Allen Wright

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Allen Wright
Allen wright.jpg
Born Kilihote[1]
November 1826[1]
Attala County, Mississippi[1]
Died December 2, 1885[1]
Boggy Depot, Indian Territory[1]
Nationality Choctaw[1]
Occupation Presbyterian minister, Choctaw politician
Years active 1855-1870
Known for Coined the name "Oklahoma."[1] Served as Principal Chief of Choctaw Nation, 1866-1870[1]

Allen Wright (1826–1885) was Principal chief of the Choctaw from late 1866 to 1870. He also became a Presbyterian minister after graduating from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He was very active in the Choctaw government, holding several elected positions, and has been credited with the name Oklahoma (Choctaw word meaning "Home of the Red Man" in English) for the land that would become the state.[1]

After serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, Wright was elected as Principal Chief from 1866 to 1870. He then became superintendent of schools for the Choctaw Nation from 1880 to 1884.[1]

Early life[edit]

Allen Wright was born in Attala County, Mississippi in November 1826.[1] A member of the Choctaw Nation, his birth name was Kilihote. His father was named Ishtemahilvbi and his mother a full-blood Choctaw, who died in June 1832. The father and surviving members of the family left Mississippi in October 1833 and arrived in what is now McCurtain County, Oklahoma in March 1834. According to a biography published by the Chronicles of Oklahoma, his father died in 1839.[1] He went to live with Reverend Cyrus Kingsbury near Doaksville, went to a mission school at Pine Ridge. After four years, he entered Spencer Academy, the main Choctaw tribal school. where he studied from 1844 to 1848.[2] He was given the name Allen Wright. The surname honored Reverend Alfred Wright, a noted Presbyterian missionary to the Choctaws.[3]

After four years at Spencer, he was one of four students chosen by the Choctaw Council to attend college in an eastern state of the United States. Wright attended Delaware College in Newark, Delaware from 1848 to 1850, when the school closed. then enrolled at Union College in Schenectady, New York, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in July 1852 and joined a fraternity. In September 1852 he entered Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he received a Master of Arts degree in Theology in May 1855. He was the first Native American student from Indian Territory to earn this degree.[1] After graduation from the seminary he was ordained as a minister by the Presbyterian Church. He returned to the Choctaw Nation and became the principal instructor at Armstrong Academy during the 1855–1856 school term.[2]

Early in his life, Allen was not knowledgeable about Christianity. Exposure to missionaries, especially Presbyterians, caused him to learn more about the subject. Initially, he was skeptical, but in April 1846, he joined the Presbyterian Church. He began later to consider a career in the ministry and ultimately went to seminary.[1]

Marriage and family[edit]

He married Harriet Newell Mitchell of Ohio on February 11, 1857. She was born December 16, 1844 in Dayton, Ohio. The Presbyterian Board of Missions sent her to the Choctaw Nation in 1855. There she met and married Allen Wright. They had eight children together.[1][2] One son was Eliphalet Nott Wright (1858–1932), who became a medical doctor and also served as president of the Choctaw Oil Company.[4] Muriel Hazel Wright, noted Oklahoma author and historian, was a granddaughter of Allen and Harriet.

Political career and service during the Civil War[edit]

Wright became a member of the Choctaw Council in 1856. He was elected treasurer of the Choctaw Nation in 1859, and a member of the Choctaw Council in 1861.[2] According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, he was elected to two terms in the Choctaw House of Representatives and to three terms as treasurer of the Choctaw Nation. Wright signed the 1861 treaty that allied the Choctaw Nation with the Confederate States of America. Subsequently, he joined the Confederate Army.[3]

On July 25, 1862, Wright joined Captain Wilkin's Company of Choctaw infantry on July 25, 1862. He was transferred to Company F of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles on June 13, 1863. When the war ended, Choctaw Chief Peter Pitchlynn sent him as a delegate to the Fort Smith conference where an armistice was signed.[1]

Post Civil War[edit]

Wright was elected Principal Chief of the Choctaw Tribe in 1866, and served until 1870. Some of his major accomplishments included:[2]

  • Translating laws of the Chickasaw Nation from English into the native language
  • Compiling a Choctaw dictionary for use in tribal schools.
  • Translating the book of Psalms from Hebrew into Choctaw

Wright represented the Choctaw Nation at the Fort Smith Council and signed the Reconstruction Treaty of 1866. When the Federal commissioners proposed to consolidate all of Indian Territories tribes under an intertribal council, he suggested the term Oklahoma as the name for the Territory.[3]

In 1885, he also served as editor and translator of the Indian Champion and was a charter member of the first Masonic lodge in Oklahoma.[2] He was also a member of the Royal Arch Masons in Maryland, which he had joined in 1866.[1]

Wright was superintendent of schools for the Choctaw Nation from 1880 to 1884.[1]

Wright died in Boggy Depot, Indian Territory on December 2, 1885. He was buried in the Boggy Depot cemetery.[3] His widow died December 25, 1894 in the town of Atoka. She was also buried in Boggy Depot.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Meserve, John Bartlett. Chronicles of Oklahoma vol. 19, no. 4, December,1941. Retrieved December 17, 2012. Chronicles of Oklahoma Archived May 7, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma: History
  3. ^ a b c d May, John D. "Wright, Allen," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society, Accessed July 1, 2015.
  4. ^ Wright, Muriel H. "A Brief Review of the Life of Doctor Eliphalet Nott Wright (1858–1932)." Chronicles of Oklahoma. Vol. 10, No. 2, June 1932. Accessed August 19, 2016.