ON the 9th September, 1874, J. W. LAWRENCE, G. MURDOCH, W. R. M. BURTIS, R W: CROOKSHANK, T. W. LEE, V. P. DOLE, A. A. STOCKTON, G.U. HAY, W. H. DIMOCK, and JAMES HANNAY met in the Directors' Room of the Mechanics' Institute for the purpose of taking into consideration the advisability of forming an HISTORICAL SOCIETY. Mr. LAWRENCE for many years had been quietly collecting historical data, documents, and pamphlets bearing on the early history and settlement of the Province, and wished to have other gentlemen associated with him in that pursuit; hence the assemblage on that occasion. The founders of the city — the brave resolute men who left behind them ancestral homes and the comforts of civilized life, faithful to the principle they had fought and suffered for, an United Empire, and who came to the wilderness of New Brunswick so that they might still remain subjects of the empire for which they had sacrificed so much—had all passed away. But few of the second generation were left, old and feeble men, so the time had arrived to pick up the threads of the past, and to preserve for future generations an account of the settlement of the country and its progress in arts and manufactures and commerce. At this meeting it was resolved that an HISTORICAL SOCIETY be formed, to be called the NEW BRUNSWICK HISTORICAL SOCIETY. At a meeting held at the same place on the 25th November, 1874, the Society was duly organized. The following were the office-bearers and members:
Patron— Hon. William Johnston Ritchie.
President—J.W. Lawrence. Vice-President— A. A. Stockton.
Cor. Secretary—W. P. Dole. Pec. Secretary - T. W. Lee.
James Hannay. L. R. Harrison. Gr. Murdoch.
Curator—G. H. Lee.
K. W. Crookshank. I. Allen Jack. R. B. Butler.
D. J. Schurman. C. R. Ray. W. C. Milner.
G. W. Burbidge. F. B. Hazen. Clarence Ward.
G.-W. Dimock. HONORARY MEMBERS;
John Ward. Isaac Woodward. Henry Melick.
L. H. DeVeber. Asa Blakslee. Edward Sears.
Beverly Robinson. Charles Hazen. Dr. LeB. Botsford.
Charles Ward. J. B. Gaynor. S. K. Foster.
Of the Honorary Members all but the last four mentioned have entered into their eternal rest. For some years the Society evenly pursued its way. Papers were read by the members on subjects connected with the history and settlement off the Province; the nucleus of a library was collected, together with historical documents and manuscripts relating to the progress of the country. The disastrous fire of 1877 caused a serious check to their development. Members became scattered, and the attendance fell off; all the records, etc., in the possession of the Secretary were burned, and it seemed as if the Society would come to an end. But a faithful few remained, and the President, J. W. LAWRENCE, kept them together with unabated zeal. In 1880 a renewed interest was awakened; the Centennial of the Province was approaching, new members joined, and since then the Society has gone forward quietly and unostentatiously, doing its appointed work.
Mention may be made of the prominent part taken by them in the celebration of the Centennial year of the city. A "watch meeting" was held in the Centenary Church on the evening of the 17th May, 1883, the best description of which may be given in the words of the lamented WILLIAM ELDER, whose whole heart was devoted to the proper celebration of the city's natal day. In the Telegraph of May 19, 1883, he wrote:
"The evening meeting in the beautiful Centenary Church was happily conceived and well carried out. The presence of the Lieut, Governor, Hon, R. D. WILMOT; Chief Justice ALLEN; American Consul, GEN. WARNER; Mayor JONES; J, W, LAWRENCE, Esq., and many of our most prominent clergymen and laymen, and of an overflowing and deeply interested audience, made the occasion one of deep interest; music and sacred song, solemn address and eloquent speech, the teachings of history, and the sanctions of religion, were all successfully invoked to make the occasion forever memorable. The last moments of the century saw the memory of the Loyalists honored by a solemn service, by salutes over the graves of some of their number, by renewed manifestations of loyalty to the Queen, and by earnest prayer to God that He would continue to bless our land, our people, and our nation in future years as He had done in those which had passed away forever."
The funds contributed at this meeting were devoted to tree planting, renovating the tombstones in the old historic Burial Ground, and to copying the inscriptions on the same, as the following resolution will show:
"At a meeting of the N. B. Historical Society, held on the 29th May, 1883, the President, J. W. LAWRENCE, read a report on the Memorial Centennial Celebration in the Centenary Church on the evening of the 17th May, 1883, whereupon it was unanimously
"Resolved, That the report now read be accepted, entered on the minutes, and published; and a Committee of such members of the Society as have relatives in the 'Old Burial Ground' be appointed for the expenditure of the sum realized at the 'Watch Night Celebration' on the close of the century, in the preservation of the tombstones in the Old Burial Ground, and copying the inscriptions, on obtaining the sanction of His Worship the Mayor and the members of the Common Council."
This work was enthusiastically performed by the members. Many stones of historic interest, which were much dilapidated and going to decay, were carefully restored; others were straightened and renovated as well as could be done, and a complete copy made of every inscription on all the stones remaining, which will be preserved by the Society for future reference as to those buried there. Other work done by the Society in the Centennial year was the replanting of Queen Square, which had become a barren waste. A great multitude of citizens gathered together, under the direction of the Society, on the 4th Oct., 1883, and on a signal given by the discharge of cannon, the whole people at once commenced to place in the ground trees which had been procured and put in position in readiness for the occasion, so that in a short time the whole Square was covered with a flourishing young plantation. A very valuable and interesting collection of relics, consisting of articles of domestic use, Bibles, paintings, clothing, arras, and many other curious and venerable things, gathered from all parts of the Province, was shown by the Society at the Centennial Exhibition, and attracted much attention as illustrating the habits and customs of our forefathers. The ardent and earnest efforts of the President, Mr. J. W. LAWRENCE, in behalf of the Society, were duly recognized in the following resolution passed by them:
"Resolved, That this Society recognizes and fully appreciates the zealous and valuable services rendered by J. W. LAWRENCE, Esq., President of the Society, in connection with the proper celebration of the Centennial of the anniversary of the foundation of the City of St. John, as mainly by and through his instrumentality and personal efforts the intention and wishes of the Society in regard to that important event have been most successfully fulfilled."
The Society is now on a sound basis, and, while the interest of the public in their pursuits is not what it ought to be, it is hoped that the publication of the “Centennial Souvenir" will awaken that interest, and induce the people to cheer the Society's labors with a more substantial recognition.