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PATERSON, PETER, merchant and capitalist; b. 13 Sept. 1807 at Blantyre Works (Blantyre), near Glasgow, Scotland, son of Peter Paterson and Jean Frazer; m. 9 Jan. 1837 Hannah Wilson (1815–92), and they had six sons and four daughters; d. 12 April 1883 at Toronto, Ont.

Peter Paterson Sr brought his family to York (Toronto) in 1819 and in 1821 established a hardware business. His sons David, John, and Peter were soon associated with him in a firm dealing in iron, Paterson and Sons. By the mid 1830s, however, Peter Jr had founded his own dry goods business in Toronto. The firm was so successful that its estimated worth was $50,000 in 1853 when he retired and turned it over to a nephew. In 1856 the business was taken over by Merrick Brothers who received financial backing from Paterson.

About 1858 Paterson purchased a 60-acre estate, which he named Blantyre Park, on Lake Ontario just east of Toronto, where he built a large residence. Although he maintained a home in Toronto, he spent a great deal of time at the estate during the remaining years of his life, developing improved crops and experimenting with new methods of farming. A member of the Church of England, he became one of the leading patrons of St John’s Church, Norway (now part of Toronto), where he was rector’s warden from 1857 to 1877; he frequently represented the parish at diocesan synod meetings.

Paterson’s main contribution to Toronto was the role he played in the development of corporate institutions. Either he or his father (it is often difficult to determine which Peter Paterson – the subject, his father, or a nephew – is being referred to in sources) was an incorporator of the British America Fire and Life Assurance Company in 1834, and Peter Jr became a leading member of its board of trustees. In 1854 he and George Percival Ridout*, with whom he was frequently associated, toured cities in the northeastern United States to examine the possibility of extending the company’s operations. Paterson later became deputy governor (vice-president) of the firm and then, succeeding Ridout, served as governor from June 1873 to 1882. In 1847 Peter and his brother David, along with Ezekiel Francis Whittemore and Charles Albert Berczy*, were among the founders of the Consumers’ Gas Company of Toronto. Paterson was elected to the first board of directors in 1848 and remained a director until 1852; he again held office from 1854 to 1856. He was also active in the Farmers and Mechanics Building Society of Toronto, established in 1847 as a terminating (limited term) mortgage company. After the firm was successfully wound up in 1855, Joseph Davis Ridout, the president, Paterson, the vice-president, John Herbert Mason, the accountant, and several leading Toronto businessmen established a permanent institution, the Canada Permanent Building and Savings Society (which later became the Canada Permanent Mortgage Corporation). J. D. Ridout became president and Paterson vice-president, an office he retained until his death 28 years later. Paterson was elected a director of the Bank of Upper Canada in 1861 when Robert Cassels was brought in to act as cashier (general manager) in an attempt to re-establish its strong financial position. Paterson remained a director until 1864, when he probably realized that the problems of the bank were insurmountable. Two years later the bank failed and he was elected one of the trustees to terminate its affairs.

Paterson took a particular interest in the development of institutions that would advance the commerce of Toronto. In 1845, along with Thomas Dennie Harris, Whittemore, and G. P. Ridout, he helped establish the Toronto Board of Trade and was elected to its council. Five years later, when the Toronto Harbour Commission was formed, Paterson was one of the two commissioners appointed by the Board of Trade. He was also a founder of the Toronto Board of Fire Underwriters and served as president for several years before his death.

Paterson was a quiet, reserved man who played little part in the social institutions of the city, except as a member of the St Andrew’s Society. He was a Conservative in his later years, although his background was Reform and he had supported Isaac Buchanan in the election of 1841. When he died Paterson left stocks, bonds, and personal property valued at $123,220 as well as extensive real estate holdings. His career illustrates how the influence of the early families of Toronto continued into the second generation and how what was, at least technically, a Reform family could become one of the pillars of the Toronto establishment.

Frederick H. Armstrong

Baker Library, R. G. Dun & Co. credit ledger, Canada, 26: 24, 272, 351. Scottish Record Office (Edinburgh), Blantyre parish register, 13 Sept. 1807. York County Surrogate Court (Toronto), no.4780, will of Peter Paterson, 28 April 1883 (mfm. at AO). Toronto Daily Mail, 14, 16, 17 April 1883. Standard dict. of Canadian biog. (Roberts and Tunnell), II: 334–35. J. C. Hopkins, Historical sketch of the British America Assurance Company . . . (n.p., 1912), 4, 6–7. Middleton, Municipality of Toronto, I: 212, 230, 444, 504; III: 98–99. 75th birthday: 1848–1923, the Consumers’ Gas Company of Toronto, [comp. E. J. Tucker] (Toronto, 1923), 11, 14, 57. The story of the Canada Permanent Mortgage Corporation, 1855–1925 (Toronto, 1925), 10, 13, 17, 25. “Paterson,” Ontarian Genealogist and Family Historian (Toronto), 1 (1898–1901): 8–10.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Frederick H. Armstrong, “PATERSON, PETER,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 18, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/paterson_peter_11E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/paterson_peter_11E.html
Author of Article:   Frederick H. Armstrong
Title of Article:   PATERSON, PETER
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1982
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   June 18, 2024