Rev. Frederick Dibblee wrote his diary between 1803 and 1825. It has interested various local historians at different times, up to the present day. Here are some articles basewd on the diary.
W. O. Raymond Scrapbook|
Centennial of Ordination of Rev. Frederick Dibblee
Comments on the diary by T.C.L Ketchum
Article about the diary by Stephen Davidson
Graves of Rev. Frederick Dibblee and his wife
Note on Madras System of Education
Rev. William Odbur Raymond was Rector of St. Mary's Church, Saint John, N.B. He seems to have been the local historian of the area. Here are two accounts by him of Rev. Frederick Dibblee and his father Rev. Ebenezer Dibblee. They overlap, but include different points, so I've included both.
These articles, written by Rev. William Odbur Raymond, appeared as a series of columns in the old Woodstock 'Dispatch' between 1894 and 1896. Dr. Raymond clipped the columns and pasted them in a scrapbook, a volume that was disintegrating in 1983. The columns have been rebuilt, preserving the original spelling, and, usually, original punctuation except where rare editing was necessary for clarity of meaning.
The next of the new settlers to claim our attention is Frederick Dibblee. This gentleman, afterwards so well known as the first English speaking minister on the upper St. John, was not an ordained clergyman when he came to Woodstock.
He was born at Stamford, Connecticut, Dec. 9, 1753 and was the youngest son of the Rev. Ebenezer Dibblee, D.D., for fifty-one years rector of Stamford. His mother, Joanna Bates, was an aunt of Sheriff Bates, of Kings County, N.B., the well known author of the adventures of the celebrated Henry More Smith. Rev. Dr. Dibblee was quire a pronounced loyalist but his personal popularity was such that he escaped the rigorous persecution that befell the majority of his brethren in the ministry. It is recorded however that he was on one occasion "cruelly dragged through mire and dirt" and that at another time he went to Sharon "to be inoculated for the small pox, possibly hoping thereby to enjoy a few weeks respite from persecution." His loyalty led him to continue the use of the English prayer book in his church until the year 1782 although the American edition had been adopted three years previously, and only at the personal solicitation of Bishop Seabury did he consent to the desired change.
Frederick Dibblee was educated at Kings (now Columbia) College, New York. He married Nancy Beach, of Stratford, Connecticut, about the beginning of the Revolution. She was a niece of the Rev. John Beach a famous New England divine who for his loyalty suffered the most outrageous persecution at the hands of the so called "patriots" of Connecticut. Frederick Dibblee was also a pronounced loyalist and made himself so obnoxious to the Americans that on petition of the "select men" of Stamford he and his family were ordered to depart the town forthwith and never to return. His elder brother Fyler Dibblee, attorney-at-law and a leading man at Stamford, was banished in like manner. Frederick with his wife and two children (of whom the eldest, Elizabeth afterwards married Capt. Charles Ketchum) came to St. John in 1783 about the same time as his brother Fyler and his wife's two brothers William and Lewis Beach. The latter were grantees at Kingston but afterwards returned to the States. Frederick Dibblee drew lot 116 and his nephew Walter (son of Fyler) lot 117 on the east side of Germain street just below Horsfield street in St. John, and there they probably passed their first winter removing afterwards to Kingston. An entry in the old church records at Kingston tells us that at the Easter Monday meeting in 1785 the people decided to have regular public services and they accordingly "apopointed Joseph Scribner's house to begin to reade prayer at and Mr. Frederick Dibblee was chosen to reade prayers." Mr. Dibblee's oldest son the late Col. John Dibblee was born at Kingston March 3rd 1787.
On the decease of Rev. Geo. Bisset, first rector of St. John, Rev. Dr. Dibblee, of Stamford was spoken of as his successor but his great age prevented his acceptance of the post. Frederick Dibblee was not ordained to the ministry till the 23rd October 1791, but he had contemplated taking Holy Orders some four years previously. This we learn from a letter received by Munson Jarvis of St. John from a Stamford correspondend in 1788 who, referring to Rev. Dr. Dibblee says — "In case his son Frederick was by your Bishop admitted to Holy Orders this spring Mr. Dibblee had intended to be present."
The cause of the alteration of Frederick Dibblee's intention of entering the ministry in the spring of 1788, was the proposal made to him by the Board of Commissioners of the Society for the propagation of the Gospel among the Indians (this society had no connection with the well-known S.P.G., or society for the propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts) to establish a school for the Indians of the upper St. John at some convenient centre with the view of educating and christianizing them. The Board considered Mr. Dibblee well qualified for the position of instructor, and after due consideration he agreed to proceed to the old Indian settlement at Meductic and arrange if possible for the opening of a school. Accordingly in the autumn of 1787 he went to Fredericton where he hired an Indian and canoe to carry him to his destination. As the Meductic village was regarded as the centre of his operations, he arranged for a grant of land a little above the old fort where there were some vacant lots.
There is a story related by the late Col. John Dibblee that as his father drew near his destination he chaced to fall asleep in the canoe, and the Indian who was poling not having received very clear instructions where he was to land, carried him some miles above the old fort before he awoke. The appearance of the country at that point pleased him so much that he made some inquiries of Col. Griffith about it and finding that the original grantees had made little or no attempt to fulfil the conditions of their grants, he by the favor of the governor in council soon after secured possession of lots 23 and 24, giving him an estate of some 1,200 acres, nearly all of which is yet owned by his grandchildren. Mr. Dibblee spent the winter with Samuel McKeen, and the next year moved his family to Woodstock.
There seems to have been a notable accession of new settlers that summer, several of whom came from Maugerville and Kingston. Among the newcomers were Capt. George Bull, Capt. Joseph Cunliffe, John Bedell, William Dibblee, Michael Smith, Jabez Upham and Ephraim Lane. The first house built by Frederick Dibblee stood on the bank of the river in front of the house now occupied by his grandson, Frederick. Like all the first settlers' houses it was a rude log dwelling with rough hewn floor, stone chimney and huge fire place, the chinks and joinings of the walls well caulked with moss and clay, the roof covered with spruce bark or with split cedar, the furniture of the plainest and most primitive description, largely home made but with here and there some article of greater pretensions brought with the family from New England. In such a house, with such additions as were necessitated by a rapidly increasing family, Frederick Dibblee and many another pioneer settler passed their first twenty years at Woodstock. We shall deal with Mr. Dibblee's work as teacher and missionary later on, and have something to say about his descendants.
Came to Woodstock from Kingston with his mother Polly Jarvis widow of Fyler Dibblee, in 1788. His brother Ralph and his brother-in-law John Bedell came at the same time. Our authority on this point is a letter written by Munson Jarvis of St. John to William Jarvis in London under date Aug. 5, 1788 in which he says "John Bedell, William and Ralph Dibblee have taken lands at Meductuck, 130 or 140 miles up the river, where they say the lands are much better than where they now are (that is at Kingston); William is a very hard working man, Ralph will work if he can't help it."
The log house built by William Dibblee stood near the site of the house now occupied by Col. Raymond, the old well — long since filled in, being under the carriage house. The old mother Polly (Jarvis) Dibblee died in May 1826 aged 80 years. Her son Ralph and daughter Sally Munday were married by their uncle the Rev. Frederick Dibblee on the same day — Ralph to Elizabeth Ketchum and Sally M. to John D. Beardsley. William never married, he spent his declining years with his niece Mrs. Charles Raymond and at his death bequeathed his property to her son Col. C. W. Raymond. The list of parish officers in the journals of the old York County sessions shows that William Dibblee was town clerk of Woodstock in 1790 and that he filled various other public offices.
The father of the Rev. Frederick Dibblee was Rev. Ebenezr Dibblee, a native of Danbury, Conn., and a graduate of Yale college; he subsequently received the degree of D.D. from Columbia college, N. Y. For some time he was a licentiate among the Congregationalists, but through conviction became a churchman, and for a time at the earnest request of the parishioners acted as lay reader in the parish of Stamford. He went to England for holy orders in 1748, and on his return became the rector of Stamford. The Stamford local historian (Rev. E. B. Huntington, M.A) says: "Testimonials to the gentlemanly bearing and christian character of Mr. Dibblee are abundant. He was held in very high esteem by christian people of every denomination." During his ministry Dr. Dibblee declined two offers from parishes which desired his services. The offer of a larger stipend did not avail, and Stamford was his parish first, last and always. During the revolution Mr. Dibblee's sentiments were decidedly opposed to armed insurrection. His personal popularity was however so great that he appears to have escaped the more rigorous persecution that befell his brethren in Connecticut. In I778 Rev. Samuel Seabury, speaking of the clergy of Connecticut, says: "I believe they are all either carried away from their cures or confined to their homes, except Mr Dibblee, who is gone to Sharon to be inoculated for the smallpox, possibly hoping thereby to enjoy a few weeks respite from persecution."
A tablet was placed in St. John's church, Stamford, Ct., containing the following tribute to the memory of Rev. Ebenezer Dibblee: As a missionary of the S. P G. he entered upon the duties of his sacred office Oct. 16, 1748, and continued to discharge them with great fidelity and zeal until the olose of the revolutionary war. He subsequently fulfilled his duties unconnected with the society in England until 1799 when he died full of years, in peace with God and charity with man. Rector of St. John's parish 51 years."
Frederick Dibblee was one of the younger sons of Dr. Ebenezer Dibblee and was born at Stamford, Dec. 9, 1753. In some points his life resembles that of his father. Like him he officiated as lay reader for a time previously to his ordination; like him he was a S. P. 6. missionary; like him he never had but a single charge. And here we may digress to note that the rectors of Woodstock have shown remarkable fidelity to their parish. Rev. Fred. Dibblee ministered in the parish nearly thirty-five years and after a brief interregnum was succeeded by Rev. S. D. Lee Street who passed his entire ministry of nearly forty-one years in the parish. Mr, Street's successor, Canon Neales, came to the parish in 1868 and still remains in charge .
Frederick Dibblee completed his education at King's (now Columbia) oollege, N.Y. He married Nancy Beech of Stratford, Ct., who was either a daughter or more probably a neice of the Rev. John Beech, whose heroic devotion to duty is recorded by old Sheriff Bates in his lately published manuscripts on Kingston and the Loyalists of 1783. Mr. Dibblee probably was more outspoken than the doctor, his father, as regards his opinion of the revolutionary struggle, and in consequence the selectmen of Stamford ordered him and his family to depart that town forthwith and never return. It is probable that he came to St. John in May, 1783 He and his cousin, Walter Dibblee, drew lots 110 and 117, situated on Germain street, just below Horsefield Street, St. John. After spending the first winter at the mouth of the river he removed to Kingston, where his son, the late Colonel John Dibblee, was born March 3, 1787. The old Kingston church records show that at the Easter Monday meeting in 1785 the parishioners "appointed Joseph Scribner's house to begin to reade prayer at, and Mr Frederick Dibblee was chosen to read prayers."
During the four years in which Mr. Dibblee resided at Kingston favorable accounts were received regarding the prospects of the loyalist settlement on the upper St. John, and Mr. Dibblee resolved to remove thither. Having arrived at Fredericton he procured a grant of land at the Meductic near
JUDGE SAUNDER'S PROPERTY.
On nearing his destination he chanced to fall asleep in the canoe, and the Indian who was poling it, not having received very clear instructions, carried him several miles beyond Meductic before he awoke. Being then in the vicinity of Woodstock he decided to go on and see the settlement there. His impressions were so favorable that he subsequently effected a change in the minute of the council in order to have his grant located at Woodstock.
The winter of 1787-8 was spent at the house of Samuel McKeen, just opposite Meductic Island, and the following year finds the family settled at Woodstock. Mr. Dibblee had been but a short time at Woodstock when, at the solicitation of the inhabitants he conducted the service of the Church of England as lay reader and he continued to officiate in this capacity for more than two years.
The house which he first erected stood on the bank of the river, almost directly in front of the present homestead . Like all the dwellings of the early settlers, it was a rude log house with small windows, rough hewn floor, chimney of stone or perhaps constructed of logs plastered with clay, huge fire place, the plainest and roughest kind of homemade furniture intermingled with a few more pretentious articles, relics of the comfortable home abandoned in Connecticut. The house was well banked, the chinks and joinings well caulked with moss and clay and the roof covered with spruce bark. This primitive dwelling with possibly some slight additions, rendered necessary by a rapidly increasing family, served as a home for more than twenty years. The house into which he moved in 1811 was one of the
FIRST FRAME HOUSES IN WOODSTOCK.
The loss of the ordinances of religion to which they had been accustomed in their old homes was severely felt by the early settlers. For more than six years they were deprived of the ministry of God's word and sacraments, and seeing no immediate prospect of a clergyman being sent them, they strongly urged on Mr. Dibblee the propriety of his taking holy orders. With this request he at length felt it his bounden duty to comply. Accordingly, having by three years industrious toil secured a house and provided for the immediate necessities of his family, he proceeded to Halifax in the fall of 1791, and was there admitted to the Holy Order of Deacons by the Rt. Rev. Charles Inglis, first bishop of Nova Scotia, on the 23rd day of Oct., 1791. The journey to Halifax in those days was no trifle. The most direct route was down the river by canoe to Fredericton and St. John, thence across the Bay of Fundy by schooner to Annapolis, thence by land to Halifax. This under the most favorable circumstances was an arduous undertaking and as a matter of fact, Mr. Dibblee was absent from home nearly three months. The contrast between life a hundred years ago and life today  is indicated by the simple fact that the train which brought the writer of this paper to Woodstock at 6 a.m., left Halifax at 2 p.m. the previous day. The journey that formerly occupied weeks of toilsome travel not unmixed with hardship, and danger, is now completed in fifteen hours with the greatest comfort on the part of the traveler.
On his return from St. John, about the last week in November, Mr. Dibblee hastened his progress homeward by skating upon the river. Next to his immediate relatives, two young people of the parish were particularly pleased at his return. Their names are in the parish register which records: "Nov. 30th, 1791. Married Michael Smith and Phebe Ketchum." The next entry is dated eleven days later and records the baptism of the late John Bedell, then fifteen weeks of age. The first services were of necessity held in the houses of the settlers, "Parson Dibblee" frequently holding service in his own house,
AT OLD CAPTAIN KETCHUM'S
and other convenient places. In summer, when the concourse was larger and the weather warm, the services were frequently held in barns. Nor need we fear that the humble service there was less acceptable to Him who only asks our best, than had it been offered up in the grandest cathedral of the old mother land. The hymns of praise that echoed amongst the rafters were not less heartily sung than they would have been in the beautiful little church where their children worship today. The very birds that twittered amongst the rafters recalled the psalmist's words "Yea, the sparrow hath found her an house and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; even thy altars, O Lord of Hosts, my King and my God."
The Indians at Meductic had hitherto derived all their knowledge of Christianity from the French missionaries, a few of whom as appears labored from time to time on the upper St. John. Mr. Dibblee endeavored for some years to instruct and christianize the Indians, and his first connection with the S. P. G was as superintendent of the Indian school which he established in his mission.
Bishop Inglisin 1792 writes to the S.P.G. "that the Indians in Mr. Dibblee's mission are numerous, 150 families reside near him, and about 100 families more occasionally visit these parts. Most of them have been instructed by Roman Catholic missionaries, but their prejudices wear off. Many of them regularly attend our services and behave decently and Mr. Dibblee thinks that as he is now in priest's orders they will bring their children to be baptized and put themselves under his charge, for hitherto they had only ccnsidered him as half a priest. Mr. Dibblee," the bishop goes on to say, "is much beloved by the Indians and respected by the whites and has made some progress in the Indian language so as to be able to converse on common subjects and is pursuing the study of it." The S. P. G. report for 1792 further states that as Mr. Dibblee has been very diligent and may be very useful in the future the society have furnished him with a quantity of Indian prayer books and have granted him a gratuity of £20 for his services with an intention as soon as the preliminaries for a mission are fixed to take him into their service.
The Indians in the neighborhood of Woodstock had suffered severely about this time through the failure of game and many of them began to think seriously of relinquishing their wandering mode of life and giving more time and attention to the cuhivation of their land. In this they received every encouragement from Mr. Dibblee and they cleared and planted a considerable tract.
The following year
THE MISSION OF WOODSTOCK
was duly founded and consisted of the parishes of Woodstock, Northampton and the parts adjacent. That is, it extended from St. Marys aad Kingsclear to the Madawaska. At first the work of ministering to the spiritual needs of the scattered settlements in this immense mission field was exceedingly laborious. The roughness of the uncleared country, the obstructions of mountains and forests and rapid streams made it difficult for the missionary to make distant excursions; indeed they could only be undertaken in summer.
In a letter to the S P. G., dated Feb 25, 1795, Mr Dibblee assured the society of his strict attention to the four parishes under his charge for three years past. His only way of travelling was by the Indian birch canoe and the distance to his principal stations being 13, 80 and 45 miles respectively. He gives a good accouut of his people, who, he says, are honest and industrious and are making great progress in clearing and settling the country. He requests a grant for the school, which proves quite a burden to a few individuals, owing to the poverty of the settlers. To this request the society acceded, and also forwarded a number of bibles and prayer books for the mission.
In a letter written about nine months later the missionary complains of receiving no reply to his letters. The S. P G. report states that letters were written and books forwarded, but in consequence of the war then prevailing the vessels were probably taken by French cruisers and never reached their destination. Mr. Dibblee mentions that Judge Saunders, a gentleman of great Property in Prince William and Queensorough, has agreed to build a church in the former place, and the inhabitants of the lower part of Prince William, Queensborough and Kingsclear have undertaken to purchase a large house and barn with 500 acres of land (part cleared) as a glebe for that part of the mission. The house will answer for a church till one can be built. Indeed, they now assemble at it when he attends at Queensborough. He further reports that he had baptized 202 children and 31 adults, married 23 couples and buried but one. It is to be presumed the record is intended to cover the four years of his ministry, the number of communicants returned for the mission was 40.
The following year, 1796, the missionary mentions in his report to the S. P, G. that the performance of divince service once a month at Prince William and Queensborough has had a good effect in rendering the people more serious and thoughtful and more attentive to the observation of the Lord's day. He does duty at Northampton every other Sunday. Mr. Dibblee found the calls on his time so urgent that his Indian school was of necessity discontinued and from that day forward little or nothing appears to have been done by the Church of England for the poor Maliseets. The frame of the parish church was first erected on a knoll below the old rectory near the Hodgdon road and here, too, some of the old settlers were interred, but subsequently mov. d to the present burial ground. It having been wisely decided that the present situation was a more suitable one for the church, the frame was moved thither. The church itself was erected in 1804, but not finished or provided with pews till 1814. The money for finishing and seating the church came from an unexpected quarter. The house of assembly having a surplus in their exchequer, voted a certain sum for the completion of some unfinished churches, whereupon the rector, wardens and vestry of Woodstock very wisely presented their claim for considera tion and received a grant of £150. It was intended to add to the church "a tower 10 ft. square wiih a bell suitable thereto;" but either the funds did not hold out or they were more judiciously expended.
That Mr Dibblee's labors were not without fruit in indicated by the fact that the communicants in his mission increased from 48 in the year 1800 to 83 in the year 1810.
After the peace with America in 1814 a number of disbanded men of the 8th, 98th and 104th regiments, and of the West India Rangers and New Brunswick Fencibles were settled on the river chiefly between the military post at Presque Isle and the Indian reserve at the mouth of the Tobique. The district was subsequently formed into a parish, which was named Kent in honor of his royal highness the
FATHER OF QUEEN VICTORIA.
The parish is yet a large one, but its limits have been dwarfed into insignificance compared with its proportions when it comprised the whole valley of the St. John river north of the parish of Wakefield.
After the military settlements were fairly established Mr. Dibblee paid them a visit. He was absent from home ten days, during which time he baptized 95 children and 8 adults. His total number of baptisms for the year reached the large number of 146 children and 20 adults. The following year (1821) he again visited these military settlements, and during his visit baptized 81 children and 12 adults. He describes the settlers at this time as prosperous.
During the time that Major General George Stracy Smyth was governor of the province the Madras system of education was introduced (see note), and most of the schools of the province were conducted on this basis. Mr. Dibblee reported in 1822 that there were 10 Madras schools under his inspection, each with an average daily attendance of about 40 scholars. These schools were establishei, one at Scotch Settlement (now Richmond corner), one at Dows (lower Woodstock), one close to the parish church of Woodstock, one above the Maduxnekeag, one in the parish of Northamptou, two in the parish of Wakefield, which then took in both sides of the river, and four in the military settlements.
Through the years of his ministry, the Rev. Mr. Dibblee kept a diary which is of interest as showing
THE EARLY LIFE AND CUSTOMS
of our forefathers. For the first few years life was almost a struggle for existence. Frequently the early settlers had to go several days' journey with hand sleds or toboggans to secure supplies granted by government. And these supplies were often damaged by exposure before arriving at their destination. Flour in some cases injured by water, was "chiselled out of the barrel," etc. Many of the loyalists were so unaccustomed to manual labor that their log cabins were not constructed to withstand the cold. Cases are recorded where, during the bitter nights in mid winter, one or more members of the family had to remain up all night replenishing with wood the roaring fire that blazed in the immense fire place, lest the remainder of the family should freeze. In some instances where the family was destitute of bedding the parents remained up in turn warming pieces of boards which they applied alternately to the smaller children to keep them warm. In a short time, however, all the cabins were made fairly comfortable and a supply of moose and bear skins robbed the New Brunswick winter of much of its terrors. Mr. Dibblee's diary shows that, in the earlier years of the country, game was abundant, sometimes too abundant, bears and wolves made havoc among the sheep, foxes carried off the poultry and wild pigeons in almost countless numbers settled upon the corn fields. The latter were caught by hundreds in nets spread for them. In the spring of the year nets were set in the river in which salmon, shad and suckers were caught in large numbers. As many as forty salmon were sometimes taken in a season by the parson and his boys.
In the spring several weeks were devoted to sugar making. Camps were made in the woods and during the season the business was so largely followed by the settlers that the congregations at the church were small in consequence. Mr. Dibblee's diary shows that his boys one spring made 635 lbs., of good sugar besides a quantity of honey. Much of the difficulty experienced in providing for his family in the early days of Mr. Dibblee's ministry was lessened by the industrious habits of his sons. So early as 1795 the fact is recorded in his diary that
HIS SON JACKwhen eight years old assisted in "hoeing in" wheat on the intervale. The "hoeing in" was necessary because the stumps were then so thick that a harrow could not be used. This same Jack a few years later used to journey to Fredericton in a canoe in which he conveyed meal and produce for sale. The market was limited, Fredericton having but two stores at the time of his first visit. When the journey was made on horseback it was necessary to ford the river three times and the first scow ferry was hailed as one of the triumphs of science and civilizition.
A few years later and we find John Dibblee employed as a commissioner in laying out a road through the wilderness towards Canada, that road passing amid a thick forest over the site of Woodstock. Still later, on Oct. 26, 1846, he with a delegation from St. Andrews discussed with the citizens of Woodstock the construction of a railway from St. Andrews to Canada. Col. Dibblee alone of the promoters of this railway lived to see the original project fulfilled.
A few extracts from the diary of Rev. Frederick Dibblee may be of interest:
EARLY CLOSING OF THE RIVER.
Nov. 15, 1804 - Several families crossed the river in their sleighs to church.
FIRST FRAME HOUSE IN WOODSTOCK.Nov. 9, 1805 - Richard Smith's house raised.
Dec 25, 1806 - A large congregation which made the house too warm for comfort.
Jan. 12, 1807 Only four inches of snow till storm of yesterday, when there fell eighteen inches; only five cold days as yet.
Feb 19, 1807 - After amazing heavy rains the ice ran in river. Nothing but ice in roads and fields.
May 3, 1807 — From sunset yesterday to sundown today, the water rose ten feet perpendicular; continues rising.
May 4 — River rose during the night four feet at least, and carried off almost all my fence from the front. The water is about six feet over the top of my bank, and all the high intervales are under water. We never had such a freshet.
A MARRIAGE IN YE OLDEN TIME.
Nov. 28, 1810 - Married, Thomas Fields and Ann Wright. They came in a canoe and never better poling.
THE WAR OF 1812.
Jan. 1, 1813 - John left home with first draughted militia. Capt. Ketchum commands the company, John, lieutenant; Henry Morehouse, ensign.
March 1st - The 104th regiment are now marching through to Canada. Snow four feet deep on a level.
March 17 — Buried Lana, a soldier of the 104th regiment, taken sick and died at Mr. Rogers'
March 19 - No church on account of storm; never, never was there such a spring, snowdrifts in places 10 feet above fences (Wolverton's to Sam'l Lareies).
Feb. 8, 1814 - There passed through for the lakes of Canada 375 sailors with their officers, and 2 companies of the 8th battalion. - Three or four more expected this week.— Buried Wm. Abby, master in Royal navy, who died very suddenly at Mr. Philips'.
COLDEST SUMMER ON RECORD.
June 7, 1816 - Snow fell last night so as to cover the ground. - 8th, hills on other side of river covered with snow. — 10th, hills on other side of river covered with snow. — Never was there such a June. — 11th, a very heavy frost, ground all white. At 10 a.m, grows warmer and we lay aside our greatcoats, which we have worn eleven days.
LATE OPENING OF NAVIGATION.
May 2, 1817 - Two yoke of oxen crossed the river on the ice today.
July 6, 1819 - We have a comet; first seen on Sunday evening (July 4th.) Situation a little west of north when first seen at night. It has a tail about two feet in appearance.
Nov. 7, Sunday - Cloudy and a very thick fog. Never knew so dark a day. Had to go to the altar window to perform divine service.
DEATH OF KING GEORGE III.
March 23, 1820 - An express from St. Andrews brought the intelligence of the death of our good King George III. He died Jan.29 at llh. 33m 13s. The Duke of Kent died on the 22nd of same month. News reached us in 54 days.
Oct. 28, 1822 - We had this fall 1,500 bushels of potatoes and 500 dozen of wheat.
TRAVELLING IN OLDEN TIME.
May 29, 1824 - Wm. and Mrs. Bull set out for St. John on a raft of timber.
DROUGHT OF 1825 — FIRE AT MIRAMICHI.
July 28, 1825 - Clear and warm day and night last tea days. Sept. 17 - From last date continued warm and dry weather, never the like before in this country. Crops all in but corn and potatoes without any rain. Oct. 15 — From last date the same remarkable dry weather. Fires run both in the woods and on the improvements in a surprising and destructive manner. In Fredericton near an hundred houses, stores and barns burned. On the Oromocto several houses and children burned and numbers suffered in other parts of the province. We never knew such a time before. The earth is so dry that fire burns a considerable depth, and nothing but a great rain can stop it, which God grant.
Nov. 17 - It is ascertained that above 200 have perished by fire and in the river at Miramichi. All furniture, clothes, provisions and every kind of stock, houses, stores and barns at Newcastle and a number of other settlements entirely destroyed - Terrible indeed!
On May 4, 1826, Mr. Dibblee writes in his diary "very unwell." A few short entries follow, and the last entry in the diary is dated May 11th. These worda are added in the hand of Col. John Dibblee, "My revered father continued to grow worse from the above date till 17th May, at a few minutes before 8 o'clock, when his spirit fled to its creator. He bore his severe illness with the most exemplary patience and fortitude, and left this world with a full and perfect assurance of a happy resurrection through the merits and sufferings of Jesus Christ."
Thus peacefully closed the life and labors of the first missionary on the upper St. John.
May his memory be long and affectionately cherished.
He laid the foundation without which the work of his successors could not have been accomplished. Only a simple headstone marks his last resting place in the quiet church yard, but his more enduring memorial will be found in the impress left on this community by his early labors. A prosperous parish, a united neighborhood, a God fearing people. To any one who may desire a better memorial than the simple stone that marks his grave we can only say, circumspice — look around you.
In one of his earlier letters to the S. P. G. Mr. Dibblee gave a good account of his people, who were, as he says, "honest and industrious and had made great progress in clearing the country."
The writer, a short since, in conversation with one of the church wardens, inquired whether the descendants of the old Loyalist settlers had inherited the same integrity of character that marked their forefathers. To this Mr. Smith replied, "I have done business with them for more than twenty-five years. I have supplied them with goods to the amount of thousands and thousands of dollars and can conscientiously say that in all my business transactions with them I have scarcely lost a dollar!"
Were it possible to-day for the Rev. Frederick Dibblee to have looked upon our centennial commemoration; to have listened to the earnest words of his grandson, now the oldest priest in the diocese engaged in active work; to have seen amongst the younger clergy present in the beautiful little parish church a great grandson bearing his own name; to have seen his many descendants assembled with one accord to render honor to their father's memory; to have seen the many changes that have caused the wilderness of olden days "to bud and blossom as the rose;" were it possible for him to have beheld all this he would have assuredly been filled with wonder, and from the depths of a thankful heart have exclaimeo, "What hath God wrought!"
This is from A short history of Carleton county, New Brunswick by T.C.L Ketchum, page 15:
The Woodstock settlers ... set to work with a good will to make the best of the new surroundings, so that within a few years they were able to report a great development and improvement in the conditions.
The first few years must have been extremely hard. But two or three winters passed, the experience they had gained, placed them in a much more advantageous situation. They knew what to expect and how to prepare for it. Fuel at least was in abundance, and we may assume that their log houses were warm. Ventilation they would not be much concerned about. They could get lots of that by stepping out doors. Nor were they without their social diversions. They knew the value of social intercourse and that a merry heart is a stout enemy of the blues. Moreover it was not so very far back that their forefathers had to put up with far worse conditions, when they founded the land from which many of their descendants were forced to flee. And they at least were spared the hostility of Indian tribes. There was no fear of awaking at night to the gentle touch of the tomahawk. So they had their social festivities, and at Christmas time, particularly, there was quite a round of tea parties for the old and dancing parties for the young. The room for dancing must have been limited, but some of the most dreary of such performances in these enlightened days are held in vast halls. It is the spirit that goes with the party that makes the success or failure of it. The good, kindly parson of the community participated in these innocent and helpful festivities and found nothing unseemly on special occasions, in himself, calling off a quadrille.
Means of communication were of course limited. As soon as possible, roads, rude no doubt, were laid out, and as time passed were improved. The river was the great medium of communication with the outside. Canoes and tow-boats were utilized, and in the winter the ice in the river formed a highway. Communication soon became established with the cities of Boston and New York, and occasional books and papers came to the inhabitants from these points, as well as from Halifax, and from the old country.
Here and there a printed book of early days, a diary salvaged from some rubbish-storing attic, a bunch of letters, kept and sorted and bound up, as letters even of a private nature used to be kept, have found the light of day and have revealed a true and accurate picture of the times. Particularly noticeable among these finds, is the diary of Frederick Dibblee, who came with the new settlers, practically all members of the Church of England, and was their first pastor. This esteemed clergyman did a good work for posterity when he kept his almost daily record of events in the struggling though growing community. His diary is of peculiar interest, showing the progress and development from year to year, touching courageously on the hardships, and giving a splendid idea of the climatic conditions in the various seasons. He seems to have kept open house, as all did, in those days, as far as they were able. The unexpected guest was welcomed and given the chief seat at the board. There was no hotel to send him to, and get rid of him, and the spirit of hospitality, lost apparently nowadays, would have forbidden such treatment, if there had been.
In 1803 "Parson" Dibblee, as he was generally and affectionately called, reported to Edward Winslow, then Administrator of the province to the effect that the population of Woodstock was 380 and Northampton 328 souls, that there was a good supply of cattle and horses, and that wheat, Indian corn, oats, rye, flax and hemp had been successfully grown and that vegetables "in profusion" had been raised. He adds that the lands back of the first tier from the river, as we may call it, were excellent in quality, the land "between us and the Americans" being of the very best kind. "All authorities agree that it is superior to anything they are acquainted with in this or any other country." Perhaps, something of exaggeration here, but the good parson was what we would call in these days a booster and not a knocker.
as published in a newsletter of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada (UELAC) in 2014 - copyright © Stephen Davidson UE
The American Revolution interrupted the theological training of Frederick Dibblee, a Connecticut loyalist. After operating a store on Long Island, marrying his sweetheart, migrating to New Brunswick, and teaching First Nations children, Dibblee finally fulfilled his lifelong dream of serving God in the Church of England. In 1791, at 38 years of age, he became the first Anglican clergyman in the loyalist settlement of Woodstock, New Brunswick.
In his 50th year, Rev. Dibblee began to keep a diary, taking a moment each day in the succeeding 22 years to record the seasonal changes, family gatherings, and community events that he thought were significant. Dibblee's diary provides a fascinating glimpse into the life of a loyalist town, including how it celebrated Christmas.
Mind you, the Anglican minister could have been a bit more verbose. His first entry to mention Christmas was in 1804. Despite being surrounded by family and friends, tending to the needs of Anglicans along the upper St. John River, and remembering the 30 Christmases he had celebrated in Connecticut, Dibblee's entry is only two lines in length. "Cloudy but not Cold. Wind North-East, and Soon begins to Snow Continues all Day and Night."
However, his record of the events just before and after December 25th help to give us an insight into what Christmas was like in a loyalist settlement. Three days earlier, Dibblee noted that he had worked with his sons to "get wood for Christmas". The need for fuel to keep the settlers' homes cozy was greater than usual. Two weeks earlier, Woodstock had "been attended with the greatest cold weather than ever experienced this season before." The positive side of this cold snap was that the St. John River had frozen over so completely that people could ride their sleighs on its smooth surface along its 90 km course to Fredericton. This Christmas was the first time this natural highway had provided such "good travelling" since the Dibblees had settled in Woodstock. Instead of trudging overland through snowy forests, family and friends found it much easier to visit one another over the holidays in 1804.
Two years later, Dibblee noted that the holiday weather was warm and things were thawing. The Woodstock Anglican Church had a large congregation at its Christmas service, making the sanctuary "too warm for comfort". While no mention is made of the festivities at the minister's home, he noted that the young people had "gone to celebrate the Holy Days" with a neighbour. In 1808, Dibblee noted "A most Excellent Christmas - Warm enough for Pleasure." If only he had taken a moment to record what it was that his family did outdoors! Five days after Christmas, the minister and his wife Nancy butchered a cow and invited nine friends over for dinner.
As in the 21st century, Maritime Christmas weather could vary greatly from year to year. In 1809, "it rained severely all night and has carried the snow almost off ... the cattle are all over the fields." A holiday thaw meant that Christmas correspondence might be delayed. The frozen highway provided by the St. John River was breaking up. Three days after the 25th, the local mailman just managed to make it to Woodstock with the "English mail" (letters from abroad) before crossing the river became impossible. A grateful minister gave the mailman a bed for the night.
Sawing wood was a major chore during the Christmas of 1810 --and Wiggins Everett, the Dibblees' hired hand, was kept busy constructing a bridge. The minister and his wife enjoyed a Boxing Day dinner with fourteen others; but the next day was filled with smoking meat and grinding wheat at the local mill. The hired hand was given the 27th as a holiday since he had had to work on Christmas Day. Dibblee and his wife were among eleven loyalists who had "a very pleasant evening" attending a tea party at Captain Bull's home three days after Christmas.
Christmas 1815 was the year of a bad cold in the Dibblee household. It started with the minister's two sons being "laid up" on Boxing Day. On the 27th, there had been a "party of 21 with us, celebrating the joyful season". The following day Dibblee noted that he was "very unwell with a bad cold", so miserable in fact that there was no church service that Sunday.
Turkeys are noted as being part of the Christmas meal in the entries for 1816. There were the usual round of parties, including a sewing part and a singing school. Typically, the latter involved a music teacher instructing parishioners to read notes in the hymn book and to sing in harmony. Singing schools were held in the evenings when the chores of the day were done. In addition to benefiting congregational music, the singing schools also provided colonists of all ages and genders with a means to "meet and mingle".
In the following year's holiday entries, Dibblee noted that the family was "preparing for Christmas -- fixed church for the Great Festival of the Birth of Christ". In 1819, the minister described this as putting "up the emblems of the approaching season". Again, no details as to what these decorations were! Dibblee's sons had time to go skating when they weren't hauling wood. During one Christmas, A Dibblee son attempted to make a bobsled. The "joyful season" was a favourite time for weddings, and many of the minister's diary entries over the years note the fact that he had married a young couple between Christmas and New Year's.
In 1820, Rev. Dibblee celebrated his 67th birthday. His Christmas entries begin to reflect the declining activities of an aging pastor. Twice over the holidays, he notes that "the young celebrated the season". Missing from his diary are references to feasts with his friends and family -- although he was able to preside over "the largest congregation we ever knew at Christmas" and hear the vows at a "large wedding". In the following year, Dibblee was one of 55 people at a holiday gathering --"never a larger company in Woodstock"--that included "dancing and rejoicing". However, one gets the sense that the Anglican minister was more a spectator than a participant. In 1822, Dibblee and his wife did nothing to observe the holiday, but the "boys had a party to dine and girls at night to dance".
At seventy, the minister's social life got a second wind. On 1823's Boxing Day, his diary records "celebrating the season with a party at dinner and a large party at night dancing". There were other dancing parties on both the 29th and 30th. The loyalist settlers of Woodstock were hardly a dour lot.
What is interesting by its omission in the first eight years of Dibblee's diary entries is the celebration of New Year's Day. Everet, the hired hand, was given a day off on January 2, 1811 as his "keeping New Year", so it was clearly part of the loyalist holiday calendar. However, New Year's was not mentioned again for seven years. In 1818, the Bull family hosted a "most extensive" ball "to all the young ladies and gentlemen". Five years later, Dibblee mentions a "merry party last night", but --as was typical for his diary--gives no details of a loyalist New Year's Eve party. In 1823, "all hands" were at "a large party, celebrating the New Year by eating, drinking and dancing."
The last entry in the Rev. Dibblee's diary that refers to "the joyful season" is the one for Christmas 1824:
This lovely spot by the river side is fragrant with olden memories and hallowed associations.
Side by side, each on a plain marble slab, we find the two following inscriptions:
to the memory of
The Rev. FREDERICK DIBBLEE
who was born
At Stamford in Connecticut,
On the 9th of December 1753 and Died
on the 17th of May 1826
In the LXXIIId year of this age
XXXVth of his ministry
Erected as a tribute of
To the memory of
Relict of the late
Rev. Frederick Dibblee first
Rector of this parish
Who died at Woodstock 18th
April 1838, Aged 81 years
Was bom at Stratford
Connecticut and came to
this Province with her Husband
one of the Loyalists.
Erected as a tribute of
affection by her children.
The Monitorial System was an education method that became popular on a global scale during the early 19th century. This method was also known as "mutual instruction" or the "Bell-Lancaster method" after the British educators Dr Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster who both independently developed it. The method was based on the abler pupils being used as 'helpers' to the teacher, passing on the information they had learned to other students. The Monitorial System was found very useful by 19th-century educators, as it proved to be a cheap way of making primary education more inclusive, thus making it possible to increase the average class size.
Bell's "Madras System" was so named because it originated at the Military Male Orphan Asylum, Egmore, near Madras. Gladman describes Bell's system from notes taken from "Bell's Manual" which had been published by the National Society two years after Bell's death, in 1832. "After observing children in a native school, seated on the ground, and writing in the sand .. he set a boy, John Frisken, to teach the alphabet on the same principle .. Bell was consequently led to extend and elaborate the system." Bell declared "There is a faculty, inherent in the mind, of conveying and receiving mutual instruction." In 1796, John Frisken was 12 years and 8 months. With assistants, he was in charge of 91 boys. The school was arranged in forms or classes, each consisting of about 36 members of similar proficiency, as classified by reading ability.
The young teachers were kept to task through registers. Reading, Ciphering and Religious rehearsals were tracked through the Paidometer register. Discipline was held through a Black Book, which had entries read to the entire school, and faults were commented on in moral terms.
© Jo Edkins 2012 - Return to Early Dibblee History index