JESSEN, DETTLIEB (Detleff) CHRISTOPHER, office holder, militia officer, judge, and politician; b. 25 Feb. 1730 in Holstein (Federal Republic of Germany); m. 2 Jan. 1755 Francisca Barbara Rudolf in Lunenburg, N.S.; d. there 12 Aug. 1814.
Dettlieb Christopher Jessen came to Halifax from Hamburg (Federal Republic of Germany) in the Speedwell in 1751, and was among the first settlers of the town of Lunenburg in 1753. A wine-cooper by occupation, he had some education, a tolerable understanding of English, and something in the way of means. Turning these assets to advantage, he was listed as “gentleman” rather than as “artificer” in the Speedwell’s registers, and over the years at Lunenburg he occupied many of “the little official positions . . . which the government distributed among the better educated and more reliable of the settlers.” A lieutenant in the militia in 1753, he rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel of the county militia. For at least 11 years he was foreman of working parties, and in the first years of the settlement he acted as muster-master in charge of the victualling lists. A justice of the peace from the early 1760s, Jessen also served at various times as naval officer for the town, judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, registrar of deeds, and collector of customs and excise. While a member of the House of Assembly for Lunenburg County between 1785 and 1793, he concentrated largely on his constituents’ needs.
As lieutenant-colonel of militia, he was to the fore in defending Lunenburg against the American privateer attack of July 1782, and for his efforts had his house robbed, during the occupation of the town by the Americans, of most of his clothes, the furniture, plate, and a good deal of money, the value of which he estimated at £700. What distinguished Jessen most in his public activities, however, was his humaneness and generosity. As justice of the peace, he would not use his office to enrich himself. When anyone “through accident comes into A Scrap, I have always endeavoured to mitigate between neighbour & neighbour without taking any Feese.” After outlining the procedure to be followed, he arranged for the disputants to meet, usually by themselves, and often the matter was “Ajusted without any Judge or Jury or expense either to [plaintiff] or [defendant] and those people remain Good neighbours.” To avoid having to give up the justiceship, he declined an appointment as sheriff in 1783, the more so because “the Fees accruing from said office proceeds on distresses of others.”
Jessen was a principal benefactor of both St John’s Anglican Church and Zion Lutheran Church in Lunenburg. To the latter he donated a silver paten and two chalices; to the former £140, and, on his deathbed, a bell for its steeple and a complete set of plate for its altar.