Edward Lear’s Canadian Cousins

[The following is from Steve Uglow’s research on Edward Lear’s family: I posted the first part, on Frederick Harding, a couple of months ago as part of  a discussion of some family portraits.]

The references to cousin Caroline Jones in Canada and to Henry ‘Chesner’ need some digging into Lear’s father’s background.

Jeremiah was the son of Henry Lear [1709-1763] who married Margaret Lester [1710-1795] on 6th May 1744 at All Hallows London Wall. Little is known of Jeremiah’s siblings but there is the will of Margaret who died in 1795. She was living in Hoxton in the parish of St Leonard, Shoreditch and had clearly taken on the sugar business of husband Henry after his death. Is this Margaret Jeremiah’s mother?  The will is proved on 27th January 1795 by the sole executrix, daughter Catherine but only after Catherine and Jeremiah Lear, both of Pentonville, had sworn an oath that this was their mother’s handwriting and their mother’s true will.

The children mentioned in the will includes:

  1. Catherine – she is unmarried at the time of her mother’s death in 1795. Her mother made her the sole executrix which suggests that she is the eldest and close to her mother.
  2. Mary – she is unmarried at the time of her mother’s death in 1795. She is a witness at her sister, Sarah’s, marriage in 1773. This suggests that she was at least 21 and thus born between 1744 and 1752.  There is a record of Mary Lear buried on 6th November 1797 at St Dunstans, Stepney.
  3. John – he is a witness at Sarah’s marriage in 1773. This suggests that he was at least 21 and thus born between 1744 and 1752.
  4. Sarah – she was baptised 9th January 1755 in Liverpool, the daughter of Henry, a sugar boiler, living in Castle St, Liverpool.
  5. Jeremiah (1757-1833)
  6. Henry

Margaret bequeaths  £5 to Mary and John and to Sarah’s children, Thomas and Charles. Henry gets her watch. The real wealth is in the sugarhouse and dwelling house in Wentworth St, Whitechapel and she directs that these be sold. Catherine received half the proceeds as well as her clothes and furniture while the other half was divided between Sarah, Henry and Jeremiah.

In her will, Margaret refers to daughter, Sarah, as Sarah Chesmer (although this is not conclusively legible) and here is the link to the Canadian cousins. On 18th May 1773 a Vicar General Marriage Licence is issued for Chesmer/Lear and on the following day, 19th May, at St Mary’s, Whitechapel, Thomas Chesmer of Whitechapel, bachelor, and Sarah Lear of Whitechapel, spinster and minor, were married. The witnesses are John Lear and Mary Lear, presumably Sarah’s siblings.

Who the Chesmers were is uncertain – one branch of Chesmers/ Chasmers were to be found south of Cranbrook and Sissinghurst in Kent Weald in villages such as  Rolvenden, Benenden. Whether Thomas came from that stock is moot.

By 1795, Sarah and Thomas have at least two children – Thomas and Charles – but Lear refers to cousin Henry ‘Chesner’ and presumably there must be a third son, Henry.  Possibly he is born around 1785 – in May 1821 Henry Chismer, aged 35, sailed on the SS Martha from Liverpool to New York. Described as a merchant, his destination was Canada. [There is a 25/5/1785 baptism on 25th May 1785 in Benenden, Kent, for Henry son of Charles and Elizabeth Chasmar  but this is unlikely to be our Henry as the record has “poor’ for his parents and there is the death of Henry Chasmar, engineer aged 54 in New York in 1839]

By 1809, Henry is an active merchant: the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 26th  January,  advertises the fact that four or five hundred tons of goods may be conveyed to Liverpool on moderate terms if ready for immediate shipment – those interested should  apply to Smith and Chesmer, 3 Copthall  Chambers.

But Henry is either an unlucky, incompetent or downright dishonest businessman – in 1810 a man called Tupper was in business in Valencia and in touch with Horatio Smith, Henry Chesmer and John Down were merchants in London. In April 1810, Chesmer was in Valencia agreeing to buy Spanish wool with Tupper, ship it to England, sell it and divide the proceeds 50/50. Tupper bought £30,000 of wool and shipped it to Bristol. Chesmer arranged for Haythorne and Co in Bristol to sell the wool, not indicating that Tupper had interest in the sale.  In January 1811, Chesmer’s company received advance of £5000 from Haythorne. On 28th February 1811, the company was declared bankrupt [1811: London Gazette,  28th February, the Bankruptcy Commissioners announced a meeting to make a dividend of the estate and effects of bankrupts Horatio Smith, Henry Chesmer and John Down of Great Winchester St.] The impact of this bankruptcy rumbled on throughout the decade – Tupper sued Haythorne in 1815, dividends were announced against Smith, Chesmer and Down, Great Winchester St, merchants [Birmingham Chronicle 14 December 1820] and in 1822, the case of Fisher v Miller [Times 12/11/1822] referred to Chesmer, a bankrupt, who has assigned his property to the plaintiff, Fisher.

His private life also seemed tempestuous – in 1814, in  Rogers v Chesmer [Sheriff’s Court, Bedford Row] Chesmer is sued for assault by a neighbour and for pouring urine over his child. Both live in Sloane St., Knightsbridge [Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser – 2nd June 1814].  Later that year on 27th July, Emily Indiana Chesmer was born and baptised on 1st September at St Lukes, Old St. She was the daughter of Henry and Sarah. The baptismal record said that the couple lived in City Rd and that Henry was a merchant. Emily Chesmer was probably buried at Holy Trinity, Brompton on 4th December 1851.

We have to assume that wife, Sarah, dies  and that his business dealings in England were such as to make the colonies a more attractive place. On 2nd November 1818 in Sorel, Montreal, Canada, Henry Chesmer Esq of Essex in England and Miss Caroline Jones, daughter of Major Robert Jones, of Sorel, were married. The record is signed by contracting parties, father of bride and Maria, sister of bride.

They relocate to the West Indies where Frances Catherine Caroline Chesmer was born on 28th August 1819 in Kingston, Jamaica – the father was recorded as Henry, the mother as Caroline Jones.

But Henry clearly came back and forth to England – in 1820, he was bankrupted again, this time as Henry Chesmer, late of Broad St Buildings but now of Brompton, merchant, trading under the name of Henry Chesmer and Co: Birmingham Chronicle, 9th  March 1820.

In 1820, Henry and Caroline have another child, Jessy, daughter of Henry and Caroline of Brompton Crescent born on 30th September and baptised on 9th March 1821 at St Mary Abbots Church, Kensington.  Two months later, Henry was on the SS Martha from Liverpool to New York

Henry died in 1826 and was buried on 2nd August in Sorel, Montreal, Canada. He was described as a native of England but last from the West Indies and at the time of his death at father in law’s house, Lieutenant-Colonel Jones of the Militia. Two years later, Caroline Jones, daughter of John Jones, widow of Henry Chesmer, merchant of London, married again, to Robert Jones of Stanbridge, gentleman and Quebec politician.

Lear stayed in touch with the Jones family, although they were not related – George Archibald, son of honourable Colonel Jones of Stanbridge and Caroline Chesmer, his wife was baptised in Philipsburg on 1st September  1838. George Archibald, Archie, is not on the Quebec censuses in 1851 or 1861 but accompanies Lear in Egypt in 1867.

Henry’s daughter, Jessy, is a cousin of Lear. She marries Edward Foy. He is a major in the 71st Foot when they marry – on 12th December 1847, The London Gazette reported that  Brevet Major Edward Foy was to be major by purchase, vice Sir Hew Dalrymple. But by 1851, Edward had left the army and was lodging with a silk printer at Woodbine Cottage, Bexley – he was described as a fundholder.

The census was 30th March 1851 – on 21st July, Edward Foy  and Jessie Chesmer married in Iberville, Quebec. They returned to England and by 1871 and were living at Park Gate, Leckhampton. Edward Foy died in 1878 with Jessy as sole executrix of an estate under £60,000. Jessy herself stayed in Leckhampton and died in 1895, leaving £57,772 6s and probate, tantilisingly, to Henry Chesmer Boomer Esq .

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