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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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WRIGHT, JOHN (1796-1879)

WRIGHT, JOHN, customs officer and agriculturalist; b. Saint John, 1796, s/o Henry Wright; m. 1821, Harriet Dean, d/o Joseph Dean, of Chatham; d. Saint John, 9 Jul 1879.

As a young man, John Wright entered the army, but in the spring of 1816, when his father, Henry Wright, was appointed collector of customs at Saint John, he obtained a discharge to enable his father to install him as sub-collector of customs at Miramichi. He was only twenty years old, and his installation, as elsewhere noted, entailed the ouster of Richard S. Clarke from the collectorship, but his father sent him off to Chatham in any event to take up the duties of the position. He functioned in an acting capacity until 1823, at which time he was officially appointed as sub-collector and preventive officer.

Throughout his years on the Miramichi, Wright displayed a keen interest in public education. He was a Chatham parish school trustee in the 1820s and 30s. In 1837 he was named to both the County Grammar School Board and the County Board of Education, which was responsible for examining "the moral character, literary attainments, and loyal principles" of applicants for teachers' licenses. He was chairman of this board in 1841.

Wright also exhibited an interest in the agricultural development of the Miramichi district. While he did not play a leadership role in the first local agricultural society, which was organized around 1824, he was the principal founder of the Northumberland Agricultural Society in 1838 and was elected as its president for seventeen consecutive one-year terms. In this period he was second in importance only to James Caie in the promotion of sound agricultural practices. He participated in the community in many other ways as well. In 1838 he chaired the Queen Victoria coronation celebration committee. He was president of St George's Society of Miramichi in 1841. In 1849 he was elected president of the Miramichi Mechanics' Institute.

Wright was one of the first vestrymen of St Paul's Anglican Church following its construction in 1823. He was a warden in the 1840s when the controversy erupted over the Rev. James Hudson's theological leanings. Because he refused to join in the push to have Hudson removed as missionary he failed to win re-election, but he was a warden again in 1853.

As collector of customs Wright enjoyed "the unbounded confidence of the mercantile community" on the Miramichi, but in 1848 the British government withdrew from the field of customs collection in New Brunswick, leaving all former employees out of work. The province created a skeletal service to fill the void, but there were no positions in it for high-salaried ex-collectors such as Wright. Instead, he and others in his situation were retired on Imperial pensions.

Wright spent about six years of his retirement in Chatham and then returned to his home city of Saint John. He and his wife, Harriet Dean, had a large number of children, including a son Arthur Wright, who was a merchant in Chatham during most of his lifetime. A member of the extended family was Ward Chipman Jr, chief justice of New Brunswick, who was married to Wright's sister Elizabeth.


[b] Baxter [m] City Gazette 14 Nov 1821 [d] Freeman 19 Jul 1879 / Advocate 16 Jul 1879; City Gazette 26 Mar 1817 (Chipman/Wright marriage); Gleaner 28 Jun 1836, 11 Apr 1837, 23 May 1837, 10 Apr 1838, 3 Jul 1838, 2 Apr 1839, 14 Apr 1840, 27 Apr 1841, 19 Apr 1842, 8 May 1844, 1 Apr 1845, 30 May 1846, 6 Jun 1846, 3 Oct 1846, 1 Feb 1848, 29 Aug 1848, 23 Jan 1849, 10 Apr 1849, 11 Feb 1850, 10 Jan 1853, 21 Jan 1854, 5 Apr 1862; Spray (DK)