William Botsford Jarvis

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William Botsford Jarvis

Birthdate: (65)
Birthplace: Fredericton, York County, New Brunswick, Canada
Death: July 26, 1864 (65)
Toronto, Toronto Division, Ontario, Canada
Place of Burial: Toronto, Toronto Division, Ontario, Canada
Immediate Family:

Son of Col. Stephen Jarvis, UEL and Amelia Jarvis
Husband of Mary Boyles Jarvis
Father of Anne Frances Meredith; Mary Louisa Nanton; Lt.-Col. William Dummer Jarvis; Sarah Harriet Ord and Lt.-Col. Robert Edward Colborne Jarvis
Brother of Elizabeth Hannah Phillips; Frederick Starr Jarvis; Rachel Isabella Jarvis; Frances Amelia Jarvis and Judge George Stephen Benjamin Jarvis

Occupation: sheriff, politician, land speculator, and entrepreneur
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About William Botsford Jarvis

Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=4511&interval=20&&PHPSESSID=ychzfqkvzape

William Botsford Jarvis was born May 4, 1799 at Fredericton, New Brunswick, third and youngest son of Stephen Jarvis and Amelia Glover; he died July 26, 1864 at Toronto, Canada West.

William's parents had emigrated to New Brunswick as United Empire Loyalists during the American Revolution. In 1809 they moved to York (Toronto) where other members of the Jarvis family were already becoming well known as public officials and entrepreneurs.

In Toronto, William eventually became High Sheriff; he was also a well-known politician, land speculator, and entrepreneur.

William attended the district school at York, under George Okill Stuart and later John Strachan. He became in 1818 clerk of the provincial secretary’s office where a cousin, Samuel Peters Jarvis*, was acting head. Here he remained until 1827 when he was appointed sheriff of the Home District; he retired from that position only in 1856, in favour of his nephew, Deputy Sheriff Frederick William Jarvis.

     Jarvis contested three provincial elections for the town of York. In 1830 he was narrowly defeated by moderate Robert Baldwin* in a by-election, but was successful later that year against the same opponent when a new election was called upon the death of King George IV. Jarvis pressed for York’s incorporation as a city, while objecting to the change of name to Toronto, and though he was a Tory (he was president of the British Constitutional Society, the political arm of the Tories, during the 1836–38 period), he advocated voting by ballot in municipal elections because he felt his constituents wanted it. In 1834 he was defeated by a moderate, James Edward Small. Jarvis and William Lyon Mackenzie engaged in a bitter personal feud and when the rebellion came he ordered, as leader of the loyalists’ picket, the single volley which disrupted the rebels’ march on Toronto on 5 Dec. 1837. In 1841 Jarvis returned to politics as a Toronto alderman but resigned in early 1842 when the council failed to choose him as mayor.
     Like other members of the official class, Jarvis engaged in land speculation in and around Toronto. Along with Joseph Bloor he subdivided land to create the village of Yorkville north of what is now Bloor Street. He also initiated a short-lived tramway service on Yonge Street to render this land more accessible and valuable. Although he was to clash with his cousin S. P. Jarvis over the allocation of family debts and a trust fund in later years, he was for a time associated with him in various financial dealings and land speculation.
     In 1834 Jarvis was chairman of a committee to plan a railway from Toronto to Lake Simcoe and was one of the first directors when the project was revived in 1844. He was also one of the petitioners for the establishment of the first local insurance company, the British America Assurance Company, in 1832, and was an incorporator of the Toronto Dry-Dock Company (1847), the Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara, and St Catharines Electro-Magnetic Telegraph Company (1847), the Toronto Island Bridge Company (1857), and the Accident Assurance Company (1863).
     Though a member of the social élite of the town, Jarvis, as sheriff, witnessed much of the brutal and degrading side of 19th century life and tried to improve the living conditions of Toronto’s citizens. He was a vice-president of the Toronto Mechanics’ Institute for many years, a member of the Board of Health during York’s cholera epidemic of 1832, and a commissioner to superintend the construction of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum (1845). When the Board of Arts and Manufactures for Upper Canada was established in 1857, to award prizes to local scholars and artists, Jarvis was its first president.
     Jarvis’ social affiliations reveal a gregarious and outgoing personality. A mason, he joined the St Andrew’s Lodge in 1841 and was a charter member of the Ionic Lodge in 1847. He was vice-president of the St George’s Society and of the Toronto Turf Club, and member of the Toronto Club and the Toronto Boat Club (later the Royal Canadian Yacht Club). He was also associated with the Provincial Agricultural Association in the mid 1830s (as president), the district and local agricultural societies, the Toronto Horticultural Society, and the Toronto Athenaeum. In 1824 he had purchased from Small the home he called Rosedale, from which that region of Toronto obtained its name. In 1827 Jarvis married Mary Boyles Powell, granddaughter of Chief Justice William Dummer Powell*; they had two sons and three daughters.
     Jarvis is usually thought of as the sheriff of the Family Compact, the man who resisted Mackenzie’s forces and who presided at the executions of Samuel Lount* and Peter Mathews* in 1838. He was indeed a high Tory, “an ardent politician of the old and nearly extinct school,” an obituary described him, but he was also the man who freed the debtors in York’s jail to save them during the cholera epidemic of 1834. In a career only partially characterized by his official and political activities he showed a keen interest in the development of Toronto and in the welfare of its residents, and ended his life a respected patriarch of his adopted city.

Robert J. Burns

MTCL, William Dummer Powell papers. PAC, MG 24, 147. PAO, Jarvis-Powell papers. York County Surrogate Court (Toronto), will of William Botsford Jarvis. Globe, 27 July 1864. Town of York, 1815–34 (Firth). Armstrong, Handbook of Upper Canadian chronology. Brown’s Toronto city and Home District directory, 1846–7 (Toronto, 1846). Chadwick, Ontarian families. The city of Toronto and the Home District commercial directory and register with almanack and calendar for 1837 . . . , comp. George Walton (Toronto, [1837]). The Toronto almanac and royal calendar, of Upper Canada . . . (Toronto, 1839). A. G. Meredith, Mary’s Rosedale and gossip of “Little York” (Ottawa, 1928). Middleton, Municipality of Toronto.

William Botsford Jarvis (son of Lt.Col Stephen Jarvis and Amelia Glover, his wife) married Mary Boyles Powell (daughter of William Dummer Powell and granddaughter of Chief Justice William Dummer Powell) at the village of "Muddy" York on November 22, 1828.

William served from 1827 through 1856 as High Sheriff of the village and Town of York (Toronto). This included the period of the (William Lyon) McKenzie Rebellion in 1837, after which Sheriff Jarvis presided over the trals and subsequent executions of Peter Matthews and Samuel Lount, even though it was Lount who had stopped the rebels burning Jarvis's own home.

Together with entrepreneur Joseph Bloor, William Botsford Jarvis founded the village of Yorkville, in the area of present-day Toronto more-or-less bounded by Bloor/Avenue Rd/Davenport/Yonge Street. Jarvis's estate, to which his wife Mary gave the name "Rosedale", today incorporates Toronto's wealthiest residential district.

In 1830, Jarvis was elected to the 11th Parliament of Upper Canada for the town of York; he was defeated in 1834. The Town of Toronto was incorporated in 1837, and Jarvis was elected to town council in 1841, but resigned the following year. He was also involved in the early incorporation of a number of companies in the Toronto area, including the Victoria Mining Company in 1856.

Children of Mary Boyles Powell and William Botsford Jarvis: ◦ Anne Frances Jarvis {Meredith}, 4 May 1830 - 27 Sept 1919 ◦ Mary Louisa Jarvis {Nanton}, 16 Dec 1831 - 29 Nov 1906 ◦ Lt-Col William Dummer Jarvis of the NWMP, 4 Aug 1834 - Aug 1914 ◦ Sarah Harriett Jarvis {Ord}, 4 May 1836 - 4 July 1897 ◦ Lt-Colonel Robert Edward Colborne Jarvis, 4 Mar 1842 - 4 Mar 1903 Inscription: SACRED to the memory of WILLIAM BOTSFORD JARVIS for twenty nine years Sheriff of the County of York [line is unreadable from photo] on the 26th of July 1861 Aged 64 years [verse is unreadable]

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William Botsford Jarvis's Timeline

May 4, 1799
Fredericton, York County, New Brunswick, Canada
Age 9
District School at York
- 1827
Age 18
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- 1856
Age 27
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
May 4, 1830
Age 31
Toronto, Toronto Division, Ontario, Canada
December 16, 1831
Age 32
August 4, 1834
Age 35
Toronto, Toronto Division, Ontario, Canada
May 4, 1836
Age 37
Toronto, Toronto Division, Ontario, Canada
- 1842
Age 41
Toronto, Ontario, Canada