WEST, JOHN CONRADE, sailmaker, merchant, politician, and office holder; b. 8 April 1786 in Halifax, son of John Wendel West, blacksmith, and Hannah Rachel Foseler; m. there 1807 Elizabeth Brechin, and they had 13 children; d. there 15 April 1858.
Little is known of John Conrade West until 1809, when he is listed in a deed transaction as a sailmaker in Halifax. He and his brother Jacob Bailey West formed a partnership in 1815 which lasted some four years; thereafter, West continued the business alone until at least 1835. By 1829 he was also a shipowner and the following year he is listed as a merchant with his own flag. Mainly by acquiring seasoned vessels rather than constructing his own, West built an integrated West Indies mercantile fleet, which included the schooner Royal William, the brigantine Pearl, and the brigs Sophia (his first ship), Sir Peregrine Maitland, and Hypolite.
In January 1837 he took his eldest son, Nathaniel Levy, into partnership and the firm became known as C. West and Son; five years later he retired in favour of his son James Thomas and the firm became N. L. and J. T. West. All indications are that he retired from active day-to-day involvement in the firm but it was his money that backed it, as well as the company of his son John Conrad West (J. C. West and Company). By 1847 C. West and Son was again in business, this time being made up of West and his son William Pryor. It appears that West insisted his sons learn the business from the bottom up; all of them who became involved in the mercantile business went to sea and eventually captained ships.
As he lessened his involvement in business, West became active in politics, serving at the municipal level on Halifax’s first city council of 1841, and as a commissioner of streets and of public property. On the provincial level, his involvement was basically financial and, although he never ran for office, he became a liberal and a friend of Joseph Howe*. He also became a leader in forming the Universalist Church in Halifax in March 1843. Until his death he gave generously of his time and money to the growth and development of the church.
Of the last years of his life little is known. The “Shipping Intelligence” columns of local newspapers indicated that C. West and Son was actively involved in the West Indies trade from the same premises as N. L. and J. T. West. At the death of John Conrade West on 15 April 1858, the British Colonist aptly summed up his public life: “As a citizen he served in the city council and acquired by his unaffected courtesy the esteem of the board. As a merchant he was conspicuous for his integrity and enlarged views of commerce; few men passed through life more esteemed.” His private life is best described by his friend Howe, who, on receiving a hair ring from the family, wrote: “Truer friend than your father no man ever had. He stuck to me ‘closer than a brother’ and never wavered in his confidence in the darkest hours of my public life.”
Halifax County Registry of Deeds (Halifax), Deeds, 1810–58 (mfm. at PANS). PAC, MG 24, B29 (mfm at PANS). PANS, MG 1, 942–46; MG 4, 191, 198–99, 215; RG 32, 140, 26 May 1807; RG 35A, 1–3. Acadian Recorder, 1815, 1820, 1837, 1841–42, 1845, 1858. British Colonist (Halifax), 17 April 1858. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 19 March 1844. Novascotian, 1815–58. Times (Halifax), 10 Aug. 1847. Belcher’s farmer’s almanack, 1829–58. Cunnabell’s N.S. almanack, 1842: 24–25. T. M. Punch, “The Wests of Halifax and Lunenburg,” N.S. Hist. Quarterly (Halifax), 6 (1976): 69–86.