His obituary mentioned a second wife, Mamie, and a daughter Patricia. My mother said she remembers hearing that name, and thinks that Patricia may have been Mamie's daughter that Mike adopted and took the Wright name - but there is a whole new avenue to research.



Chester Arthur Wright, son of John William and Ellen (King) Wright was born October 18, 1896 Orestes, Madison County, Indiana, died June 20, 1955 Columbus, Ohio. He married Mamie Lawson in Alexandria, Madison County, Indiana in 1939.
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