With the Ghost Walk on Saturday night a roaring success and the winding down of the traditional tourist season also comes the last installments of our Loyalist of the Day features. Today we celebrate one of the more prominent Loyalist families in the county, the Devebers.
This small silhouette was one of the objects featured in the Loyalist Legacy exhibition. It is actually a photograph of the original which is still held by members of the family; however we thought it merited inclusion in the exhibition as a rare example of an image of a Loyalist woman. It is Margaret Hubbard Deveber (1754-1813), daughter of Nathaniel Hubbard (1712-1772) and Mary Quintard. Margaret married Loyalist Gabriel Deveber (1752-1827) at Stamford, Connecticut. This Gabriel Deveber, the son of Gabriel Deveber (1731-1810), a Swiss migrant was one of a string of family members with the name Gabriel, both masculine and feminine. Margaret and Gabriel came to the St. John River Valley in 1783 with the Loyalists and settled at Burton, Sunbury County. Gabriel eventually became High Sheriff of Sunbury County and he and Margaret are buried at Christ Church, Maugerville. They had five children: Gabriel N. (by our count Gabriel III) (1785-1838); Nathaniel Hubbard (1785-1877); William Edwin Nelson (1789-1865); Leverett Hubbard (1790-1876) and Mary (1793-1853).
Of the above family, it is Nathaniel Hubbard Deveber that makes the Queens County connection. He married Mary Elizabeth White (1779-1844) of Gagetown on 1 May 1819 at Saint John. Nathaniel and Mary resided at Gagetown where he served as the High Sheriff of Queens County. Nathaniel and Mary had only two children: Gabriel (another!) born 1820; and James White born 1821. Mary died 14 February 1844 and was buried at St. Johns Anglican Cemetery, Gagetown. On 18 September 1847 her son Gabriel married his first cousin, Benjamina Margaret Gabriella Deveber, the daughter of Leverett Hubbard Deveber (see above) and Margaret Ann Hubbard (1793-1866). We will award a prize at the end of this article if you can keep all of these Devebers and Hubbards straight!
Benjamina Margaret Gabriella Deveber was born in 1822 at Saint John, where she married her cousin in 1847. Young Gabriel, following in the legal footsteps of his father and grandfather, was a barrister and at the time of the marriage, was noted as being from Saint John – perhaps either studying or practicing law in the city. This Gabriel and Benjamina had five children: Nathaniel Dudley (1848-1929); Mary Elizabeth W. (1850-1851); Leveret Isaac (1851-1894); William Boies (1853-1854) and Gabriel (1854-1934). By the 1850s, however, the family had relocated back to Gagetown. The reason? A brand new house awaited them . . .
For decades the gothic revival house at Gagetown called Claremont has been marvelled at as one of the architectural treasures of not only the village of Gagetown, but of New Brunswick. Lost to history, apparently, was the builder and the precise date of construction. It was the home of the Deveber family until the 1930s and even afterwards, passed through the hands of relatives until the 21st century. Attributions for date of construction have ranged from 1820 to 1860 and a variety of Gagetown carpenters have been mentioned as possible builders from Loyalist Solomon Dingee to Thomas Tilley. Another story is that the house was a wedding present, ostensibly to Benjamina and Gabriel. What was clear to architectural historians, was that the 1820 guess did not hold up to scrutiny since the style and construction were obviously taken from the famous Andrew Jackson Downing book on Country Houses published in 1850. Downing’s then revolutionary books on domestic architecture were the latest thing sweeping North America. The image shown here is the cover of a recent edition of the Downing book and shows an almost exact version of the river front of Claremont. But with the date narrowed somewhat and the architectural inspiration all but settled, the actual builder remained allusive.
In one of those odd quirks of fate readers of this blog are by now familiar, this confusion was cleared up earlier this summer. Nathaniel Deveber’s day book (account book) was found in the collection of the New Brunswick Museum. Beginning on page 20, clear as day and in black and white, was found the billing for the construction of the house, lists and prices for the interior finish materials, and, wait for it . . . the builder’s name!
The builder was Lorenzo F.Langen, a house joiner from Saint John. Lorenzo Langen was born about 1817 and first married Isabella Brundage in 1837 at Saint John. Isabella died 10 April 1847 and her death notice in the New Brunswick Courier notes her age of 33, and that she left her husband and two children. The next year, on the 29 April 1848 Lorenzo marred Margaret Humbert, the daughter of John Humbert, Esquire. An infant daughter died in January 1842, Harriet Isabella, age 15 months. By the 1851 St. John County Census, he was living with his second wife, his 8 year old son George E., his 12 year old daughter Eliza Jane, and a 17 year old apprentice, James Osbourne; all having been born in New Brunswick. A 24 April 1858 notice in the New Brunswick Courier tells us that the family had moved to Uxbridge Village, Ontario (Canada West) when little George died at the age of 15. But between 1852 and 1854, Lorenzo Langen was occupied with the construction of the house known to us as Claremont.
Nathaniel Deveber’s day book shows that Langen was paid at least 500 pounds for building “the house at Gagetown for G Deveber”. The story of the house being a wedding present, may indeed be true since the timeline is only 5 years after their marriage. By that point, Benjamina and Gabriel had had three children and lost their only daughter.
Gothic revival houses to 21st century readers don’t cause much of a stir, however it doesn’t take much to imagine the tongues of Gagetown wagging as the house went up in such a new, strange and daring design with steep gables, intricate gingerbread and finials and the multi-paned windows. It is also an illustration of the position of the Deveber family in the community that they were aware of the latest trends in architectural design and were determined to complete it.
In the midst of construction and while the interior finishes were being completed (gallons and gallons of paint, yards of wallpaper and at least 130 yards of oil cloth), tragedy struck the family. Another son was born to Benjamina and Gabriel in 1853 but died in April 1854 and by that time Benjamina was pregnant again with a fifth child. According to the records of St. Johns Church, Gagetown, this fifth child was born on 18 October 1854 and was baptized on the same day as his father’s burial, 28 October 1854, who had died the previous day. The infant son was named after his father, Gabriel. The quickness of burial may indicate the presence of a dreaded disease or simply a family trauma they wished to deal with as quickly as possible.
In her grand new house, Benjamina and her three surviving sons lived with her father-in-law/uncle, Sheriff Nathaniel Deveber. By 1855 it appears the house is finished and some time between 1860 and 1870, the new house formed the subject of a painting by Reverend Abraham Wood (1791-1879), the Anglican minister at Grand Lake and a very talented artist. It was actually the research on this painting that lead to the discovery of the builder of the house. Sheriff Nathaniel Deveber, the son of Loyalists Gabriel and Margaret, died in 1877 at the age of 92 and was buried at St. Johns Church, Gagetown, beside his wife. Benjamina Margaret Gabriella Deveber Deveber watched her three sons reach adulthood – Leverett became a businessman in Saint John, Nathaniel Dudley remained at home as a farmer, and little Gabriel? He remained at home as well, marrying a little late in life to Annie Hewlett, a talented amateur artist. Benjamina died in 1892 at the age of 70 and was buried beside her husband and infant children, near the other Deveber family members. Nathaniel Dudley died in 1929, Annie Hewlett Deveber died in 1927, and the last of our Gabriels, died in 1934.
Claremont passed through a variety of owners, some family, some not, until it was finally purchased and restored by Alleyne and Cath Coombes in the 1970s. For many years they operated Claremont Crafts. In the early 2000s, the house changed hands again and underwent another restoration and various upgrades. As for the builder of Claremont, Lorenzo Langen, the last we hear of him he is in Boston in the late 19th century, still building houses.
For more information about the Deveber family or Claremont, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.