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RIDOUT, SAMUEL SMITH, office holder, merchant, and militia officer; b. 7 Sept. 1778 in Annapolis, Md, eldest son of Thomas Ridout* and his first wife, Isabella —; m. first 21 May 1805 Eliza Parsons (d. 1838), and they had four sons and five daughters; m. secondly 2 Oct. 1838 Mary Hardwick Unwin, widow of Francis Humphreys; d. 6 June 1855 in Toronto.

In the spring of 1788, when Samuel Smith Ridout was nine years old, his father was captured by Shawnees while on business in the Ohio country. Thomas Ridout was ransomed at Detroit that summer but did not return to Maryland, choosing instead to make his way to Montreal. He married for the second time and settled in Upper Canada, first at Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake), where he entered government service, and then, in 1797, at York (Toronto). Samuel remained in Maryland where he was probably raised and educated under the care of his uncle John Donovan, postmaster of Hancock. Thomas, once settled himself, encouraged his eldest son to join him with the lure of a position in his own office of registrar of York County. By 1800 Samuel, aged 21, had arrived in the provincial capital of Upper Canada and was soon employed as deputy to David Burns, clerk of the crown and pleas, the administrative support for the Court of King’s Bench.

Samuel was not satisfied for long with the low prestige, or the £80 per annum salary, of his first post. In 1801 he became a clerk in the Surveyor General’s Office, where his father had served as first clerk since 1793. Though the annual salary of £125 was “a bare subsistence,” he had hopes of rising in the department. Impatient for advancement, in the next few years he also contemplated the possibilities of a commercial or a military career, but his future seemed secure when he became a deputy provincial surveyor in 1806. Within a year, however, Samuel found himself caught up in the struggle between Lieutenant Governor Francis Gore and Surveyor General Charles Burton Wyatt*, who was “transmitting copies of official Papers, to England, clandestinely, and for the purposes of misrepresenting the acts of the late Government.” Ridout was peremptorily dismissed on 6 Jan. 1807 because he, the only one with knowledge of the affair, had not informed on Wyatt. His apology was accepted, however, and he was reinstated ten days later. Ridout also turned briefly to a commercial career, joining with Andrew Mercer* to operate a general store at York in 1809–10 and at Markham in 1811. After his father had been appointed surveyor general in 1810, Samuel was soon hinting that he would resign as second clerk, complaining that, although he did the work of the first clerk in the department, William Chewett* enjoyed the rank and salary. Gore, however, had not forgotten the Wyatt affair and in Thomas Ridout’s words was “not disposed to do any thing for him.” Gore’s leave of absence and the War of 1812 would combine to provide Samuel with a second chance.

Ridout had entered the militia as a lieutenant in 1807 and received a commission in the 1st York Militia in 1809. In April 1812, with war looming, he was promoted captain in the 3rd York Militia and assigned to garrison duty at York. The following April he was paroled with many of York’s other inhabitants after the Americans captured the town. Ridout continued to assist the war effort as a non-combatant, for instance in August 1814 when he supervised the transfer of 61 prisoners to Kingston. Before the war was over Ridout petitioned Sir Gordon Drummond, administrator of Upper Canada, for the post of first clerk in the Surveyor General’s Office, “the Duties whereof he has been actually executing for these four years past.” Though not successful in this quest, he remained in the office until after his father’s death in 1829, resigning in disappointment when Chewett was made acting surveyor general. In the mean time Samuel had received other civil appointments. In April 1815 he was commissioned sheriff of the Home District, a post he would hold for more than 12 years. The following year Gore named him agent for the collection of fees for land grants. When that position was abolished in 1834, Ridout obtained an annual pension of £200 which he retained for life.

In 1827 Ridout participated in one of the most blatant examples of office trading by the “family compact.” Samuel resigned as sheriff to take the less-demanding post of registrar of York County from the retiring incumbent, Stephen Jarvis. The latter’s son, William Botsford Jarvis*, replaced Ridout as sheriff and, by leaving his position in the office of the provincial secretary and registrar, opened a place there for Samuel Peters Jarvis, whose late father, William Jarvis*, had held the post of provincial secretary and registrar. The complex exchange of offices, overseen and acquiesced in by Lieutenant Governor Sir Peregrine Maitland, was a happy change of situations for all involved, but to the compact’s opponents it seemed yet another example of the oligarchy’s arrogance and power. Ridout held the post of county registrar until his death on 6 June 1855. He was succeeded by his son John, who had been deputy registrar since 1827. A younger son, George Samuel, also became deputy registrar and later city assessor for Toronto. A daughter, Caroline Amelia, married his stepson, Toronto singer and music teacher James Dodsley Humphreys*.

Though his half-brothers George* and Thomas Gibbs Ridout* would gain considerable prominence, Samuel Smith Ridout avoided political involvement and was not a major figure in Upper Canada’s pre-rebellion oligarchy. His career, however, with its reverses and successes, illustrates the importance of kinship, ambition, proper attitudes, and wartime activities in the task of “getting on” in early Upper Canada.

Robert J. Burns

AO, MS 537; RG 1, A-I-6: 3896, 7529–30. PAC, RG 5, B9, 13: 40. PRO, CO 42/493: 217–33. Ten years of Upper Canada in peace and war, 1805–1815; being the Ridout letters, ed. Matilda [Ridout] Edgar (Toronto, 1890). Town of York, 1793–1815 (Firth). Armstrong, Handbook of Upper Canadian chronology. R. J. Burns, “The first elite of Toronto: an examination of the genesis, consolidation and duration of power in an emerging colonial society” (phd thesis, Univ. of Western Ont., London, 1974).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Robert J. Burns, “RIDOUT, SAMUEL SMITH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 25, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/ridout_samuel_smith_8E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/ridout_samuel_smith_8E.html
Author of Article: Robert J. Burns
Title of Article: RIDOUT, SAMUEL SMITH
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1985
Year of revision: 1985
Access Date: October 25, 2014