To give some context: Robert and Ann Elliot brought their children, including our ancestor William Elliot, to Ontario in 1827 and they settled in Dundas. Robert came to Canada with his brother Josiah but they didn't settle in the same place; Josiah became a merchant in Beachville, Ontario. Robert was a currier or leatherworker in England, but his occupation in Canada is unknown. William was 15 when the family arrived; in his twenties he farmed briefly, then worked in the Lesslie pharmacy and eventually took it over from the Lesslie family with a partner. William moved to Toronto in 1854 to broaden his business horizons, and his father Robert died that same year. Robert's wife Anne's death date is unknown.
David Oliphant, meanwhile, arrived in Canada in 1822 with one son, and his wife and three other children joined him within a few years. He was a shoemaker in Scotland and lived as a shoemaker in Dundas as well, although family letters refer to David and Sophia living on a family farm. Their children were Alexander, Mary (our ancestress, who married William Elliot), David Jr. and William. David died in Dundas in 1841. He was an enthusiastic member of the Disciples of Christ church, and his son David Jr. was educated at Bethany College, a Christian college in Virginia, and went on to become editor of several Disciple newspapers.
I was primarily hoping to find out more about the lives of Robert and Ann Elliot in Canada, and unfortunately I didn't find anything. However, we did find lots of references to William Elliot and to the Oliphant family, primarily in the Lesslie family fonds, and we did find some scattered information about both families in other sources.
From the Woodhouse Family History collection (a collection of index cards giving point form information on various Dundas families): Maria Elliot (Robert and Anne's daughter) married 1/1/1828 to David Yates of Dundas, also Louisa Elliot (another daughter of Robert and Ann) married 1/1/1828 (the same day!) to Thomas Hilton of Dundas.
We found a copy of the Dundas Centennial 1847-1947 Souvenir Historial Program, "Produced under the direction of the Dundas Centennial Committee by the Star Printing Company of Dundas", which on page 45 had something to say about David Oliphant Sr.
"David Oliphant, one of the earliest shoemakers in 1819, had a son Alexander who was very prominent in the Union Sabbath School in 1829. David is reputed to have sheltered his relative, Samuel Lount, after the 1837 rebellion. Maybe if Lount had remained hidden in Dundas he might never have been captured or executed."
I don't believe that Lount was a relative of the Oliphant family, but various sources do state that it was Oliphant who hid Lount as he was trying to escape Upper Canada.
The more I learn about the Lesslie family, the more I feel that they were touchstones of a sort, bringing together and influencing various families from which we descend. It's almost certain that our family story would not have taken the shape that it does without the influence of the Lesslies on the business, religious and social lives of the Scotts, Elliots and Oliphants. The Lesslies were members of the Disciples of Christ church and successful businessmen in Dundas, Toronto and Kingston. The Lesslie family was originally from Dundee, Scotland. Here is a biographical sketch of the family from the Dundas Archives:
Edward Lesslie was born in May 1765. He married Grace (Grizel) Watson on August 13, 1798 in Dundee. Although his father was a sailor, Edward Lesslie established himself as a bookseller and printers ink maker in Dundee. He is described in the Scottish Book Trade Index as a leader of the advanced radicals who narrowly escaped prosecution for sedition....by 1819 he decided to emigrate to Canada with his family. He sent his son John in 1820 with a supply of goods to open a store. Upon arrival, John chose York (Toronto) and, together with his travelling companion, William Lyon Mackenzie, established a business in the book and drug trade. They later opened a store in Dundas, which, in addition to drugs and books, dealt in a variety of other merchandise. In 1822, ill health prevented the emigration of the remaining family so Edward sent his sons James and Charles, and daughter Grace on a chartered brig loaded with supplies for the stores. James ended up in Kingston, operating a store there for the next four years. In the meantime, Edward and Grace and their remaining children finally arrived in Upper Canada and settled in Dundas where they operated the store now named Lesslie and Sons. The Lesslie family played an important role in early life in Dundas. They operated a thriving business and owned considerable land in the area. Edward Lesslie was instrumental in establishing the Free Church in Dundas, which offered meeting space to a variety of denominations. John Lesslie would continue to manage the store in Dundas, become the postmaster, and purchase a brewery. He and three of his sisters remained in Dundas. Edward Lesslie died in 1828 and management of the business fell to the sons, John, James, Charles, and William. John remained in charge of the Dundas branch while James operated the York store with the help of their youngest brother, Joseph. William operated the store in Kingston. Charles emigrated to Davenport, Iowa, disillusioned after the rebellion of 1837. He would remain there for the rest of his life. Joseph Lesslie eventually became postmaster of Toronto.
Here are some of the connections I already knew. James Lesslie was responsible for the Scott family coming to Canada, as Thomas Chalmers Scott had originally intended to immigrate to America. This is what Scott's obituary in the Toronto Globe Newspaper has to say about Scott's change of mind:
Upon his arrival at New York [in 1842], however, he met with Mr. James Lesslie, of this city, who persuaded him to come to Toronto, and took him into his employment. For several years he continued his connection with the Examiner, of which Mr. Lesslie was the editor and publisher....
The connection of the Lesslies to the Elliots is obvious; William Elliot received his pharmaceutical training in the Lesslie pharmacy in Dundas, and eventually took over the Lesslie family businesses in Dundas before he moved to Toronto. William Elliot was also a member of the Disciples Church, and probably worshipped with the Lesslie family in Dundas. Since the Lesslies were close to William Lyon MacKenzie, I think we can assume that William Elliot got to know MacKenzie through his connection with the Lesslies, even though MacKenzie had relocated to York (Toronto) by the time the Elliot family landed in Dundas. MacKenzie is a huge figure in Ontario and Toronto history and I have a lot of questions about his political influence on William Elliot and other members of our family, which I will save for another post.
The sources we examined in the Lesslie family fonds were a scrapbook and a diary kept by John Lesslie. The scrapbook consisted of unidentified newspaper clippings, primarily about politics, and recipes for pharmaceutical medicines (most of these were handwritten and not from published sources). The recipes were rather fascinating; there was a recipe for a medicine to cure smallpox, for example, as well as a cure for cancer. From a modern perspective, not many of the recipes looked particularly promising. It gave me a lot of insight into why William and his son Robert Watt became so invested in regulating their profession and in the education and training of pharmacists in college settings, where subjects like chemistry were taught. Although advertisements for various remedies that the Elliot pharmacy sold in Dundas were sweepingly optimistic, William must have noticed that in actual practice not all of his medicines were that effective.
John Lesslie's diary was very business-like, with short factual entries about goings-on in the business and in his religious and/social spheres. He also recorded the weather. William Elliot's name came up frequently, which was not surprising since he worked for John. William seems to have travelled for the business quite a bit throughout Ontario and the diary records his comings and goings. MacKenzie's name shows up fairly frequently as well, and surprisingly, so does David Oliphant Jr.'s. John records David's going to Bethany College in Virginia and his coming home, for example. There appears to be a close relationship between John and David Jr., who will eventually become William's brother-in -law when William marries David's sister Mary Oliphant. Thomas Chalmers Scott's various visits to Dundas, presumably to preach, were also mentioned.
|A page from John Lesslie's diary, 1843. Thomas C. Scott and Wm. Elliot both mentioned.|