The Davis Family of Davisville
Today’s residents of Davisville may know that the area got its name from someone named Davis. Others may know that the Starbucks on the corner of Yonge and Davisville used to be a post office and general store run by the Davis Family.
Who were the Davis' of Davisville? Few pictures remain of this family who had such an impact on the neighbourhood’s businesses, buildings and local government, however, with the help of local archives, we can piece together a picture of life in what was then North Toronto.
In 1840, John Davis, his wife Mary (Boyer) and their three children (Sarah, Alexander and Frederick) sailed to start a new life in Canada from Whittington, Shropshire, England. John was 27 and Mary was 29 years old. Though he trained as a teacher in England, he began bookkeeping when he arrived in Toronto and worked towards building a business. By 1841 the family had settled in what would become Davisville and by 1845 he established Davisville Pottery.
John Davis became involved in many areas of the neighbourhood as it developed - he was the first postmaster of the area, he was engaged in the development of Davisville Public School (advocating for the establishment of the school and then acting as a school trustee for 25 years), and he was a founding member of the Davisville Methodist Church. He died in 1891 at the age of 78, two years after Mary died in 1889 at the age of 79.
So how did Davisville get its name? According to the July 1990 issue of the Upper Yonge Town Crier, “The village came to be when [John] Davis lobbied for a post office with the assistance of James Metcalf of East York. There was no building to put it in, so Davis offered his house and the name Davisville was born.”
John and Mary Davis had six more children once settled in North Toronto, many of whom would have an impact on the region.
Sarah Anne Davis - 1836-1911 (died at age 75) - eldest child of John and Mary, she was four when the family came to Canada. She married John Boyer who was an employee of Davisville Pottery - they had no children.
Alexander John Davis - 1838-1914 (died at age 76) - eldest son of John and Mary, became chief potter at Davisville Pottery and lived at 309 Davisville with his first wife Hannah and their three children William, Alexander and Hannah. After Hannah’s death, he married Annie Charles and they had one child (Lillian). According to the local history records at the Northern District Toronto Public Library: “On a Good Friday afternoon in 1914, while crossing Yonge St. at Shaftesbury Ave, he was knocked down by a horse drawn wagon. Although he was not seriously injured, the shock proved too much and he died on April 13th, the same day as his brother Frederick.”
Frederick Henry Davis - 1840-1914 (died at age 74) - Born in January, the family would emigrate to Canada later that year. He married Mary Denby and together they had six children (four sons, two daughters). Frederick died on April 13th, 1914 after a lengthy illness - within four hours of his brother Alexander’s death.
Francis Nathaniel Davis - 1843-1900 (died at age 57) - The only Davis son who didn’t go into the family business, Francis was a cattle farmer and had seven children with his wife Tamer West Leys. They lived on the site of today’s Salvation Army Retirement home buildings.
Joseph Stanley Davis - 1851-1927 (died at age 76) - Studied bookkeeping and eventually took over as postmaster and manager of the pottery business from his father when he died in 1891. His first wife Alice died in 1878 and his second wife was Lillian Langrill - together they had one daughter (Mary). Joseph would become very active in civic affairs - he was mayor of North Toronto from 1897-1900 and member of council for 13 years.
John and Mary had four other children who all died in infancy - Josiah, Edna, Elizabeth and Edward.
Many thanks to the Northern District Library for access to their Local History files, and to Lynda Moon, President of the North Toronto Historical Society for help with this research. Many of the physical clippings do not have source material details. Some simply say “From the Davis Scrapbook - Source Unknown.”