Museum offers insight to female ironmaster

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 31, 2011

Because of her prominent place in the history of Lawrence County, the front parlor at the museum has been set aside as the Nannie Kelley Wright room. Many personal items are on display.

Nannie was one of the richest women in the world at one time, and the only female ironmaster of her time.

In 1879, she married a Republican senator, Lindsey Kelley, of Ironton and they built a home on the corner of Fourth and Olive streets (now Park Avenue.)

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The couple leased and managed Center Iron Furnace, and when the Spanish American War broke out in 1898 and iron was desperately needed, Mrs. Kelley was one of the first ironmasters to be able to ship iron to the Great Lakes region for building ships, cannons and other military equipment. Nannie Kelley took a trip around the world that same year.

After Lindsey Kelley died in 1903, Nannie traveled to London and was presented to the Court of St. James where she was received by King Edward VII, and took another world tour in 1906.

She crossed the Atlantic 14 times during her lifetime. She remarried in 1908 to D. Gregory Wright of Philadelphia.

Mrs. Wright owned and lived in houses at Sixth and Chestnut and the stone house at 504 S. Fifth St., She spent her last years at the Marting Hotel Ironton.

Over the mantle in the Nannie Kelley Wright Room at the museum is an excellent likeness of Mrs. Wright taken at her home at 504 S. Fifth St. sometime during the 1920’s.

Mrs. Wright was fond of monogramming, as evidenced by the gold-rimmed crystal dessert bowls, plates, vanity set, and silver flatware. Her walnut and brass filing cabinet and typewriter are also on display and the dress she wore when presented at the Court of St. James.

Many other personal items from her travels and home are on display. In the museum gift shop are two books providing more insight into the life of Nannie Kelley Wright.

The museum is located at 506 S. Sixth St. and open to the public Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 1-4. We are always in need of volunteers.

Just volunteering three hours once a month would be appreciated. For more information visit the museum during operating hours or call 740-532-1222.

Sue Jenkins is a docent at the Lawrence County Historical Museum.