Burchell-Wetmore House

Burchell-Wetmore House

The Burchell-Wetmore House, built in 1855, served as the residence of James Burchell, a builder and mason, until 1872. James Burchell hailed from an Irish family, with his father, Alexander Burchill, acting as the superintendent of Fredericton’s water-works, and his brother, Charles Burchill, working as a druggist.

This house also became the abode of Edward Wetmore, a distinguished lawyer, politician, and judge born on 24 March 1841 in Fredericton. He was the son of Charles Peters Wetmore, a lawyer and clerk of the House of Assembly, and Sarah Burr Ketchum. He married Eliza Jane Dickson in Oromocto on 25 April 1872, and they had three children – a daughter and two sons.

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Edward Wetmore received his education from grammar schools in Fredericton and Gagetown. In 1859, he was honored with a BA degree by King’s College, Fredericton. Afterward, he pursued legal studies in the office of John Campbell Allen. By June 1863, he was authorized to practice as an attorney and was called to the bar a year later. After practicing law in Sussex for five years, he moved his practice to Fredericton. There, he joined the firm of John James Fraser and Edward Byron Winslow, which was the top legal office in the capital. The Canadian biographical dictionary considered Wetmore as “one of the foremost men of his age and profession in this part of the province, he being a well-read lawyer, a good logician and an effective speaker”. He was granted the title of a federal QC in 1881.

Besides maintaining his law practice, Wetmore fulfilled various public roles. From 1869 to 1882, he served as deputy clerk of the crown. He acted as Mayor of Fredericton between 1874 and 1876, a role in which he was described as an “efficient and popular executive”. In 1877, he became a commissioner for the revision of New Brunswick’s statutes, and served as president of the Barristers’ Society in 1886 and 1887. He was also a member of the University of New Brunswick’s senate from 1884 to 1887, and the university would later award him an honorary LLD in 1908. A Conservative in politics, Wetmore was elected to the House of Assembly for York in 1882 and chosen as leader of the opposition in 1883. However, he was defeated in the general election of 1886.

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