John Hossack: Abolitionist, Underground Railway Railroad Conductor and Station Master, Canal Builder, Merchant, Fugitive Slave Law Violator, Spark for the Civil War.


F.N.Hossack Letter

John Hossack of Ottawa, Illinois.  Abolitionist, Underground Railway Conductor, Canal Builder.  Grain and Lumber Merchant.  Crusader for Human Rights and Liberty.  Man of God.  He feared God and loved his Fellow Man.



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Of all that is known about the Hossacks who came from Scotland to Canada, in days that seem a long while ago, when the Hossacks carried on a fishing business on the sea coast of Scotland, from the middle of 1700 to the early 1800, but later became farmers.

It is supposed that a great many years ago the Hossacks came from Denmark, although there is nothing authentic about this statement and that the name was spelled with only one s (Hosack). It is not known when the spelling was changed or why.

We are not able to trace the name very far back; not farther than our great-grandfather, so we will start with him, who was


He came from Morayshire, Scotland, of the Parish of Duffis, four miles from Elgin, and he was a farmer. He married a widow Mrs. Colley. We know nothing of the date of the birth or death of either, but know there were two sons named John and William, and two daughters; they all went to Quebec, Canada.

bulletJOHN HOSSACK - (the 1st)

MARGARET FORSYTH HOSSACK, MOTHER OF JOHN HOSSACK, ABOLITIONISTWas the son of William, as mentioned above. He was born in the year 1778 and died February 9, 1855 - 77 years of age. He married Margaret Forsyth,--> who was born in the year 1782 and died in 1868 - 86 years of age. They lived on a farm in Scotland. They had nine children, as follows:

John Hossack, 2nd, Born 1806 and died 1891, age 85, married Martha Lens.

William Hossack 2nd, born 1808 and died 1889, age 81 married Martha Bates.

Agnes Hossack, born 1811 and died 1897, age 86 married Robert Geggie.

James Hossack 2nd, born 1812 and died 1889, age 77 married Barbara McKinsie.

Margaret Hossack, born 1815 and died 1901, age 86 married Joseph Wilson.

Alexander Hossack, born 1819 and died 1908, age 89 married Martha Bates.

(Daughter of Martha Bates above)

George Hossack, born 1820 and died 1840, age 20.

Archibald Hossack, born 1822 and died 1832, age 10.

Henry Hossack, born 1824 and died 1832, age 8.  Both Archibald and Henry died of ship fever) after arrival in Quebec

John Hossack, 2nd, at the early age of 12 years, and his brother William, only ten years old, came across the ocean to Quebec in 1818 and lived with their Uncle William, a brother of John Hossack, 1st. They went to school, and as they grew older helped in their Uncle’s confectionery store.

In 1829 James and Alexander came over from Scotland, and in 1832, the father, mother and the five younger children crossed in a packet, a small sailing vessel. It took six weeks to cross the ocean. They settled on a farm near Quebec City, on the Little River Road on the banks of the St. Charles River which flows into the St. Lawrence River at Quebec City. Farming was carried on until John Hossack, 1st, was taken sick and went into the City for treatment and lived with his son James until his death, Sept 9, 1855. His wife, Margaret Forsyth Hossack also made her home with her son James until her death, June 10, 1868, at the age of 86.

bulletJOHN HOSSACK - 2nd, Ottawa, Illinois, Abolitionist

John Hossack, 2nd, born Dec. 6, 1806. Details of his early life are previously given. He was married April 25th 1833 to Martha Lens, in Quebec, and came to the United States and was a contractor on the Illinois and Michigan Canal; later went on a farm near Lockport, Illinois and from there in 1849 to Ottawa, Illinois, where he entered into the grain and lumber business, being one of the first to ship grain to Chicago by way of the Canal. The canal boat bringing back lumber to Ottawa.

On Sept. 4, 1859, he, with others, rescued a Negro held in slavery under the Fugitive Slave Law. From U. S. Marshals at Ottawa, and sent him on his way to Canada and freedom. John Hossack was fined by Judge Drummond of the U. S. District Court under the Fugitive Slave Law. Before sentence was passed he was asked if he had anything to say why sentence should not be pronounced against him and he delivered a speech only equaled by Lincoln’s Gettysburg speech, and excelled in eloquence and pathos by none. The citizens of Chicago were aroused and since they were opposed to slavery they paid his fine and that of the others. There was talk of having him run for Governor of Illinois on an Abolition ticket.

About the year 1873 he began to lose his sight and later went blind. He died at the age of 85 at Ottawa, Illinois, Nov. 8, 1891, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Milo Putney. His sons and sons-in-law carried his remains to the last resting place in Ottawa, Illinois.

MARTHA LENS, ANN GILLEY LENS, ANNIE HOSSACK, FANNIEFrom Left, Infant Fannie Martha Richardson, Annie Hossack Richardson Price, Martha Lens Hossack, and Ann Gilley Lens, circa 1859 -->

Martha Lens, his wife, was an ideal wife and mother. She was born Nov. 28, 1813 in Greenock, Scotland. She was the daughter of Cord Lens and Ann Gilley. Cord Lens was born in Hanover, Germany. He went to Scotland to avoid military training. We have heard that Ann Gilley’s mother’s family were from Wales. Martha Lens died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. John E. Scott at Evanston, Illinois, Aug. 30, 1899 at the age of 86 years, and buried at Ottawa, Illinois.

John and Martha Hossack celebrated their golden wedding April 25, 1883, and all of their eleven children were present. They lived together for 58 years and six months until the passing of John Hossack. There was not a death in the family for 54 years.


 1. Anna (Annie) Hossack Richardson Price, born Feb. 26, 1835, married Wm. C. Richardson, Nov. 19th 1855. He died May 11, 1868 and she married David J. Price, April 5, 1883. She died at Ottawa, Ill, Oct. 29, 1916, age 81 yrs. All were buried at Ottawa, Illinois.

2. George Barnett Hossack, born Aug. 31, 1836, married Margaret Frame, Dec. 4, 1862. She was born in 1840 and died Dec. 22, 1913. George died at Girard, Kansas, Aug. 26, 1911, age 75 yrs. Their married life was 49 years. Both were buried at Girard, Kansas.

3. Margaret Hossack, born Feb. 16, 1838, married Joseph E. Porter, March 22, 1860. He was born May 1, 1831 and died Sept. 21, 1902. Margaret died at Ottawa, Ill, Oct. 17, 1904, age 66 yrs. Both were buried at Ottawa, Illinois.

4. John Forsyth Hossack, born Sept. 13, 1840, married Mary Babcock, Nov. 13, 1867. She was born in Jan. 7, 1848 and died May 9, 1930. John died at Ottawa, Ill. June 10, 1887, age 47 years. Both were buried at Odell, Illinois.

5. Henry (Harry) Lens Hossack, born April 27, 1842, married Medora Tuttle, June 27, 1866. She died in 1901 and was buried at Ottawa, Ill. He married Alice Jennings in 1903. She was born Oct. 24, 1865 and is still living. Henry died in Pasadena, May 20, 1936, age 94 yrs. and was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Glendale, California.

6. Louise Hossack, born Dec. 21, 1843, married Wm. W. Calkins, Jan. 25, 1865. He was born May 29, 1842 and died July 9, 1914. Louise died in Chicago, Sept. 23, 1918, age 75 yrs. Their married life was 49 yrs. Both were buried at Ottawa, Illinois.

7. William Hossack, born Feb. 10, 1846, married Ella Francis Kenyon, Dec. 17, 1867. She was born in 1847 and died Aug. 11, 1881. He married Augusta Strawn June 23, 1884. She died in 1929, and William died Feb. 11, 1920, age 74 yrs. Both were buried at Delphos, Kansas.

8. James Alexander Hossack was born March 4, 1848, married Ermina Bell Dewey, Nov. 18, 1874. She was born Sept. 11, 1851 and died May 10, 1907. James died Oct. 5, 1892, age 44 yrs. Both were buried at Ottawa, Illinois.

9. Harriet Emma Hossack was born Feb. 2, 1851, married John Edwin Scott, Feb. 2, 1869. He was born Aug. 23, 1843, died Feb. 25, 1918, age 75 yrs. Harriet Emma died in Pasadena, Sept. 5, 1936, age 85 yrs. Their married life was 49 yrs. Both were buried at Rose Hill Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois.

10. Frederick Newton Hossack, born Jan. 8, 1856, married Myra Ella Babcock, Oct. 27, 1881. She was born April 25, 1860. Both are living at this writing. They celebrated their Golden Wedding in 1931 by a reception given them by their sister, Mrs. John E. Scott at Pasadena. They were the only couple out of the eleven children who could celebrate their Golden Wedding, although three other couples came within a year of it.

11. Florence Isabelle (Belle) Hossack, born June 5, 1856, married Milo Putney Sept. 6, 1882. He was born June 5, 1859 and is still living. Florence Isabelle died at Ottawa, Ill. July 19, 1892, age 34 yrs. And was buried at Ottawa, Illinois.

Considerable important information and much detail that has been written was gathered some years ago by Mr. Robert Lindsay Scott of Evanston, Illinois, a grandson of John Hossack, 2nd., and we have taken the liberty of using it in this write up.

Besides Mr. Robert Lindsay Scott, we are indebted to Miss Jean Forsyth Grant of Ottawa, Canada, a grand-daughter of Agnes Hossack, who was a daughter of John Hossack, 1st. Miss Grant spent much time delving into the past for dates, etc., and passing this information through correspondence to Miss Isabella Barbara Hossack of Pasadena, California, a daughter of James Hossack, 2nd. Miss Hossack was born in Quebec, spending her girlhood there.

Those who are, or may be later on, interested in their ancestors, will, I am sure, appreciate their trouble, so that any of the descendants of John Hossack, 2nd., may follow their line down adding thereon their own family tree.

That our children and other descendants of John Hossack may have a fairly complete record is my reason for submitting this genealogy.

Frederick Newton Hossack

The last of the eleven children

Pasadena, California

June 1st, 1939

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This website is produced by Jay W. Preston to honor John Hossack, the Abolitionist of Ottawa, Illinois.  The father dedicates this to his son, Yujin Jay Preston (1979-1999), daughter Elika, and daughter Yuli, great great great grandchildren of John Hossack. Permission to reprint this material is granted when this notice is included in full.  2000 - 2010 Jay W. Preston.  For information, comments or contributions of time, money, information, materials, or manpower to this site: E-mail Copyrights of works cited, quoted, or excerpted remain with the respective owners, if not in public domain.