ROBERTS, GEORGE GOODRIDGE, educator and Church of England clergyman; b. 25 Dec. 1832 in Saint John, N.B., eldest child of George Roberts and Emily Goodridge; m. 9 June 1857, in Fredericton, Emma Wetmore Bliss, daughter of George Pidgeon Bliss, receiver general for New Brunswick, and they had four sons and one daughter who survived infancy; d. 11 Oct. 1905 in Fredericton of pneumonia.
George Goodridge Roberts learned to read English and Latin when he was very young, started school at the age of eight, and graduated from the Fredericton Collegiate School and entered King’s College (later the University of New Brunswick) in 1849. He received his ba on 24 June 1852, and, while he studied for holy orders, he taught under his father, who was headmaster of the Fredericton Collegiate School, and at Bishop’s College School in Lennoxville, Lower Canada. He received ma degrees from King’s College in 1854 and Bishop’s College in 1855. Bishop John Medley* ordained him deacon at Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton on 28 Sept. 1856 and priest on 20 Sept. 1857.
Roberts’s first charge was the parish of Douglas, five rural congregations spread over about 40 miles and located on the Saint John River 14 miles above Fredericton. Roberts helped construct a church and earned part of his living by farming. On 4 Aug. 1861 he took over two parishes in Westmorland County, St Ann’s at Westcock and Trinity at Dorchester. In addition to his clerical duties, he farmed the glebe land attached to the Westcock church, and he also enjoyed competing in community athletic events. He taught his first two children at home and sent the elder, Charles George Douglas*, to Mount Allison ladies’ academy in nearby Sackville for art lessons. Always keenly interested in politics, Roberts was a staunch confederationist, unlike most residents of the county [see Sir Albert James Smith*]. In 1885 he would support the effort to quell the North-West rebellion by becoming chaplain to the New Brunswick military contingent, which, however, was not called to active service.
On 1 Dec. 1873 Bishop Medley admitted Roberts to the rectory of Christ Church Parish Church, Fredericton, and on 3 December the churchwardens inducted him. Roberts was a devoted follower of Medley, who was a Tractarian; he had rearranged his Westcock church to accommodate Medley’s liturgical reforms and had hauled his melodeon over the rough trails between his country parishes to provide music at his services. The observances he instituted in his Fredericton parish incited a faction to attack him for “popery” and, in May 1887, to seek an injunction to stop his ritualism and his salary. As one of the two churchwardens, Chief Justice John Campbell Allen* arranged the defence, and the injunction was not granted. Throughout the controversy, Roberts led his flock with good cheer and charity towards his enemies; in 1890 Medley appointed him a canon of the cathedral.
Education was for Roberts a continuing interest. In March 1874 he became an examiner of degree candidates at the University of New Brunswick, a duty he performed enthusiastically until his death. The university had awarded him an lld honoris causa in 1870 and would grant him another in 1900. From 1885 (and probably from 1882) until 1902, Roberts also served as secretary of the Fredericton Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb.
Roberts was a friend to all regardless of social rank or favour, a scholar, an eloquent preacher, and a fine musician. The centre of any social gathering, he was witty, generous, and sympathetic as well as humble and “unpretentiously pious.” He wrote poetic, well-constructed sermons and a few heartfelt poems, but, apart from one privately printed funeral sermon, he published nothing. However, his four children who survived beyond youth – Charles, Jane Elizabeth Gostwycke*, William Carman*, and George Edward Theodore Goodridge* – became distinguished writers and editors; their achievements are his literary legacy.
PANB, MC 223, D5-16; F1A-16c. UNBL, MG L10, including G. G. Roberts, “Extract from a sermon . . . ,” 31 Jan. 1886, in a scrapbook probably compiled by Edith Roberts; MG L12, box 1, files 1, 3; RA, vert. files, T. G. Roberts; UA, minutes of the senate, 3 (1860–1904): 240. Daily Gleaner, 11 Oct. 1905: 4, 8. St. John Daily Sun, 11 Oct. 1905: 1. Fredericton Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, Report, 1885–1901 (copies at UNBL). E. M. Pomeroy, Sir Charles G. D. Roberts: a biography (Toronto, 1943). Malcolm Ross, “‘A strange aesthetic ferment,’” Canadian Lit. (Vancouver), no.68–69 (spring–summer 1976): 13–25. Standard dict. of Canadian biog. (Roberts and Tunnell).