Edward Lesslie was born in 1765 in Dundee, Scotland. His father was a sailor but he chose a different career for himself, becoming a bookseller and inkmaker. Edward Lesslie went on to marry Grace Watson in 1798 and they began a family together – they would have 13 children in all. Not much is known about his life in Scotland but Edward was one of the leaders of the radical movement in the country and given the unstable political and economic climate, he decided to move his family to Canada. He sent his son, John with wares to open a store in York (present day Toronto). On this voyage, John brought infamous reformer and temporary Dundas resident, William Lyon Mackenzie who was a family friend to the Lesslies. Based upon the success of this store, Edward planned to move the entire family but Grace became sick and prevented their emigration. Instead, he sent his sons James and Charles and his daughter, Grace to Dundas where they operated a store and opened another at Kingston. The rest of the family arrived shortly after, and the Lesslie family achieved great success and recognition, holding lots of property in Dundas, and expanding their business, Lesslie and Sons to three different important towns in Upper Canada. In addition, Edward was instrumental in the establishment of the Free Church which was shared for a number of religious denominations and became the postmaster in Dundas. The Lesslie family, with Edward at the helm also operated a lending service in Dundas until a bank was opened in 1833. For Edward, this was short-lived however as he took ill and died in 1828 leaving behind his successful business to his wife, Grace and their remaining children. The family home was at 34 Baldwin Street, and William Lyon Mackenzie stayed with the family during his time in Dundas.
Thanks to the students of McMaster University Department of History for their help with this project.