CLOPPER, HENRY GEORGE, office holder, banker, and magistrate; b. 25 April 1792 in Kingsclear Parish, N.B., son of Garret Clopper and Penelope Miller; m. 9 Feb. 1820 Mary Ann Ketchum in Woodstock, N.B., and they had two daughters; d. 4 Nov. 1838 in Fredericton.
Henry George Clopper’s father was a New York loyalist of Dutch descent who had served with the provincial forces during the American revolution and who held minor civil offices in New Brunswick; his mother’s family were genteel Massachusetts loyalists, with a connection to the family of Edward Winslow*. After attending Fredericton Academy and serving some time as an apprentice to a Halifax merchant, Henry became a clerk in the commissariat department at Fort Cumberland (near Sackville, N.B.) in 1813. He worked for the commissariat in various places at least until 1818, being for a time in charge of the depot at Presque Isle. That he remained in employment when military establishments were reduced after the War of 1812 may have been in part due to the influence of his mother’s brother-in-law, Harris William Hailes, administrator of New Brunswick in 1816–17 and afterwards aide-de-camp to Lieutenant Governor George Stracey Smyth*.
Clopper was appointed in February 1821 to succeed his father as registrar of deeds and wills for York County. On his father’s death in July 1823 he also replaced him in the offices of sergeant-at-arms of the House of Assembly and county clerk. Small official plums would continue to come his way, among them the post of sub-collector of customs for Fredericton in 1831. Late in 1837 he gave up the office of county clerk, whose duties included that of acting as prosecutor, and became a justice of the peace and a judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas. There were few community endeavours in which Clopper was not involved. In 1822 he was one of the commissioners for erecting an almshouse and workhouse in Fredericton and he served on its board for many years. He was also clerk of the vestry of the parish church, first secretary of the Fredericton Savings Bank when it was founded in 1824, and secretary and treasurer of the Fredericton Library. In 1825 he became a founding member of the Central Committee of Relief for the Miramichi Fire, and the following year he was made one of the commissioners for the allocation of the funds it collected.
A significant event in Clopper’s public career was his participation in the census of 1824. Not only was he responsible, as county clerk, for coordinating the census in York, but he was chosen by the provincial secretary, William Franklin Odell, to compile the total returns for the colony and to report to the assembly. Census takers, who were selected by the justices of the peace, recorded population numbers by sex, colour, and age (above or under 16 years), as well as numbers of families, occupied and unoccupied houses, and new houses being built. Unfortunately, the accuracy of the figures for the colony that Clopper compiled was compromised by a few late returns from remote areas and by the failure of two counties to assess the numbers employed in lumbering operations. In 1825 Archdeacon George Best* estimated the population to be 79,176, or 5,000 more than the figure shown in the assembly’s published report.
In 1834 Clopper became the first president of the Central Bank of New Brunswick, located in Fredericton. It was incorporated that year by a legislature which had recently shown itself entirely unreceptive to efforts of a group of Saint John merchants to launch a second bank in that city [see John McNeil Wilmot]. The ease with which the Central Bank’s promoters received legislative sanction was likely owing to the fact that their institution, by virtue of its location and its modest size (the initial authorized capital being only £15,000), posed no threat to the virtual monopoly of the Bank of New Brunswick, founded in Saint John in 1820. It may have helped that Charles Simonds*, an important figure in the Bank of New Brunswick and one of the most powerful politicians in the province, was Clopper’s brother-in-law. Clopper’s involvement with the Central Bank led to an association with other business enterprises; one was the Nashwaak Mill and Manufacturing Company, of which he became a director, along with James Taylor* and others, in 1836.
Clopper was an obstinate man who appears to have been lacking in warmth and generosity. A dispute with a maternal uncle over the sum of £35 disrupted the family in 1830. It also involved Clopper in a confrontation with lawyer George Frederick Street*, and in 1834 the public was treated to an exchange of incivilities in the correspondence columns of the New-Brunswick Courier between these two scions of the loyalist aristocracy. Clopper was nevertheless a man of significant abilities. When he died the Royal Gazette’s obituary referred to the “clear and powerful intellect” that had “enabled him to undertake and to perform duties of such varied kind and character, as will render it a matter of extreme difficulty to supply his place in this community.” Years afterwards the People’s Bank of New Brunswick honoured him by placing his portrait on its five-dollar notes. Since he had had no sons and his only brother had died in 1819, the Clopper name continued to be known in New Brunswick chiefly through the career of his wife’s nephew Henry George Clopper Ketchum*.
N.B. Museum, Central Bank, solicitor’s reg., 1837–43; F85; Robinson family papers, misc., H. G. Clopper, gardening diary, 1821. PAC, MG 24, L6, 1. PANB, MC 300, MS20/25; Photograph Sect., P4/2/51; RG 1, RS336; RG 2, RS7, 115: 57–89 (mfm. at PAC); RS8, Central Bank, 1836–59; RG 4, RS24, S32-B32–32.1; S47-R2; RG 7, RS75, 1840, H. G. Clopper. PRO, CO 188/32. N.B., House of Assembly, Journal, 1824–25, 1832–36; Legislative Council, Journal, 1832–36. Winslow papers (Raymond). New-Brunswick Courier, January–August 1834. Royal Gazette (Fredericton), 13 Feb. 1821; 1, 29 July 1823; 30 May 1826; 7 Nov. 1838. Hill, Old Burying Ground. L. M. Beckwith Maxwell, An outline of the history of central New Brunswick to the time of confederation (Sackville, N.B., 1937; repr. Fredericton, 1984). MacNutt, New Brunswick. W. A. Squires, History of Fredericton: the last 200 years, ed. J. K. Chapman (Fredericton, 1980). Royal Gazette, 12 July 1865.