CHESTER NEWELL RIGHTER
September 25, 1824 ~ December 16, 1856
From the 25th Anniversary publication
of the Yale College Class of 1846
~ Published 1871 ~
Chester Newell Righter, son of John and Locky Righter, was born in Parsippany, N.J., September 25,
1824, fitted for college at Wantage Select School, Deckertown, N.J., with his uncle, Edward A. Stiles.
He joined the class in October, 1842.
As his father was engaged in agricultural, mercantile and manufacturing business, and greatly desired
that after his graduation he should engage in one of these, he was put, at once, in possession of a store
and stock of goods. His success for a year was such as to show unusual fitness for practical affairs.
But, yielding to his mother's wishes and his own sense of duty, he gave up business and entered the
Yale Divinity School. He was licensed to preach, in 1849, by Middlesex Association, Connecticut.
After completing his course at New Haven, he spent some time at the Theological Seminary, Andover,
Massachusetts, and preached in various places, with much success.
His eyes failing, he set out for Europe in the spring of 1853, having his classmate Hill and Rev. S.I.
Prime, D.D., for companions. They visited Great Britain and the Continent, and proceeded, by way of
Switzerland and Italy, to Greece and the Orient. At Jacob's Well, while heroically endeavoring to
protect Dr. Prime from a band of Arab robbers, he was badly wounded by a spear.
He returned home after a year's absence, with much improved health. Being urged to undertake the
agency of the American Bible Society in the Turkish Empire, he accepted the call and was ordained
in the autumn of 1854 to the gospel ministry by the Presbytery at Newark, N.J. September 30th of
that year, he sailed in the Pacific, for Liverpool, and reached Constantinople December 1. He
engaged at once in distributing Bibles and Testaments among the soldiers of the allied army and Russian
prisoners. This carried him to the front and brought him in pleasant contact with some of the highest
officers of the French and English armies.
Afterwards, in the duties of his agency, he visited Egypt and Palestine, and proceeded to Eastern
Turkey, taking the ruins of Nineveh in his way. He died December 16, 1856, after a few days' illness,
at Diarbekir, in the house of Dr. Nutting, one of the missionaries of the American Board. His funeral
was attended the next day by Rev. Augustus Walker (Yale College, 1849), Dr. Nutting and others.
An interesting sketch of his life, with many of his letters, edited by Rev. S.I. Prime, D.D., was
published in 1859 by Sheldon & Co., N.Y., entitled, "The Bible in the Levant." He never married.
Chester Newell Righter was born in Parsippany, Morris County, New Jersey,
September 25, 1824. He graduated from Yale College in 1846, and subsequently
studied theology at New Haven and Andover.
After traveling in Europe for his health, he was ordained September 22, 1854,
and sailed for the Levant the same year, where, on his arrival, he acted as an agent of the
American Bible Society.
He died at age 32 in Diarbekir, Turkey, December 16, 1856, while
traveling the Middle East as a missionary, working for the American Bible Society.
Excerpt from the chapter “College Life” in “The Bible in the Levant; or the Life and
Letters of the Rev. C. N Righter, Agent of the American Bible Society in the Levant ”
In the fall of 1842 Righter entered Yale College, and after completing his course of study there
and graduating with honor, he pursued the study of theology at New Haven and Andover. One
of his classmates in College, who was afterwards an intimate friend, and our companion in travel,
the Rev. George E. Hill, has given me a few memoranda of his literary career which I here employ.
“He entered college with high resolutions to lead a life of devotion to study, and to such discipline
of heart as would prepare him for the profession which he sought. He was regarded by his
associates as exceedingly reserved and diffident. His reputation was that of a diligent student,
rather than a social companion, and rarely did he mingle in the sports of college life.
“With his fine talents and this exemplary diligence, it was a matter of course that his standing as
a scholar was high. Modest and retiring, but always a gentleman in his bearing and address, he
was universally respected and esteemed. Indeed I never knew that he had an enemy.
“We were together again in the closing year of our theological studies, and then for the first time
I began really to know the value of our friend. He was still the same diligent student, but his soul
was now glowing with a warm ambition to be useful in the service of Christ. His former reserve
had melted away. He was ready to speak for his Master, and earnestly engaged in winning souls
for him. This strong desire was seen and felt in his labors in a Bible class connected with the
Centre Church, New Haven.
“I well remember too, the ardor with which he entered upon our first preaching enterprise, in
the little brick schoolhouse at Hampden, five miles east of the city. Here we held religious service
every Sabbath evening, in the winter’s cold, but we were warm for our hearts burned within us,
as we walked by the way. It was then and there, in speaking for the first time as an ambassador
of Christ to his fellow-men, that his tongue was really loosed, and his whole soul glowed in his
earnest face as he besought men to be reconciled to God. How often on the vessel’s deck, and
in strange lands beyond the sea, as we have sung together those familiar songs of Zion, has he
spoken of the meetings in the brick schoolhouse, as among the happiest memories of his student life.
“Of the subsequent character and career of our friend and brother I have no need to write to
you, for you knew him afterward, even better than I. But his uniform benevolence, his unselfishness,
his tender regard for the interests and the feelings of others; his unaffected modesty coupled with
a manly heroism that despised danger and never felt fear; his fervent and consistent piety; his
powers of endurance and his willingness to do and to suffer in the service of his Master, all this
and more you know, and will portray, if you put your pen to the delightful work of perpetuating
the memory of our beloved Righter.”
The North American Review, Volume 89, Issue 184, Published July, 1859.
“The Bible in the Levant; or the Life and Letters of the Rev. C. N Righter, Agent
of the American Bible Society in the Levant ”
By Samuel Irenaeus Prime
York: Sheldon & Co. 1859.
the story of the life, labors, and early death of one who, at the age of 32, fell victim to the
inhospitable climate which he encountered in the cause of human
such he will be inscribed on the martyr roll of Christian heroes, whose names must brighten in
history, as those of conquerors and destroyers fade from the revering memory of men. The
story is told, as far as was practicable, in Mr. Righter’s own letters, and in those which describe
his last days and closing scene.
These Mr. Prime has connected by a loving and graceful
New Englander and Yale Review, Volume 17, Issue 67, August, 1859.
Bible in the Levant; or the Life and Letters of the Rev. C. N.
By Samuel Irenaeus Prime
New York: Sheldon & Co. 1859.
This book is a sketch of what Mr. Righter did in the last year of his life, rather than of what he
was as a thinker and as a man. Those who knew him as a student in college and the Theological
Seminary, could have told Mr. Prime much which he did not seem to care to know, else he
would not have been content to give so hasty and superficial a view of the marked and distinguishing
features of so interesting a person. Mr. Righter was not only the buoyant-spirited, the cheerful
and the earnest man whom his biographer describes but he was also ardent in his pursuit of
truth in Science and Theology, and fearless and independent in the avowal and defense of his
opinions, he was a very ardent admirer and affectionate pupil of the late Dr. Taylor, his
principal Theological teacher. He made special studies of Geology, Metaphysics, and Literature
while a Theological student, and was ever wakeful and eager to learn whatever might be known.
His modest manners and his symmetrical character veiled and obscured the force of his intellect
and the range of the attainments which he had achieved. A large circle of friends will value this
to his honor, and only regret that it is not more complete.
Extracts from Chester Righter's letters and journals can be found in
"The Bible in the Levant; or, The Life and Letters of the Reverend C. N. Righter,
Agent of the American Bible Society in the Levant,"
by Reverend Samuel I. Prime, D. D. (New York, 1859).
From the 1910 DKE Catalogue
B.A., M.A., Yale College
Jr. Ex. Speaker
Phi Beta Kappa
Yale College Department of Theology, 1848 - 50
Res. Licentiate, Yale College Department of Theology, 1850 - 51
Europe and Holy Land, 1853 - 54
Agent, American Bible Society, Turkish Empire, 1854 -
Deceased: December 16, 1856, age 32, Diarbekir, Turkey