While researching the life of -yet another- antebellum cricketer, I came across a neat account in one of Henry Chadwick’s columns involving the main subject of my research, cricketer William Byron Wharton and brothers Harry and George Wright.
Chadwick had just begun writing a series of articles about Harry Wright shortly after his passing in 1895 and Byron Wharton had some reminiscences about the young Wright brothers and Harry’s cricket debut.
Here’s part of the ‘Chadwick Chats’ column that appeared on the November 9, 1895 edition of the Sporting Life.
I met the veteran cricketer, Byron Wharton in Brooklyn last week, and in a chat over old times he told me of the occasion of Harry Wright’s first appearance in a cricket match, which occurred in 1855. Byron said that Harry’s father then resided in the Harlem district, and that Harry used to practice cricket with the old Harlem Cricket Club, of which Mr. Godwin was president and young Wharton vice president.
Byron used to take little eight-year-old George Wright fishing with him. On the occasion of a match game, when the Harlems were short-handed, Byron suggested that they put in Harry Wright to fill the vacant position. Old Tommy [sic] Wright, on being asked if Harry would do, said: “Well. Harry’s a good fielder, but he’s naught at bat.” and so Harry was put in, played his first match and made a good record.
What a wonderful difference between the country Harlem of those days and the city Harlem of the present day. Little did Harry dream that such an outcome of his professional start in 1868 would follow as the glorious days of Polo Ground history.
Henry Chadwick, William Byron Wharton and Harry Wright together later in life.
Chadwick then printed the following:
I received the following letter from George Wright last week about this Harlem incident:
“In reference to the old Harlem Club, I only have a dim recollection. See. I was only 8 years old. I can remember the cricket ground at the old Red House, one at Mount Morris and one at about 116th street and second avenue, or where the Harlem Gas House now stands. I can remember Godwin, the president of the Harlem Cricket Club. Well, he was a short, stout man, the same build as ‘Papa’ Richards, of the old New York Cricket Club. Those were the jolly old days at Fox Hill, Hoboken, N.J.
I have a wood-cut picture of the old grounds at this place, showing a match between the United States and Canada. It was here I spent most of my boyhood days. Oh that I were a boy again! I hope to have the pleasure of meeting you again before long.”
No mention of Byron Wharton from George Wright, but I’m sure this must have been the wood-cut he was referring to in his letter to Henry Chadwick.
Hopefully I’ll be posting more about the life of William Byron Wharton by next week.
Finding a link between Byron Wharton, Chadwick and the Wrights was great, but finding a relative and telling her that her great-great grandfather was one of the best cricketers in the US during civil war times was even greater. This is what researching is all about.