The Bidwells

Though the Bidwells are not directly related to Ham House, they are important in early American and Upper Canada history and particularly Marshall Bidwell seemed to be a constant foe of George Ham in just about every turn of his life.

Barnabus Bidwell was born in Massachusetts in 1763 (1), the son of 'Revolutionary War Patriot' Reverend Adonijah Bidwell. Educated at Yale, he was a Massachusetts State Senator from 1801-1804, was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1805 and was a Massachusetts State Representative from 1805-1807. He also served as a Democratic-Republican in the 9th and 10th Congresses. In the House of Representatives he became the leading spokesman of President Thomas Jefferson, and was the Attorney General of Massachusetts until 1810 when he was accused of irregularities in an earlier role as the Berkshire County Treasurer. Though in the end only $63.18 was found out of order - the error of a clerk, the Federalist Party exaggerated the offense, apparently in an effort to prevent his being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1810 Bidwell fled to Canada with his family. There he took up the position at the Bath Academy two blocks from Ham House.

In 1821 Barnabus won the seat for Lennox and Addington in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada. However the Tories were successful in removing him from his seat under the pretense that he had plead allegiance to the U.S. and that there were questions surrounding the circumstances of his leaving the U.S.

Barnabus Bidwell died in Bath in 1833.

Marshall Spring Bidwell was Barnabus' son and was born in 1799. He studied law in Kingston and was called to the Upper Canada Bar in 1821 (2).

Figure 2. Kingston Chronicle, March 14, 1823.

In 1823 Marshall ran in a by-election for the Lennox and Addington seat against George Ham. The observation that the 'contest is expected to be severe' makes it clear the level of antagonism between George and Marshall. George won by 13 votes. In 1824 Marshall won the seat which he held until 1836. He was elected Speaker of the Assembly in 1828. Though he was not involved, in 1837 the Tories accused Marshall of complicity with the Rebels during the Upper Canada Rebellion and he fled to New York City.

Marshall was admitted to the New York bar in 1838 and became a partner with George Washington Strong. He remained in New York until his death in 1872. There is some suggestion that Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Bond Head forced Marshall out after Head's refusal to appoint Marshall as a judge played a role in Head's dismissal as governor by the Colonial Office.

In addition to political jousting with George Ham, Marshall represented George Ham's estranged wife Hester in the spectacular family lawsuit of 1826.

In 1828 it was Marshal who coined the term 'Family Compact' and there is little doubt that George Ham was a prominent model for that 'institution'.




1. Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume VI, University of Toronto, University of Laval, 2016

2. Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume X, University of Toronto, University of Laval, 2016