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Death & Succession

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Joseph’s death, on September 23, 1880, at the age of 47, was a shock to the entire community.
Officially his death was attributed to an obstructed gall bladder; however, one must wonder if his myriad of responsibilities took a toll on his health. When Joseph died it brought profound grief to his young family, employees, and colleagues both in business and politics.
The man who had literally forged, rebuilt, and led the Aurora Agricultural Works to record prosperity, while playing such an influential role in improving the Village and developing the County, was gone.
WHAT WAS THE FUTURE OF THE WORKS? WHO WOULD FILL JOSEPH’S SHOES?
One of Joseph’s strengths was that he could plan ahead with confidence. When faced with declining health, Joseph himself dictated a succession plan. Written two months before his death, his will contained detailed provisions to provide for his widow, Sarah, his two sons, and his three daughters.
With respect to the future of his thriving business, Joseph had reason to be confident. He had dedicated staff at the Works and the line of Fleury implements was selling well. Markets across the country were expanding, and there was huge potential in the North-West. But he faced a conundrum. While his eldest son, Herbert Watson, interspersed with his formal education, had recently worked two full years at the factory, he was only twenty years old and just beginning to take on responsibility. Joseph’s younger son, William James, while a frequent visitor to the Works, was only 15.
When it came time to plan his succession, Joseph was fortunate that he could turn to a trusted friend and colleague at the Works and in the community, Andrew Yule, who in return, made an extraordinary commitment to him, his family and the Works. Andrew Yule was a close associate, the bookkeeper at the Works since 1872, and an auditor of the County Council’s annual financial statements. He was also a member of Joseph’s extended family by virtue of his marriage in 1866 to Mary Jane Watson, a first cousin of Joseph’s wife, Sarah Watson.
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MEMBERS OF THE MASONIC FRATERNITY marched in a procession headed by the 12th York Rangers, to the Fleury family home for a ceremonial reading and last viewing of Joseph. Afterward the procession continued toward the cemetery and continued to grow; by the time it reached the cemetery there were 200 masonic brothers, 100 foundry workers, 300 residents and 80 carriages following the chief mourners.

The overwhelming procession and funeral ceremony was later described in the York Herald: “The event has added to the gloom thrown over the village and district by Mr. Fleury’s death, and his loss will long be felt and deplored.”

(September 30, 1880)

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