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WRIGHT, CHARLES, surveyor and office holder; b. 21 July 1782 on St John’s (Prince Edward) Island, third son of Surveyor General Thomas Wright* and Susanna Turner; m. 16 April 1815 Lydia Cambridge, daughter of John Cambridge and Mary Winchester, and they had one son; d. 1 April 1828 in Charlottetown.

Charles Wright was trained by his father as a surveyor and, with his older brother George*, assisted him in that profession. George later became involved with the Cambridge family in its business interests but Charles continued as assistant surveyor, replacing his father from 1803 during periods of absence or illness. By 1812 Thomas Wright was in failing health and Charles petitioned Administrator William Townshend* for a recommendation to succeed him. The request was supported by Thomas who was anxious to retire after some 40 years in the post. Charles went to England in 1812 to press his claim but his request was refused. Although absent from the colony on his father’s death that December, he was named to the post by Townshend. He secured official confirmation of the appointment from the Treasury before leaving for the Island the following spring.

While in England Charles complained about the activities of the Loyal Electors and especially James Bardin Palmer, and his protests should have won him the support of the newly appointed lieutenant governor, Charles Douglass Smith*; however, Smith, who learned of Wright’s appointment after arriving on the Island in July 1813, was quick to protest “such Hereditary Successions” and expressed a wish that the appointment had been delayed for his opinion.

Charles appears to have achieved little notoriety under Smith. The major township surveys had been completed and Wright’s chief activity was to provide surveys for the expanding road network and the few areas available for grants to settlers. The surveyor general had ceased to be an important official in a colony where there was almost no crown land to control.

After 1820 Wright became even less active. An increasing number of surveys were done by assistants and a later petition by one of them notes his work during the periods of Wright’s “afflictions.” In 1824, after a presentment by the grand jury as to the poor state of the roads and bridges, Wright resigned his position as chief overseer of roads, a post he had held for at least five years. The arrival that October of Lieutenant Governor John Ready* to replace Smith brought improvements in the colony’s administration, including the removal of incompetent officials. There are indications that irregularities in land grants and surveys surfaced during the next three years and the lieutenant governor was forced to complain to the Council in 1825 of Wright’s failure to supply requested information. Finally, in 1827, Ready wrote to the Colonial Office complaining of Wright’s inability to perform his tasks owing to his “constant and habitual Intoxication” and asked that his appointment be revoked. The request was complied with in February 1828 but it is doubtful that the news reached the Island before Wright’s death. Over the objections of others who had served as assistant surveyors Ready appointed Charles’s brother George to succeed him as surveyor general. George was to achieve a reputation as an able administrator and official; the legacy Charles left was one of incompetence and drunkenness.

H. T. Holman

PAPEI, Acc. 2702/373, 375–78, 380; Acc. 2810/85–86; RG 1, commission books, 1: 83, 90; RG 3, petitions, 1817–20; RG 5, minutes, 1800–27; petitions, 1817–27; RG 8, warrant books, 1819–24. Private arch., Mrs J. T. McIntyre (Calgary), Charles Wright papers (photocopies at PAC, MG 24, B 133). PRO, CO 226/26: 54, 195; 226/27: 36–39, 74–75; 226/39: 7; 226/44: 106; 226/45: 277. St Paul’s Anglican Church (Charlottetown), Reg. of baptisms, marriages, and burials, 1782–1828 (mfm. at PAPEI). Supreme Court of P.E.I. (Charlottetown), Estates Division, liber 2: f.121 (will of Charles Wright) (mfm. at PAPEI). Prince Edward Island Register, 1 April 1828.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

H. T. Holman, “WRIGHT, CHARLES,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 18, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/wright_charles_6E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/wright_charles_6E.html
Author of Article:   H. T. Holman
Title of Article:   WRIGHT, CHARLES
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1987
Year of revision:   1987
Access Date:   June 18, 2024