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Memorial Tiles: William Botsford Jarvis

JARVIS, William Botsford: 1799 - 1864

Tile ordered and paid for by A.J. Meredith,* August 1889

William Botsford Jarvis, the third and youngest son of Col. Stephen Jarvis (Tile # 47) and Amelia Glover, was born in New Brunswick where his parents had settled as refugees after the American Revolution. His unusual middle name was a tribute to a close personal friend of his parents, Amos Botsford, elected first speaker of the Assembly of New Brunswick in 1875, a position he held for the next twenty-seven years. In 1809, as a young lad of ten, William moved with his parents and four of his five siblings to York, Upper Canada when his father was given land and a public office position as assistant to his cousin, Provincial Secretary William Jarvis.

William Jarvis attended the district school at York where, for a time, John Strachan (Bishop Strachan) was his teacher. During the War of 1812, his two older brothers, Starr and George (Tile # 49), and his father, Stephen (Tile # 47), were actively engaged in battle against the Americans. Young William was alone with his mother and sister in their home in York when the Americans invaded and burned much of the city.

William later became a clerk in the Provincial Secretary’s office, working with his cousin Samuel Peters Jarvis who was Acting Head of the office in his father’s absence. William engaged in land speculation and, along with Joseph Bloor, subdivided land to create the village of Yorkville. In 1824 he bought part of a 400-acre estate that had been deeded to a Loyalist settler in 1896. By this time his mother had died, his brothers Frederick Starr and George and his sister had moved away, and he lived alone with his father on this estate.

William became Sheriff of the Home District in May 1827 and two months later married Mary Boyles Powell, granddaughter of Chief Justice William Dummer Powell. They settled down to raise their family of five children and expanded the home and improved the beauty of the grounds of the estate that Mary had christened Rosedale for the wild roses that bloomed on the property. This property makes up about one-quarter of present-day Rosedale in Toronto.

William played a prominent role in suppressing the rebellion led by William Lyon MacKenzie in 1837. He was active in politics and many entrepreneurial activities dealing with telegraph lines, railways and insurance. He also became involved in social issues. He served on the Board of Health during the cholera epidemic of 1832 and as a Commissioner to superintend construction of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum. He retained the position of Sheriff of York until his retirement in 1854 when his nephew Frederick Jarvis (Tile # 50) succeeded him in that position. He was said to have a gregarious and outgoing personality, actively participating in the Masons, the Turf Club, the Boating Club, the Provincial Agricultural Society, the Toronto Horticultural Society and the Athenaeum. A true Renaissance man, he is usually thought of as the Sheriff of the Family Compact.(1;2)

Predeceased by his wife, William Botsford Jarvis passed peacefully away at Rosedale on July 26, 1864. His will was published in the Globe and Mail, on July 27, 1864.

* William’s eldest daughter Fanny married Edmund Meredith.


1. Ann Jarvis Boa, My Eventful Life: Stephen Jarvis, U.E., 1756-1840 (Montreal: Price Patterson, 2002).

2. “Jarvis, William,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, Vol. V.