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Memorial Tiles: William Jarvis

JARVIS, William: 1756 - 1817

William was born on September 11, 1756 in Stamford, Connecticut, to Samuel Jarvis and Martha Seymour. He was the eighth of their eleven children, and the fifth son. The family enjoyed some prominence in Stamford. Samuel was clerk of the town from 1760 to 1775 but lost that position at the start of the American Revolution because his family staunchly supported the Loyalist cause.

William enlisted with the 1st American Regiment, or Queen’s Rangers, under the command of Lt. Col. John Graves Simcoe and distinguished himself in action. He was wounded at the Battle of Spencer’s Tavern in Virginia in 1781 and was commissioned coronet in December 1782. At the cessation of the war, because of the hostility to the Loyalists in Connecticut, the family was forced to leave their home. His siblings and his cousin, Stephen Jarvis, accepted exile in New Brunswick and attempted to resettle there but William followed Simcoe to England where he spent several years pursuing compensation claims for his family. He married Hannah Owen Peters, the daughter of the Reverend Samuel Peters, on December 12, 1785 in London, England. William and Hannah had three sons and four daughters.

William later benefited from his military association with Lt. Col. Simcoe during the Revolutionary War of 1776. When John Graves Simcoe was appointed as the first lieutenant governor of the newly created Province of Upper Canada in 1791, he recommended William for the position of Secretary and Registrar of Records for the province, a position which promised him secure employment with a steady income. William and his family arrived in Upper Canada in 1792 and acquired land in and outside the fledgling town of York (Toronto). He built a large comfortable residence that doubled as his office at Sherbourne and Adelaide Streets. Park Lot 6, the 100 acres of virgin land which he hoped to develop into a small farm, was located just a short walk from his house. From the beginning, William belonged to the province’s Tory government, the small group administering Upper Canada at the time. Although not particularly interested in politics, he involved himself in community affairs and was appointed a magistrate in 1800. He was also the first Provincial Grand Master of Masons. He maintained his connection with the militia and held the rank of colonel at the time of his death.

Unfortunately, William’s great hopes of achieving financial success in his new country proved elusive. In 1794, the potentially lucrative deed-making responsibility of his office was transferred to the attorney general’s office. His career was not without controversy and little progress was made on his farm. William died in debt but with the growth, expansion and prosperity of the city of Toronto, his descendants later became wealthy, largely through the sale of “wild lands” granted to William.(1) Shortly before his death, William transferred Park Lot 6 to his son Samuel Peters Jarvis (Tile # 53). Samuel had distinguished himself in the War of 1812 but his involvement in a fatal duel and subsequent committal to trial in 1817 greatly distressed his ailing father who did not live to see his son exonerated.

William Jarvis died at York on August 13, 1817 and is buried at St. James Cathedral Cemetery.(2)


1. P.R. Blakely & J.N. Grant, Eleven Exiles (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1982).

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