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Samuel Peters Jarvis, 1850s Portrait

Samuel Peters Jarvis (November 15, 1792 – September 6, 1857) was a Canadian government official in the nineteenth century. He was the Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Upper Canada (1837-1845), and he was a member of the Family Compact.

Jarvis was born to William Jarvis and Hannah Owens Peters in Newark, Upper Canada. He moved with his family to York, (Toronto) Upper Canada in 1798. For a time he attended the school of John Strachan in Cornwall, Ontario.[1]

Jarvis was a member of the 3rd Regiment of York Militia during the War of 1812, seeing action at the Battle of Detroit and the Battle of Queenston Heights under Isaac Brock, and later action in the Battle of Stoney Creek and Battle of Lundy's Lane. In 1814 he received two positions in the government of Upper Canada, Assistant Secretary, and Registrar of Upper Canada.[1]

Jarvis was also appointed as a Clerk of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada. Having studied law before the war, he was called to the bar in 1815. In 1817 he was named Clerk of the Crown in Chancery.

In 1817 Jarvis killed John Ridout in a duel. John was the son of Upper Canada's Surveyor General, Thomas Ridout. The Jarvis and Ridout families carried a longstanding enmity; in 1817 John Ridout had been ejected from Jarvis' office, and a few days later a chance encounter led to a fistfight between the pair. They agreed to a duel, meeting on July 12 at daybreak. The pair stood back to back, then took 8 steps, turned to face each other, after which Jarvis' second counted to three. The count of three was the signal permitting them to shoot. Ridout shot on the count of two but missed. Jarvis was livid at this violation of the agreement. Their seconds conferred, giving Ridout a second gun, then taking it away and allowing Jarvis to take his shot. He did, killing Ridout.[2] Jarvis was charged with murder, but the charge was reduced to manslaughter before trial. Jarvis was acquitted, as all the formalities of a duel had been met, and the unspoken practice of the day was to acquit duellers.[3] It was the last such quasi-legal duel in Toronto.[4]

In October 1818 Jarvis married Mary Boyles Powell. She was the daughter of William Dummer Powell, the judge who had presided over his trial for the shooting of John Ridout.[1][5] Around 1822 Jarvis moved onto land which he had inherited from his father, Hazel Burn, a 100-acre (0.40 km2) lot between Queen Street and Bloor Street. He cleared the southern part of the lot and erected an estate.[6] On June 8, 1826, Jarvis and fourteen others, disguised as Indians, broke into the offices of William Lyon Mackenzie's newspaper Colonial Advocate, where they smashed his printing press and threw it into Toronto Harbour. This act was in retaliation for negative editorials which Mackenzie had run about members of the Family Compact. Mackenzie sued and won £625, which was paid by donations from the Family Compact, and Mackenzie was able to set up a larger operation.[7][8][9][10]

Jarvis was named Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Upper Canada in 1837, replacing James Givins, who was becoming senile.[10] During the Rebellion of 1837, Jarvis organised a group of volunteers to fight on the government's side; the group was named the Queen's Rangers in honour of his father's old unit, also called the Queen's Rangers, which had disbanded in 1802. In 1845 he was removed from his position as Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Upper Canada.[1] A three-man commission appointed to investigate complaints about the Department of Indian Affairs found substantial problems there. Witnesses to the commission testified about occurrences of bribery, fraud, religious discrimination and lack of interest in the welfare of the Indians under its supervision.[11] To repay the government the money he had stolen from the Indian Department, Jarvis was forced to sell Hazel Burn to pay the £4000 that he owed the government.[12] The estate was divided into town lots with a street through the tract. The street is now named Jarvis Street.[2]

Jarvis and his wife had several children. A son, Samuel Peters Jarvis Jr. CMG (1820-1905) was a British Army officer (Major General) who served in South Africa (and died in England).

External linksEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "Loyalist Collection at the University of New Brunswick". University of New Brunswick. March 2005.
  2. ^ a b "mean streets". The Rational Post. 8 June 2005.
  3. ^ William Renwick Riddell (July 1915). "The Duel in Early Upper Canada". Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology. Northwestern University. 6 (2): 165–176. doi:10.2307/1132814. JSTOR 1132814.
  4. ^ Mike Filey (2003). Toronto Sketches 7: The Way We Were. Dundurn Press Ltd. ISBN 1-55002-448-5. One other interesting fact about Samuel Peters Jarvis is that he holds the distinction of being the "winner" of Toronto's last duel.
  5. ^ Hugh A. Halliday (1 January 2005). "Hand Me My Pistol, Please". Legion Magazine.
  6. ^ "Samuel Jarvis's Estate, "Hazel Burn"". Toronto District School Board.
  7. ^ "The Baldwin/Mackenzie House". Toronto Green Community and Toronto Field Naturalists.
  8. ^ "Introduction to William and Samuel Jarvis Part 2". Toronto District School Board. Archived from the original on 2001-06-29.
  9. ^ Frederick H. Armstrong and Ronald J. Stagg. "MACKENZIE, WILLIAM LYON". Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. University of Toronto.
  10. ^ a b Douglas Leighton and Robert J. Burns (1985). "Jarvis, Samuel Peters". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. University of Toronto. ISBN 0-8020-3422-5.
  11. ^ "Samuel Peter Jarvis's Career in Government Comes to an Unpleasant End". Toronto District School Board.
  12. ^ "Hazelburn". Toronto Green Community & Toronto Field Naturalists.