SARGENT, JOHN, businessman, jp, judge, politician, and militia officer; b. late 1750 in Salem, Mass., second son of Epes Sargent and his second wife, Catherine Winthrop, a descendant of Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; m. 1784 Margaret Barnard, née Whitney, in Boston, and they had three sons and one daughter; d. 23 or 24 Jan. 1824 in Barrington, N.S.
John Sargent was a member of a family prominent in Salem. His father was a noted merchant trading to the West Indies, and John joined the family business. In 1772 he was appointed by Governor Thomas Hutchinson as ensign to a company of militia. He was the first person in Salem to sign an address of welcome to Governor Thomas Gage* on his arrival in June 1774, and this act marked him for persecution by the patriots. Forced to flee to Boston in February 1775, in November he became a first lieutenant in the Loyal American Associates, a loyalist corps formed for the defence of the town. With the evacuation of Boston in March 1776 he went with the troops to Halifax and then sailed for England, where he received an allowance of £100 as a distressed loyalist.
On his return to North America in 1777 Sargent was appointed an ensign in Edmund Fanning*’s King’s American Regiment, and on 25 July 1779 a lieutenant. By 1781 he was at Beaufort, S.C., as an assistant commissary, and at a later date went to Charleston, S.C., where he remained until its evacuation in December 1782. In the mean time he had been formally expelled from Massachusetts by the Banishment Act of 1778.
The King’s American Regiment was disbanded at the close of the war, and Sargent went on half pay. He then came to Barrington, a settlement founded in the early 1760s by New England immigrants mainly from Massachusetts. There he purchased several lots, acquired a sturdy oak frame-house, a store, and a wharf, and built a fish-house, all to re-establish himself as a merchant and shipowner. In his schooners Lucy and Argo he exported fish and imported barrels of bread, flour, and Indian corn from New York and Boston; from Jamaica and other West Indian islands came puncheons of rum, sugar, and molasses. He is also known to have possessed the fishing vessels Sally and Lilly. Owner of a sawmill, in 1792 Sargent built a grist-mill near the Barrington River at a cost of nearly £300. He had some dealings with Simeon Perkins* of Liverpool, who recorded in June 1811 that when Sargent came to call he looked “very Smart & Healthy.”
Sargent made a marked contribution to the political and military life of Barrington Township and Shelburne County. In 1784 he was appointed a justice of the peace for Queens County, and after Shelburne County was split off in 1785 he became one for Barrington Township. In 1813 he was made a justice of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas for the county. Sargent was elected by acclamation to the House of Assembly for Barrington Township in 1793, and held the position until his retirement in 1818, when he was succeeded by his son William Browne. His two other sons, John and Winthrop, also sat in the assembly at various times. As a militia officer, Sargent rose to high rank; in 1814 he was lieutenant-colonel of the 12th (Barrington) Battalion of Militia. A firm supporter of the Methodist church, Sargent passed his beliefs on to his children. At his death he was known and respected as a man of upright character and a public-spirited citizen.
Shelburne County Court of Probate (Shelburne, N.S.), Estate papers, A232 (John Sargent) (mfm. at PANS). Methodist Burial Ground (Barrington, N.S.), Tombstone inscriptions. PANS, MG 1, 797B; 1130; MG 4, 141, Barrington, Methodist reg. of baptisms and marriages, 1790–1822 (typescript); Places: Shelburne County, Court of General Sessions records, 28 March 1786 (mfm.); RG 1, 169: 101. PRO, AO 12/105: 82 (mfm. at PAC); HO 76/1–2 (mfm. at Dalhousie Univ. Arch., Halifax). “United Empire Loyalists: enquiry into losses and services,” AO Report, 1904: 638. Epes Sargent of Gloucester and his descendants, ed. Emma Worcester Sargent and C. S. Sargent (Boston and New York, 1923), 6, 307–9. Stark, Loyalists of Mass. (1910), 137–38. Edwin Crowell, A history of Barrington Township and vicinity . . . 1604–1870 (Yarmouth, N.S., ; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1973), 113, 292, 297, 364, 445. Murdoch, Hist. of N.S. A. E. Marble and T. M. Punch, “Sir J. S. D. Thompson: a prime minister’s family connections,” N.S. Hist. Quarterly, 7 (1977): 377–88.