RUBIDGE, CHARLES, naval officer, settler, and emigration agent; b. 30 April 1787, and baptized at London, Eng., second son of Robert Rubidge and Margaret Gilmour, and half-brother of Frederick Rubidge*; m. Margaret Clarke 20 Jan. 1810, by whom he had three sons and three daughters; d. 5 Feb. 1873.
Charles Rubidge’s mother died when he was eight, and one year later he entered the Royal Navy as a volunteer first class on an uncle’s ship. His far-flung naval service took him to the West Indies and, in 1812, to Annapolis, Maryland. He served with the Mediterranean and Atlantic fleets in the Napoleonic campaigns, was commissioned a lieutenant in 1812, and was twice wounded on active service.
Rubidge was placed on half pay in 1815. By 1819 he saw no hope of resuming active service and emigrated to Cobourg, Upper Canada. In the spring of 1820 he took his wife and three small children to the bush to become one of the first settlers in Otonabee Township. He settled on a 200-acre lot and acquired three other lots to make up the 800 acres allowed a naval officer of his rank. As a backwoods farmer Rubidge was one of the more successful of the half-pay officers who settled in the Peterborough district. He attributed his success in the early years to a cautious beginning, to “doing little, and that partly with my own hands,” until he gained experience.
It is for his connection with emigration, which began in 1825 with the arrival of Peter Robinson*’s settlers from southern Ireland, that Rubidge is best known. He assisted Robinson on a voluntary basis by placing the emigrants destined for Otonabee Township on their lots and directed the cutting of ten miles of bush road, briefly named after him, to serve as a winter supply route to the depot on the townsite of Peterborough. In common with several others he received a town and a park lot in Peterborough for his exertions.
From 1831 until August 1832 Rubidge held a temporary appointment as a crown land agent at Peterborough with responsibility for seven townships in neighbouring parts of Newcastle District; he claimed that 4,000 new emigrants came to the district while he held this office. His duties as agent included supervision of the assistance given poor settlers at Lieutenant Governor Sir John Colborne*’s direction.
In 1838 Rubidge visited England and wrote A plain statement of the advantages attending emigration to Upper Canada, in which he stated that improvements over the past few years had demonstrated “that Canada is destined to become the comparatively rich as well as the poor man’s country,” and offered practical advice to those who decided to emigrate. The following spring Colonel G. F. Wyndham employed Rubidge to superintend the voyage of 181 emigrants from his Irish estates to Cobourg and to find work for them in Upper Canada.
Rubidge played an active role in the community that grew up around him: he was appointed a justice of the peace in 1820, with his neighbours he petitioned for local-improvements and helped raise funds for the Church of England, and he was chosen as a returning officer in four elections. He gave up active farming in 1841 when he was appointed registrar for the county of Peterborough, a post he held for more than 30 years. He was also promoted retired commander in the Royal Navy on 12 Oct. 1841, and in 1853 he received a Greenwich Hospital out-pension.
Rubidge’s experience enabled him to speak with authority to those interested in assisting the emigration of paupers. Sir Robert John Wilmot-Horton printed information and opinions supplied by Rubidge in his Ireland and Canada (1839). Eight years later Rubidge gave evidence on backwoods settlement and assisted emigration to the 1847 select committee of the House of Lords on colonization from Ireland.
Rubidge indirectly influenced the writing of the history of his district. Thomas Poole set a pattern in 1867, followed by others, when he relied on Rubidge for material describing Robinson’s emigrants and when he reflected Rubidge’s opinion in assessing the manner in which they were settled.
Charles Rubidge was the author of An autobiographical sketch (Peterborough, Ont., 1870); A plain statement of the advantages attending emigration to Upper Canada (London, 1838); “Report of Lieutenant Rubidge,” Canadian, British American and West Indian Magazine (London), I (1839), 375–78.
PAO, RG 1, A-I-6, 6, 8–9, 11–13; RG 21, sect.A, Census and assessment rolls, Newcastle District, Otonabee Township. PRO, CO 42/393, 42/394. G.B., Adm., Navy list (London), 1813, 1863. G.B., Parl., House of Lords paper, 1847, VI, 737, pp.547–62, Report of the select committee of the House of Lords on colonization from Ireland . . . . Basil Hall, Travels in North America, in the years 1827 and 1828 (3v., Edinburgh, 1829), I, 325–39. Valley of the Trent (Guillet). R. J. Wilmot-Horton, Ireland and Canada; supported by local evidence (London, 1839). Directory of the united counties of Peterborough & Victoria for 1858 . . . (Peterborough, C.W., ). T. W. Poole, A sketch of the early settlement and subsequent progress of the town of Peterborough, and of each township in the county of Peterborough (Peterborough, Ont., 1867).