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Rev. J. Ambrose Wight (1811-1889)
and Caroline (Adams) Wight (1823-1892)
Natives of New York, pastorship with the First Presbyterian Church, of Bay City, MI.

1904 bio. (Added Dec., 2008)

American Biographical History of Eminent and Self-made Men, 1878


Wight, J. Ambrose, D. D., of Bay City, Michigan, was born at Floyd, Oneida County, New York, September 12, 1811, and is the youngest son of Jabez and Mary (Bancroft) Wight. A genealogical record of the family, published by Dr. Danforth P. Wight, is found in many of our public libraries. Thomas Wight, who came from Ryde, Isle of Wight, in 1637, was the founder of the family in this country. The Plymouth Colony assigned lands to him, in Dedham, Massachusetts, which are still owned by his descendants. In 1811 Doctor Wight's father moved to Floyd, before the birth of his youngest child; after this the family returned to Norwich. Poverty compelled Mrs. Wight to part with her children, and Doctor Wight, at the age of six years, was sent to East Hampton, Massachusetts, where he passed his boyhood. He returned, in 1826, to the home of his mother, wth his entire wardrobe in a cotton pocket-handkerchief, twelve by fourteen inches in size. The following summer he was in the employment of Mr. David Tracy, of Norwich, at a salary of four and a half dollars per month, to be paid in articles from the store. A kick from a horse brought him near to death, for a time, but he remained with Mr. Tracy during the season. The next winter he attended school, and worked mornings and evenings at a blacksmith's shop, for the purpose of paying his way. Before spring he went, with an elder brother, to Lunenburg, Vermont, where he worked in a cooper-shop and on a farm. He returned, on foot, to Massachusetts, and after attending a few months, walked to New Haven, Connecticut, and there took a sloop for New York, to join his eldest brother, who was teaching at Hampstead.

At the age of eighteen, he resolved to study law, and went to Bennington, Vermont, where he taught, and studied attentively. There he was converted, during a revival of religion, which occurred in the summer of 1831, and determined to enter college and become a minister. In 1836 he graduated from Williams College and delivered the poem of his class. For some time afterwards he wrote for Greeley's New Yorker and Tribune, as a correspondent. In the fall he went to Chicago, with Walter Wright, a classmate, and, when he arrived, had but twelve cents in his pocket. He spent some weeks in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, clearing land and building a log house; worked at gardening in Chicago; acted as chainman in surveying the Illinois and Michigan Canal; and, finally, entered into a mercantile partnership with Mr. John Wright, and settled in Rochester, Illinois. The financial depression of 1837, and the death of his partner, closed the business in 1839, and he commenced the study of the law at Rockford. He was admitted to practice in Illinois, and in the District Court of the United States, July, 1841. At the earnest solicitation of friends he, at this time, undertook the editorship of the Winnebago Forum, the only paper continuously published until now, in Rockford. Shortly after, he became one of the editors of the Prairie Farmer, at Chicago, a paper devoted to agriculture, horticulture, mechanics, and education; and, in 1851, in connection with Hon. William Bross, -- now of the Chicago Tribune – became also editorial manager of the Herald of the Prairies, a religious paper. He continued in various relationships on both these papers until 1855, when he carried out his original plan of entering the Christian ministry.

In April he was licensed to preach, and undertook missionary work, in South Chicago. At the close of the year he organized the Olivet Presbyterian Church, and was chosen its pastor, in which relation he remained with it until 1863. He then spent a year in ministerial work and as one of the editorial staff of the Chicago Tribune; and then, declining the Professorship of Rhetoric and Moral Philosophy, at Knox College, assumed the pastoral charge of the Presbyterian Church at Bay City, then a place of only four thousand inhabitants. The town was new and rough, and the church was an ordinary frame building, situated among stumps and fallen trees. There was no suitable dwelling for his family, but he was resolved to stay, and, at the end of six weeks, had his present residence ready for use. The congregation increased in numbers rapidly. Additions to its membership has been made at each of its communions, with tow exceptions, for thirteen years. Through natural adaptability to the work, and by wise management, Doctor Wight has been enabled to build up a harmonious, united church, composed of the different elements of Scotch, Irish, Canadian, and American Presbyterians, and New England and Western Congregationalists. Much of his influence is due to a steady, fearless performance of duty. He offers no unusual excitements, and his sermons are eminently practical. Ever since his college days, Doctor Wight has written for the press. His contributions have been to the weekly and daily papers; to the Presbyterian Quarterly, and the American Theological Review. He has contributed ably and frequently, for twenty years, to the New York Evangelist, over the signature of “Ambrose.”

He married, in May, 1840, Caroline Elizabeth Adams, daughter of Rev. William M. Adams, of Rockton, Illinois. Four of their children are living. Ambrose S. Wight, the oldest was in the naval service during the latter years of the civil war. The second son, a Master in the United States navy, was lost when twenty-six years of age, in the wreck of the United States steamer “Huron,” off the coast of North Carolina, November 24, 1877. He was an accomplished, devoted, and promising officer. During the summer of 1876, on the recommendation of Rev. Mark Hopkins, D. D. L. L. D., the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon Doctor Wight, by Williams College.

1896: Mrs. Caroline (Adams) Wight. (Added Apr., 2009)

Historical Collections, Michigan Pioneer & Historical Society, 1896

by Judge Andrew C. Maxwell

Mrs. Caroline Adams Wight was born in Ludlowville, N. Y., February 9, 1823.

She was the second child and elder daughter of Rev. Wm. M. and Sophia Farnsworth Adams, both of whom were from distinguished revolutionary families. Mr. Adams was a gentleman of the old school, polished, and dignified in manner, a warm friend of the evangelist, Chas. G. Finney, and of Rev. Wm. Wisner, well known through western New York as both preachers and pastor.

Mrs. Adams was a woman of great beauty of persons and sweetness of disposition and both parents were warmly loved and honored by all who know them.

Mrs. Wight was carefully educated at home and at a private school in Athens, Penn., and when at the age of fourteen her father came west to Painesville, Ohio, she attended what is now known as Lake Erie Seminary. Mr. Adams, however, soon removed to Rockton, Ill. Here on May 31, 1840, when but seventeen years of age, she was married to J. Ambrose Wight, a union which lasted to within six months of fifty-years. Mr. and Mrs. Wight, after a brief residence in Rockton and Rockford, removed to Chicago, at that time in its childhood. Their home was near 12th street, beyond the confines of the city, and the conditions of live were primitive. They early united with the Second Presbyterian church, then newly formed, a connection lasting for twelve years, when Mr. Wight was licensed to preach and Mrs. Wight entered upon the duties of a minister's wife. She was active in the church and socially as far as health and the care of a family of children allowed. During the war she was an active worker in the sanitary commission.

In August, 1865, she came to Bay City where the remainder of her life was spent. Here she sang in the choir, taught in the Sabbath school, organized and for eighteen years was president of the Woman's Missionary Society, and was an important factor in the social life of church and city until failing health laid her aside. She was the mother of seven children, two of whom died in infancy and one, a son, perished in the wreck of the U.S.S. Huron in his early manhood. Mrs. Wight passed away from earth on January 13, 1892.

Additional Notes.

    1850 - Census: Chicago, Cook, Illinois.

  • Wight, J. A. - b. 1812 New York.
  • ? (female) - b. 1833 New York - (assumed Caroline)
  • A. L., son - b. 1846 Ohio (Ambrose L.)
  • Julia, daughter - b. 1849 Ill.

    1870 - Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Wight, Ambrose - b. 1820 New York.
  • Caroline, wife - b. 1825 New York.
  • Julia, daughter - b. 1849 Ill.
  • Sophia, daughter - b. 1859 Ill.
  • William son - b. 1861 Ill.

    1880 - Cenus: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Wight, J. Ambrose - b. 1812 New York - minister.
  • Caroline E., wife - b. 1823 New York
  • Sophia, daughter - b. 1860 Ill.
  • William A., son - b. 1861 Ill.

    1889 - Michigan Deaths: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Jay Ambrose Wight, clergyman, married, died November 11,1889.
Related Pages/Notes

Rev. Wight

Related Pages:
First Presbyterian Church
People Referenced
Adams, Caroline E. (wife)
Adams, William M (father)
Adams(Farnsworth), Sophia (mother)
Bancroft, Mary (mother)
Bross, William
Finney, Charles G.
Hopkins, Mark Rev.
Maxwell, Andrew C. (author)
Tracy, David
Wight, Ambrose (son)
Wight, Danford P. Dr.
Wight, J. Ambrose (subject)
Wight, Jabez (father)
Wight, Julia (dau)
Wight, Sohpia (dau)
Wight, Thomas
Wight, William (son)
Wisner, William Rev.
Wright, Walter
Subjects Referenced
American Theological Review
Athens, PA
Bay City, MI
Bennington, VT
Chicago, IL
Chicago Tribune
Civil War
Dedham, MA
East Hampton, MA
Floyd, NY
Greeley's New Yorker
Hamstead, NY
Herald of the Prairies
Illinois & Michigan Canal
Knox college
Lake Erie Seminary
Ludlowville, NY
Lunenburg, VT
Oak Creek, WI
Olivet Presbyterian College
Oneida Co., NY
New Haven, CT
New York Evangelist
North Carolina
Norwich, MA
Painesville, OH
Plymouth Colony
Prairie Farmer
Presbyterian Ch, Bay City
Presbyterian Quarterly
Rochester, IL
Rockford, IL
Rockton, IL
Ryde, Isle of Wight
Second Presbyterian Ch.
Wennebago Forum
Williams College
Woman's Missionary Soc.
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.