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.”



Book Review:

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

New York: Sheldon & Co. 1859.
This is another book which owes its rich charm and high interest to the missionary service. It is 

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 salvation.

He was a noble man, a brave and earnest worker, a faithful preacher of righteousness; and as 

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 narrative.


Book Review:

New Englander and Yale Review, Volume 17, Issue 67, August, 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

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 

well-intended memorial 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
Founder, DKE
Jr. Ex. Speaker
Phi Beta Kappa
Commencement Speaker
Yale College Department of Theology, 1848 - 50
Res. Licentiate, Yale College Department of Theology, 1850 - 51
Europe and Holy Land, 1853 - 54
Ordained, 1854
Agent, American Bible Society, Turkish Empire, 1854 - 
 Deceased: December 16, 1856, age 32, Diarbekir, Turkey



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