The Strange Death of Joel Wright

 By: Ben Luntz & Patricia May Brashear



                                                               Joel & Eliza (Bates) Wright


       Nancy Wright Bays and Patricia May Brashear have for some time been working on a book about the Wright family of Letcher County. This is the Wright family that descends from Joel and Susannah Wright who settled during the early 1800s in the area of Letcher County now known as McRoberts. Years of research have gone into this project and it is nearing completion. After some consideration it was decided to publish an excerpt from this work regarding the tragic death of Joel Wright so as to give the reader some idea of the extensive and varied contents of the Wright family book being prepared at this time by Nancy Wright Bays and Patricia May Brashear.


        Just a year after the death of Andrew Jackson Wright from fever, his brother,  Joel Wright, was kicked to death by a horse. Joel Wright and his wife, Eliza Bates,  were the parents of Bad John Wright, and both Joel and Andrew Jackson Wright were sons of  Joel and Susannah Wright.  The story of this tragic death is so strange that it is best to let someone from that time tell it. The article below, from the October 17, 1879 London, Kentucky Mountain Echo, tells the story in  some detail.




Letcher County 

         Rosedale.—You will doubtlessly pardon our intrusion for we come with a very strange and startling bit of news.


           Mr. Joel Wright, and old and respectable citizen of  our vicinity, is now thought to be dying from the kick of a horse received last Sunday morning.  All hopes of his recovery have been given up. As this is the third or fourth case of this kind occurring in this county since last Spring, the painful news of the dying condition of Mr. Wright from a horse kick would not in itself appear so strange; but the story connected with it and the manner in which it was done, I may say is somewhat remarkable. It seems that Mrs. Wright arose on this particular morning and told her husband that she was in trouble; had had a very startling dream about horses that night, and he would be killed, she feared, that day from a horse.  But Mr. Wright, who put no faith in dreams or her story, told her to believe in nothing of the kind; but Mrs. Wright would not be comforted. Some time on in the day Mr. Wright bridled his horse to ride out on his farm to look about some cattle, but was told by his son to wait until he could go about a mile and get his horse and he would go with him. This Mr. Wright did, tying the reins of his bridle around his horse’s leg, and turning him loose to graze. But soon the horse returned with the bridle all broken and lost but the headstall. Mr. Wright was away from the house and a girl who was staying there put the horse in the stable.  When Mr. Wright, who, it seems, had a something of a weakness for beating horses, returned to the house and heard all, he seized a club and started for the stable, followed by Mrs. Wright begging him not to touch the horse; but he went on into the stable with the horse loose, and commenced beating him, when Mrs. Wright called out: “Don’t do that! Think of my last night’s dream; the horse will kill you!”  Mr. Wright replied, “I will kill him!” ......and she knowing the strong will of her husband, turned to leave, when she heard the cry of a little girl who was at the stable, “Grandfather is killed! Grandfather is killed!”  Mrs. Wright, who is a cripple from ulcers, (from which she still suffers,)  ran and leaped some high pailings (51/2 feet high) between the house and the stable to find Mr. Wright prostrate on the earth, his skull crushed, bleeding and apparently dead. I do not undertake to say that  Mrs. Wright was forewarned by a dream of the dread calamity, but she protests the whole occurrence was as plain to her on that fatal night as it is today, or was when it occurred; and the family is one of high standing and veracity. This much I do know, Mr. Wright is lying at the point of death from the wound received. He is a well-to-do farmer, sixty-two years of age and well beloved by all who knew him. As my letter is already too long I will desist; promising to inform your readers as to the death or recovery of  Mr. Wright.





      Later.----Since the above was written we have received information from its author that Mr. Wright died on the 24th,  ultimo.


End of article.






This is Joe Mize standing on the steps of John's  house  home at Dunham house where Joel E. Wright lived when he was kicked by his horse and died.  The crib or shed where Joel E. Wright's horse kicked him was across the road from the house.  It was still standing in 1971 when Joe Mize was there but it was in bad shape and there was a lot of brush around it so he did not take a picture.



                                                                                               Tombstone of Joel E. Wright



The material on this website is copyrighted (C) 2010 by Benjamin Luntz,  Nancy Wright Bays &  Patty May Brashear

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