Local pioneer William M. Jarvis left a lasting legacy

Michael Dawe

Michael Dawe

One of the most interesting of Central Alberta’s pioneers and one who has left a lasting legacy in the community is William Morley Puncheon “Dick” Jarvis.

Dick Jarvis was born on Aug. 29, 1870, the son of Arthur Murray and Annie McLear Jarvis. His family was United Empire Loyalists and true pioneers of Toronto. The Jarvis family developed both the Yorkville and Rosedale subdivisions of Toronto and Jarvis St. is named after an uncle.

When he turned 17, Dick joined the North West Mounted Police. Several other family members also become Mounted Policemen, including Superintendent Edward Worrell Jarvis, Inspectors William Drummer Jarvis and Arthur Murray Jarvis and Constables Stephen Murray Jarvis and Frederick Starr Jarvis.

Dick was stationed at Regina, Maple Creek, Medicine Hat, Fort Macleod and Lethbridge. He left the N.W.M.P. in 1893 and married Marion Osborne Harvey, of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. Dick worked for a while on horse ranches in Montana, before getting a job at the famous Cochrane Ranche west of Calgary.

In 1896, Dick and Marion ran a hotel at Mitford (Cochrane), but it was a short-lived venture. Dick was soon working as a traveling salesman in Ontario and New York State.

In 1899, Dick, Marion and family moved to Red Deer. Dick opened a lumberyard on Gaetz Ave. Marion opened a fancy goods and Christmas toy store, followed by Red Deer’s first women’s wear store.

Just after the turn of the last century, the Jarvises became one of the first Red Deer families to camp on the shores of Sylvan Lake, near the current intersection of 50 St. and Lakeshore Dr.

However, Marion did not like staying in a tent. Consequently, Dick built a small log cabin near the large spring by the Golf Course creek. In 1904, Dick sold that property to the Loiselle family and bought 300 acres from the C.P.R. on the southeast end of the lake. The area soon became known as Jarvis Bay.

Dick started a small farm and built two log cabins on the property. The nearby Outlet Creek was greatly enjoyed by the family. The Jarvis and other neighbours used to place barrels in the creek to catch large numbers of fish for dinner. They also canoed down the creek to Cygnet and Burnt Lakes and then on to the Red Deer River.

However Dick also had to lay a number of wooden planks along the beach so that his wife and daughters would not have to step on the numerous garter snakes as they made their way to the nearby Lower Camp, and the fledgling hamlet of Sylvan Lake farther to the west.

Meanwhile, Dick continued to run a series of lumber businesses in Red Deer, while Marion continued to operate a store on Ross St. West. A bad fire destroyed the store in November 1907, but Dick remained in the lumber business. In 1913, he sold out to Cushing Brothers of Calgary.

During the First World War, Dick served as a provost lieutenant with the 187 Battalion. After the War, he worked as an agent for Imperial Oil.

Dick and Marion became very active in communities both in Red Deer and at Sylvan Lake. Dick became the president of the Red Deer Lacrosse Club and served as Sovereign of the local lodge of the Canadian Woodmen of the World. Dick later became a member of the Legion. Marion was very active with the Ladies Guild of St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Red Deer and later became an active member of both the I.O.D.E. and the Royal Purple.

On Oct. 6, 1929, Dick died suddenly of a heart attack while returning with his family from a trip to Calgary. He was only 59. Marion continued to live in Red Deer until 1940, when she moved to Calgary to be closer to family. She passed away on Oct. 5, 1947.

Dick and Marion were survived by daughters Edythe Baker, Constance (Connie) Pullar and Marion Dow. Dick and his wife Marion are both buried in the Red Deer Cemetery.

The Summer Village of Jarvis Bay and Jarvis Bay Provincial Park are named in honour of Dick, Marion and their family.

Jarvis Ave. and Jarvis Cl. in Red Deer’s Johnstone Crossing subdivision are also named in honour of the Jarvis family, including Dick’s cousin Percy Jarvis, the long-time mayor of the Village of North Red Deer.