WILSON, MARY ANN (Coates; Beare), homemaker; b. 1830, daughter of George Wilson and Margaret ; m. first William Henry Coates; m. secondly John Beare*, and they had no children; d. 13 Aug. 1908 in Prince Albert, Ont.
Nothing is recorded of Mary Ann Wilson before the death of her first husband (six years her junior) on 29 Jan. 1900 in Prince Albert. All of her life was passed in rural obscurity save for the four years towards the end that probably made her fortune. Even this conclusion is a matter of conjecture and circumstantial evidence. The hard facts are few. After being widowed for 18 months, she married John Beare, a wealthy, recently retired farmer of nearby Greenbank. The wedding took place on 31 July 1901 in Oshawa, some 25 miles away, and was attended by no member of her family nor by any of Beare’s 11 children or their spouses. The groom reduced his age by 6 years, the bride hers by 23.
They went to live in the commodious house in Port Perry purchased by Beare for his retirement. She retained her house in Prince Albert, which the assessment rolls for 1902 list in the name of Mary Ann Beare, a non-resident. In 1905 a small mortgage on the property was discharged; the following year the rolls show the property to be occupied by the owner. In 1908 the death was announced of Mrs John Beare of Prince Albert, age 78. This is all that is recorded of her.
A related fact is the assignment of the mortgages held by John Beare on the properties he had sold to his five sons. In-laws or other connections of the sons took them over and he was paid off. Beare now had over $10,505 cash, along with whatever he had put aside for his retirement. The question arises: did the sons request the transfer of the mortgages to protest their father’s remarriage, or did he, at the urging of his new wife, call them in? In any case, all his money vanished in the four years that he and Mary Ann lived together. He ended his days in poverty, seeking a pig or a chicken from one or the other of his sons, none of whom had any affection for him.
The present generation of Beares knows nothing of this second marriage beyond vague gossip. A son told a neighbour, “Old John had a second marriage to a woman, the Rattler we called her, but it didn’t last long.” A great-grandson said, “We know Johnny Beare had got tangled up with some woman in Prince Albert who took him for all he had.” The only inference to be drawn from this combination of facts and reports is that Mary Ann Coates, at the rather advanced age of 71, achieved swift and remarkable financial success through one of the limited number of options open to a respectable woman in her time and place, marriage. She left no will and we can only guess at how her enterprise was rewarded.
[The few available details of Mary Ann Wilson’s life were drawn from the author’s conversations with the late George Keight of Reach (Scugog) Township, Ont., and the late George K. Beare of Greenbank, Ont.; the assessment rolls for Reach Township (available on microfilm at AO, ms 611); and Mary Ann and John Beare’s obituaries in the North Ontario Observer (Prince Albert, Ont.) of 20 Aug. 1908 and 9 April 1914, respectively. w.h.g.]
W. H. Graham, Greenbank: country matters in 19th century Ontario (Peterborough, Ont., 1988).