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. 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.
His daughter Hannah, married Joseph Merrill Currier, a lumber baron in 1868.
- Laberge, Edward P. (1989), Philemon Wright, a Yankee who helped build Canada. Bytown pamphlet series., Ottawa, Ontario: The Historical Society of Ottawa