Benjamin Bussey was a successful Massachusetts merchant who amassed the bulk of his assets in the decades after the American Revolution. Born in Canton, Massachusetts, in 1757 to Benjamin Bussey, Sr. (1734-1808), a ship captain and merchant, and Ruth Hartwell (1738-1776), he enlisted in the military at age 18 and fought in the Revolutionary war as a private and quartermaster. He saw action at Ticonderoga and Saratoga and was present at General Burgoyne's 1777 surrender. After the war, Bussey established a silversmith business in Dedham, Massachusetts. Shortly after, in 1780, he married Judith Gay; they had two children: Benjamin Bussey, Jr., and Eliza Bussey.
In 1790, Bussey left the silversmith trade and established a merchant business with his brother Jaazaniah. He moved to Boston in 1792, while his brother traveled to Europe to expand their shipping interests into France, England, and Holland. After his brother’s death in 1796, Bussey established a new partnership with brother-in-law Daniel Ingalls. By 1806, Bussey had amassed a great fortune and had become one of the wealthiest men in New England, owning large plots of land in Dixmont, Augusta, Newburg, Frankfurt, and Bangor, Maine, as well as factories in Massachusetts, including the Norfolk Cotton Company (purchased in 1819) and the Dedham Worsted Company (purchased in 1824). Poor health caused him to scale back his business activities, though he was involved with trading through at least 1813 and remained active in land and manufacturing dealings throughout his life. Bussey retired to Roxbury, Massachusetts, where he built an estate and a farm on a two-hundred-acre plot of land called Woodland Hills. Bussey spent his retired life as a philanthropist and a prominent member of Roxbury and Boston elite society. He entertained American dignitaries, such as the Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette, President Andrew Jackson, Vice President Martin Van Buren, and Governor William Eustis. During these years, Bussey also became interested in promoting the education of practical agriculture, and he bequeathed his Roxbury property to Harvard, which would later become the Arnold Arboretum. Bussey died on his estate in Roxbury in 1842.