BOND, GEORGE, politician, millowner, and Baptist minister; b. c. 1790 in England; d. 8 Jan. 1852 in Saint John, N.B.
Born and raised in England, George Bond was brought to Saint John in 1819 as superintendent of the Carleton Tidal Power Mills, located on the Saint John harbour and owned by William Black*. Bond was to occupy this position for 18 years. Following Black’s retirement in 1837, Bond obtained control of the milling complex and operated it until his death. It was one of the oldest and largest of its kind in southern New Brunswick, containing up-and-down saws, lathes, a shingle-mill, and grist-mills. During the 1840s Bond would have been one of the chief beneficiaries of the growing market in deals and sawn lumber. None the less he remained a man of modest means. Like most men of his class he was never able to participate in the export function of the city and never made the transition from manufacturer to merchant; apparently he did not own any vessels or engage in transatlantic trade. His operation entailed buying timber, milling it, and then selling it either on the domestic market or to timber merchants for export. By the 1850s, however, these merchants had begun to construct their own mills in the Saint John area, thereby offering stiff competition to Bond and other millowners in his position.
Bond, like Thomas Harding and John McNeil Wilmot*, was one of a small but influential group of religious evangelicals who played a dominant role in the civic life of urban centres in New Brunswick in the mid 19th century. Bond was first elected to the Common Council of Saint John as alderman for Guys Ward in 1825 and was to survive 21 annual elections. He was prominent in the affairs of the council, particularly during the critical decade of the 1840s when the city went bankrupt. This period is marked by struggles between the various sections of the city for preferential treatment from the council. Bond’s voting record reveals a cautious businessman primarily concerned with procuring benefits for the inhabitants of the Carleton side of the harbour and with protecting the concerns of the city’s business community. Thus in 1843 he favoured efforts to tax the citizens of the Portland side of the harbour to support the Saint John Water Company, promoted by such powerful figures as Ward Chipman, and also agreed to allow the prominent merchant John Robertson* to acquire control of considerable city leasehold at reduced rentals. Despite these biases, Bond’s council career marks him as a mild reformer in most civic issues. As a sitting member for the west side, he was able to bring an objectivity to the many matters concerning the city proper. Similarly, his British background left him with little sense of deference to such colonial sacred cows as the city’s charter, which was revered by many as the creation of the loyalist founders of New Brunswick. He persistently advocated reform of the administrative structure of Saint John, particularly in regard to the hiring of a permanent civil service, and supported efforts to revise the charter in the interests of public safety and order.
As well as sawmills and politics, religious concerns dominated Bond’s life. He was prominent during the formative years of the British and Foreign Bible Society and the Saint John and Carleton temperance societies. But he was best known as a leading Baptist layman, local preacher, and, after 1840, minister. He owned the land on which the Carleton Baptist Meeting House was built, he provided most of the necessary financing for its construction, and he conducted services there during the last years of his life. As he had retained the title to the property, he was able to will both land and building to his stepdaughter.
Although he achieved neither the wealth of a merchant nor the status of a member of the House of Assembly, Bond was one of the comfortable burghers who was able to direct much of the public life of the city. Within his ward he exercised almost unchallenged political and economic authority.
City Clerk’s Office (Saint John, N.B.), Common Council of Saint John, minutes, 14 Oct. 1839; 8, 9 Feb., 3 Oct. 1843; 19 May 1847. PANB, RG 7, RS71, 1852, George Bond. New-Brunswick Courier, 10 Jan. 1852.