Articles based on Rev. Frederick Dibblee's Diary

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

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.

W. O. Raymond Scrapbook

This is taken from the website W. O. Raymond Scrapbook:

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.

Progress of the Woodstock Settlement

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.

William Dibblee

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.

Centennial of Ordination of Rev. Frederick Dibblee

See Centenary of the Ordination of Rev. Frederick Dibblee (another page)

Comments on the diary by T.C.L Ketchum

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.

A Loyalist Minister Remembers the "Joyful Season"

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:"Never a better Christmas". The diary stops in Jun of 1825; on May 17, 1826 Frederick Dibblee died. Thanks to his diary, we can still hear the voice of a loyalist who, like Ebenezer Scrooge, ended his days knowing "how to keep Christmas well".

This is also part of the Proceedings at the centennial commemoration of the ordination of Rev. Frederick Dibblee:


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:

Grave of Rev. Frederick Dibblee in Christ Church, Woodstock, New Brunswick SACRED
to the memory of
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
Filial affection
His children
To the memory of
Nancy Beech
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.