John Lesslie was born March 5, 1801 to Edward and Grace Lesslie in Dundee, Scotland. At his father’s instruction, John took supplies to Upper Canada in 1820 to open a drug store or general store. John believed York (Toronto) was a prime location, and set up the first business there, doing well because the shop sold high quality stationery on top of general wares. The rest of the family came throughout the 1820s and settled in Dundas. Upon his father’s death in 1828, John moved to Dundas permanently to run the Dundas branch of the business. John gained more prominence in Dundas, inheriting the postmaster job from his father, opening a brewery and becoming more involved in community affairs. Although the family’s relationship with William Lyon Mackenzie was often tenuous, John was a supporter of reform politics which caused him to be temporarily imprisoned and lose his postmaster position in 1838. The relationship with Mackenzie was further tested in 1849 when Mackenzie, by then a polarizing figure, arrived in Dundas. A mob gathered and John Lesslie snuck William Lyon Mackenzie to a friend’s house to avoid danger. John expanded his business in Dundas, buying a brewery and multiple properties in Dundas and Flamborough. John never married, and instead lived with his sister Helen near the corner of Main Street and York Street until his death on December 16, 1882.
Thanks to the students of McMaster University Department of History for their help with this project.