BERCZY, WILLIAM BENT, painter, farmer, politician, and soldier; b. in London, England, 6 Jan. 1791, son of William Berczy* von Moll and Charlotte Allemand; d. at Sainte-Mélanie-d’Ailleboust, Que., 9 Dec. 1873.
William Berczy Jr, son of a pioneer Canadian painter and land developer, came to Upper Canada with his parents by way of Genesee County, New York, arriving at York (Toronto) in 1794. His father’s complex business affairs required numerous family moves, with the result that William lived in York 1794–98 and 1802–4, in Montreal 1798–1802, and in Montreal and Quebec 1804–12. He served in the War of 1812. From 1818 to 1832 he resided intermittently at Sandwich, U.C., on a 2,400-acre tract awarded to him by the Upper Canadian government in some compensation for his father’s losses on land settlement. On this property he was a pioneer cultivator of tobacco. After 1832 he lived at Sainte-Mélanie-d’Ailleboust, Joliette County, on the seigneury of his wife, Louise-Amélie Panet, a talented amateur artist, daughter of Pierre-Louis Panet*, whom he had married in 1819.
Berczy was an apprentice to his father in painting, and continued to paint for many years although probably never professionally. His water colours, the medium he seems to have favoured, deal with a variety of subjects usually from the life around him. They range from miniature portraits to camp scenes of the War of 1812; trompe l’œil studies of insects (in the “Album” collected by Jacques Viger*, Montreal Municipal Library); a painting, Huron Indians leaving residence near Amherstburg (in the National Gallery of Canada); and a landscape, with figures, of the Blessing of the Fields (also in the National Gallery of Canada). All are characterized by great delicacy and attention to detail, and they echo his father’s instruction.
Berczy’s varied activities are evidence of broad interests. In addition to cultivating tobacco, he was a ship owner and a contractor to the government for supplies for troops. From 1828 to 1834 he was member for Kent County in the Upper Canada House of Assembly and spent much time in Toronto. As a military man he progressed from cadet to captain of the Corps of Canadian Chasseurs during the War of 1812, and was present at the battle of Crysler’s Farm in 1813. From 1845 to 1863 Berczy was active in the militia at Berthier, Que., rising from the rank of lieutenant-colonel to that of colonel commanding the 8th Military District (militia), Lower Canada. He died without issue.
ANQ, Fonds Berczy (collection privée). Archives de l’Université de Montréal, Collection Baby, Correspondance générale. ASQ, Fonds Verreau, Ma Saberdache; Fonds Verreau, 19, liasse 2. Bibliothèque municipale de Montréal, Jacques Viger, Souvenirs canadiens. PAC, MG 23, I6 (Samuel Waldo papers). PAO, William von Moll Berczy papers. Canadian Illustrated News (Montreal), 21 Feb.1874. John Andre, William Berczy, co-founder of Toronto; a sketch (Toronto, 1967). F. C. Hamil, The valley of the lower Thames, 1640–1850 (Toronto, 1951), 123, 125, 126, 222, 223, 224, 318.