John Smith Bessey

John Smith Bessey

DECEMBER 9, 1832 - MAY 25, 1921

John Smith Bessey was born on December 9, 1832 in Esquesing township, Halton County, Upper Canada. The Bessey’s were originally from the Thirteen Colonies, and John’s grandfather fought for the British during the American Revolutionary War. The family were thus forced to flee the newly-established United States and came to British North America. Like many other United Empire Loyalists, the Besseys were granted land in the developing province of Upper Canada and took up farming. Also like many other Loyalists, John’s father was a staunch Tory, and strongly opposed to any ideas that resembled the republicanism that drove him and his family from their homeland. John’s father enlisted in the militia and was appointed to the rank of captain during the 1837 Rebellion, when the boy was only five years old.

John Bessey grew up on his father’s extensive 300-acre farm on lot 18, concession 6 of Esquesing township. Of a considerably more liberal mind than his father, John explored the dynamic political and religious landscape of Canada during those days. Though he never held political office, he was a strong supporter of the Reform movement that advocated for responsible government in Canada. In 1876 John was appointed Justice of the Peace in his township. Religiously, he discarded the puritanical Congregationalism of his father and became a convert of the Baptist church. He was an active lifelong member of the church, and contributed his money to church projects and his voice as a choir member. At some point during the 1850s John married Mary Jane Gaud and the pair remained happily married for the rest of their lives.

Fortunately for John and Mary Jane, his family’s considerable resources enabled them to settle on a sizeable 250-acre farm across the concession line from his father. Like many other Ontario farmers during this period, John Bessey grew mostly wheat as it was a valuable cash crop. But they also grew peas, potatoes, strawberries, hops, and raised livestock. John and Mary Jane were better off than most, and the 1861 agricultural census records their farm as being worth a considerable sum of $11,500. Even more fortunately for them, John received a further 150 acres from the will of a deceased relative in 1866. John used this unexpected windfall to invest in cattle breeding, and specialized in thoroughbred Shorthorns.

John Smith Bessey remained a successful farmer for the rest of his long life. He and Mary Jane had seven children; two boys and five girls. Mary Jane passed away in 1920, and ill health began to take its hold on her husband. Fourteen months later on May 25, 1921, John Bessey died of inflammation of the heart; less than two miles from where he was born. He was 88 years old.

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