Wilkinson, William

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                                                   WILLIAM WILKINSON
                                                   People of the Past
                                                   By Andrew Fraser

William Wilkinson, a prominent citizen of Bushville in years past, was born in Liverpool, England on February 11, 1826. He arrived in Chatham on Sept. 11, 1840 after a 49-day voyage across the Atlantic. He had come to Chatham on the advice of his Johnson for two years.

In 1842 he began to study law under the Hon. Jhalf-brother James Johnson, a merchant who had come over several years earlier. William worked for James ohn M. Johnson Jr. who later became a “Father of Confederation”. He became an attorney in 1847 and was admitted to the bar in 1849. At first he practiced alone but in December of 1852 he entered into partnership with John M. Johnson Jr. This partnership lasted until Mr. Johnson’s death in November of 1868. In 1851 he was appointed Surrogate Judge of Probate. He held the position until 1870 when he resigned to run for the legislature. Wilkinson was appointed Inspector of Schools for Northumberland County in 1852. Despite a petition asking him to remain, he resigned the position several years later in order to devote more time to his law practice.

On November 8, 1870 William Wilkinson was appointed solicitor for the Intercolonial Railway. His Main function was to acquire legal title to lands which had been taken for the railway. He was appointed Immigration Agent for Northumberland County by the Dominion Government in the fall of 1872. He held this office for a few years until the government changed. Wilkinson was not released from the position on the grounds of his political affiliation. The new government had come up with a new immigration policy which did away with all county agents. On April 2, 1873 he was appointed one of “Her Majesty’s Counsel Learned of the Law”. Four years later, March 6, 1877, he was appointed Surrogate of the Vice-Admiralty Court of New Brunswick.

March of 1881 was an important time for William Wilkinson. On March 11 he was appointed County Court Judge for Northumberland, Gloucester and Restigouche Counties. He replaced Judge Williston who had resigned. On March 12 Judge Wilkinson was sworn in and took the bench for the first time at Bathurst. In 1883 a new liquor licence act had been passed by the legislature. On February 12, 1884, Wilkinson became the first commissioner appointed under the act. In addition to these responsibilities, he was appointed revising officer for the electoral districts of Northumberland and Restigouche Counties on Oct. 26, 1885.

Wilkinson was also active in his church. He attended St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Chatham. For thirty years he served as vestry clerk and for a similar period of time was a delegate to the Diocesan Church Society and the Diocesan Synod. He was a driving force behind the idea that all acts of the Synod should be approved by the Bishop before coming into force. On several occasions he was elected to represent the diocese at the Provincial Synod. Here he was responsible for pushing through a motion that the House of Bishops should have veto power over nominations to the episcopate.

On St. James Day, 1850 William Wilkinson married Eliza Lovibond Bacon, only daughter of Rev. Samuel Bacon. Rev. Mr. Bacon is worthy of some note. He was the first rector of St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Chatham and served in that position for 47 years until his death in 1869. His father was the internationally known sculptor, John Bacon.

William and Eliza Wilkinson had six children of whom three died young. Of the remaining three, Eliza Bacon Wilkinson married John P. Burchill, M.P.P., William James Wilkinson became an Anglican priest and at the turn of the century was rector of the Anglican Church at Bay du Vin and Mary Edith Wilkinson married William R. Butler who was professor of Mathematics and engineering at Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.

Source: Northumberland News – June 01, 1983

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                                                  JUDGE WILLIAM WILKINSON
                                        Information corrected about Judge Wilkinson

Editor, North Shore Leader:

I read with much interest the article on Judge William Wilkinson in a recent issue of your paper, which I presume was sent you by the Provincial Archives. The Judge was a well-known figure on the Miramichi during his long life of 92 years and must be remembered well by many. His home is now the Miramichi Golf and Country Club.

There are several mistakes in the articles, which for the sake of accuracy should be corrected.

Judge Wilkinson died November 22, 1918, not in 1920.

He was a barrister, insurance agent and justice of the peace, as the article says, but he was much more. He was a Judge of the County Court of Northumberland, Gloucester and Restigouche counties; Judge of Probate from 1851 to 1870, named Surrogate of the Vice-Admiralty Court of New Brunswick in 1877, revising officer for the Electoral District of the three northeastern counties, county inspector of schools in 1852, immigrant agent, examiner of land titles for the Intercolonial Railway and the first commissioner under the Liquor Licence A t of 1183; in 1873 he was named a Queen’s Counsel.

He came to Chatham in 1840, as an apprentice clerk to his half-brother James Johnson; there was no law firm of Johnson and Mackie; this firm, of which James Johnson was senior partner, built ships and launched 16 at Chatham between 1849 and 1854.

It was with John Mm. Johnson, a cousin, that Wilkinson was associated in the practise of law from 1842 to 1868. John M. Johnson was a Father of Confederation and Northumberland’s first Member of Parliament.

Senator G.P. Burchill, Nelson-Miramichi, is a grandson of Judge Wilkinson.

It should be noted here that no appeal was ever made from a decision of Judge Wilkinson in his lengthy career as a judge.

The Wilkinson papers, bought by the Archives from the Williston estate in Newcastle, should be well worth a visit to the Archives in Fredericton.

Yours truly, Edith MacAllister Newcastle

Source: North Shore Leader - June 19, 1974

This text is available for use under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. For more information, select the following link: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

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