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The Wright Stuff

By Charles Hayes

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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 1
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.

Don Wright

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.

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.

Mayor of the year 1

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. 

Steve Davis Horn 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.

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.

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