Joseph Balestier


Joseph Balestier was the first Consul to Singapore for the United States of America serving between 1837-1852. His wife, Maria Revere Balestier, was the daughter of anti-British American patriot Paul Revere (b.1735 - d.1818).

Although appointed Consul for the port of Rhiau, Balestier resided in Singapore. By June 1837, he was officially recognised as the Consul at Singapore, the same period when ships from America were permitted by the East India Company to trade on an equal footing.

In the mid-1830s, Joseph Balestier was one of the first men to own a 1,000-acre sugar-cane plantation known as the Balestier Plantation located on the Balestier Plain. Balestier Road runs alongside what used to be his sugar estate. Balestier's home on this plantation had five immense rooms. Balestier was one of two entrepreneurs (the other being William Montgomerie) to have tried manufacturing suger. Using a steam-engine, Balestier's plant transformed sugar-cane into sugar and rum. Unfortunately, Singapore's sugar produce were not given import privileges to the home market and competition from Province Wellesley saw the decline of this industry. Failure of the Balestier sugar plantation enterprise forced the Balestiers to sell the entire property in April 1848. This had followed the death of his beloved wife just seven months earlier and proved too much for Balestier who soon after returned to the United States.

His wife, Maria Revere Balestier, was the daughter of Paul Revere, the famed midnight rider hero of the American Revolution. This same hero had also donated the Revere Bell to St. Andrew's Church in 1843. An obituary in the Singapore Free Press dated Thursday, 26 August 1847, commended her for her invaluable contributions to the local community, her "untiring zeal in the service of the sick, the afflicted, and the needy - to obtain her good offices the only requisite was to need them" in the 13 years she was in Singapore with her husband. This newspaper tribute further added that "she treated her servants like sons; her friends and neighbours like brethren".

Wife: Maria Revere Balestier (b. 1785? - d. 22 August 1847, Singapore), daughter of Paul Revere, died at age 62.
Son: Joseph Warren Revere Balestier (b. 1820? - d. 2 March 1844, Singapore), died at age 24

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama

Hooi, C. (1976). The Revere Bell and the Balestiers (pp. 1, 9). Singapore: National Museum.
(Call no.: RCLOS 327.0924 HOO).

Lee, E. (1990). Historic buildings of Singapore (p. 27). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board.
(Call no.: SING 720.95957 LEE).

Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore (p. 173). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: SING 725.94095957 LIU) 

Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2, pp. 72, 504). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE)

Maria Revere Balestier orbiturary. (1847, August 26). Singapore Free Press

The information in this article is valid as at 2000 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.

Colonial administrators
Business, finance and industry>>Business organization>>Business enterprises
Sugar--Manufacturer and refining--Singapore
Personalities>>Biographies>>Colonial Administrators

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