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RAYMOND, WILLIAM ODBER, Church of England clergyman and historian; b. 3 Feb. 1853 in Lower Woodstock, N.B., son of Charles William Raymond and Elizabeth Mary Carman; m. 18 June 1879 Julia Nelson in Saint John, and they had a son and a daughter; d. at midnight 23–24 Nov. 1923 in Toronto.

William Odber Raymond’s childhood associations shaped many features of his psychic terrain and his historical interests. Physically, Lower Woodstock lay in a beautiful region distinguished by broad intervale land abutting the Saint John River and graced by tall American elms. Historically, it contained the site of a Maliseet stockade, located at the start of the ancient Amerindian travel route to Passamaquoddy Bay, where the French had established a chapel in 1717 [see Jean-Baptiste Loyard*]. Towards the end of the 18th century, Woodstock formed the uppermost point of the original loyalist settlement in the Saint John valley. In religious terms, the neighbourhood was the site of an early New England Company school for native children and a Church of England mission under Frederick Dibblee*. Here Raymond was reared, the product of an extensive connection of Connecticut loyalists who had dominated the legal, religious, administrative, and militia affairs of the region for two generations after settlement, and even in the mid 19th century retained a veneer of public influence and social gentility. Raymond’s father, a farmer who was also a militia colonel, lay reader, musician, builder of houses, windmills, and churches, and craftsman of ecclesiastical furniture, personified this ancient régime. Raymond himself became its historian.

After graduating in mathematics and science in 1876 with the University of New Brunswick’s first honours ba (an earned ma would follow in 1891), he commenced theological study under Bishop John Medley* of Fredericton, who ordained him deacon at the end of 1877 and priest in 1878. Although fragile in health, Raymond passed the first six years of his ministry at the rural mission of Stanley, with occasional forays into lumber camps on the Taxis and Southwest Miramichi rivers. Then in 1884 he took charge of the newly established St Mary’s Church in Saint John, where he served for more than three decades.

In the liturgical minefield that was late-19th-century Saint John Anglicanism, Raymond was an uncontroversial recruit to the evangelical cause. Spare and ascetic-looking, he tackled the needs of his rather poor city parish with energy, and in numbers, finances, and building projects it flourished. If the year 1903–4 may be taken as representative, Raymond’s ministry embraced many turn-of-the-century Protestant social concerns. He presided at a public meeting to establish a kindergarten for the children of working-class mothers, and soon one was operating in the St Mary’s church hall; as president of the Evangelical Alliance, he campaigned for church union and against profanation of the sabbath; he promoted compulsory education and opposed jailing girls for minor offences. In 1908, after fellow city rector John Andrew Richardson* became bishop of Fredericton, he made Raymond archdeacon of Saint John. Prior to his ordination, Raymond had been an ardent member of Woodstock’s volunteer artillery. So he took special satisfaction when the St Mary’s brass band enlisted en masse during World War I and became the regimental band for the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Vocational success and civic prominence did not bring financial prosperity, however. The Raymonds made ends meet only through the wife’s painting lessons and the husband’s “literary” productions.

Already in the mid 1860s the juvenile Raymond had been writing prize essays on the history of his neighbourhood, based on interviews with older residents. Years later his first publications were sketches of the loyalist settlements of Kingston (1889) and Woodstock (1891), produced for Anglican parish centennials. Then he turned his ma thesis on the loyalists into a more substantial pamphlet, focusing on the revolution rather than the period of exile. Occasionally, these early publications make the loyalists a text for sermonizing against a “utilitarian” approach to life or for nodding favourably towards imperial federation. At first, Raymond did not refrain from “improving” documentary quotations in a manner common to historical writers of his time. However, in the main he distanced himself from overwrought partisanship, such as he found in the loyalist writings of James Hannay*, and eventually he deplored even the modernization of spelling.

Beginning in the early 1890s, Raymond gained access to the 18th-century manuscript collections that became the basis for his foundational contributions to Maritime historiography, notably the papers of Edward Winslow*, James White, and Ward Chipman* Sr. None was held in a public repository. Indeed, it was from his son’s playmates that he purchased documents on the New England Company’s outreach to Micmacs (Mi’kmaq) [see Oliver Arnold*] and the sole surviving copy of the Fort Howe treaty of 1778. In a rubbish heap he spotted revolutionary muster rolls and letters on the clamorous politics of loyalist Saint John. Pressed by pastoral duties, Raymond could not aim to turn out book-length monographs. Instead, he wrote literally hundreds of “sketches” and “glimpses” and “incidents” for the press, while making the Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, the New Brunswick Magazine, and Acadiensis, all of Saint John, vehicles for documentary editions and essays. Still authoritative are his works on the pre-loyalist settlement of Saint John Harbour from the papers of James Simonds* (1896) and James White (1897, 1899), on pre-loyalist townships in the Saint John valley (1905), on Alexander McNutt* and Planter settlement in peninsular Nova Scotia (1911–12), on loyalist regiments in the revolution (1904), on Benjamin Marston* and the founding of loyalist Port Roseway (Shelburne, N.S.) (1907, 1909), and on Thomas Carleton* (1905, 1914). He collected some of his newspaper articles into an unsatisfactory volume on Saint John valley history in 1905, soon revised and reissued as The River St. John (1910).

William Odber Raymond would come to be identified as the quintessential historian of the loyalist generation in New Brunswick. That reputation rests on his massive edition of the Winslow papers (1901), a volume that is far more than a cornerstone of Canadian loyalist studies. The vivid world of Edward Winslow and his circle remains the lens through which historians persist in viewing early New Brunswick. Raymond himself was reluctant to take seriously the concerns of those who dissented from this elitist vision, and despite a revolution in loyalist studies pioneered by Esther Clark* Wright’s demographic work in the 1950s, most of his academic successors fare no better.

By 1915 the often waspish William Cochrane Milner* could write of Raymond, “No man in Canada has done better work for the country in [the] historical line than he has and got less for it.” At Christmas the same year Raymond’s health gave way under the strain of war work as chaplain to the 3rd Regiment of Canadian Artillery on Partridge Island in Saint John Harbour. He soon resigned his rectorship and left Saint John to be near his children in Michigan, Vancouver, and finally Toronto. His last letter to his old comrade William Francis Ganong* enjoins a “short” obituary for the Royal Society of Canada (to which he had been elected in 1906); depressed in spirit, he could see only the flaws in his historical labours. But because his academic successors would abandon concern with the native peoples, the French era, and military conflict as old-fashioned, much of Raymond’s work on those subjects endures as the authority of first resort. His obituarist for the Royal Society of Canada in 1924 lamented that his passing had left a gap in the world of New Brunswick historiography that no other could fill. So it proved. It would not be until the 1950s that the province found, in William Stewart MacNutt*, another master of the historian’s craft. In a sense, however, there never was a successor to William Odber Raymond, the last and best exemplar of the now-superseded genus of historian-amateur. As a collector and editor of documents, his contribution to Maritime historiography is unsurpassed.

D. G. Bell

A reliable, convenient source for information about William Odber Raymond’s life is the brief, self-effacing autobiographical sketch he included in his Ancestry of the family of William Odber Raymond, A.D. 1630–1920, prepared and indexed by R. W. Hale ([Woodstock, N.B., 1983]). Also valuable is the obituary in RSC, Trans., 3rd ser., 18 (1924), proc.: vii–ix. Most of Raymond’s transcription books are in LAC, MG 23, D1, ser.1. The L. P. Fisher Library, in Woodstock, has one in its Raymond coll., along with a large portion of Raymond’s working library. On departing Saint John in 1916, he deposited his 12 scrapbooks of personal and historical materials with what is now the Saint John Regional Library. A few of Raymond’s letters are gathered as S 98–S 98A (Raymond, William Odber coll.) at the N.B. Museum (Saint John); more important ones are in the same institution’s W. F. Ganong fonds. W. C. Milner’s letter concerning Raymond’s historical work, dated 16 Oct. 1915, is in LAC, RG 37, 18. d.g.b.]

Raymond is probably best known for his edition of Winslow papers, A.D. 1776–1826 (Saint John, 1901). He also wrote United Empire Loyalists ([Saint John?, 1893?]). Many of his articles were published in the N.B. Hist. Soc., Coll. (Saint John). These include: “Loyalists in arms: a short account of the ‘provincial troops’ – otherwise known as British American regiments or loyalists corps – that served on the side of the king during the war of the American revolution, A.D. 1775–1783,” 2 (1899–1905), no.5: 189–223; “A sketch of the life and administration of General Thomas Carleton, first governor of New Brunswick,” 2, no.6: 439–80; “Benjamin Marston of Marblehead, loyalist: his trials and tribulations during the American revolution,” 3 (1907–14), no.7: 79–112; “Brigadier General Monckton’s expedition to the River Saint John in September, 1758: the beginning of the first permanent settlement of the English on the shores of the St. John harbor: story of old Fort Frederick,” 3, no.8: 113–65; and “The founding of Shelburne: Benjamin Marston at Halifax, Shelburne and Miramichi,” 3, no.8: 204–77. Raymond also edited several articles for the same publication: “Letters written at Saint John by James Simonds, A.D. 1764–1785,” 1 (1894–97), no.2: 160–86; “Selections from the papers and correspondence of James White, esquire, A.D. 1762–1783,” 1, no.3: 306–40; “The James White papers continued, A.D. 1781–1788,” 2, no.4: 30–72; and “Old townships on the River St. John: papers relating to the St. John’s River Society,” 2, no.6: 302–57.

Raymond contributed three articles to Canada and its provinces; a history of the Canadian people and their institutions . . . , ed. Adam Shortt and A. G. Doughty (23v., Toronto, 1913–17). These are “The Acadian settlements and early history, 1604–1713,” 13: 15–66; “New Brunswick: general history, 1758–1867,” 13: 127–210; and “New Brunswick: political history, 1867–1912,” 14: 403–31.

Raymond published two articles in RSC, Trans., 3rd ser.: “Colonel Alexander McNutt and the pre-loyalist settlements of Nova Scotia,” 5 (1911), sect.ii: 23–115; 6 (1912), sect.ii: 201–15; and “The first governor of New Brunswick and the Acadians of the River Saint John,” 8 (1914), sect.ii: 415–52. With William Quintard Ketchum, he wrote Proceedings at the centennial commemoration of the ordination of Rev. Frederick Dibblee (Saint John, 1891). Collections of some of Raymond’s newspaper articles were published in two editions: Glimpses of the past: history of the River St. John, A.D. 1604–1784 (Saint John, 1905) and The River St. John: its physical features, legends and history from 1604 to 1784 (Saint John, 1910; abridged ed., ed. J. C. Webster, Sackville, N.B., 1943).

In addition to researching and writing about the history of New Brunswick, Raymond also assisted other historians by editing their work. This is apparent in at least three publications: Walter Bates, Kingston and the loyalists of the “spring fleet” of A.D. 1783, with reminiscenses of early days in Connecticut: a narrative . . ., ed. W. O. Raymond (Saint John, 1889; repr. Fredericton, 1980); J. W. Lawrence, The judges of New Brunswick and their times, ed. A. A. Stockton and [W. O. Raymond] (Saint John, 1907; repr., intro. D. G. Bell, Fredericton, 1983 [i.e. 1985]); and Peter Fisher, Sketches of New Brunswick, notes by W. O. Raymond (Woodstock, 1921).

Daily Telegraph(Saint John), 23 April 1900. Saint John Globe,5 Nov. 1903; 21, 31 Oct. 1904. St. John Daily Sun (Saint John), 6 Jan., 25 June, 22 Oct., 7 Dec. 1903; 21 Oct. 1904. D. G. Bell, Early loyalist Saint John: the origin of New Brunswick politics, 1783–1786 (Fredericton, 1983); “The writings of W. O. Raymond,” New Brunswick Hist. Journal ([Saint John]), spring 1991. T. R. Millman and A. R. Kelley, Atlantic Canada to 1900: a history of the Anglican Church (Toronto, 1983).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

D. G. Bell, “RAYMOND, WILLIAM ODBER,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 29, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/raymond_william_odber_15E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/raymond_william_odber_15E.html
Author of Article: D. G. Bell
Title of Article: RAYMOND, WILLIAM ODBER
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 2005
Year of revision: 2005
Access Date: July 29, 2014