GEORGE THEODORE BERTHON, O.S.A., R.C.A.
George Taylor Denison I.
George Taylor Denison II.
George Taylor Denison III.
Garnet Wolseley Denison, Toronto.
Edward Wolseley Denison, England.
By descent to the present owner, England.
William Colgate, Canadian Art, Its Origin and Development, Toronto, 1967, pages 13-17, for an extensive account of Berthon's work.
Colonel George Taylor Denison of Bellevue (1783-1853) set the standard for loyalism, military involvement, procreative energy and worldly success that succeeding generations of Denisons would aspire to.
His exploits in the War of 1812 and his founding, financing and commanding of York’s first cavalry unit in the 1820s led to his promotion to the Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the First West York Battalion in 1838 and, after the Militia Act of 1846, to the command of the 4th Battalion of Toronto Militia, which he held until his death. In this portrait, Berthon has depicted Denison in the uniform of the York Dragoons of the 1820s.
By that stage of his life, property through his marriage to Esther Lippincott, receipt of the bulk of his father’s estate, and his own astute business dealings had brought under his control vast land holdings in York and neighbouring districts occupied by more than a hundred tenant farmers. Bellevue, his Georgian manor, complete with farmland, a horse farm and orchard, sat on a sizable portion of the 556 acres of the town of York he eventually owned.
An original member of the Family Compact, Denison was appointed one of four magistrates superintending local civil administration prior to Toronto’s incorporation in 1834, and afterward was alderman for St. Patrick’s ward for ten years. His support of the Anglican Church culminated in the endowment of St. John’s-on-the-Humber whose exclusive graveyard is by now the last resting place of hundreds of Denison family members.
Described by a contemporary as a “bluff, hale, strongly built man,” Denison married four times and fathered thirteen children, outliving three of his wives and six of his offspring. The surviving sons were trained as lawyers or for military careers and all his children were imbued with a strong sense of their loyalist heritage and the obligations they must assume as leading citizens of the community.
At his death in 1853, George Denison of Bellevue was one of the wealthiest men in Toronto, leaving an estate valued at more than £200,000.
We would like to thank freelance historian, Jon Reid, for contributing the foregoing essay.