The Iansons of Greenbank, Ontario, Canada Information here is taken from Chapter 4 “The Entrepreneur John Ianson, 1807-1884” in Greenbank (full bibliographic details not yet known). The book is about the history of the development of the village of Greenbank in Reach Township, Ontario, Canada. A copy of the chapter was submitted by Debby Ianson.
John Ianson married Margaret Hunter in 1835, in Scarborough, Ontario. He married into a large and prosperous family. John seems to have had an unusual amount of ready cash: between 1844 and 1851 he acquired 538 acres of land with a single mortgage that was paid off in 2 years. When school trustees needed cash to pay off a drunken schoolteacher it was Ianson who came up with the money. He was a frequent creditor and seems always to have had a ready supply of cash, apparently a remarkable thing for a man in his thirties, at a time when little cash was in circulation. In this he was unique in the village of Greenbank at the time.
For the next 20 years the wealth of the township and the Ianson family increased
John and Margaret had five children, four sons and a daughter.
One son was killed in a tornado that destroyed their log house in 1850.
The surviving sons were James, Thomas and William; the daughter, Elizabeth.
According to the census of 1851 John was a farmer with 53 beasts (almost twice the average for the area).
However, John was never, it seems, solely dependent on farming: he also had rents from various properties and he owned a sawmill, he speculated in grain and he lent money.
It is thought that perhaps the money came from John’s wife’s family, and when his career began to falter Margaret seems to have moved to salvage her marriage portion which might otherwise have vanished with his other business enterprises.
John, it seems, was not an easy man to live with, and the marriage of John and Margaret ended in separation in fact, if not in law.
By 1879 Margaret had all goods and chattels in the house and on land transferred to her “nailing down the last detail of her independence”.
This is the last we know of this marriage.
In May of 1884 John Ianson died.
On Margaret’s death two years later, in 1886, the entire property passed to her daughter (not to a son) who enjoyed unconditional possession.
James Ianson (1842-1919) was the eldest son. He is described as:
“a comfortable, easy-going man who never married; his affections were absorbed by his family” . . . “a blue-eyed, smiling man, held in kind memory today by the few that survive.”.
Thomas bred Clydesdale draught horses and left Ontario when he was 33 and settled in Butler, Indiana, USA.
He kept up his interest in the family, and all except William, the youngest son, visited him.
At his death he left an estate described as “of immense proportions” much of which was left to his brother James for life, then to the sons of William.
Thomas Ianson (1846- 1908) also died unmarried.
William Ianson (1849-1924) is remembered as: “close-fisted and censorious” with a wife of similar nature.
“Their ethic required them to hold tight to what was theirs and also to be eager and quick to detect the faults in others and expose them”
So it was that the only son with an allegedly unpleasant temperament was the one who married and left grandchildren to carry on the line. He married Mary McKittrick and had two sons and two daughters.
Elizabeth Ianson (1850-1927) married James McKittrick, easy-going brother of William’s wife, Mary. There was a double wedding, uncharitably said to be because that was a cheaper option than two, and Elizabeth seems to have been as parsimonious as William and Mary! They had one son, John A. McKittrick.
The Grandsons of John Ianson
Donald Ianson (1882-1937) stayed on the farm until he was 30, when he left home to set up a livery stable in Whitby, Ontario. When the need for horses declined he tried several other pursuits in and around Toronto before returning to Greenbank. After some 14 years farming he sold up and returned to Toronto where he spent the rest of his life. His son, James, bought back the Greenbank property. At the time of publication of the book from which this information has been extracted (1988), James was still living there with his daughter and her husband. Wilbert Lesley Ianson (1890-1927) was the younger son and he left home as soon as he was 21. Taking his small inheritance from Uncle Thomas he set up a taxi business in Oshawa in 1912. Thereafter he entered the hotel business and married Eva Sydella Miller, a vigorous and strong-minded woman who provided the energy and stability of the marriage. They had a son (William James) and two daughters (Margaret and Irene): the son helped Eva run their hotel until 1984 when she retired, (Lesley having died back in 1927); whilst one of the daughters owned another hotel in a nearby resort.
Jane Ianson (1878-1953) (“Jenny”) lived most of her life at home with her parents. Her particular burden was the care of her younger sister, Lulu Merle who was both mentally and physically handicapped. She was financially independent, but when her parents and her sister died between 1924 and 1927, her late marriage in middle age was to a man who “wasted her inheritance”.
Nevertheless, she appears to have been “an attractive, cheerful woman, with an excellent natural style”. All the older generation made some provision for her in their wills, but she died with virtually nothing to leave her own nephews and nieces. She had spent her last twelve years in impoverished widowhood.
The Ianson chapter from the “Greenbank” book was supplied to me by Debby Ianson, an adopted daughter of Lesley’s son, William James. She is currently studying for her PhD at the University of British Columbia.
Chapter 4 of the book is full of vivid detail of this family and the economic situation of the times that effected their rise and fall.
John Ianson is said to have come from county Westmoreland, England at the age of 25, landing at a port in USA. He went straight to Canada to join his brother, James Ianson, in Scarborough, Upper Canada (now Ontario). Does anyone know more of this Westmorland family of Iansons?