The Dease connection, part 1

Back from vacation and ready to continue the story of Philomene McMillan’s ancestors. Philomene is Pépère’s mother. Previously, I wrote about Christopher Johnson and Ann Warren here. Their daughter, our direct ancestor Anne Johnson, was married to Richard Dease.

I haven’t discovered much about Richard Dease. One assumes that the Dease family was also landed gentry, since Richard married into the well-connected Johnson family. I do know that Richard had a brother who was a doctor, Dr. Francis Dease. According to The Report and Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin for the years 1880, 1881 and 1882:

“…Richard Dease’s brother, Francis Dease, an eminent physician, engaged in the employ of Catharine II, of Russia, and dying unmarried, about 1739, left his fortune to his brother Richard, whose match with Miss Johnson he had been instrumental in forming. But through the dishonesty of an agent in St. Petersburg, Richard Dease never received one penny of the large estate devised him by his brother.”

I’m not certain that the above information is completely accurate, since I’ve found other sources that say Dr. Francis Dease died in Russia in 1741. One source is a 1997 book called ‘By the Banks of the Neva’: Chapters from the Lives and Careers of the British in Eighteenth-Century Russia by Anthony Glenn Cross found on Google Books:

“Of the two Irish doctors Francis Dease was with the army during the Russo-Turkish war from 1738 until his death in 1741.”

Another source is the book Ireland and Medicine in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, which has a chapter entitled Medicine, Religion and Social Mobility in Eighteenth-and Early Nineteenth-Century Ireland, by Laurence Brockliss , in which he notes:

“Francis Dease from county Westmeath, who graduated at Reims in 1735, joined the Russian military after studying philosophy at Leuven and medicine at Leiden, only to die six years later at the young age of 32.”

Anne and Richard had at least two sons, both of whom became doctors like their uncle. The youngest son was Dr. William Dease, a noted Irish physician who was one of the founders of the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. The Dictionary of Ulster Biography notes that:

William Dease was one of the leading surgeons in Dublin (and therefore Ireland) in the last two decades of the eighteenth century, whose principal contribution to Irish medicine was probably the establishment of the profession of surgery as an independent entity, properly regulated by a professional body, and to reform and improve medical education in Ireland.”

William’s death by suicide, was the subject of controversy. He may have killed himself because he blamed himself for a patient’s death, or because he was warned that he was about to be arrested for being a member of The Society of United Irishmen. This was an organization working for Catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform. You can read about it here.

You can also see a statue of William here .

As interesting a person as William is, he is not our direct ancestor. That would be his brother, Dr. John Dease, born in County Cavan, Ireland around 1744. The Warren, Johnson, and Dease families appear to have had very strong family ties, evidenced by the fact that, just as Peter Warren had taken William Johnson “under his wing” and brought him to New York to manage his affairs, so Sir William Johnson brought Dr. John Dease to New York in 1771 to serve as his personal physician. Upon Sir William’s death in 1774, he received some money and land.

By 1775 Dr. John Dease became Deputy Agent of Indian Affairs for the Cataraqui District. In the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, it says:

“Late in the summer of 1783 Dease accompanied Joseph Brant [Thayendanegea] and other Six Nations deputies when they left for Detroit to talk about unity with the western Indians, Creeks, and Cherokees. In September Dease made his first trip to Michilimackinac, bearing the official word of the cessation of hostilities between the British and the Americans. Following his return to Niagara he was involved in sensitive conferences with the Six Nations, whose lands had in effect been turned over to the Americans by the British in the Treaty of Paris (1783). Meanwhile, beyond the upper Great Lakes, intertribal Indian wars were seriously disrupting the western fur trade.”

In 1786 Dr. John Dease was appointed the deputy agent at Michilimackinac to try and settle the troubles. Unfortunately, Dease encountered problems with the merchants and the commandant at the fort, and by October of 1789 found himself recalled back to Montreal.

On a vacation a few years ago I was able to visit the fort on Mackinac Island.

Fort Mackinac

Dr. Dease married Jane French, a Caughnawaga Mohawk and they had 8 children. Dr. Dease died in 1801 and Jane in 1802.
I’ll continue the story in my next post.


2 thoughts on “The Dease connection, part 1

  1. Christiane Carrier

    Thank you for the interesting article. I took great pleasure reading it. I’m a descendant of Dr. John Dease, by two of his sons, John Warren Dease and Charles Dease.

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