William Botsford Jarvis

William Botsford Jarvis was born May 4, 1799 at Fredericton, N.B., youngest son of Lt. Col. Stephen Jarvis and Amelia Glover. Lt. Col. Jarvis was a cousin of the first Provincial Grand Master for Upper Canada, William Jarvis. In 1809 the family moved to York (Toronto), where young William was educated.

In 1824 Jarvis inherited his father’s country home north of the city on the east side of Yonge Street, and in 1828 he married Mary Boyles Powell, herself of a prominent Toronto family. She was the daughter of lawyer and politician William Dummer Powell and granddaughter of Chief Justice William Dummer Powell. Mary called the Jarvis home “Rosedale” after the wild roses that grew all about. They lived there for almost forty years, raising two sons and three daughters.

Mary Jarvis’ grandfather had presided over the jury trial of William Jarvis’ cousin Samuel Peters Jarvis, who had killed another prominent citizen, John Ridout, in a duel in 1817. Samuel Jarvis was acquitted, and a year later he married Judge Powell’s daughter Mary Powell. Her niece, Judge Powell’s granddaughter Mary Powell, later married William Jarvis. Another of Judge Powell’s granddaughters, Charlotte Powell, married another John Ridout in 1839, perhaps reflecting the healing of the Jarvis-Ridout feud and the solidarity of the ruling class.

William and Mary’s children were Anne Frances (Jarvis) Meredith, May 4, 1830 – Sept. 27, 1919; Mary Louisa (Jarvis) Nanton, Dec. 16, 1831 – Nov. 29, 1906; Lt. Col. William Dummer Jarvis of the N.W.M.P., Aug. 4, 1834 – Aug. 1914; Sarah Harriett (Jarvis) Ord, May 4, 1836 – July 4 July, 1897; and Lt. Colonel Robert Edward Colborne Jarvis, March 4, 1842 – March 4, 1903.

Jarvis was a supporter of the Tory ‘Family Compact’, the ruling elite of landed gentry who controlled the government of Upper Canada in the first half of the 19th century. From 1818-1827 Jarvis served as Clerk of the provincial secretary’s office, appointed by his cousin, Samuel Peters Jarvis. A bitter opponent of the Family Compact was the Reform activist, William Lyon McKenzie. Samuel Jarvis once led a mob which destroyed McKenzie’s printing press.

In 1827 William Jarvis was appointed Sheriff of the Home District, i.e. York, Peel, Simcoe, and Ontario [Durham] Counties, a position he held until 1856, succeeded by his nephew, Deputy Sheriff Frederick William Jarvis. Jarvis was also elected in 1830 to the Parliament of Upper Canada; he lost his seat in 1834. In 1841 he was elected to the Toronto Town Council, but resigned the next year when the council did not elect him as Mayor.

Sheriff Jarvis put down the brief Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, leading the unit which fired on the rebels marching on Toronto, dispersing them. As Sheriff, Jarvis later presided over the execution of two of the rebels. One of them, Samuel Lount, had stopped the rebels from burning Jarvis' home as they marched down Yonge Street. Rebel leader William Lyon McKenzie, however, was later pardoned, and went on to be elected to the provincial legislature.

In Masonry, William Jarvis was a charter member of Ionic Lodge in 1847, having been a member of St Andrew’s Lodge since 1841. Several members of the Ridout family were active in St. Andrew’s Lodge, and R.W. Bro. Thomas Gibbs Ridout, D.P.G.M., was the Installing Master for the first meeting of Ionic Lodge on July 8, 1847. At that meeting Bro. Jarvis was appointed “M.C.” (Master / Director of Ceremonies).

The fraternal association between William Jarvis and Thomas Gibbs Ridout, Deputy Provincial Grand Master for Canada, fellow members of their mother lodge, was notable for the fact that R.W. Bro. Ridout’s brother John Ridout had been killed by William’s cousin Samuel Jarvis in the famous duel in 1817.

Jarvis was very active in business. In 1830 he was involved with local brewer Joseph Bloor in subdividing land north of Bloor Street to found of the Village of Yorkville, to the west of Jarvis’ Rosedale estate. In 1832 he was one of the founders of the the British America Assurance Company, the first insurance company in Upper Canada. In 1834 he was chairman of the planning committee for a railway from Toronto to Lake Simcoe, and became one of the directors of the project in 1844. In 1847 Jarvis, along with R.W. Bro. Thomas Gibbs Ridout and others, founded the Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara, and St Catharines Electro-Magnetic Telegraph Company. Jarvis was also involved in the incorporation of the Toronto Dry-Dock Company (1847), the Victoria Mining Company (1856), the Toronto Island Bridge Company (1857), and the Accident Assurance Company (1863).

Jarvis was prominent in civic life. As a member of the Board of Health during the cholera epidemic of 1832, he freed the debtors in York’s jail to save them from infection. In 1845 he was one of the commissioners managing the construction of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum. He was a vice-president of the Toronto Mechanics’ Institute for many years, and in 1857 was the first president of the Board of Arts and Manufactures for Upper Canada, which awarded prizes to local scholars and artists.

In social life, he was a member of the Toronto Club; the Toronto Boat Club (later the Royal Canadian Yacht Club); the Toronto Horticultural Society and other agricultural societies; the Toronto Athenaeum; and was President of the Provincial Agricultural Association, and Vice-President of the St George’s Society and of the Toronto Turf Club.

Bro. William Jarvis died at home, the Rosedale “Cottage”, on July 26, 1864, “after a painful illness which he bore with fortitude”, aged 65. He was remembered as “one of the oldest and most respected inhabitants of the city.” His grave is at St. James’ Cemetery (Parliament St.) Toronto. After his death the family sold the Rosedale estate, which led to the subdivision and residential development of the area.

The portrait above is a water coloured photo, donated by M.W. Bro. John Ross Robertson to the Toronto Public Library. Below is a photo of Jarvis with some of his family, and a watercolour of the Rosedale estate in 1835.