William Berczy

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William Berczy, The family of Peter Leopold of Tuscany, 1781-1782, Galleria d'Arte moderna, Florence
William Berczy, The Woolsey Family (1809)

William Berczy (December 10, 1744 – February 5, 1813) was a German-born Upper Canada pioneer and painter.

Early years[edit]

Berczy was born in Swabia, Electorate of Bavaria (part of the Holy Roman Empire and now in Germany) as a son of the Wirklicher Hofrat (Albrecht Theodor Moll) and Johanna Josepha Walpurga Moll (née Hefele). Berczy was originally named Johann Albrecht Ulrich Moll, but later changed his name.

He studied at the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna and at the University of Jena in Saxony. His early career was spent in several European countries, including Italy (meeting with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in Florence) and England, where he exhibited at the Royal Academy.

Immigration to British North America[edit]

In 1792 Berczy sailed for the Americas, settling in Philadelphia, then setting up a business in York, Upper Canada (now Toronto). A few years later, his work took him to Lower Canada (Quebec).

Although best known for his portraits, he also carried out religious paintings and architectural work, including plans for Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal in 1803, and was a surveyor.

Berczy married, on 1 November 1785, Jeanne-Charlotte Berczy née Allamand (1760–1839) of Lausanne (canton of Bern, now - since 1803 - canton of Vaud), Switzerland. They had two sons, William Bent Berczy and Charles Albert Berczy.


Berczy helped John Graves Simcoe establish a settlement north of Toronto, which became the town of Markham, Ontario.[1] "William Berczy, co-founder of Toronto, along with his German Pioneers, cleared part of the townsite of York (Toronto), erected houses and a magazine, built 15 miles of Yonge street (Eglinton to Elgin Mills some without shoes) in addition to 30 miles of roads in Markham township and also cleared 24 miles of the Rouge river waterway for navigation."[2]

His son Charles Albert Berczy became the first postmaster of Toronto.

His two best known pictures are a full-length portrait of the Mohawk chief Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant) (c. 1805)[3] and a group portrait of the Woolsey Family[4] (1809).


Berczy travelled to New York City during the War of 1812 and was stranded when attempting to travel to England. He died in the city and was buried at Trinity Church.

His wife moved in with William Bent Berczy and died on September 18, 1839 in Sainte-Mélanie, Lower Canada.[5]


An elementary school in northern Markham is named William Berczy Public School in his honour. The school, founded in 1967, has approximately 600 students in grades K-8. Current principal is Lindsey Rhamey.

Also in honour of this founder, the Markham government named one of its densely populated neighbourhoods after him, the Berczy Village.

Berczy Park is a small park located behind the Gooderham Building at Front Street and Wellington Street in Toronto. The park had been vacant for many decades and once used as a parking lot after the buildings on the site were demolished. A tree lined city park emerged after the late 1980s and has undergone renovations from 2015 to 2016.[6]

A bronze statue of Berczy will be situated in at Berczy Square, a park to be built at Berczy Village near Kennedy Road and 16th Avenue in Markham.[7][8][9]

In 2016, Berczy was named a National Historic Person.[10]


  • Ronald J. Stagg: Berczy, Williem [...]. In: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Francess G. Halpenny, General Editor, vol. 5. 1801-1820. Toronto, Buffalo, London 1983, pp. 70–72.
  • B[eate] Stock: Berczy, William (Johann Albrecht Ulrich Moll). In: (K[laus] G[erhard]) Saur [Publisher]: Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon. Die Bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker, Bd. 9. München, Leipzig 1994, pp. 255–256.
  • Hartmut Froeschle [Fröschle]: Adler auf dem Ahornbaum. Studien zur Einwanderung, Siedlung, Kultur-und Literaturgeschichte der Deutschen in Kanada. Herausgegeben und eingeleitet von Lothar Zimmermann. Toronto 1997 (Deutschkanadische Schriften, B. Sachbücher, Bd. 7), pp. 53–63: "Williem Berczy, ein deutschkanadischer Pionier".
  • Hartmut Froeschle [Fröschle]: Berczy trifft Goethe. In: Deutschkanadisches Jahrbuch / German Canadian Yearbook 15 (1998), pp. 89–97.
  • "William Berczy Co-Founder of Toronto" written by John Andre in 1967 as a centennial project for the Borough of York.
  • Pioneers of the Don by Charles Sauriol 1995 ISBN 0-9699685-0-7 (pp288–298 "The Story of the German Mills")


  1. ^ "Berczy Park". Toronto Parks and Recreation. Retrieved 2017-05-13. Berczy Park is named after William Berczy, a German-born architect, surveyor, and writer often considered a co-founder of modern Toronto with John Graves Simcoe. Berczy was also a painter, most famous for his portrait of Mohawk chief Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant). 
  2. ^ "Historical Events and Personages "German Mills"". Karlheissler.com. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  3. ^ "Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant) | National Gallery of Canada | National Gallery of Canada". Cybermuse.gallery.ca. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  4. ^ Woolsey Family
  5. ^ "Biography – ALLAMAND, JEANNE-CHARLOTTE – Volume VII (1836-1850) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography". Biographi.ca. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  6. ^ "More dogs, taller trees: Berczy Park is (partially) back in action". CBC News. 2016-12-05. Retrieved 2017-05-13. 
  7. ^ Markham Life, Spring 2015
  8. ^ Unionville Plan Earns Kudos, Yorkregion.com
  9. ^ Mayor's Inaugural Address, 2014
  10. ^ William Berzcy (1774-1813) (sic), Parks Canada backgrounder, Feb. 15, 2016

External links[edit]