WRIGHT, GEORGE, surveyor and office-holder; b. 21 Dec. 1810 in Charlottetown Royalty, P. E. I., son of George Wright* and Phoebe Cambridge; m. in 1839 Sarah Matilda Goff, and they had seven children; d. 17 Dec. 1887 in Charlottetown Royalty.
George Wright was descended from a family of surveyors. His grandfather, Thomas Wright*, his uncle Charles*, and his father all held the office of surveyor general of Prince Edward Island. Wright evidently studied under the direction of his father and by 1829 was working in the office of the surveyor general. In 1835 his father was appointed administrator of the government after the death of Lieutenant Governor Sir Aretas William Young*, and Wright was appointed acting surveyor general to replace his father. He received the same post in 1837 and in 1841 when George Sr was again appointed administrator. Throughout this period, documents refer to the younger Wright as assistant or deputy in the department, although no official appointment had been made. After the death of his father on 17 March 1842 Wright was provisionally appointed surveyor general until instructions arrived from England. The Colonial Office queried the appointment, which was chiefly supported by a letter of recommendation from George Wright Sr, indicating that they were not in favour of the post remaining in the same family for three generations. However, Lieutenant Governor Sir Henry Vere Huntley* gave assurances that no one else in the colony possessed the necessary qualifications and Wright’s appointment was officially confirmed.
As surveyor general, Wright was responsible for the laying out of roads, township and county boundaries, and the supervision and surveying of crown lands. When the colony attained responsible government in 1851 many of the duties which the surveyor general had performed were transferred to the office of registrar of deeds and keeper of plans. This new post, held by Reformer William Swabey*, was included in the civil list, the costs of which the Reformers under George Coles* had agreed to assume in return for responsible government. Wright’s office was not included in the civil list, and although he remained surveyor general until 1854 he received no salary. Legislative grants were still made, however, for specific cartographic and surveying work he carried out.
Wright had never taken an active political role but his appointment as registrar of deeds and keeper of plans in the short-lived John Myrie Holl* administration in 1854 clearly identified him as a Conservative. When the Liberals returned to office the same year Wright was quickly replaced as registrar by Swabey and Joseph Ball was made surveyor general. With the election of Edward Palmer’s Conservative administration in 1859 Wright became colonial treasurer and held this office for eight years. Upon a change of government in 1867 Wright retired from his post and returned to private land surveying. He did not hold office again with the exception of the largely honorary post of usher of the black rod in 1877 and 1878.
Successor to a position which had been in the family since 1773, George Wright failed to achieve the political power associated with the post in the earlier years of the colony. His greatest contribution, cartographic rather than political, was perhaps more in keeping with the post. Maps he drew while in the surveyor general’s office are exact in detail and record the growth of the colony. His 1852 map of Prince Edward Island was the basic cartographic source for over 70 years.
George Wright was the compiler of Map of Prince Edward Island, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, comprising the latest topographical information afforded by the Surveyor Generals Office and other authentic sources . . . (Charlottetown, 1852).
PAPEI, RG 1, Commission books, I: 272, 293; II: 21, 156, 177, 211, 224; III: 204, 247, 250; IV: 263, 299, 309. PRO, CO 226/63: 72–92; 226/64: 40–47, 95, 162. P.E.I., Acts, 1851, c.3; c.31; House of Assembly, Journal, 1836–45; 1878–79. Examiner (Charlottetown), 19 Dec. 1887. Haszard’s Gazette (Charlottetown), 23 Nov. 1852. Royal Gazette (Charlottetown), 22 Dec. 1835; 29 March, 8 Nov. 1842; 15 Nov. 1852; 19 April 1859; 20 March 1867. Summerside Journal and Western Pioneer (Summerside, P.E.I.), 22 Dec. 1887.