Poetic Places Fredericton

Jonathan Odell

Read Jonathan Odell's poem "Our Thirty-Ninth Wedding Day."


Jonathan Odell was a loyalist poet and British government official who played a central role in the founding of both New Brunswick and the city of Fredericton.  Born on the 25th of September 1737 in Newark, NJ, Odell began his career as a grammar school teacher before taking up medicine.  He served as a doctor for a time in the West Indies on behalf of the British government, and then traveled to England where he decided to study theology.  Odell earned the title of ordained priest in London in 1767, returning to New Jersey soon after.  Upon his return he met Ann de Cou, and immediately fell in love with her.  Odell’s relationship with Ann, who he affectionately called Nancy, is the inspiration for much of his non-political poetry.  The couple were married in 1772 in Burlington, NJ and had four children.  

Although Odell did not agree with the severity of the British taxation which led to the American Revolution, he remained loyal to British authority and believed that the rebellion of the States against their monarch was illegitimate in the eyes of God.  His loyalist sentiments were first outed through the interception of letters he had written to friends and colleagues, but Odell fully revealed his political lean when he wrote an ode for the King’s birthday which was performed by British prisoners on June 4th, 1776.  Because of his reputation as a man of God, Odell was first confined at the Burlington courthouse in New Jersey.  But as the rebellion grew, Odell was forced to flee to New York, leaving behind Ann and their children.  They would not be reunited until 1779.

Odell found new hope in the founding of New Brunswick, and in 1784 he accepted the position of secretary, registrar, and clerk of the Council for the province.  He was one of four government officials sent to choose the area for the capital of the new province, which they named Fredericstown after one of King George II’s sons.  Odell maintained his position as secretary until his retirement in 1812, when his son William Franklin took over.  Jonathan Odell died on the 25th of November, 1818 in Fredericton.  The land which once belonged to the Odell family in the heart of Fredericton, then known as the Rookwood estate, is now maintained by the New Brunswick government as Odell Park.

For More Information:

Dictionary of Canadian Biography Entry Written by Alfred G. Bailey: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/odell_jonathan_5E.html

New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia: http://w3.stu.ca/stu/sites/nble/o/odell_jonathan.html

Selected Bibliography

On Spring. Philadelphia: [Publisher Unknown], 1788.

The New Brunswick Poems of Jonathan Odell. Edited by Robert Gibbs. Kingston: Loyal Colonies Press, 1982.

Photo of a portrait of Jonathan Odell located at the New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, New Brunswick (W1294), courtesy of the New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia:  http://w3.stu.ca/stu/sites/nble/o/images/odell_jon.jpg