DISBROW, NOAH, businessman, politician, and justice of the peace; b. 10 July 1772, probably in Norwalk, Conn.; m. first May 1793 Isabella Chillis, and they had four sons and five daughters; m. secondly 15 Feb. 1827 Amelia Canby of Saint John, N.B., and they had one daughter; d. there 19 April 1853.
Information about Noah Disbrow’s background is scanty. He came to Saint John in 1785 with his widowed mother and her loyalist family whose name was Stanton. His father had died under mysterious circumstances in Boston harbour while on board a ship returning from England. Noah’s paternal grandfather, who apparently did not have loyalist sympathies, enjoyed less than cordial relations with his daughter-in-law’s family, but at the time of his death he did leave his grandson some property. As the Connecticut Disbrows were reputedly a family of means, this inheritance may have helped provide the financial foundation for Noah Disbrow’s later success in business. By mid century he employed two Irish servants, a reflection not only of 19th-century immigration patterns to New Brunswick but also of the household of a wealthy merchant. Others who might have shared Disbrow’s status were Thomas Millidge*, William Black*, and Lauchlan Donaldson.
Disbrow’s commercial involvement was typical of his time and his position in the mercantile community. He was engaged in trading, owned at least two vessels and probably had shares in others, and had a warehouse on Water Street near his own wharf. He also operated as a general dealer in dry goods, liquors, salt, and provisions, selling out of his Market Square store which fronted the city’s main thoroughfare. Among his real estate holdings was the first brick building in the city, erected in 1817 at the corner of Germain and Church streets. From 1818 to 1823, the Duke of Wellington, owned by Disbrow, was the principal packet on the Saint John to New York City run, carrying both mail and passengers. In 1832 Noah Disbrow’s name was one of the amalgam of pre-loyalist, loyalist, and Scottish surnames representing the business and political élite of the city which appeared on the act of incorporation of the Saint John Water Company. This company built the first waterworks for the city.
Like his commercial peers George Bond and Thomas Harding, Disbrow participated in municipal government, serving from 1821 to 1827 as alderman for Queens Ward. In March 1830 he was appointed a magistrate for the city and county of Saint John, a position he held for the rest of his life. By the time of his death, Disbrow had ceased to be an active member of the Saint John business community. The probate record reveals that his wealth was concentrated chiefly in his sizeable real estate holdings throughout the city. These properties were divided among his surviving children and his grandson. Essentially, however, both the Disbrow name and its high profile in business affairs disappeared with the demise of Noah Disbrow. Although Disbrow had apparently not been a regular communicant of any denomination, two of his sons became Church of England clergymen. The only child of his second marriage, Caroline Amelia, became the wife of William Brydone Jack*, president of the University of New Brunswick (Fredericton) from 1861 to 1885.
City Clerk’s Office (Saint John, N.B.), Common Council of Saint John, minutes, 1821–27 (mfm. at PANB). N.B. Museum, C8: 11, col.1; C19: 7 (“Saint John 100 years ago”); Noah and Amelia Disbrow family Bible; Reg. of marriages for the city and county of Saint John, book A (1810–28): 487. PANB, MC 7; RG 2, RS6, A3: 347; RG 7, RS71, 1853, Noah Disbrow. Saint John Regional Library (Saint John), “Biographical data relating to New Brunswick families, especially of loyalist descent,” comp. D. R. Jack (4v., typescript), 2. “Inscriptions from the old burial-ground, Saint John, N.B.,” N.B. Hist. Soc., Loyalists’ centennial souvenir (Saint John, 1887), 107. The New Brunswick census of 1851: Saint John County (2v., Fredericton, 1982), 1: 194. H. F. Walling, Topographical map of the counties of St. John and Kings, New Brunswick, from actual surveys under the direction of H. F. Walling (New York, 1862) (copy in PANB, H2-203.1-1862). New-Brunswick Courier, 24 May 1823, 3 Sept. 1825. New Brunswick vital statistics from newspapers, 1784–1815, 1824–1828, comp. D. F. Johnson et al. (Fredericton, 1982; 1983). D. R. Jack, Centennial prize essay on the history of the city and county of St. John (Saint John, 1883), 74, 114–15. E. W. McGahan, The port of Saint John . . . (1v. to date, Saint John, 1982– ). MacNutt, New Brunswick.
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