He was born in Woburn, Massachusetts but moved to Canada with his parents while still young. He later joined the family business in the timber trade. Wright also served as justice of the peace and postmaster during the 1820s. In 1829, he built the first timber slide on the Ottawa River to transport logs past the Chaudière Falls. However, by 1840, a competing slide built on the opposite (Ontario) side of the river had won over most of the business. He also discovered a source of cement which was used in the construction of the Rideau Canal.
Wright was married twice: first to Hannah Chamberlain and later to Rosina McDowell. His daughter Hannah, married Joseph Merrill Currier, a lumber baron, in 1868. His son William McKay Wright served in the Canadian House of Commons.
- Gard, Anson Albert (1906). Pioneers of the Upper Ottawa and the humors of the valley. pp. 73–74.
- "Wright, Ruggles". Répertoire du patrimoine culturel du Québec (in French). Culture et des Communications Quebec.
- Lee, David (2006). Lumber Kings and Shantymen: Logging and Lumbering in the Ottawa Valley. pp. 48–51. ISBN 1550289225.
- Skempton, A. W (2002). A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland: 1500-1830. p. 199. ISBN 072772939X.
- Upper Ottawa Valley to 1855. McGill-Queen's Press. 1990. p. lxvi. ISBN 0773584080.
- Laberge, Edward P. (1989), Philemon Wright, a Yankee who helped build Canada. Bytown pamphlet series., Ottawa, Ontario: The Historical Society of Ottawa