WOLHAUPTER, BENJAMIN, watchmaker, silversmith, justice of the peace, militia officer, and office holder; b. 10 July 1800 in Saint John, N.B., second son of John Wolhaupter* and Mary Payne Aycrigg; m. 1820 Catharine Phoebe Brannan of Fredericton, and they had six children; d. 27 Jan. 1857 in Fredericton.
Having spent his early years in Saint John and Sheffield, Benjamin Wolhaupter moved with his family to Fredericton in 1813. There, working under his father, he began his apprenticeship as a watchmaker and silversmith. He finished his term in 1820, bought a house, married, and commenced practising his craft, probably with his father. Shortly thereafter he opened his own watchmaking and jewellery shop which he continued to operate until 1825.
On 16 May 1821 Wolhaupter petitioned the lieutenant governor, George Stracey Smyth*, to grant him the small three-acre island, known as Rain Island, situated in the River Nash (Nashwaak River) just above its confluence with the Saint John River. Although he promised to cultivate and improve the land, the petition was denied by 22 May, perhaps because the island had been inundated by the spring runoff. Despite this unsuccessful petition, Wolhaupter soon secured a more valuable grant within the town limits of Fredericton at the site of the old jail. The 6 Dec. 1825 issue of the New-Brunswick Royal Gazette carried a notice to his customers in which he advised them of his change in locale. Wolhaupter had two apprentices: in 1824 he took on Benjamin Franklin Tibbits (Tibbets) who is credited by some with later inventing the compound steam-engine, and in 1832 Wolhaupter’s eldest son, Charles John, joined him. Charles completed his training in 1839 and in August of that year opened his own business in Chatham.
In 1837 Wolhaupter had been appointed magistrate for York County, the first of a series of public offices he was to hold. He was called on for active service as captain and quartermaster of the York-Sunbury Regiment of militia during the 1839 confrontations which arose over the New Brunswick–Maine boundary dispute [see Sir John Harvey]. On 15 February of that year, in a letter to his brother Charles, Wolhaupter explained that he was “no advocate of war . . . but if our country is threatened with invasion, it is the duty of every man and every Christian to turn out cheerfully and protect the Blessings and Privileges that we enjoy.”
Once the threat of war was removed, he extended his business interests; he became a director of both the Commercial Bank of New Brunswick and the Quebec and St Andrew’s Railroad, and in 1846 he was elected president of the Central Fire Insurance Company. A short time later Wolhaupter was appointed provincial commissioner for public buildings. In 1847 he became high sheriff of York County, a position he held until his death. His son Charles John, who had returned to Fredericton in the early 1840s and gradually assumed sole responsibility for his father’s business, left in 1851 to join the adventurers going to the Australian gold-rush. It can be assumed that the Wolhaupter watchmaking and jewellery business was closed before he left. Wolhaupter Sr was a devout member of the Church of England, a vestryman of Christ Church, Fredericton, and a close friend of Bishop John Medley*.
Only a few pieces of Benjamin Wolhaupter’s work as a watchmaker and silversmith are known to have survived: a grandfather clock and a silver teaspoon are part of the collection of the York-Sunbury Historical Society Museum, Fredericton; another clock, a few pieces of silver flatware, and a gold watch belong to his descendants. Letters to the Fredericton papers after his death extolled his virtues as a man and offered tribute to his integrity and magnanimity in public office. The Head Quarters stated that “no man we know of had more of the milk of human kindness in his breast than Sheriff Wolhaupter. Always merry and jocose – always kind and humane – sympathizing warmly with the distressed – we do not believe that he left behind a single enemy.”
PANB, MC 1, A. C. Wolhaupter, “Wolhaupter,” 1960; MC 300, MS60; RG 10, RS107, C10: 143. Gleaner (Chatham, N.B.), 21 Aug. 1839, 6 Oct. 1842. Head Quarters (Fredericton), 27 Jan. 1857. New-Brunswick Royal Gazette, 6 Dec. 1825. True Liberator (Saint John, N.B.), 30 Aug. 1847. The old grave-yard, Fredericton, New Brunswick: epitaphs copied by the York-Sunbury Historical Society Inc., comp. L. M. Beckwith Maxwell (Sackville, N.B., 1938). Fredericton’s 100 years; then and now, ed. Frank Baird (Fredericton, ). I. L. Hill, Fredericton, New Brunswick, British North America ([Fredericton?, 1968?]). D. C. Mackay, Silversmiths and related craftsmen of the Atlantic provinces (Halifax, 1973).