John Alexander Victor Preston 1863 – 1950
Summary: Orangeman, community volunteer, church devotee, Mason, husband, father, grandfather, militiaman, Lt. Colonel.
Jack was born on the family farm in Manvers Township to Young Isaac Preston and his wife, Mary Anne Hannah. As the first born, he was given the family responsibilities ahead of his five siblings. He was a leader.
Jack’s grandfather Alexander died when he was only nine months old, so his elder tutelage was from old Isaac, his great grandfather who delighted in instruction of the children in his large family of the basics: mathematics, reading, grammar, proper decorum, loyalty, responsibility and all things of the Orange Order. Jack was 86 years his junior.
Jack’s first school teacher, was the intense young man; Sam Hughes. Ambitious Sam, eventually became Sir Samuel Hughes, the Minister of Militia and Defense under Prime Minister Robert Borden during the first two years of World War 1.
Jack studied at U of T, earning a B.A. in 1885 and LL.B. in 1888. After studying at Osgoode Hall, he was called to the bar in 1888. His first practise was in Millbrook Ontario, not far from his home. In 1892 he located to Dufferin County and in 1906 moved into Orangeville Ontario to continue his law practice. He was a registrar of the Surrogate Court in Ontario in 1906. He took leave to serve in WW1. In 1928 he was created King’s Counsel. He was appointed County Sheriff in 1944.
Charlotte Fitzgerald married Jack in 1892, in Millbrook. They had three children.
Jack served in the military as was the expectation of the Preston family for generations, first joining at age 13. He was a Lieutenant in the Riel Rebellion, with the Midland Battalion in 1885. Although he did not see direct fire, his unit was guarding a North Saskatchewan River crossing point while the Battle of Batoche was fought. His diary is part of the record of the times and archives of Saskatchewan. As most Anglos of that time, he thought poorly of the Metis and First Nations peoples, but was impressed with the leadership and courage of Poundmaker.
In 1914, he was appointed command of the 39th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. The unit departed from Belleville Ontario in June 1915 for England and the front. The unit served at Mount Sorrel, Somme, Arras, and Ypres. In 1917 it was reabsorbed into other units. Jack then was Commanding Officer of the 6th Infantry Brigade until the war’s end.
Above – the 39th Battalion in Belleville Ontario, June 1915 – departing for England and the same unit with Lt. Col Preston in front
His service to his community following the war, included chairing the hospital board, school board, Cadets, Board of Trade, Masonic Order, Orange Order.
Jack was my grandfather’s first cousin.
For me, jack’s legacy is also one of history. He chronicled the Preston stories and without that and the work of Wallace MacAlpine, the book “Loyalty” would not have been written.