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 The Pioneer Times   January - March 2009

The Wright Stuff

By Charles Hayes

cla 02 01 08 photoa

David and Jane Wright

Don & Pat Wright a

Don & Pat Wright

Anyone involved in living history, re-enact-ing, buckskinning, or muzzleloading since 1979 may recognize the names David Wright and Don Wright. Both were born in Kentucky, served a hitch in the army, and have lived most of their adult lives in middle Tennessee.  Their enthusiasm for their region and its history acted as a springboard to different art forms that have enhanced living history for re-enactors.

David Wright

Most of us know David through his award winning paintings and prints. His works include Refuge in the Wilderness “Martin’s Station, 1775, Gateway to the West - Daniel Boone Leading The Settlers Through The Cumberland Gap, 1775, and The Frontiersman. David’s current and past works of art can be found at or at many art galleries such as Gray Stone Press and Gallery (1087 Louisville Hwy # A, Goodlettsville, TN 37072 (615) 327-9497) and Lord Nelson’s Gallery (27 1/2 Chambersburg Street, Gettysburg, PA 17325, 800-664-9797).

David's art has increased in popularity since his first frontier art was offered to the public. His prints Wind River Man, Green River Man and Golden Mountain Man (a portrait of the Oak Ridge Boy’s Bill Golden) sold out quickly in the early 1980’s. In 1982, his painting of an 18th century frontiersman was selected to be the poster for the Fine Arts Pavilion at the World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee.  In 1983, his print Sacajawea sold out before it was issued. David was commissioned to create six paintings for Nashville: The Faces of Two Centuries, to celebrate Nashville's bicentennial. David's paintings have been featured in several documentaries and as covers and illustrations for numerous books and magazines. One of these books was The Woodsman by his brother Don.

Most recently, David entered three paintings in the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis "Quest For The West Art Show and Sale". Each painting received laudable comment and was eagerly purchased. The standout among the three paintings is  The Captives. This painting was recognized with two significant awards: "The Victor Higgins Work of Distinction for Best Individual Work, and the "Patron's Choice Award." David was the only artist honored with two awards.

Activities in which David has been actively involved: He has written scholarly articles for various publications, as well as contributing chapters in some well-known books on the American frontier.  Historical consultant in Boone & Crockett: The Hunter-Heroes, on the History Channel, Art Director for Native Suns Productions' high definition, award-winning film Daniel Boone and the Westward Movement. he received a Prime Time Emmy nomination for his work in First Invasion - The War of 1812,  David’s early print (1978 ??), The Frontiersman depicting an 18th century longhunter standing on a mountain looking westward, is still my favorite. David’s art is displayed in my living room and den as well as many other private collections and publications. His work is featured in the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, GA, and the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville. David's commissioned painting for Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, titled Gateway to the West - Daniel Boone Leading The Settlers Through The Cumberland Gap, 1775 has been transformed into an awe inspiring wall-size mural that is on display at the Cumberland Gap Visitor's Center.

Gateway to the West 1

Gateway to the West - Daniel Boone Leading The Settlers Through The Cumberland Gap, 1775 Wright transversed the Wilderness Road from Virginia to Kentucky to research the landscape for “Gateway to the West”. The painting shows the Boone party as they near the saddle at Cumberland Gap.

Climbing the Western Slope 1

Climbing the Western Slope draws upon Wright’s experiences from his trips to the Rocky Mountains in which he and others recreate the 1830’s fur trade era.

Jane & David on film set
David & Jane Sgt York 1

Jane and David Wright (left) dressed in 1940’s clothing for the Sgt. Alvin York Shoot in Wolf River, Kentucky and (right) while working on the documentary The Pride and the Promise.

Wright & Studi 1

The Warrior (right) shows a Shawnee warrior with the tools of war. Actor Wes Studi, whom

The Warrior 1

Wright met while working on the set of Last of the Mohicans (left) modeled for him for the painting.

Wright and bark canoe 1

Wright in the Boundary Waters with his birch bark canoe in 1995. All of Wright’s work is thoroughly researched by the artist himself.

Woodsman book cover 1

The Woodsman, Don Wrights’s first historical novel tells the gripping saga of four survivors of the Braddock massacre in 1755.

Don Wright

Book of Buckskinning cover 1

The first Book of Buckskinning, published in 1981 by Scurlock Publishing shows a young Don Wright on the back cover.

Don Wright was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1939, but he has lived in Tennessee most of his life. Don and his wife, Patricia, live in a historical home in Sumner County called "Walnut Grove." They have a daughter, Candace, and a grandson, Jamie, and a great grandson.

Don has had a variety of careers.  Wright served in the army as a military policeman from 1962 to 1964.  He won the marksmanship award in his company.  He is noted for making authentic powder horns which he has sold to a select clientele. On November 29, 2008, his work was honored at the Owensboro Kentucky Museum of Art.  He usually describes himself as a pipefitter, even after writing his bestselling novel (16 weeks on the best seller list), The Woodsman.  He has written 4 books, The Captive, The Last Plantation and Gone to Texas. Don was recognized as the best writer of the year for his novel, The Woodsman. He has recently submitted his latest novel for publication. Between books, Don ventured into politics, serving four years as a Tennessee state senator and nine years as mayor of Gallatin, Tennessee.

The Wright Brothers transmogrified their enthusiasm for regional history into different forms of art that adds to the enjoyment of other reenactors and history enthusiasts. 

Mayor of the year 1

Gallatin Mayor Don Wright is the only Mayor in the County’s history to have been named Mayor of the Year for two consecutive years. Wright served two terms before retiring.

Steve Davis Horn 1

Powder horn made for Steve Davis shows the tasteful aging of Wright’s horns which gives them a warm patina. He follows the traditional stylings of various schools of powder horns when he makes them.

Additional Photos - The Wright Stuff

Wright as artist 1

Artist David Wright has painted The American Frontier for the past 40 years.

Mayes horn 1

Powder horn of the French & Indian War period made for Larry Mays.

Wright -basic training 1962 1 Wright Duc My 1965 1
Wright on movie set 1
Wright and Frist 1

Senator Don Wright on the campaign trail with then candidate to the US Senate Bill Frist.

Don Wright plays a trail worn member of Daniel Boone’s party who cleared the Wilderness Road in 1775 in a documentary for the National Park Service.

Private Don Wright (right) during basic training at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas in 1962.

SP 4 Wright in Duc My Valley, Vietnam, 1965.

Wright's tintype 1
Wright door gunner 1
Dresslar, House & Wright 1

Well known artifact collector Jim Dresslar (center) has been a great friend and assistance to Wright in his pursuit of art. Jim is shown with Frank House (left) and Wright at Jim’s museum in Bargerville, Indiana.

The Wright’s pose for a tintype made by a collodion photographer of the Civil War era.

SP 4 Wright flew as a door gunner with the 197th Aviation Company of armed gunships in Vietnam in 1965.

Emory River expedition 1
The Long Knife 1
Wright Uinta Mtns 1

Participating in Fur Trade period horse trips into the Rocky Mountains, allows Wright insight in to what the mountain men may have experienced 130 years ago. Here he is seen in 1985 overlooking the 1825 Rendezvous site on Henry’s Fork, Wyoming. The Uinita Mountains are on the horizon.

In 1982 Wright took part in the Emory River Expedition, in East Tennessee, during which time the men crossed the country and lived completely off the land for nine days. Left to right Steve Laughbaum, Bob Friedel, Larry Swearengin, Steve Davis and Al Comer.

The Long Knife, a black and white open edition print,depicts a Longhunter and his three mountain cur dogs.

Special thanks to David and Don Wright for the use of their personal photos for this story.

Maggie Delaney - The Life of an Indentured Servant

By Jim Cummings

Fort Boonesborough, KY 
A pleasant, balmy day was already on it’s way to a cold, windy and wet night by the time the third Fireside Chat was about to start. The fire in the fireplace was a welcoming place for arriving guests in the blockhouse to congregate.

Of course everyone wanted to peek into the large iron kettle and see what was on the night’s menu as the aroma filled the room.

Guests were entering the blockhouse as soon as they arrived at the Fort on this night. Some evenings I have seen them linger outside where Bill Farmer usually has an outdoor fire burning too. But not this Saturday night.

Friends gathered inside and greeted each other in the warmth of the blockhouse. The topic of many conversations was Carol Jarboe who would be portraying “Maggie Delaney - Indentured Servant” after dinner. Although Carol and Frank Jarboe are a familar sight to fort visitors - this was to be the first night that Carol actually presented Maggie as a live first person presentation.

As soon the great dinner of Kentucky Burgoo made by Jack Winburn was over, the tables were cleared and the chairs rearranged for the performance. Unlike some of the Fireside Chats that feature famous names from the frontier - people were not exactly sure what to expect from Maggie Delaney.

Carol Jarboe is certainly not new to re-enacting. She and husband Frank have been attending events for almost six years. Frank usually portrays a man of the cloth known as Parson John. Carol did not start to portray Maggie until she had done a lot of research. Both of the Jarboes’ are well respected in the re-enacting community and attend as many or more re-enactments than we do.

There were no formal introductions of Maggie, “Pastor John” who was seated in the front row, called his indentured servant, Maggie out from the kitchen to tell her story at the request of one of the the visitors.

The lights went down and there was Maggie. Head down, dirty clothes, poor teeth. She carried a basket of wool she was working on. The only sound in the room was the pop and hiss of the fire.

Maggie began hesitantly, talking of life with her husband and children in Ireland. It was if her thoughts had a long way to travel back to that time. Their life as tenant farmers was a hard life - but a good one.

Carol Jarboe not only treated the crowd to a narrative of her life but she wove a fine history lesson in it. How the Scots Irish Presbyterians came to be in Northern Ireland. And how they were forced out by rents too high for any man to pay. She talked of the looks on the faces of her starving children, and her husband’s discovery of a way out of impoverished Ireland - by signing them on to a ship as indentured servants. 

Carol Jarboe held the entire room nearly spellbound for over an hour. As she explained just what being an indentured servant meant - being separated from her family, being sold time and again, being beaten. She related tale after tale of a life she had never expected. She occasionally made the crowd laugh - but more often than not they cried with her. Most people today are unaware of the atrocities of indentured servitude - this was a form of slavery that most Americans know little about even though a large percentage of immigrants entered the United State in this fashion. In return for their passage they signed away 4, 7 or sometimes more years of their lives.

Maggie came slowly back to her present - as a servant for the parson. You could feel the audience making the same journey back to the present. They had been spellbound for almost an hour, but I believe, I and the others could have stayed on Maggie’s journey for another hour had she kept talking.

The audience responded with a long standing ovation. When Carol asked if there were any questions - at first not a hand went up. She had covered the subject so thoroughly I thought there might be none. But then as people realized that it was now Carol Jarboe in front of them and not Maggie Delaney - questions pored forth. And the subtle history lesson continued as both Jarboe’s answered questions with facts and figures of a time and lifestyle many know little about.

Once again Fort Boonesborough’s Fireside Chats brought a new character to life. Carol Jarboe’s years of research and study paid off for the visitors to the February 2009 Fireside Chats. If you have a chance to see this first person interpretation (and I’m sure she will be asked to do it again and again) don’t miss Carol Jarboe as Maggie Delaney!



Click Here to see a Newsreel of the performance


Lewis Craig and the Traveling Church

By Jim Cummings

Fort Boonesborough

For the last 5 years we have seen him as Parson John an 18th century traveling preacher. But Parson John’s given name is Frank Jarboe. And Frank has traveled thousands of miles over the last 5 years spreading not only the word of God but the lessons of history. Frank is a re-enactor’s re-enactor and in the process has also become an ordained minister.

And this week at The Fireside Chats at Fort Boonesborough Frank Jarboe took on the portrayal of the Reverend Lewis Craig. Craig was an 18th Century Baptist Preacher who brought the “Traveling Church” to Kentucky in 1781.

The “Traveling Church” is a fitting topic for the Jarboes. Frank travels with his wife Carol, better known as Maggie Delaney, the indentured servant of Parson John. Carol also does a fantastic first person portrayal of Maggie as witnessed at last week’s Fort Boonesborough’s Fireside Chats.

After last week’s performance of Maggie Delaney, Frank was asked what he thought of the performance. He started to grin and the grin broke into a big smile as he said “she’s going to be a hard act to follow.”

But follow her he did - and the audience was not disappointed when Lewis Craig took center stage. Like all the Fireside Chats “A Taste of Frontier Fare” was served and this week it was beans and cornbread along with ham sandwiches. Then the tables are cleared and taken away and the historical portrayal begins.

Frank Jarboe was waiting in the hallway as Park Manager Phil Gray introduced him. And then the lights dimmed and Lewis Craig turned the corner and stood in front of the big stone fireplace in the blockhouse.

He looked out at the crowd, then slowly turned his head to the left and then the right. He looked out at the crowd and bowed his head for a moment as if in a silent prayer. It looked like the action of a man that always paused to say a silent prayer to his maker before addressing his congregation. A man who asked God to give him the right words to lead his flock.

The Reverend Craig was dressed all in black and carried a large Bible. He also had a psaltry in his pocket with the name of his wife Elizabeth in it. In his bag he carried several other items that he sat out for all to see. For when Lewis Craig and his family decided to make the trip to Kentucky, members of his church of Upper Spotsylvania decided to accompany him. All told, by the time their expedition was ready to begin Craig and Captain William Ellis led over 500 men, women and children into their Promised Land of Kentucky. The journey which began in late September was not completed until early December. The settlers battled the mountains and the streams, the weather and the animals, the snakes and the mud. But the Baptists had been a persecuted people in the colonies and Kentucky was a place to practice their religion as they saw fit.

Frank Jarboe gave a great performance as Lewis Craig. As in all the Fireside Chats, history was the focus. Jarboe not only described the settlers coming into Kentucky but gave a history lesson on what these settlers had left behind. How Craig along with other preachers had been jailed for their beliefs. How the decision to come to Kentucky meant leaving behind family and friends for an uncertain life. He spoke of the hardships of crossing the Cumberland Gap to come into a land still rife with Indian attacks. But it was Lewis Craig along with his brother Elijiah and others that helped give foundation to the Baptists in Kentucky. Many churches today can trace their beginnings back to Lewis Craig and “The Traveling Church.”

During the question and answer period that followed Jarboe answered many questions and encouraged his listeners to stop and see the 18th Century Bible printed in England that he had on display along with his other reference materials.

Click here to see the Newsreel of Lewis Craig


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