The papers of George Frederick Wright document his work as a minister, theology professor, geologist, and literary writer. The collection consists of correspondence, writings, sermons, and addresses, the bulk of which spans the period from Wright's young adulthood through his death in 1921. Additional material includes notes, newspaper clippings and miscellaneous printed material, and photographs. The collection also includes correspondence and genealogical information of the Wright family.
The papers reflect Wright’s involvement in a number of areas. There is documentation of his early thinking about Darwin’s theory of evolution beginning in the late 1860s as well as of his changing views as he turned toward fundamentalist ideas at the end of the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century. Wright's papers also reflect his work investigating geological, particularly glacial, formations. But most significant is the documentation of Wright’s work bringing science and theology together by reconciling scientific theories, notably evolution, with biblical accounts. The collection also documents other aspects of Wright’s life, including his early career as a Congregational minister in Vermont and Massachusetts, 1862-1881.
Wright’s geological investigations are documented by his field notes as well as by his writings about his findings. Of particular interest in his geological notes are approximately 20 notebooks recording his work from 1881 to 1884 surveying the glacial drift border for the Second Geological Survey of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Geological Survey. Other notebooks document his study of the Muir Glacier in Alaska in 1886, his 1894 study of the glaciers of Greenland, and the glacial formations he studied on a voyage across Asia and Europe in 1900-1901. Additional field notes contain observations about the geology of parts of the United States, particularly New England.
Wright's life-long involvement in religious matters is well represented. The sermons he wrote from 1862 to 1881 provide most of the documentation of Wright's early career as a Congregational minister. Additional material from this time, located in Series VII. Ministerial Files, include a register from the Free Church in Andover, Massachusetts, and letters and notes about church membership in Andover and in Bakersfield, Vermont. Although he gave up active ministry in 1881 to take a post at the Oberlin Theological Seminary, he frequently served as a visiting minister at area churches; these later sermons are also in Series XI. Sermons and Addresses.
Wright's work as a professor at the Oberlin Theological Seminary included the teaching of courses on a number of subjects. As Professor of New Testament Language and Literature from 1881 to1892 Wright taught courses on the gospels, the epistles, textual criticism, and the theology of the New Testament. From 1892 to 1907, as Professor of the Harmony of Science and Revelation, Wright's courses included apologetics, the origin and antiquity of the human race, and inductive reasoning. Lectures and notes for his theology courses are in Series XIII. Theological Files. Many of Wright's lectures and notes were written in notebooks, and a few of these include lists (c.1883-85) of student names. His students included Edward Increase Bosworth (1861-1927, B.D. 1886) who succeeded Wright as Professor of New Testament Language and Literature and later served as dean of the Theological Seminary.
As Professor of the Harmony of Science and Revelation, Wright taught a course on glacial geology in the College in addition to his theology courses. Notes and lectures for this course are in Series VI. Geological Files. This series also includes exam questions from his 1907 geology course. There is no other material related to a specific year or term for any of his courses, which leaves a considerable gap in the record of his teaching.
As a professor and alumnus, Wright’s interest in Oberlin continued after his time as a student. He wrote a number of articles about the College and his experiences as a student from 1855 to 1862. The most thorough of these articles was “Oberlin College” written for New England Magazine in 1900; copies of this article are in the printed writings in Series XV. An article titled “Significant Events of the Seventy-Five Years” and an address titled “Oberlin - the Past, the Present, and the Future” from 1898 reflect on Oberlin’s first seventy-five years. The file on Oberlin College in Series XIV. includes Wright’s research notes about Oberlin, an undated “General Scheme for the Reorganization of Oberlin University,” and a 1919 statement concerning the organization of an alumni association.
There is little documentation of Wright’s personal life in these papers. The collection does not provide any detail about his marriages or his relationship with his children. Series IV. Correspondence Files includes personal letters, as well as correspondence related to his theological and geological work. Wright's interest in the temperance movement is illustrated by printed material, 1907-1916, in Series X. Wright’s student days are documented in the correspondence in Series IV and by the essays in Series XII which he wrote while a student at Castleton Seminary (1854), Oberlin College (1855-1859) and Oberlin Theological Seminary (1859-1862). Of special interest in his student essays are a critique of the Phi Delta Society's exercises of September 22, 1858, and "The Doxology in Long Metre" which Wright read as part of the exercises for the fifteenth anniversary of the Theological Society at Oberlin College, August 15, 1860.
Material relating to the Wright family and to the family of Wright’s first wife, Hulda Maria Day, may be found in the genealogical material in series II. Biographical Files. Other than one letter to Wright from his cousin Sarah A. Whipple, this material appears to have been collected by Wright's daughters Helen and Etta Maria. The collection also contains letters (1811-1915) written and received by Wright's parents, Walter and Mary Wright, and other relatives including his uncles Ira Wright and William Wright. This correspondence, found in Series IV. Subseries 3, is mostly concerned with family news such as marriages and deaths but also includes some references to church matters. In addition, an 1897 appointment book in Series I. belonged to Wright’s son Frederick, and Series XV., Subseries 2, includes essays written by Wright's cousin Grove Wright.
The collection also contains information about Wright’s travels to Asia, Europe, Greenland, and Alaska. While the chief purpose behind these trips was to study glacial formations, Wright also used his experiences abroad as the subject of addresses and writings aimed at non-scientific audiences. The addresses in Series XI. and writings in Series XV. include these popular addresses and articles, as well as lectures and writings describing his scientific findings. Wright’s correspondence, particularly his letters to his children in Subseries 1 of Series IV., also provides accounts of his activities abroad. The itinerary for his 1900-01 trip through Asia and Europe and his passports are in Series II. Biographical Files. Series VIII. Miscellaneous files contains foreign language material, primarily Oriental languages, also dating from the 1900-01 trip. Series IX. includes numerous newspaper clippings about the shipwreck of the Miranda, which ended his 1894 trip to Greenland.
Wright’s brief military service during the Civil War is documented in writings and addresses. Noteworthy is a memorial oration given May 30, 1902, in Wellington, Ohio. In addition to considering the lasting effects of the Civil War on the United States, the address briefly recounts his experience as a witness to the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue in September 1858 and as a volunteer in the Union Army in 1861 The correspondence Wright received while he was in the army in 1861 as well as later correspondence from former classmates serving in the army provide additional accounts of Civil War experiences. The collection also includes a typescript copy of the diary of William W. Parmenter (A.B. 1861) who died in a Confederate prison camp in New Orleans, Louisiana, November 3, 1861; this copy of Parmenter's diary is in Series XV. Writings.
The collection does not include much material related to Wright’s editorial work for Bibliotheca Sacra (1883-1921) and Records of the Past (1902-1914). Information about this area of Wright’s life may be gleaned from correspondence in Series IV. Some additional material relating to Bibliotheca Sacra may be found in Series III. Contracts and Agreements and in an outline of Rev. Albert H. Plumb's The New Gospel for Humanity which is in Series XIII. Theological Files. Another weakness in these papers is the lack of documentation of Wright's role as a local historian and compiler of the 1916 two volume work, A Standard History of Lorain County.
The collection is arranged in sixteen series:
I. Appointment Books, 1897, 1899
II. Biographical Files, 1868-1968, n.d.
III. Contracts and Agreements, 1879-1920
Subseries 1. G.F.W. publications, 1879-1916
Subseries 2. Bibliotheca Sacra, 1912-1920
IV. Correspondence Files, 1811-1921, n.d.
Subseries 1. Calendared 1850-1921, n.d.
Subseries 2. Incoming Letters (not calendared), 1876-1915, n.d.
Subseries 3. Miscellaneous Family Letters, 1811-1915
Subseries 4. Select Letters in the R. B. Hayes Library, 1913-1914
V. Diaries, 1875, 1877, 1879
VI. Geological Files, 1877-1903, n.d.
VII. Ministerial Files, 1863-1881, n.d.
VIII. Miscellaneous Materials, 1817-1912, n.d.
IX. Newspaper Clippings
X. Printed Matter, 1860, 1886-1917, 1919, n.d.
XI. Sermons and Addresses, 1860-1918, n.d.
XII. Student Essays, 1854-1862, n.d.
XIII. Theological Files, 1893, n.d.
XIV. Topical Files, 1866-1867, 1875-1877, 1881, 1885, 1888-1897, 1919-1920, n.d.
XV. Writings, 1871-1998
Subseries 1. Writings by George Frederick Wright,
Subseries 2. Writings by others
XVI. Photographs, 1899, n.d.