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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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WILLISTON, JOHN THOMAS (1791-1865)

WILLISTON, JOHN THOMAS, businessman, JP, customs officer, and MLA; b. Bay du Vin, 20 Aug 1791, s/o John Bailey Williston and Phoebe Stymiest; brother of Edward Williston; m. 1830, Elizabeth Muncey, of Halifax; d. Chatham, 23 Mar 1865.

A son of the most respected Loyalist settler in the Bay du Vin district, John T. Williston was a man of standing on the Miramichi while still in his twenties. In 1822 he was commissioned as an ensign in the 1st Battalion of militia, and he was promoted to lieutenant in 1826. In 1824 he was named a justice of the peace and designated as one of three officers of the Chatham Fire Company. In the same year, in partnership with W. H. Richardson, he bought the property on which he built the stylish stone house which still stands in Chatham, as the town's most notable historic structure. He also had a store in Chatham in 1828.

Williston took his brother Phineas into partnership in 1833 for the purpose of erecting and conducting a sawmill at Black Brook. The mill was in operation in 1836, when it was announced that J. & P. Williston had been succeeded by P. Williston & Bros, of which the partners were Phineas, William, and Alexander Williston. However, John T. Williston continued to be responsible for the mill and placed an advertisement in 1839 for a millwright.

As more fully described in the entries on John Hea, John Ambrose Street, and others, Williston entered politics in a controversial manner in 1842, when he was nominated as "the people's candidate," in opposition to the two sitting assemblymen. He was one of the winners of the vote but his victory was voided because of the intimidation which attended the election. He was not a nominee in 1846 but was among the winners of the election of 1850. Controversy pursued him to Fredericton, however, due to the lawsuit which he had launched against Gleaner editor James A. Pierce (q.v.). Pierce stated that by attacking the press he had "thrust his head into a hornet's nest" and would "feel their sting," and indeed contempt was heaped on him by newspapers throughout New Brunswick and British North America.

Williston was a failed candidate for re-election in 1854. In September of that year he was appointed deputy treasurer of customs for the port of Chatham, as successor to Thomas H. Peters, and he held that post for the remainder of his life. In the 1850s and 60s he was a commissioner of the Seamen's Hospital. For many years he was a vestryman of St Paul's Church, and he had been in a controversial situation of another kind in 1846, as one of the officers of the church who attempted to have the Rev. James Hudson ousted from his position as missionary.

Williston tended to meet trouble half way and could be relentless in his pursuit of a cause, but he was universally admired for his many talents and the fact that he was "a man of the strictest integrity and veracity." Although "quick of temper," observed The Gleaner, he had a "large and kind heart." He and his wife, Eliza Muncey, had eight children living at home in 1851, the eldest of whom, Eliza J. Williston, later married James C. E. Carmichael.

Sources

[b] Williston Collection [m] NB Courier 28 Aug 1830 [d] Gleaner 25 Mar 1865 / Facey-Crowther; Fraser (C and L); Gleaner 16 Apr 1833, 31 May 1836, 12 Jun 1836, 12 Feb 1839, 30 May 1846, 30 Sep 1850, 30 Sep 1854, 11 Aug 1855; Graves; Martin; Mercury 29 Apr 1828; NB Almanac & Reg.; Spray (ENC)

Remarques

i) See John Hea, John Ambrose Street, and James A. Pierce. ii) Nothing was found to support the frequently-published statement that Williston was a lawyer.


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