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HANINGTON, WILLIAM, businessman, jp, and office holder; b. c. 1759 in England; m. 1792 Mary Derby, daughter of the loyalist Benjamin Derby (Darby), in St Eleanors, St John’s (Prince Edward) Island, and they had five sons and seven daughters; d. 14 Sept. 1838 in Shediac Cape, N.B.

William Hanington was one of the first English settlers in southeastern New Brunswick, where he established himself on Shediac Bay. A dynamic businessman with interests in many areas, he was an important figure locally, since for nearly 40 years he controlled economic development in the region and held all the main public offices.

Almost nothing is known of Hanington’s early days in England. Before arriving in New Brunswick he is supposed to have been a fish merchant in London, like his father. In 1784 he paid £500 sterling for 5,000 acres that had originally been granted by Michael Francklin*, lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, to Captain Joseph Williams and others in 1768. This land was located in the large region the Acadians called Gédaïc, where a number of Acadian families were already living. In 1785 Hanington took possession of his property, which included the area later known as Shediac Cape and Gilberts Corner. Some Acadian squatters probably moved off towards what would become Grande-Digue, but others are believed to have become farmers on Hanington’s lands.

Hanington was above all a businessman, and was involved in a wide variety of enterprises; before long he was recognized as the most influential man in his community and had acquired great prestige extending beyond Shediac Bay, with its economic centre at Shediac Cape. Hanington’s commercial interests included the fur trade, fishing, lumbering, shipbuilding, agriculture, importing, wholesaling and retailing, and land speculation. His eldest son, William, followed in his footsteps, becoming a lumbering entrepreneur, mill owner, and landowner in the Cocagne region.

Hanington occupied a number of different governmental posts and few aspects of the economic and social life of the Shediac region escaped his influence, since for many years he was the only person holding office in the vicinity. He became a justice of the peace around 1805 and retained this office for more than a quarter of a century. Some five years later he was appointed tax collector at Shediac, a position involving many tasks and more extensive duties than that of customs officer: he issued licences to pedlars, inspected ships and assured himself of the sailors’ health, and collected the tax based on tonnage that was earmarked for a fund in aid of sick and disabled sailors. For several years he was also inspector of highways and bridges, responsible for maintaining the roads running from Shediac to the villages of Dorchester and Petitcodiac (Dieppe) and for distributing the funds allocated by government for materials and labour. He did not retire from his public offices until he was well advanced in years, around 1833. Hanington encouraged settlement and acted on several occasions in favour of petitioners from the region, supporting their requests for land. In 1814, for example, he intervened with Surveyor General George Sproule* to prevent the granting to others of the lowlands on which some Acadians around Barachois were settled.

In 1825 Hanington was by far the largest landowner in the Shediac Bay area; his holdings were valued at more than £4,000, in a community where properties were worth £300 on average. Almost all large-scale shipping activities were conducted on his lands, where wharfs, warehouses, stores, and a shipbuilding yard had been erected. At his death in 1838, he had about 7,500 acres, situated in the immediate region of Shediac Cape but also at Grande-Digue, Tidiche (Dupuis Corner), Wellington, Bouctouche (Buctouche), Cocagne, Shemogue, and Sussex. He owned mills, lent money, and held several mortgages on land around Shediac Cape, Cocagne, and Bas-Cap-Pelé, as well as notes signed by borrowers from Bouctouche to Cap Tourmentin (Cape Tormentine); the Catholic missionary Antoine Gagnon of Grande-Digue owed him £54 borrowed in 1833 for a period of ten years. Some debts could be repaid in kind, such as agricultural products, wood, or fish.

Hanington’s situation in Westmorland County helped propel some members of his family on to the political scene. His third son, Daniel, who was a farmer and mill owner, became a justice of the peace and a commanding officer in the militia. He was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1834, became a member of the Executive Council, and was later called to the Legislative Council. His son, Daniel Lionel, was premier of New Brunswick in 1882 and 1883.

Tradition has it that William Hanington was the founder of what became the town of Shediac. It would be more accurate to say that he was the earliest and principal promoter of economic activity in the Shediac region, and the person behind the founding of the Anglican parish of St Martin’s-in-the-Woods at Shediac Cape, of which he was one of the first churchwardens. English and loyalist families clustered around him and formed the nucleus of the anglophone governing class in the region.

Jean-Roch Cyr

Centre d’études acadiennes, univ. de Moncton (Moncton, N.-B.), A1-4-4; A3-1-8 (copies). Mount Allison Univ. Arch. (Sackville, N.B.), Parks Canada Webster Chignecto coll., 7001-70 (William Milne papers), William Hanington, account of men belonging to the brigantine StNicholas of Aberdeen, 18 June 1812; 7001-205 (Shediac papers), D. L. Hanington, “Shediac” (1904); William Hanington, memorial to Thomas Carleton, 23 Jan. 1789 (copy); 7001-226 (Westmorland County, justices of the peace), item 2; 7001-261 (Westmorland County, land grants), no.2393; 7001-345 (William Hanington, “Daybook No.4, commenced May 21st, 1827”). N.B. Museum, J. C. Webster papers, indenture, 9 Oct. 1784 (copy). PANB, MC 1156, X: 65–68; RG 3, RS538, I1, resignation of Hanington et al., c. 1831–32; P1: 4; RS561, A1, 15 March 1816; RG 4, RS24, account of duties collected at Shediac, 1810–33; S36-P22, S36-R8.28–29, S40-P10, S40-R31.19, S41-R9.31, S43-R12.11; RG 7, RS74, A, 1838, William Hanington; 1849, William Hanington; RG 10, RS108, William Hanington Sr and Jr, 24 June 1810; William Hanington Jr, 1818; John Hanington et al., 1824; RS663A, William Hanington, 14 July 1818; 1819; William Hanington Jr, 1818. St Martin’s (Anglican) Church (Shediac), St Martin’s-in-the-Woods, vestry records (mfm. at PANB). Royal Gazette (Saint John, N.B.; Fredericton), 1785–1838. Marilyn Bateman Dumaresq, Hanington family tree ([rev. ed., Wabush, Nfld.], 1980). A. W. Crouch, Some descendants of Joseph Crouch of Lambourne, Berkshire, William Hanington of London, England, Capt. Archibald MacLean of New Brunswick and related families (Nashville, Tenn., 1971). F. C. Bell, A history of old Shediac, New Brunswick (Moncton, 1937). F. R. K. Sayer, A history of Shediac Cape (mimeograph, [Moncton], 1966; copy at N.B. Museum). J. C. Webster, A history of Shediac, New Brunswick ([Shediac], 1928). Clément Cormier, “Petite chronologie de Shédiac,” Soc. hist. acadienne, Cahiers (Moncton), 3 (1968–71): 237–50.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Jean-Roch Cyr, “HANINGTON, WILLIAM,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 21, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hanington_william_7E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hanington_william_7E.html
Author of Article:   Jean-Roch Cyr
Title of Article:   HANINGTON, WILLIAM
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1988
Year of revision:   1988
Access Date:   September 21, 2023