Cleveland Plain Dealer, Thursday, May 25, 1905, Page Six, Courtesy of Genealogy Bank
Left Century Mark Behind
Henry Wright, Giant Negro and Former Slave, Dead, Aged 108 Years
Fled from Bondage, Already an Old Man, but Lived Long in Freedom
In a small negro cabin far down among the Louisiana bayous Henry Wright was born in slavery two years before the first president of the United States died. Early yesterday morning in a similar cabin at the end of Mars avenue in Lakewood Henry Wright died, aged 108 years.
Wright’s parents were slaves on a Louisiana plantation. As he grew to manhood he developed into a perfect giant, standing six feet four inches in his stocking feet, and as strong as a horse. So big, so powerful, so good natured, he was that he became famous as one of the very best and most valuable slaves in the whole southland. Many a time did the master refuse an offer not so very much less than the big white mansion house cost, and for thirty years he lived and worked for this one master. The master was good to him and in many ways those were among his happiest days.
One day, however, the master died and Henry was sold to a slave dealer who carried him up to Virginia and there he was sold to one owner after another, some of whom were frightfully cruel. Those were hideous days and one night he stole away from the slave quarters, hid in a swamp, and by hurried night tramps and the underground railway he made his way to Ohio and freedom. This was during the war and the old fellow, sixty-five years old then, made his way to Lakewood, or rather to the woods which covered most of the land where Lakewood now stands.
For two months or so the escaped slave lived in the depths of the woods, slept at the side of a log and subsisted on scraps and refuse thrown out from the few houses in the neighborhood and which he gathered up when everybody was in bed. After a few weeks of this kind of life he was tracked and caught by John West and a number of men, taken to the West home and treated kindly until his terror of the white men wore off.
Wright soon proved himself a valuable farm hand and found plenty of occupation. Many tales are told of his abnormal strength although at the time he first came to Lakewood he had lived what is ordinarily supposed to be a lifetime. He was a man of the strictest moral character and temperate habits. He never used tobacco nor liquor of any kind and often said that his long life was due to this abstinence.
Three wives he survived and, although he had a number of children, none are left with the exception of a son, William, who has been his sole companion for the past eighteen years.
“Lije” Hunley, a venerable white haired darky, who for thirty-two years has been the closest chum of “Uncle Henry,” remained near the body of his dead friend all day yesterday and to any chance listener he would tell with shaking voice of the prowess and the goodness of the dead man.
Henry’s funeral will be held this afternoon from the Mastic’s undertaking rooms at the corner of Detroit street and Bell avenue. He will be buried by the side of his three wives in a cemetery in Rockport.