Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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GARVIE, ALEXANDER RAE, Presbyterian minister, St John's Church, Chatham, 1868-70; b. Demerara, British Guiana, 6 Jan 1839, s/o John Garvie and Margaret Rae; m. 1868, Agnes Hunter Russell, d/o George Hunter Russell and Mary Johnstone; d. Montreal, 5 Mar 1874.

Alexander Rae Garvie's parents, natives of Edinburgh, Scotland, were living in the West Indies in the late 1830s. They settled in Halifax in the 1850s, and his father, John Garvie, was in charge of the Halifax city library at the time of his death in 1862, at age forty-eight. The several sons of the family included two lawyers, two doctors, and a clergyman. Before becoming a lawyer, the eldest son, William Garvie, was co-founder of the Halifax Citizen newspaper, and he was later a member of the Nova Scotia Assembly and Executive Council.

It is evident from Alexander Rae Garvie's writing that he was classically educated, probably in Scotland, before he entered the Presbyterian College in Halifax to study for the ministry. He graduated in 1866 and was ordained and inducted at St John's Church, Chatham, in 1868. Two years later he resigned due to illness. "Though my apprehensions of fast failing health are not so gloomy as they have been," he told his congregation, "I cannot disguise from you or myself the fact that I am far from being robust."

Garvie's health rallied somewhat, and in 1871 he was inducted as minister of the Presbyterian church at Windsor, N.S., but he had to resign again within two years, and a few months later he collapsed and expired in Montreal while enroute from Ottawa to Saint John. It was stated that he died of heart disease, but tuberculosis was the bane of the family. Between 1870 and 1872 death claimed four of his talented brothers, the youngest of whom was just twenty-three.

The Union Advocate stated that Garvie's "gentlemanly deportment and unassuming mien won him the friendship of all classes." At the same time, he was recognized as "a young man of superior attainments." Indeed, he was one of New Brunswick's more gifted early poets, his work consisting of graceful translations from the classics and a posthumous volume of original verse entitled Thistledown (1875).

Garvie was survived by his wife, Agnes H. Russell, who was remarried in 1895 to Andrew Walker of New Glasgow, N.S., and two daughters, both of whom died in 1897 while still in their twenties. His tombstone stands in Chatham.


[b] tombstone [m] Telegraph 10 Oct 1868 [d] Telegraph 7 Mar 1874 / Advance 24 Jan 1895; Advocate 24 Feb 1870, 19 May 1870, 22 Oct 1870, 11 Mar 1874; Betts (FF); Cogswell; DCB (re. William Garvie); Gleaner 22 Oct 1870; Presb. Witness 20 Sep 1862, 8 Jan 1870, 10 Aug 1870, 10 Sep 1892, 27 Mar 1897, 3 Jul 1897