An American Family History

The Purvis Family of Leeds County, Ontario

The Province of Quebec was founded in 1763 after the Treaty of Paris transferred the colony of Canada from France to Britain.

Peter Purvis was born on April 15, 1753 in Auchencrow, Berwickshire County, Scotland.

He married Catherine Gardiner.

John B. Purvis (1787, married Mary Smythe),
Thomas Purvis ( 1792, married Catherine Burns),
George Purvis (1794, married Lydia Comstock, daughter of Aaron Comstock),
Jane Purvis Dickey (1800, married Rev. John Dickey),
William Purvis (1800, married Lois Gideon/Giddins and Jane Percival),
Catherine Purvis Booth (married John G. Booth),
James Alexander Purvis (married Nancy Keeler and Ann Brennan),
Nancy Purvis Shipman (1812, married Nelson Shipman),
Peter Purvis, Jr. (1798 married Kesiah Pennock).

In 1785, Peter was discharged from British Army in Quebec

Peter Purvis and his family would walk nine or 10 miles to the Presbyterian church on Sunday. A minister who sought to assist the choir by playing his violin had the bow snatched from his hand and broken by Purvis who would have none of the "devil's playthings" in church. (from The Ottawa Journal, October 7, 1967)

In 1791, Peter signed a petition in Thurlow, Hastings County, Ontario requesting that the township be laid out in lots.

Before 1803, Peter was granted lot 7 in the second concession of Yonge.

Peter was in the 1805 assessment of Yonge Township.

During the War of 1812, John and Thomas Purvis served in the Leeds County Militia.

In 1812, Peter signed a document promising to provide a stipend for William Smart to start the first Sabbath School in Canada.

In 1816, Peter and Catherine signed the document of rules for the governing of the First Presbyterian Church of Brockville.

Peter died on March 27, 1836 in Yonge Mills, Ontario.

The first European settlements in Ontario were after the American Revolution when 5,000 loyalists left the new United States.


George Purvis, Sr. was born in Scotland.

He married Ann Gray, daughter of John Gray.

George and Ann's children probably included:

George G. Purvis (1799, married Lavinia Purvis),
Polly Purvis (married Ira Mallory).

George died before 1810.



George Purvis was born in 1792.

He married Lydia Comstock.

Jennet Purvis
Sarah Ann Purvis
George G. Purvis
George Aaron Purvis
Peter C. Purvis

During the War of 1812, George Purvis served in the Leeds County Militia as a sergeant.

On February 20, 1824, Memorial No. 162 from George Purvis and Lydia, his wife, and George Purvis, and Lavinia, his wife, for 30 acres of the west half of Lot 17 was made to Closson Ayers.

I give and bequeath to my daughter, Jennet Purvis, the sum of four hundred dollars...and to my daughter Sarah Ann Purvis, the sum of five hundred dollars...and it is further my will and desire that Sarah Ann is to have the privilege of a home in the house I now occupy if she requires whilst she remains unmarried...and it is my will that if Jennet should be left in any future time, that she should wish the privilege to come and live with her Mother or Sarah Ann in said house to have such privilege.I give and bequeath to my beloved wife, Lydia Purvis, all my personal estate goods and chattels ….together with the use and benefit of all and singular the west quarter of lot number three in the third concession of the Township of Yonge for and during her natural life..

to my son George G. Purvis, the use and benefit of the east quarter of lot number four in the third concession of the Township of Yonge for and during the term of my wife's natural life, and at the decease of my wife,

I give and bequeath to my son, George Aaron Purvis, the west quarter of the east quarter of lot number four lying north of the road crossing said lot in the third concession of the Township of Yonge...and the east half of the front part of the east quarter of said lot front of road subject to the payment of give hundred dollars to Sarah Ann Purvis, payable in payments of one hundred a year without interest, and the sum of one hundred dollars payable to Jennet Eveson, within four years after my decease, to have and to hold to him the said George Aaron Purvis his heirs and assignees forever.

And at the decease of my wife, I give and bequeath to my son Peter C. Purvis the front or south part of the west half of the east quarter of lot number four in the third concession of the township of Yonge...being all that part lying in front of south of the road crossing said lot, subject to the payment of three hundred dollars to Jennet Eveson...and it is also my wish that Sarah Ann Purvis to have three beds and bedding, together with the household goods, if not otherwise disposed of by my wife, and

I do hereby nominate and appoint my sons, Peter C. Purvis, George Aaron Purvis and my friend Ira Mallory, as executors to this my last will and testament..this fourth day of April in th eyear of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy seven.

Witnessed by Ira Mallory and George H. Purvis.


William Purvis was born about 1800.

He married Lois Gideon or Giddings on October 19, 1825.
Mary Purvis married William Ferguson.

He married Jane Percival.

Catherine Purvis (1830)
Elizabeth Purvis (1835)
William Walter Purvis (1838)
Charlotte Ann Purvis
Peter Levi Purvis (1841)
James H. Purvis (1847)
Susan Purvis (1832)
Nancy Purvis (1848)       
Jane Purvis (1846)
Zacheus Purvis (1850)
William W. Purvis (1837)
Charlotte Purvis (1839)
Martha Purvis (1843)

William died in 1884.




from History of Leeds and Grenville Ontario

Peter Purvis was born at Berwick-on-Tweed, Scotland, in 1753, and came to the United States as a British soldier; at the close of the war of 1776 receiving his discharge at Quebec. He was one of the garrison at Ogdensburg when that place was handed over to the Americans.

At the time when he reached Elizabethtown, the place where Brockville stands was covered by the forest. Purchasing fifty acres of land from Captain Grant, where the Brockville Cemetery is at present located, he remained on his new farm six years, marrying in January, 1830, Catherine, daughter of George Gardiner. He then removed to Yonge, Lot No. 7, in the 2nd Concession, and in course of time secured 1,700 acres of land.

His family consisted of nine children. His eldest son,

John Purvis, married Mary Smith, by whom he had ten children, viz.: Thomas, William, Lovinia, Jane, Henry, George, Frederick, John, Jr., Peter Edmund, and Mary. John Purvis was a volunteer in the War of 1812, and for twenty years Collector and Assessor for the Township, also serving as Town Clerk and Superintendent of Schools. He died in 1853, at the age of 66.

The second son of Peter was Thomas; married Catherine Burns, by whom he had the following children : Peter, John, Thomas, George, James, Catherine, David, and Thomas was a major and a volunteer in 1812. He died in the eighty-first year of his age. The Rev. William Smart preached his funeral sermon, it being the last service held in Yonge by the veteran Presbyterian minister.

George Purvis, third son of Peter, married Lydia Comstock, by whom he had the following children: Lovinia, Catherine, Alice, Phoebe, Lydia, Jennette, Peter, Jane, George, and Sarah. George was a captain in the militia, served in the War of 1812, and received a pension before his death. His sword is in the possession of his son, who resides on the homestead. Peter is a Justice of the Peace.

The fourth son of Peter was William, who married Lois Gideon, by whom he had one child, Mary. His second wife was Jane Percival, by whom he had the following children: Catherine, Elizabeth, Walter, Ann, Peter, James, Susan, Nancy, Jane, and Zacheus. Mr. Purvis is at present an honored citizen of Escott.

Peter, Jr., the fifth son of Peter, the elder, was born February 20th, 1798; married Kesiah Pennock, by whom he had the following children: Peter, Jr., Catharine, Abel, Sarah, James, Arthur, Nancy, Moriah, and Kesiah. At one time he was awakened in the night by a rapping at his door ; opening it, he was confronted by five or six armed men, who demanded his money or his life. Seizing his father's sword, he thrust it into one of the robbers, who fell but was carried off by his comrades. Report says that from that night a person in the neighborhood always traveled with a cane.

James, the sixth son, married Ann Brennan; his family consisted of three daughters: Eliza, Nancy and Isabella. James died in 1852;

Jane married the Rev. John Dickey;

Catherine married the late Dr. Booth, of Unionville;

Nancy married Nelson Shipman.

The descendants of Peter Purvis, the elder, number two hundred and eighty. At one time he and his family used to walk ten miles every Sunday to attend divine service at Brockville. Mr. Purvis was an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and upon one occasion, when an attempt was made to introduce instrumental music in the church, in the form of a bass viol, the old gentleman stalked into the gallery, seized the bow from a man named Richards (a relative of the present Chief Justice), and broke it across his knee, at the same time remarking, "We'll have nae fiddles in the house o" God."

He died March 27th, 1836, aged eighty-three years.


from History of Leeds and Grenville Ontario

George Purvis.

Mr. Purvis was born in Toronto in 1799, his father being George Purvis, a soldier in the British army a member of the Queen s Rangers. On the death of his father, his mother again married in the army. While a child, Mr. Purvis was taken to the posts at Niagara, Fort Maiden, Mackinaw, and Montreal. In 1813, he came up the St. Lawrence in a Durham boat, the journey from Montreal occupying three weeks. At that time he was but 13 years of age.

The family at once removed to the vicinity of Mallorytown, where they found the following settlers: Asa Hutchison, Jeremiah Mallory, David Mallory, Lemuel Mallory, Daniel Mallory, James Brooker, Henry Trickey, Henry Miller, Derrick Hogaboom. In the Township there also resided Billa LaRue, John McNiel, Houston Grant, Mr. Keys, Mr. Baldwin, and Mr. Landon.

During the war, prices became very high; flour was $20 per barrel. At one time Mr. Purvis worked six days for six yards of cotton, and considered himself well paid. During the Mormon excitement Elder Page and a negro came to Mallorytown, and held meetings, creating great excitement, but did not secure any converts. Before the war, the mail was carried regularly from Montreal to Toronto fain times, a year. In 1816-7, Mr Purvis carried the mail between Kingston and Prescott.

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©Roberta Tuller 2023
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