Benjamin Pearson IX, 88: Last to run historic, family-owned mill

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FALMOUTH — Benjamin Pearson IX, 88, died peacefully Feb. 9 at Foreside Harbor.

Born in Boston, he was the son of Benjamin Pearson VIII and Ruth Farrington. He grew up in the Massachusetts towns of Newburyport and Byfield, and was a graduate of Governor Dummer Academy and of Colby College. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy aboard the destroyer USS Arnold J. Isbell.

Pearson later served as president and the final proprietor of the Byfield Snuff Co., a business that his family had operated for over 200 years. The company ran the oldest and perhaps the last water-powered snuff mill in the country, and Benjamin and his family were the 10th generation of Pearsons to operate mills on the Parker and other rivers in Essex County, Massachusetts. (That legacy began in 1647 when John Pearson built the first fulling mill in the country.) But the Byfield Snuff Co. closed upon Benjamin’s retirement at age 69, as he was the company’s youngest employee.

Pearson was raised to be an outdoorsman, and his family spent as much time as they could at their wilderness camp on Richardson Lake. During the spring, they enjoyed fishing; during the fall and winter, there was hunting. Sometimes in winter, when conditions were right, they would drive across the frozen lake and go skiing.

Pearson married his wife, Jean, in 1950, and together, they continued to actively enjoy the outdoors. They fished throughout Maine and in Canada, and in 1968 bought a camp in Carrabassett Valley. From there, they would ski at Sugarloaf Mountain with close friends. The couple also enjoyed golf, and were champions at the Ould Newberry Golf Club in Byfield.

After Pearson’s retirement, he and his wife moved to Brays Island, South Carolina, and lived there for 12 years, making many friends. The couple eventually returned to Maine to be close to family, settling at Oceanview in Falmouth.

Pearson will be fondly remembered by family and friends for his wit, humor and sense of fun.

He was predeceased by Jean, after 63 years of marriage, in December 2013. He was also predeceased by a sister, Anne Pearson, in 2010.

Pearson is survived by his daughter, Robin Pearson Cogan and husband, Hub, of Sheldon, South Carolina; son, Benjamin Pearson X and wife, Sandy, of Durham; grandson Jeremy Lyons and wife, Julie, of Carlsbad, California; granddaughter Katie Nugent and husband, Ryan, of Haverhill, Massachusetts; granddaughter Julia Pearson, of London, England; and granddaughter Jean Pearson and husband, Alex Papaa, of Tanzania. Pearson is also survived by seven great-grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews and a brother-in-law, Hugh Pearson, of Haverhill. 

Services will be private, with a date for a memorial to be set in the spring. Remembrances may be made in Pearson’s memory to a charity of one’s choice.

Pearson’s family would like to thank the staff of Foreside Harbor for the love and care they gave him while he resided there.

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