Born December 27th.1768 at Great Amwell, Hertfordshire.
Married March 12th.1793 at Eynesbury, Huntingdonshire
to Anna Maria (his cousin), daughter of Roberts of Stamford Hill, Middlesex.
Anna Maria died December 5th.1849 at Woodlands, Bagshot, aged 78.
John died April 5th.1858 at Midanbury and was buried at Great Amwell.
John was a timber merchant first recorded in the late 1790's in Riga, Latvia, running "one of the principal houses carrying on trade with Russia via the Baltic Sea". He was shipping oak and masts to the British Navy. War with France made this trade progressively harder. Baltic ships had to travel in convoy with naval escort. In 1801 younger brother Henry was sent to Canada to explore alternative sources in Quebec. The timber trade was all about a scramble for naval contracts, price rigging (timber trust) and illegal logging. Legally or illegally, employing Peter Paterson as sub-contractor, the Usborne brothers largely denuded the shores of Lake Champlain and the Thousand Islands in Quebec of their fine oak. In 1802 the firm sent home seven shiploads of pine; by 1803 they were filling 20 ships. The Anna Maria, a ship of 348 tons, was built in 1804 and was presumably named after John's wife. Between 1806 and 1809 they advertised space on at least eight different vessels sailing from Quebec, and in one month in 1809 no fewer than seven Usborne vessels arrived there in ballast, probably to load timber. Their principle rivals Scott, Idle & Co had the naval contract in 1807. The Usbornes wrested this monopoly from 1818 to 1822. John ran the British office at 2 New Broad St., London, while Henry was based in Quebec until 1809. Both had houses in London and Quebec.
In 1822 the Times reported donations from John and his family of 40 guineas for the relief of distress in Ireland (£2,500 in today's money). He donated £52 to relieve distress following a major fire in Quebec in 1845.
In 1832 John was elected to the Managing Committee of the London & Southampton Railway Company who planned a 77 mile double track and a train to travel at 20 mph from Nine Elms, Vauxhall, London to Southampton.
In 1835 John was described as a bullion merchant. In 1840 he was trading in sugar in Liverpool.
He was called "John of St Marylebone", "John of Stamford Bridge" and later "John of Holden" (Tunbridge Wells), Kent (1831) and "John of Bagshot (1836)". In 1820 he had a house in Quebec. In 1845 he had a town house at Halkin St, Grosvenor Place, London. He had a substantial land-holding in Weston-under-Penyard in Herefordshire.
When Anna Maria died he retired to Midanbury Lodge at Bitterne, near Southampton (about 1850) with his son Henry and daughters Eliza and Hariett. This was a substantial mansion built in the 1780's, the home of Lord Ashtown in 1815. It was derelict by 1913 and demolished in 1930, to be replaced by the Castle Inn. The gatehouse, built in the Neo-Gothick style, was a copy of Humphrey Repton's lodge to Blaise Castle, near Bristol. It was demolished in 1920. There are no known photographs of the Lodge.
The move was probably to re-locate his business to a new range of timber warehouses on the River Itchen served by the Southampton East Dock (built in 1843). The South Western Steam Navigation Co. started trans-atlantic passenger sailings in 1843. His son Henry was now head of the firm and could make regular trips across to Quebec.
In 1852 he signed the petition for the consecration of the new Bitterne Parish church of which his son was to be vicar for 30 years.
He was granted a coat of arms (motto: virtus vincit invidiam) in 1809.
Holden House, Southborough
Map of house and farm; 1831
The gate-keepers cottage
to Midanbury known as Midanbury castle
John and Maria are buried in the family tomb in the churchyard at Great Amwell.