JESSUP, EDWARD, army officer, land speculator, judge, office holder, and militia officer; b. either 4 or 24 Dec. 1735 in the parish of Stamford, Conn., son of Joseph Jessup and Abigail James; m. 1760 Abigail Dibble, and they had two children; d. 3 Feb. 1816 in Prescott, Upper Canada.
Although the Jessups had lived in Connecticut for several generations, Joseph Jessup moved his family to the “Upper Nine Partners Patent” in Dutchess County, N.Y., in 1744. Edward Jessup raised a company and served as a captain in Jeffery Amherst*’s campaign of 1759 in the Lake Champlain region, and probably became aware at that time of the opportunities available in northern New York. About 1764 Edward and his brother Ebenezer moved to Albany. There they formed a partnership, and over the next decade the two engaged in land speculation on a grand scale in the upper Hudson and Lake George areas. In their speculations they were no doubt aided by their close relationship with Sir William Johnson* and John Butler*. The brothers eventually established a community, with mills and a ferry, about ten miles above Glen Falls on the Hudson. This settlement, which became known as Jessup’s Landing, was a focus of loyalism in the years just before the revolution, and when Sir Guy Carleton succeeded in driving the American forces out of the province of Quebec in the summer of 1776 the Jessups led a party of some 80 loyalists to join him at Crown Point (N.Y.).
The Jessup party was first attached to Sir John Johnson*’s King’s Royal Regiment of New York, but on 7 June 1777 the King’s Loyal Americans corps was tentatively established with Ebenezer as lieutenant-colonel and Edward as captain. Although the corps was not fully formed, the Jessup brothers took part in John Burgoyne*’s campaign, with Edward as commander of the bateaux service on the Hudson. Both Edward and Ebenezer were taken prisoner in the Saratoga campaign but were paroled and allowed to make their way to Quebec.
Since many members of the King’s Loyal Americans were dispersed during the Burgoyne fiasco, the unit never attained its established strength and remained for the next four years a semi-independent appendage of Johnson’s regiment, engaged mainly in building, repairing, and garrisoning fortifications around Montreal, Sorel, and lower Lake Champlain, although it also took part in several raids into New York. Edward went on such raids in October 1780 and again the following fall. It was probably these services, as well as his administrative capacities, that led Governor Haldimand to choose Edward over Ebenezer as major commandant of the new corps of Loyal Rangers, created 12 Nov. 1781 from a number of smaller military formations including the Loyal Americans. The new corps soon became known as Jessup’s Rangers. Until their disbandment on 24 Dec. 1783 the Rangers were employed in the same kind of duties that had previously engaged the Loyal Americans. They were usually stationed at Sorel or Verchères and provided garrisons for posts at Yamaska, Rivière-aux-Chiens, Île aux Noix, and Dutchman’s Point (near Alburg, Vt).
With the war lost, Jessup began in the summer of 1783 to plan the resettlement of his corps and was one of those who proposed the Ottawa River and the upper St Lawrence for that purpose. Although his proposal for structured settlements based on military rank was rejected, Haldimand incorporated a number of his other ideas into the plan finally adopted. In that plan Jessup’s Rangers were allotted townships No.6 (Edwardsburg), No.7 (Augusta), and part of No.8 (Elizabethtown), all on the St Lawrence, as well as No.2 (Ernestown), west of Cataraqui (Kingston). Jessup spent the summer of 1784 supervising the settlement of his men on their new lands and in the fall of that year journeyed to London, England, to submit a claim for his losses during the revolution. He returned to Quebec by 1788 and took up his own land grant of 1,200 acres in Augusta Township, immediately opposite Fort Oswegatchie (Ogdensburg, N.Y.) on the St Lawrence and beside the lots granted to his son, Lieutenant Edward Jessup.
In the post-war years Jessup resumed his career as a land speculator. As a loyalist and a major he was entitled to considerable land beyond his 1,200 acres, and he shortly applied for and was granted 3,800 acres in a single block on the South Nation River (Ont.); he apparently intended to settle and develop it but there is no evidence that he was able to do so. He also had considerable land in the seigneury of Sorel, where his family lived until at least the late 1780s and possibly longer. It seems he had some standing with both Haldimand and Carleton (now Lord Dorchester), although not enough either to persuade the government to invest £6,000 in a plan to provide loyalist settlers with cattle in return for oak barrel staves, or to gain approval for a township settlement scheme he drew up with three American entrepreneurs who, he assured Dorchester, were “Loyalist in heart.” Haldimand, however, made him a justice of the peace; and Dorchester, besides recommending him for the Executive Council of Upper Canada, appointed him a judge of the Court of Common Pleas and lieutenant-colonel of the Edwardsburg, Augusta, and Elizabethtown militia.
Jessup was not able to maintain his influence after the establishment of the new colony of Upper Canada in 1791. In the struggle for place at York (Toronto) it was Ephraim Jones and Solomon Jones* who won out, not Jessup; Lieutenant Governor Simcoe did not take up Dorchester’s recommendation of Jessup for the Executive Council. Yet by this point age may well have begun to make Jessup less competitive since his son did achieve some standing. Edward Jr sat for Grenville in the second session of the legislature of Upper Canada, succeeded his father as lieutenant-colonel of the local militia in 1795, and was appointed a clerk of the peace for the Johnstown District in 1800 and a clerk of the Court of Common Pleas in 1802.
In 1810 Jessup and his son laid out the town of Prescott, named after Governor Robert Prescott, along the front of their St Lawrence River lands, but only two years later their own home sites were expropriated by the army for the construction of Fort Wellington. Jessup’s active career, however, was now over. By 1812 he was no longer able to conduct business for himself, and when he died in February 1816 he had been bedridden and “afflicted with the palsy” for several years and could not even sign his name.
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