One of the older class of residents in the County of Lennox, and one of its most prominent citizens, he having been Speaker of the Provincial Parliament, is John Stevenson, who’s born in the State of New Jersey, August 12, 1812. His parents were Edward and Mary (Large) Stevenson, members of the agricultural community, and both of Quaker descent, his mother dying in the faith of that religious sect. The Stevensons were English, and first settled in Pennsylvania, soon after William Penn went there, the pioneer settler being Surveyor-in-Chief of the States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. One branch of the family went to New Jersey, and some of its members to Virginia. Andrew Stevenson of that State, once Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and at another time Minister to the Court of St. James, being remotely related to the subject of this sketch. The New Jersey branch of this family, as well as those in Pennsylvania, were staunch Quakers.
Edward Stevenson moved from New Jersey to Northern New York, when the son was quite young, and a little later to Canada, settling at first in the County of Leeds. Our subject received his education mainly at Brockville, where he was a schoolmate of Hon. William B. Richards, late Chief Justice of the Dominion of Canada, and afterwards taught a district school one short year, east of Brockville and near Maitland, boarding with Richard Arnold, a son of General Benedict Arnold.
In 1831 Mr. Stevenson removed to Bath, County of Lennox, clerked five years for Henry Lasher, Merchant, and then succeeded him in business in company with his son, John Lasher. This partnership continued for fourteen years. They had at Newburgh in the same County, a branch store, which, on dissolving their connection, Mr. Stevenson took charge of, and in 1851 removed to Napanee, which has since been his home. Here he was a merchant and lumber man until 1868, when he partially retired from business, merely looking after enterprises which had been in charge of his sons, who died while managing them.
Mr. Stevenson was a Justice of the Peace for a long period after settling in Napanee, and was for some time a member of the County Council, and Warden for two terms, obtaining, in the latter position, a little insight into the duties of a presiding officer. This was all the experience he had in that line, when, on being elected to the first Provincial Parliament (1867) he was placed in the Speaker’s chair. He soon posted himself thoroughly on the rules and regulations by which legislative bodies are governed, and made a prompt and efficient presiding officer, holding that office the full term of four years, and no decision of his during that period was reversed.
Mr. Stevenson is a member of the Reform party, and has been since it was organized, being, when in his prime, not only active, but very influential in its interests.
In October, 1841, Miss Phebe Eliza Hall, of New York State, of a Quaker family, was joined in wedlock with Mr. Stevenson, and they have had seven children, losing four of them, two in infancy, and two after nearly reaching middle life. George, an active and efficient business man, having charge of part of his father’s property, died at Napanee, in June, 1873. Edward, who was educated at the University of Toronto, and had been preparing for the Bar, which he was forced to abandon on account of his health, died in Chicago in October 1874, while the extensive piano factory at Kingston was on his hands. He had spent the winters of 1873-74, in Florida, and though very weak, wrote a letter regularly, week after week, for the Napanee Beaver. In the Fall of 1874 he started for Colorado, halting in Chicago to visit friends, and there closed his eyes in death, leaving a wife and one son to mourn their extremely great loss.
John, the oldest of all the children, has a wife and is living with his father; William is also married and lives near Syracuse, N. Y., and Maria, the only daughter, is married to Hon. A. W. Archibald; they reside in Colorado.