DIBBLEE, FREDERICK, schoolmaster, Church of England clergyman, and diarist; b. 9 Dec. 1753 in Stamford, Conn., third son of the Reverend Ebenezer Dibblee (Diblee) and Joanna Bates; m. Nancy Beach of Stratford, Conn., and they had seven sons and six daughters; d. 17 May 1826 in Woodstock, N.B.
Having served for some years as a Congregational preacher, Frederick Dibblee’s father decided to embrace the Church of England and in 1745 became lay reader to the Anglican congregation in Stamford. After his ordination in England in 1748, he returned to Stamford, where he was to minister for 51 years. At the age of 18 Frederick entered King’s College, New York. According to his father, he was “honor’d with a Degree” in May 1776, but the college records indicate that he left without graduating. On his return to Stamford he found it enveloped in the revolutionary struggle.
In 1775–76 the General Assembly of Connecticut passed increasingly harsh measures against tory sympathizers, and in November 1776 a number of loyalists from Stamford, including Frederick, were removed to Lebanon, in the eastern part of the state. In April, after he had been allowed home, Frederick’s life was threatened and he fled to Long Island, where his brother Fyler had already taken refuge. There he engaged in trade in company with a Mr Jackson at Oyster Bay. Eventually he “acquired something considerable,” in his father’s words, and married a fellow refugee. Five times his business was raided by rebels, however, and the damages amounted to £1,200 or more. In November 1782 he and his wife were even stripped of their household goods and best clothes. Dibblee resolved to go to Nova Scotia with his brother Fyler and other loyalists in the spring fleet of 1783. Unable to settle his accounts in time, he was further delayed in moving there by his wife’s pregnancy and then by his own illness with “a remitting fever.” It was not until the following spring that he was able to leave.
Dibblee drew a lot in Parrtown (Saint John) in what was shortly to become the province of New Brunswick, but he settled in Kingston, where he became lay reader to the Anglican congregation. In 1787 he was sent to Woodstock Parish by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England and Parts Adjacent in America, commonly called the New England Company, to run a school for Indians. This school was one of a number established by the company, whose aim was to convert the Indians from Roman Catholicism and to teach them both the English language and a trade. His efforts met with moderate success. By 1790 he had built a log schoolhouse 26 feet by 22 feet and on 4 January of that year he had 22 students, adults as well as children. “They are Constant in their Attendance,” he wrote, “and exceeding quick in receiving Instruction, five of them in Particular are amazing so, having made great Improvement both in Spelling and Writing.” He enjoyed a salary of £30 as well as an allowance for boarding Indian boys and the occasional gratuity from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. According to Bishop Charles Inglis*, who visited in 1792, he was “much beloved by the Indians and respected by the Whites.” By that time he had made some progress in the Indians’ language, though reportedly hindered by “a necessary attention to his Farm, in order to subsist his family.” Two years later, however, the New England Company decided to centralize its efforts at Sussex Vale (Sussex Corner) in the school under Oliver Arnold, and the other schools were closed.
The mainstay of Dibblee’s livelihood after 1791 was his work as an Anglican minister. That fall he had travelled to Halifax, where he was ordained a deacon by Bishop Inglis in St Paul’s Church, and on 19 August of the following year he was raised to the priesthood by Inglis in Trinity Church, Saint John. He was given the four large parishes of Prince William, Queensbury, Northampton, and Woodstock, the last being his chief station. In 1794 he was taken into the service of the SPG as an “Itinerant Missionary” at an annual salary of £50. He toured his parishes regularly at considerable personal hardship, and in 1820 added to his labours by going to visit the military settlements north of Woodstock, the first clergyman, he said, to do so. He was much respected by his parishioners for his energy and dedication. Despite the financial difficulties of the communities he served, churches were constructed. By 1805 Prince William had a rudimentary building, and in 1811 a church was completed at Woodstock at a cost of £150, though five years later the congregation was still working on its internal and external decoration. One in Queensbury was still not finished in 1820, however, and could be used only in the summer.
Dibblee’s interest in education was constant and in his letters to the SPG he frequently requested aid for schools and schoolmasters and asked that books be sent out to them. By 1822 there were in his large district ten of the Madras, or National, schools promoted by Lieutenant Governor George Stracey Smyth; they averaged about 40 students each. After his death the New-Brunswick Royal Gazette made special mention of Dibblee’s concern, describing him as “a warm friend to every Institution which promised to be of publick utility, particularly the education of youth, to the furtherance of which most useful and momentous object, his efforts were unremitting and zealous to a degree seldom equalled.” In recognition of his services the SPG awarded his widow a pension of £50.
Dibblee’s legacy to education would extend far beyond his own pupils. He maintained a series of diaries from 1803 to 1825 which provide historians with a rich commentary on the agricultural and social conditions of the central Saint John River valley during the loyalist era. These diaries are stored in the archives of the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John.
ACC, Diocese of Fredericton Arch., “Inglis papers, 1787–1842,” comp. W. O. Raymond, 99, 148, 150, 179–80 (photocopies at PANB). PANS, RG 1, 369, no.165 (Ebenezer Dibblee to Sir Guy Carleton, 31 Oct. 1783). USPG, Journal of SPG, 25–36, esp. 25: 415–17; 26: 70–71, 74, 215–16, 373–77; 27: 57–58; 29: 127–28; 31: 210–12; 32: 293–95; 33: 54–55; 34: 44–47; 36: 340–43. Source materials relating to the New Brunswick Indian, ed. W. D. Hamilton and W. A. Spray (Fredericton, 1976). Winslow papers (Raymond). New-Brunswick Royal Gazette, 30 May 1826. Columbia University officers and alumni, 1754–1857, comp. M. H. Thomas (New York, 1936). F. B. Dexter, Biographical sketches of the graduates of Yale College, with annals of the college history (6v., New York and New Haven, Conn., 1885–1912). E. B. Huntington, History of Stamford, Connecticut . . . (Stamford, 1868; repr. with corrections, Harrison, N.Y., 1979). G. H. Lee, An historical sketch of the first fifty years of the Church of England in the province of New Brunswick (1783–1833) (Saint John, N.B., 1880). K. F. C. MacNaughton, The development of the theory and practice of education in New Brunswick, 1784–1900: a study in historical background, ed. A. G. Bailey (Fredericton, 1947). Pascoe, S.P.G. W. O. Raymond, “The old Meductic fort,” N.B. Hist. Soc., Coll., 1 (1894–97), no.2: 221–72.