Amos Henry Chandler

Amos Henry Chandler
Amos Henry Chandler

Amos Henry Chandler, MD, was born on 8 August 1837 in Dorchester, Westmorland county, New Brunswick, and died on 23 May 1919 at his daughter’s home in Montreal, Quebec. He was the son of Phoebe W. Milledge and the Hon. Edward Barron Chandler. Chandler was one of eleven children, seven of whom reached adulthood. Coming from a well-to-do family, he grew up in the family residence, Rocklyn, which Edward had built in the 1830s (Johnson).

Chandler’s father, the Hon. Edward Barron Chandler, was a lawyer from a wealthy family in Nova Scotia who came to New Brunswick in 1823 when he was appointed judge of probate and clerk of the peace for Westmorland county. In 1827, while still practicing law, Edward was elected to the House of Assembly as a representative for Westmorland. He played an influential role in the years preceding and succeeding Confederation and is deemed as one of the Fathers of Confederation, known for being rational and calm in debates about the future of quitrents, Catholic emancipation, Acadian rights, school administration, revision of provincial laws, and immigration (Swift). Edward Chandler also served as the New Brunswick Lieutenant Governor from 1878 until his death in 1880. His son’s sonnet, “In Memoriam: Hon. Edward Barron Chandler,” expresses the sorrow of losing an adored Lieutenant Governor, as well as a beloved father and friend:

Of one who, faithful, served his country dear;
While at his home sad friends and kinsmen wait,
Recounting his good deeds, in generous praise,
‘Mid many untold – unrecorded here. (119)

In his younger years, Amos Chandler attended the Fredericton Grammar School and then Mount Allison Wesleyan Academy for two terms in 1854. He earned his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in March 1857 and practiced medicine in small communities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

In 1859, Chandler married Elspeth Russell Kirk (1838–1870) of Saint John, New Brunswick. Together, they had seven children. In December 1870, Elspeth passed away and Chandler briefly sent his children to live with his parents in Dorchester. On 24 October 1871, Chandler married his late wife’s younger sister, Charlotte Elizabeth Kirk, in Bangor, Maine (“Amos Henry Chandler fonds”). In 1877, Charlotte gave birth to Chandler’s youngest child, Elspeth Russell. Afterwards, Chandler and Charlotte separated and Charlotte moved to England where she had attended school in her youth.

Between the 1860s and 1880s, Chandler practiced medicine in Moncton; however, by 1889, he had returned to Dorchester. Despite his children growing up and moving away, he maintained close ties, most commonly through letter writing. These letters cover a range of subjects, from the progress of sick relatives, to news of Chandler’s literary career, to accounts of Christmas events.

In his free time, Chandler wrote poetry, which he often published in newspapers such as Moncton’s Daily Times, Halifax’s Daily Echo, and New York’s Standard Magazine. He wrote under the pseudonym “Sylvius” or “A.H.C.” In 1880, Chandler partnered with Rev. Charles Pelham Mulvany (1835–1885), an Irish clergyman and author specializing in Canadian history, to jointly publish Lyrics, Songs and Sonnets. The book is a collection of poems from each that focused on the topics of religion and classical history. In the preface of the book, Chandler and Mulvany write that “the objects of the poems on Religious Subjects herein published is to assert the claims of religious thought from the liberal standpoint” (3).

As evident in his poetry, Chandler was also influenced by events occurring around him, including the health of King Edward VII, which is the occasion for “A Prayer for King Edward’s Recovery.” Written on 20 June 1902, the poem invokes the divine power to “watch over and preserve our stricken King” (2).

Chandler’s most celebrated poem is “The Nativity,” which begins with a description of the Christmas Star that is “glorious as a sun” (152) and beckons Heaven’s angels to Bethlehem so that they may witness the birth of Christ. Before the spirits of Hell rise up to do harm, a fleet of angels arrive and battle the demons to reclaim the joyful day. When the angels win, the world continues its celebration as the Savior is born:

Hail: tender form of one,
The Triune Son,
The Saviour mild, upon His mother’s breast:
Daylight eclisp’d was dim,
While over Him
Stood that bright Star – that Angel’s glowing crest,
Blent with the halo round the Virgin blest. (158)

Chandler was highly praised for “The Nativity.” He received countless letters complimenting his work. G.M. Ambrose, for example, wrote that the poem’s “most striking qualities… are its originality… and sustained richness of diction.” Readers seemed impressed by Chandler’s use of a dramatic battle between demons and angels that takes place during the birth of Christ. In what is normally depicted as a joyous time, Chandler uses dark imagery to dramatize the nativity:

Lost, in tempest-rack,
Frowning, black! –
A million shades, then, veil th’ hallowed sight,
Covering land and sea,
Momently –
Earth, air, sky thunder’d, flashing tongues of light –
The powers accurst meet, rush in wretched plight. (154)

Ian Douglas, editor of The Standard Magazine of New York, wrote that “The Nativity” flowed “with the smoothness of quicksilver and there is never a halt in the meter or harshness of word-sound to offend the finer appreciative senses of the reader. I doubt if any poet in 50 years has produced anything more sublime.”

In his last days, Chandler’s daughter Ivaline Margaret wrote in a letter to her sister Phoebe that their father was experiencing a painful death and was quite unlike himself. Not only was he unable to take any nourishment, but he also did not want to hear letters or wishes from any of his children. He was laid to rest in his home of Dorchester, New Brunswick.

Jamie Foster, Fall 2018
St. Thomas University

Bibliography of Primary Sources

Chandler, Amos Henry. “In Memoriam: Hon. Edward Barron Chandler, Lieut.-Governor of New Brunswick, Obit. Feb. 6, 1880.” Lyrics, Songs and Sonnets. Toronto: Hunter, Rose & Co., 1880. 119.

---. Letter to Mrs. Phoebe Racey. 1 Aug. 1901. Chandler-Racey Fonds. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton.

---. “The Nativity.” Lyrics, Songs and Sonnets. Toronto: Hunter, Rose & Co., 1880. 152-158.

---. “A Prayer for King Edward’s Recovery.” Halifax Daily Echo 20 Jun. 1902: 1-2.

Chandler, Amos Henry, and Charles Pelham Mulvany. “Preface.” Lyrics, Songs and Sonnets. Toronto: Hunter, Rose & Co., 1880. 3.

Bibliography of Selected Secondary Sources

Ambrose, G.M. Letter to Dr. Amos H. Chandler. 30 Oct. 1880. Chandler-Racey Fonds. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton.

“Amos Henry Chandler fonds: [1856–1918].” Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. 2001. Government of New Brunswick. 22 Nov. 2018.

“Chandler House/Rocklyn National Historic Site of Canada.” Canada’s Historic Places. 2009. Parks Canada. 23 Nov. 2018

Chandler, Ivaline Margaret. Letter to Mrs. Phoebe Racey. 24 May 1919. Chandler-Racey Fonds. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton.

Douglas, Ian. Letter to Dr. Amos H. Chandler. 4 July 1914. Chandler-Racey Fonds. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton.

“Edward VII.” Westminster Abbey. 2018. Dean and Chapter of Westminster. 23 Oct. 2018

“Fonds 119 – Amos Henry Chandler.” ArchivesCANB. 1993. Council of Archives New Brunswick. 10 Nov. 2018

Johnson, Daniel F. “Daniel F. Johnson: Volume 74, Number 3372.” Daniel F. Johnson’s New Brunswick Vital Statistics. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton. 1 Dec. 2018

Killan, Gerald. “Mulvany, Charles Pelham.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 11. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1982. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. 2003. U of Toronto/U Laval. 18 Oct. 2018

Pepper, William. Letter to Mrs. Phoebe Racey. 29 July 1918. Chandler-Racey Fonds. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton.

Plummer, Kevin, and J.M. Bumsted. “Edward Barron Chandler.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. 2015. Historica Canada. 15 Oct. 2018

Swift, Michael. “Chandler, Edward Barron.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 10. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1972. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. 2003. U of Toronto/U Laval. 15 Oct. 2018