Artifact Corner: Frank Hall Wright, the “Indian Evangelist”

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a picture from our collections. This picture is not dated, but was likely taken in the mid to late 1890’s. The picture was taken in Dallas Texas, as we can see from the writing on the cardboard frame. On the back of the picture it says, “Frank Hall Wright and Family.” So, who are the Wright family, and why do we have this portrait in our collections? Let’s learn a bit more about Frank Hall Wright.

Frank Hall Wright was born on January 1st, 1860 in Atoka County in Oklahoma. His father was Allen Wright a full blooded member of the Choctaw Native Americans. Hi mother was Harriet Newell Mitchell Wright who was of Scotch-Irish decent. Frank’s father, Allen was left an orphan at an early age and was adopted by a Christian Missionary. He converted to Christianity and was educated at Union Theological Seminary of New York City. Frank himself also attended this college, following in his father’s footsteps, and becoming a minister. In 1885 Frank married Ada Lilienthal from Saratoga Springs, NY. They had two children together, Frank Hall Wright, Jr. and their daughter Gladys Wright. Both children were born in New York State. Frank and his young family traveled the country, while Frank gave sermons. One parishioner who attended said of Frank;
“One of the chief charms about Dr. Wright both as a man and evangelist, is his wonderfully sweet voice. I have heard few sweeter tenor voices than he has. Every time I heard him, he concluded each sermon with an appropriate song. Although it has been a long time since I saw and heard him, some of the songs he sang with such marvelous sweetness and wonderful effectiveness linger with me still.”

A minister friend of Rev. Wright wrote of him “”As well as I can remember, Dr. Wright is a man of medium height. At the time I knew him his hair and mustache were black. He wore glasses. He is half Indian. Somebody twitted him once about having to use glasses and also having some trouble with his teeth. He replied: That is the white blood in me.” Tragedy struck the family when their only son was killed in World War I on April 12, 1918. He was just 27 years old. Frank continued to travel the country giving sermons. He traveled to Canada in 1922, and on July 16th, he passed away. His local newspaper reported on it, and here is what they said: “Information was received here of the recent death at Muskoka Lake, Ontario, Canada, of Dr. Frank H. Wright, known as the “Indian Evangelist.” He was sixty-one years old and a son of the late Governor Allan Wright, who was a full-blooded Choctaw Indian, and a noted minister of the Southern Presbyterian church. The body of Dr. Wright was taken to St. Louis for interment beside the body of his son, who lost his life in the world war.”

This picture is in quite good condition, given it’s easily 120 years old. We don’t know if Frank Wright knew our Frank Hall, but given how much Frank Wright traveled, it would not be surprising if the two did meet. They were both ministers and men of faith. The picture is lovely and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by!

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Sunny Morning by MusicLFiles
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