A third-generation Texan, Jim Wright descended from a distinguished Australian family.
By JAMES PYLANT
Adapted from American Genealogy Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 41-42
Copyright © 2015—All Rights Reserved
Do not post or publish without written permission
Photo: Courtesy of Jim Wright
The late Jim Wright, who served as U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives in the late 1980s, was a third-generation Texan. He descended from a distinguished Australian family; his grandfather arrived in the Lone Star State during the Reconstruction era to join another member of the family, a sheep rancher who had once acted as Surveyor-General of New Zealand and Victoria Australia.
James Claude “Jim” Wright Jr., Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (1987—1989) and Member of Congress, 12th District, Texas (1955—1989), was born on 22 December 1922 in Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas,1 where he died on 6 May 2015.2 The only son of James Claude Wright and Marie Lyster, he had two sisters—Mary Nelle Wright, an artist and writer, and Betty Lee Wright, a professor at Southwest Texas State University.3
The son of John Claude Wright and Amanda Elizabeth Johnson, James Claude Wright Sr., was born on 8 October 1890 in Alvarado, Johnson County, Texas, and died on 16 January 1942 in Weatherford, Parker County, Texas.4 He was an infant when his father died, and his mother was confined to a wheelchair—paralyzed from polio. James Claude Wright was a self-educated man, having quit school in the fourth grade to support his family. Later, Mr. Wright became a professional boxer, a tailor, a captain in the National Guard, and a World War I officer.5 He was a director of the West Texas Chamber of Commerce and a southwest division manager of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.6
Marie Lyster, Jim Wright’s mother, was born in Eddy, Eddy County, New Mexico Territory, on 11 September 1895 and died on 11 November 1969 in New Braunfels, Comal County, Texas.7 Her father, Harry Lyster, was born in 1860 in Australia.8 An engineer, reportedly he was a graduate of Heidelberg University. Sometime before 1880, Lyster moved to Parker County and lived with relatives.9 The federal census that year for Parker County lists Harry Lyster, “nephew,” in the household of Charles Wybrow Ligar;10 however, it’s unclear if Lyster was Ligar’s nephew, grandnephew, or nephew by marriage. Within the family, it is generally accepted that Harry Lyster was actually Charles Ligar’s illegitimate son.11 A genealogical chart presented to Speaker Wright by Hibernian Research Company, Ltd., in Dublin, depicts his grandfather—Harry Lyster—as “Adopted son (nephew)” of Charles Whybrow Ligar and wife Grace Hannyton. The surveyor-general’s father-in-law, Thomas Knox Hannygton, was the builder of Dungannon Castle in County Tyrone, Ireland.12
Yet, Harry Lyster’s choice for a bride only made his kinship to the former surveyor-general more complicated. On 27 September 1891, in Parker County, he wed Orlena L. “Lena” Crowder,13 the step-granddaughter of Charles Ligar. Lena, a Tennessean, was born on 24 March 1874.14 She and Harry and Lena moved to New Mexico Territory for his employment as a surveyor. He died there in 1897 of undulant fever, leaving his young widow and their small daughter. She worked to save enough money to return to Parker County, later marrying William D. Walker.15 Lena Crowder Lyster Walker died in Weatherford, Parker County, 30 July 1954.16
Lena was the daughter of William M. Crowder,17 a Civil War veteran. Crowder, a native of Hillsboro, Orange County, North Carolina, served in Company A, 1st Battalion of Tennessee Infantry, in the Confederate Army, from the fall of 1861 until being captured and paroled at the close of the war. He came to Parker County, Texas, about 1881. At age 75, Crowder applied for a state pension as a Confederate veteran, saying, “am old, and cannot work much.“18 His second wife, Grace (Ligar) Levey, whom he married in Parker County on 11 September 1883,19 was born in New Zealand in July of 184620 and died in Parker County, Texas, on 12 May 1908.21
Born in Ceylon, India, to a British couple on 24 July 1811,22 Charles Whybrow Ligar was appointed surveyor-general of New Zealand in 1841 and Victoria, Australia in 1858. Following the death of first wife Grace Hannygton, Ligar married Marie Williams of Auckland, New Zealand, in 1869.23 After immigrating to America and settling in Parker County, Texas, where he claimed a state land grant, he introduced the first sheep ranch west of Fort Worth.24 Ligar died in Parker County on 17 January 1881.25
- “Jim Wright: His Life and Times,” Fort Worth-Star Telegram, 18 April 1989.
- Dave Montgomery and Ann Tinsley, “Former U.S. Speaker Jim Wright Dies,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 6 May 2015.
- Jim Wright, “Crowder-Lyster-Wright,” History of Parker County (Weatherford, Texas: Parker County Historical Commission, 1980), p. 646.
- James C. Wright death certificate, no. 05054 (1962), Bureau of Vital Statistics, Texas Department of Health [TDH], Austin. His parents are named as James C. Wright and Amanda Johnson. In a letter from Speaker Wright’s nephew, Bill Lamb (Espanola, N.M.), to James Pylant, 3 June 1993, he refers to James C. Wright’s mother as ” Elizabeth Amanda (Johnson) Cierley Wright.”
- History of Parker County, p. 646. Also, James C. Wright passport application, no. 50907 (1921), “U.S. Passport Applications, 1795—1925,” online database and images (www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 May 2015), states his father was John C. Wright (deceased), a native of Nashville, Tennessee.
- James C. Wright Sr. obituary, Weatherford Democrat, 12 November 1969.
- Mrs. Marie Lyster Wright death certificate, no. 60414 (1959), TDH.
- Charles W. Ligar household, 1880 U.S. census, Parker County, Texas, population schedule, Precinct 7, enumeration district [ED] 140, supervisor’s district [SD] 3, p. 477, dwelling 70, family 70, National Archives and Records Service [NARS] microfilm no. T9-1323, states Harry Lyster, 20, was born in Australia.
- History of Parker County,, p. 646.
- 1880 U.S. census, Parker County, Texas, p. 477, states Charles W. Ligar, 63, farming, born in India to English-born parents.
- Bill Lamb to James Pylant, 5 June 1993.
- Hiberian Research, “Hannington & Caulfield: A Family Record” (genealogical chart), photocopy in possession of James Pylant, courtesy of the Wright family. An accompanying (unpaginated) report is entitled “Speaker Wright’s Irish Family Connections: Charles Whybrow Ligar and the Hannyngtons of Dungannon Castle.”
- Harry L. Lyster/Olena L. Crowder [sic] license (1891), Marriage Records, Vol. 4A, p. 234, County Clerk’s Office, Parker County Courthouse, Weatherford, Texas.
- Lena Crowder Walker death certificate, no. 35720 (1954), TDH.
- History of Parker County, p. 646.
- Lena Crowder Walker death certificate, TDH.
- Ibid. Her parents are named as Wm. M. Crowder and Jane Crowder, though the mother’s maiden name is probably an error. Also, W. M. Crowder household, 1880 U.S. census, Putnam County, Tennessee, population schedule, Eighth Civil District, ED 107, SD 2, p. 190, dwelling 27, family 27, NARS microfilm no. T9-1275, listed Orlena L. Crowder, age seven, born in Tennessee, as the daughter of W. M. Crowder (41, born in North Carolina) and wife Jane (31, born in Tennessee).
- W. M. Crowder Soldier’s Confederate pension application, no. 262179 (1913), Texas State Archives and Library, Austin.
- W. M. Crowder/Mrs. Grace Helena Leveys [sic] license (1883), Marriage Records, Vol. 2, p. 266, Parker County Courthouse.
- 1880 U.S. census, Parker County, Texas, p. 477, identifies two in Charles W. Ligar’s household as Grace Levey, 34, born in Australia, and fifteen-year-old granddaughter Grace Levey (born in Australia). Also, W. M. Crowder household, 1900 U.S. census, Parker County, Texas, population schedule, Justice Precinct 1, ED 62, SD 3, p. 7B, dwelling 126, family 124, NARS microfilm T623-1664, states Grace Crowder was born in July 1846 in New Zealand. The Crowders, who had been married 17 years, where the parents of three children: Claude, 15; Robert, 14; and Hattie, nine.
- Grace H. Crowder entry, “Texas, Death Index, 1903—2000,” online database (www.familysearch.org : accessed 7 May 2015).
- Charles Wybrow Ligar memorial, no. 41532136, online image (www.findagrave.com : accessed 7 May 2015), gives his date of birth. Also, 1880 U.S. census, Parker County, Texas, p. 477, states Charles W. Ligar, 63, farming, was born in India to English-born parents.
- J. M. Powell, “Lygar, Charles Whybrow (1811—1881),” Australian Dictionary of Biography, online (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ligar-charles-whybrow-4019 : accessed 7 May 2015).
- History of Parker County, p. 646.
- Charles Wybrow Ligar memorial, online (www.findagrave.com).