EMERSON (Emmerson), THOMAS, doctor and army and militia officer; b. c. 1762; d. 14 Oct. 1843 in Fredericton.
Thomas Emerson arrived in New Brunswick in 1784 as a bachelor in his early twenties, having served in Nova Scotia with the Royal Fencible Americans during the period of the American revolution [see Joseph Goreham*]. He was granted lands along the Digdeguash and Magaguadavic rivers, but soon sold them; he settled in St Andrews, where he practised medicine.
Emerson returned to military life in 1793 when, on the outbreak of war between Britain and France, Lieutenant Governor Thomas Carleton* raised the King’s New Brunswick Regiment for service within the province. Emerson became surgeon’s mate, a title that was changed in 1796 for the more impressive one of assistant surgeon. He remained with the unit until it was disbanded in 1802.
When hostilities were resumed in 1803, another regiment was quickly organized. It was the New Brunswick Fencibles, renamed in 1810 the 104th Foot. Emerson signed up as assistant surgeon in August 1804. He appears to have been stationed both in Saint John, where he testified at a trial in 1806, and in Fredericton, where his silhouette was cut the following year. It was the 104th that made the famous winter march on snowshoes up the Saint John River and across to Quebec in 1813, during war with the United States. This 24-day, 350-mile trek must have proved a strenuous task for the 50-year-old Emerson. For the remainder of the conflict the regiment was stationed in Upper Canada, where it saw long and bloody service. The unit was disbanded at Quebec in 1817. Emerson was to continue his affiliation with the army to the end of his life, serving as battalion surgeon of the York County militia from 1819 to 1843.
He returned to civilian practice, in Fredericton, some time after 1817. Records of the Fredericton Emigrant Society show that he was paid £7 16s. 0d. in 1820 for tending newcomers to the province. On 31 Dec. 1825 he was awarded a military grant of 800 acres “in the Parish of Kent in the County of York” (probably Kentville). This land he exchanged in 1826 for a house and lot in Fredericton, each property being valued at £200. His new property fronted on Carleton Street; here he probably had his residence and office.
In the early 1830s Emerson entered into partnership with Dr George P. Peters, son of the attorney general, Charles Jeffery Peters. In his autobiography William Teel Baird* remembers going to work as a boy of almost 14 in their dispensary. Baird speaks of Dr Emerson’s extensive practice, noting that he was “for many years the best known man in Fredericton.” He belonged to the provincial faculty of physicians and surgeons and in 1832 was one of a three-man board to license new practitioners. He must have prospered since he acquired more land. In 1833 he leased a ten-acre lot from King’s College and in 1837 he bought a farm in New Maryland.
Emerson was married twice. His first wife, Rebecca, died in 1832. Two years later, on 20 May 1834, he married Ann Bailey of Fredericton. There appear to have been no children from either marriage.
Thomas Emerson died at age 80 on 14 Oct. 1843, leaving everything to his “dear wife Ann” and to Christ Church (Anglican) upon her death. The location of his grave is unknown. Ann Emerson, who died in 1873, lies in the Old Burying Ground in Fredericton.
Charlotte Land Registry Office (St Andrews, N.B.), Registry books, A: 38, 278, 343, 401. MTRL, Hist. Picture Coll., T 13691. PANB, RG 7, RS75, 1843, Thomas Emerson; RG 10, RS108. Saint John Regional Library (Saint John, N.B.), “Biographical data relating to New Brunswick families, especially of loyalist descent,” comp. D. R. Jack (4v., typescript; mfm. at PANB). York Land Registry Office (Fredericton), Registry books, 15: 65; 21: 412, 421; 29: 144. Royal Gazette (Fredericton), 18 Oct. 1843. Commissioned officers in the medical services of the British army, 1660–1960, comp. Alfred Peterkin et al. (2v., London, 1968). Merchants’ & farmers’ almanack, 1843: 53. W. T. Baird, Seventy years of New Brunswick life . . . (Saint John, 1890; repr. Fredericton, 1978), 30–31. L. M. Beckwith Maxwell, An outline of the history of central New Brunswick to the time of confederation (Sackville, N.B., 1937; repr. Fredericton, 1984). Esther Clark Wright, The loyalists of New Brunswick (Fredericton, 1955; repr. Hantsport, N.S., 1981). W. A. Squires, The 104th Regiment of Foot (the New Brunswick Regiment), 1803–1817 (Fredericton, 1962), 189. W. B. Stewart, Medicine in New Brunswick . . . (Moncton, 1974)Jonas Howe, “The King’s New Brunswick Regiment, 1793–1802,” N.B. Hist. Soc., Coll., 1 (1894–97), no.1: 15. J. W. Lawrence, “The medical men of St. John in its first half century,” N.B. Hist. Soc., Coll., 1, no.3: 283–84.