Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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WHEELWRIGHT, John, clergyman, born in Lincolnshire, England, about 1592; died in Salisbury, Massachusetts, 15 November, 1679. He was graduated at Cambridge in 1614, and, entering the ministry of the established church, was vicar of Bilsby, near Alford, but he became a Puritan, and in 1636 emigrated to Boston to escape persecution. He was made pastor of a church at Mount Wollaston (now Braintree), and his sympathy with the religious opinions of his sister-in-law, Anne Hutchinson, caused dissensions, which were increased by a sermon that he delivered in Boston on the occasion of a fast that had been appointed by the general court in January, 1637. A majority of the congregation approved it, but he was tried by the general court and pronounced guilty of sedition and contempt, "for that the court had appointed the fast as a means of reconciliation of differences, and he purposely set himself to kindle them." In November, 1637, he was banished, and in 1638, with a company of friends, he founded Exeter, New Hampshire, and became its pastor. Five years later, as the town came under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, he obtained a grant of land from Sir Ferdinand Gorges, in Wells, Maine, and removed thither with part of his church. In 1644 his sentence of banishment was revoked, on his admission that he had been partially in the wrong, and in 1646 he returned to Massachusetts, where he was for six years pastor at Hampton. About 1657 he returned to England, where he was well received by Oliver Cromwell, who had been his fellow-student and friend; but in 1660 he came again to this country, trod after 1662 he was pastor at Salisbury. The genuineness of an Indian deed to Mr. Wheelwright, dated 1629, has been the subject of much controversy. He published "Mercurius Americanus" in answer to Thomas Wilde's "Rise, Reign, and Ruin of the Familists, Libertines, etc., in New England" (London, 1645), and his "Vindication " (1654). The sermon that caused his banishment is in the possession of the Massachusetts historical society, and was published in its "Collections," edited by Charles Deane (1867). His "Writings, with a Paper on the Genuineness of the Indian Deed of 1629, and a Memoir," by Charles II. Bell, have been published by the Prince society (Boston, 1876).--His descendant, William, capitalist, born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1798; died in London, England, 26 September, 1873, was apprenticed to a printer, but early entered the merchant marine, and when he was nineteen years old commanded a bark that was bound to Rio Janeiro. In 1823 he was in charge of the "Rising Empire," which was wrecked near the mouth of La Plata river, and on his arrival in Buenos Ayres he became supercargo on a vessel bound for Valparaiso. Thenceforward his home was in South America. In 1824-'9 he was United States consul at Guayaquil, Ecuador, and in the latter year removed to Valparaiso. In 1829 he established a line of passenger vessels between Valparaiso and Cobija, and in 1835 began his efforts to establish a line of steamers on the west coast. He was three years in obtaining the necessary concessions from the Pacific coast countries. Chili granted him her permission in August, 1835, but the more northern countries were slow to see the advantages of his plan. In 1838, after vainly endeavoring to enlist American capital in his enterprise, he went to England, where he was more successful. His scheme embraced the adoption of the route across the Isthmus of Panama, and the result was the formation of the Pacific steam navigation company, with a capital of £250,000. In 1840 he accompanied his new steamers, the "Chili" and "Peru," through the Straits of Magellan. He was received with unbounded enthusiasm at Valparaiso and Callao, but the steamers were laid up for three months on account of lack of coal, and to supply them Wheelwright began to operate mines in Chili, which proved very productive. He met with trouble at every step, and it, was not until 1845 that his plan was completed by the extension of his line to Panama. The Pacific steam navigation company, of which he was the founder, operated fifty-four steamers in 1876. Mr. Wheelwright suggested in 1842, and afterward built, a railroad from Santiago to Valparaiso. In 1849-'52 he constructed the railroad from the port of Caldera, which he created, to Copiapo, and in 1855 he planned a railway from Caldera across the Andes to Rosario, on the Parana, 934 miles. This was opened from Rosario to Cordoba, in the Argentine Republic, in 1870, but, its completion was postponed for years by the action of the government, which rescinded its concessions on Wheelwright's refusal to negotiate a loan of $30,000,000, which he suspected was to be diverted to the construction of iron-clads, from its ostensible purpose of building the road. In 1872 he completed a railway, thirty miles long, from Buenos Ayres to the harbor of Ensenada, on the Atlantic coast, whose great advantages as a port he had long urged. Wheelwright also constructed the first telegraph line, the first gas and water works, and the first iron pier in South America. He gave for benevolent purposes during his life about $600,000, and left one ninth of his estate (about $100,000) to found a scientific school in Newburyport. His full-length portrait was placed in the Merchants' exchange at Valparaiso by his friends, and a bronze statue of him has been erected by the board of trade in the same city. He published "Statements and Documents relative to the Establishment of Steam Navigation in the Pacific" (London, 1838) and " Observations on the Isthmus of Panama" (London, 1844). His life was written by Juan B. Alberdi, minister of the Argentine Republic to England and France, under the title of "La Vida y los trabajos industriales de William Wheelwright en la America del Sud" (Paris, 1876; English translation, with introduction by Caleb Cushing, Boston, 1877). See also " Biographical Sketch of William Wheelwright, of Newburyport, Massachusetts," by Captain John Codman (Philadelphia, 1888).--William's cousin, John Tyler, lawyer, born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, 28 February, 1856, is the son of George W. Wheelwright. He was graduated at Harvard in 1876, and at the law-school in 1878, and practised his profession in Boston. Mr. Wheelwright was founder of the Harvard "Lampoon " in 1876, and has been a frequent contributor to "Life." He is the author of dramatic sketches, which have been read in public by George Riddle; " Rollo's Journey to Cambridge," with Frederick J. Stimson (Boston, 1880); "The King's Men," with Mr. Stimson, John Boyle O'Reilly, and Robert Grant (New York, 1882); and "A Child of the Century " (1886).
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