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Philemon wright.jpg

Philemon Wright (September 3, 1760 – June 3, 1839) was a farmer and entrepreneur who founded Wrightville, the first settlement in the National Capital Region of Canada. Wrightville later became Hull, Quebec.

He was born in a Woburn, Massachusetts into a family that had been amongst the town’s founders 120 years before. Raised as a farmer in a reasonably prosperous family, and as a young man he served two years with the rebel forces in the first years of the American Revolution.[1]

Feeling the strain of overpopulation in Massachusetts, Wright led a group of 5 families and 33 labourers to the then isolated and unsettled area of the Ottawa Valley in March 1800. He came upon the intersection of the Gatineau and Ottawa rivers and found good soil there.

Wright used his natural leadership abilities to convince a group of Massachusetts settlers to come north with him. The first community of a few dozen settled on the north side of the Ottawa River in 1800, on the site of what would become the city of Gatineau (Hull), Quebec. The group began to clear land, but the process was long and difficult and by 1806 they had nearly exhausted their capital. In an effort to earn money, Wright attempted what was then thought impossible, to build a raft of timber and float it to Quebec City to be sold for export to Britain. Despite taking two months and encountering many hurdles he reached Quebec and sold his 700 logs and 6000 barrel staves.

He founded Philemon Wright & Sons and made a great deal of money exporting timber, especially during the Napoleonic Wars when Britain was cut off from its traditional Baltic region suppliers. Wright was elected to the legislature of Lower Canada to represent Ottawa County in 1830 and he and his settlement both saw great success. He voted against the Ninety-Two Resolutions[2].

Wright died on June 3, 1839 and is buried in St.James Anglican Cemetery, Gatineau (Hull Sector). He was survived by a large family, including his son Ruggles Wright who would go on to invent the timber slide.

Wright is regarded as the founder of the cities of Ottawa and of Gatineau and Philemon Wright High School in Gatineau is named after him.

References

  1. ^ Outaouais Heritage Web Magazine Bruce S. Elliot (Text reprinted with permission from Up the Gatineau!, Vol. 26)
  2. ^ Journals of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada, from the 7th January to the 18th March, 1834 p. 337

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