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and Orville Wright grew up in a close, caring family. Their father, Milton
Wright – a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren – was a strict disciplinarian, but he and his wife, Susan were also warm, loving,
protective, and encouraged intellectual interest and constructive activity.
Susan, the daughter of a skilled carriage maker, was remarkably mechanically adept and she taught
her children to make all manner of things. Although Milton didn't have the
in-depth knowledge of tools and techniques that his wife had, he had
been a farmer for most of his young life and had worked
extensively with his hands. He certainly respected and encouraged
his children's constructive activity. He also exposed his children to the wide world
beyond their horizon through his extensive library and the letters he sent home when he traveled on
The Wright brothers had their share of squabbles, like siblings
everywhere. But they were much closer than most. Of his relationship to his brother,
"From the time we were little children, my brother Orville and myself lived
together, played together, worked together, and, in fact, thought together. We usually
owned all of our toys in common, talked over our thoughts and aspirations so that nearly
everything that was done in our lives has been the result of conversations, suggestions,
and discussions between us."
Because of Milton's vocation, the Wright family were on the move
during Wilbur and Orville's school years. Milton's church
assignments took the family to Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, back to Indiana,
and finally back to Ohio. In 1884, they settled down for good in
- 1859 to 1869
Milton Wright and Susan Koerner marry in 1859. The United Brethren
Church assigns Milton Wright as a circuit preacher in eastern
Indiana. Wilbur is born near Millville on April 16, 1867.
- 1869 to 1878 Milton moves to
Dayton to edit the Religious Telescope newspaper and buys a new house in a
suburb on the west side of the city. Orville is born in that house on August 19, 1871. Milton is elected a bishop in 1877.
- 1878 to 1881 Milton is appointed
leader of the United Brethren conferences west of the Mississippi and the Wrights move to
Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Returning from one of his travels, his brings Wilbur and Orville a toy
helicopter. The boys make several copies.
- 1881 to 1884 Milton loses
his position to church politics and returns to Indiana as a circuit preacher. Susan's
health begins to fail. Wilbur excels as a scholar and an athlete and graduates high
school. Orville becomes interested in printing and develops a reputation for mischief.
- 1884 to 1889 Concerned about
changes in the United Brethren Church, Milton moves his family back to Dayton, Ohio to be
closer to the leadership. In 1889 he splits with the church becomes leader of his own
sect. After a sporting accident, Wilbur puts off college and tends his tuberculin mother.
Orville drops out of high school in his senior year to start a printing business.
Milton Wright, as a rising young clergyman in the Church of the
United Brethren in 1871.
Susan Koerner Wright in 1870. Her father, John Gottlieb Koerner, was
a carriage maker and master craftsman in both wood and metal.