Index

Wedding of Frederick Lewis Dibblee and Emily Binney


See Frederick Dibblee's career in India
Letters sent to Frederick Dibblee when he married
Frederick Dibblee's early career

The wife of Frederick Dibblee was Emily Binney. She came from Moncton, in New Brunswick, Canada. Her father was a prosperous businessman, and had been first mayor of Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was interested in the local Canadian railways where Frederick Dibblee worked, so perhaps that was how Frederick and Emily met. The story of the wedding is a very romantic one.

Family story about the marriage
Telegram from Stephen Binney about Emily's arrival
Letters to Frederick Dibblee about his new job and marriage
Historical context
Marriage certificate
Jeweller's receipt for ring
Wedding present

Family story about the marriage

This account of the marriage was written by Celia Dibblee, my mother. I have given it in full although she didn't know the details of Frederick Dibblee's early career. My own comments are given below.

The Marriage of FREDERICK Lewis DIBBLEE TO EMILY BINNEY

The following story was told to Celia Dibblee by Auntie Jeanie Greg when she was a very old lady. It was a description of the courtship of her parents over eighty years earlier.

Jeanie Greg's father was Frederick Lewis Dibblee (1837-88), of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, He married Emily Binney (1837-99) of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1864.

This account was confirmed much later by Priscilla Stevens, the daughter of George Binney Dibblee, Jeanie Greg's eldest brother. He had told her the same story.


The romance of Frederick Dibblee and Emily Binney very nearly ended in a typically nineteenth century tragedy. Emily's father refused to allow her engagement to Fred. The reason he gave was that Fred would not be able to support her in the way to which she had been accustomed.

Although Fred's father was a barrister-at-law, Fred had not followed that career. It is probable that he had trained as a civil engineer. The refusal on the part of Emily's father suggests that either Fred was unemployed, or that he was not able to find a suitable opening in his chosen profession which would provide a reasonable salary for married life.

The young people were devastated - but were quite determined to share their lives together. Fred suggested to Emily that he should travel outside Canada and look for a promising opening abroad. If he did - would she wait for him? Emily gave a very realistic answer. "I'll wait five years" she said "and if by that time you haven't been succesful - I shall have to look elsewhere for a husband."

So Fred went first to Brazil and spent some months working there. Then from Brazil he travelled to England and may also have visited the continent. Sometime during the middle of 1864 he was at last succesful and was accepted for the post of Chief Engineer for a railway company in Madras. Obviously the salary was good and nothing now stood in the way of his marriage to Emily. She must have been of real pioneering stock, because she immediately crossed the Atlantic alone from Halifax to Queenstown by steamer, where Fred met her, They were married at St. James, Piccadilly in London on December 20th 1864. The wedding ring cost 14 shillings.

They remained devoted to each other until Fred's early death from fever twenty-four years later, as his letters and her diary show.

There are several reasons why Emily's father might have objected to her marriage.

The family tradition was that Emily broke with her family completely. However, this is not true. Her family wrote to her in an affectionate way, and her son George Binney Dibble kept in touch with them. Still, she never returned to Canada, even after the death of her husband.


Telegram from Stephen Binney about Emily's arrival

This telegram (see below) was sent by Stephen Binney, Emily's father, to Frederick Dibblee, telling him that Emily was about to leave halifax (in Nova Scotia) to come to Britain. Frederick was to meet her in Queenstown. This is now called Cobh, in County Cork, in the Republic of Ireland. It was one of the major transatlantic Irish ports.

One interesting point is the date. This message was definitely sent in 1864, as we know that Frederick Dibblee and Emily Binney was married in December 1864. The first transatlantic telegraph cable was laid in August 5, 1858, but broke the following month. The next successful attempt was in July 28, 1866. So this telegram could not be sent via transatlantic telegraph cable. However, reading the telegram, it mentions Eng. Mail NY. It must have been sent as a telegram some of the way, as it is a continuous thin strip of paper, in capitals, and with limited punctuation (I've split it up to fit it on the page and make it easier to read). If the whole message was sent by boat in a conventional manner, then it might just have well been a normal letter. There was a telegraph cable between Halifax and New York since 1849. I assume that this was sent to New York by telegraph, and then via ship to London. This must have taken some time. Frederick Dibblee would have received it in enough time to get to Queenstown in Ireland to meet his beloved, but there would not have been time to reply if he couldn't get there. Emily Dibblee must have left her family and country to travel to a strange country without confirmation that anyone would meet her. The letters from Frederick's mother and sister show that the whole marriage was arranged in a tremendous hurry, and they weren't even sure that Emily would arrive in Britain before Frederick had to leave for India. Presumably this telegram was trying to shave a day or so off the travelling time to get to Frederick in time.

Moncton NB. Nov.29th. Frederick L. Dibblee. 75 Jermyn St. St. James. London Eng. Mail NY. Emily leaves Halifax steamer 8th December. Meet her at Queenstown. Stephen Binney.

Telegram from Stephen Binney about Emily's arrival Telegram from Stephen Binney about Emily's arrival Telegram from Stephen Binney about Emily's arrival Telegram from Stephen Binney about Emily's arrival Telegram from Stephen Binney about Emily's arrival Telegram from Stephen Binney about Emily's arrival


Letters to Frederick Dibblee about his new job and marriage

In the family papers, there is a sheet with letters to Frederick Dibblee from three of his family. They are shown in full here, with transcripts, but here are extracts from them.

Frederick's father writes very briefly with good wishes. He says I rejoice at the good news of your appointment in the East Indies.

Frederick's mother on the other hand concentrates on Frederick's imminent wedding. She writes a charming letter praising Emily, his new wife, who had been visiting them that summer. She even says that since Emily is there to look after him, It quite reconciles us to the great distance we are to be separated and I hope it will be in your power to make her as happy as she deserves, which are delightful things for your future mother-in-law to say! There is a hint that Emily's family might not be so happy at the wedding. More interestingly, there is a suggestion that Emily had to leave in a hurry to get to Frederick before he left for India, and might not even manage it (she did, in fact). The time is very short, but if you get word she is coming you wll have the Blacksmith ready at the nearest point if not her friends in England will take good care of her and send her to you. The Blacksmith must be a reference to the hasty marriage. She did get word sent to her (see below). The mother has also been scrabbling round the house to find things to send to Emily, presumably wedding presents. One point that is interesting about this letter is that it suggests that it was actually carried to Frederick by Emily herself, and that Frederick will hardly be in the mood to read it right away since he will be so bound up with Emily!

Frederick's sister writes a chatty letter, again bemoaning the fact that Frederick won't be in a mood to read it. She also talks of Emily warmly. We all are so pleased at her brave spirit in starting off without any warning to go after you. She also passes on a couple of comments of children who knew Emily. "Love to Uncle Fred & he is very glad he is going to get married to Aunt Emily." and "Well I am glad Miss Emily is going to Mr Dibblee, but I am sorry I shall not see her again."

I'm not surprised that these letters were preserved. Frederick and Emily must have read them together in a daze of happiness as they travelled together from Queenstown to London to get married.


Historical context

It is worth considering the date of Emily's voyage across the Atlantic. This was in December, 1864. The American Civil War was from 1861 to 1865. In August 1864, the Southern ship Tallahasse attacked several Northern ships, and then was pursued and took shelter in Halifax. This was a neutral port, of course, and by international law, the pursuing ships could not come within 3 miles of Halifax, and Tallahasse had to leave within 24 hours. The ship did manage to slip away at night, using the Eastern Passage. The sea charts said the passage was only five feet deep, but it was spring tide, so there was more like fourteen feet. A local pilot guided the ship out.

The whole incident was reported in the local newspapers. A few months later, Emily sailed from Halifax. Of course, both North and South would be very careful not to open fire on a British ship, but Emily must have been aware of the war.


Marriage certificate

Marriage certificate


Jeweller's receipt for ring

This is presumably the receipt for the wedding ring. Note that the date is after the wedding!

Jeweller's receipt for ring


Wedding present

This inscription is in the front of a bible. From the date, it must be a wedding present to Emily. Uncle Richard is Rev. Richard Binney, son of Hon. Hibbert Newton Binney. He was living in Northern Ireland at this time.

Wedding present