William Berczy

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William Berczy
William Berczy Self-portrait Florence 1783.jpg
Self-portrait, 1783
BornDecember 10, 1744
DiedFebruary 5, 1813(1813-02-05) (aged 68)
NationalityAustria - Canada
Other names
  • Johann Albrecht Ulrich Moll[1]
  • William Moll Berczy[2]
  • William Burksay[2]
Occupationdiplomat, artist, land speculator, architect
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. He is considered one of the co-founders of the Town of York, Upper Canada, now Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Berczy was born in Wallerstein, 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 following marriage 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.

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).

Berczy married, on November 1, 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. His son Charles Albert Berczy became the second postmaster of Toronto.

Berczy helped John Graves Simcoe establish a settlement north of York, which became the town of Markham.[3]

"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."[4]

Berczy built homes in York and Markham, including Russell Abbey in York.

Berczy painted. His two best known pictures are a full-length portrait of the Mohawk chief Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant) (c. 1805)[5] and a group portrait of the Woolsey Family[6] (1809). 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 travelled to New York City during the War of 1812 and was stranded when attempting to travel. He first stayed in Middlebury, Vermont with friends, then to Albany, New York then to New York City from which he planned to travel to England. He fell ill while in New York and died while in the care of friends. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Trinity Church as William Burksay.[2] His wife moved in with her son William and died on September 18, 1839 in Sainte-Mélanie, Lower Canada.[7] Berczy was also survived by his other son, Charles Albert Berczy.


An elementary school in central Markham is named William Berczy Public School in his honour.[8] The school, founded in 1967, has approximately 600 students in grades K-8. Current principal is Lindsey Rhamey. The Vice Principal is Alex Pasta. Also in honour of this founder, the then Town of Markham named one of its densely populated neighbourhoods after him, the Berczy Village. Berczy Creek is a tributary of the Rouge River in Markham. 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.[9][10][11] Within Berczy Village is William Berczy Settlement Historical Cemetery.

William Berczy Boulevard is a major road from Major Mackenzie Drive to 16th Avenue in Berczy Village, Berczy Gate is a short street near Highway 7 and Ninth Line and Berczy Creek Way is a short road near 16th Avenue and Warden Avenue in Markham. In Toronto a roadway called Leader Lane was renamed from Berczy Lane. There is also Berczy Street in Aurora running next to the train station.

Berczy Park is a small park located behind the Gooderham Building at Front Street and Wellington Street in Toronto, Ontario. 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.[12]

Berczy Street Park and Berczy Street are found in Barrie, Ontario. Berczy-Strasse is a street named for him in Wallerstein, Bavaria.

In 2016, Berczy was named a National Historic Person.[13][14]


  • 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. ^ Robert MacIntosh (2006). Earliest Toronto. GeneralStore PublishingHouse. p. 11. ISBN 9781897113417. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Death of William Moll Berczy". Echo Germanica. 2013. Archived from the original on September 11, 2017. Retrieved March 30, 2019. The first stop after Albany was to be New York City, and the last record of Berczy comes from that city. On 10 October 1812 he met with the associates of the German Company and proposed that they advance him a sum of money against his shares, so that he could pursue, in England, his quest for redress of his claims regarding the Upper Canada land grant. But time had run out for our determined artist-entrepreneur; he fell ill once more, was looked after by old friends and died in New York on 5 February, 1813.
  3. ^ "Berczy Park". Toronto Parks and Recreation. Retrieved May 13, 2017. 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).
  4. ^ "Historical Events and Personages "German Mills"". Karlheissler.com. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  5. ^ "Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant) | National Gallery of Canada | National Gallery of Canada". Cybermuse.gallery.ca. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  6. ^ Woolsey Family
  7. ^ "Biography – ALLAMAND, JEANNE-CHARLOTTE – Volume VII (1836-1850) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography". Biographi.ca. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  8. ^ "William Berczy Public School". York Region District School Board. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  9. ^ "New Berczy Square Will Be Home to William Berczy Statue: Celebrating a 220-Year Legacy" (PDF). Markham Life. Markham Life, Spring 2015. p. 4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2019-03-30. The statue will be erected in the new Berczy Square located at the northeast corner of Kennedy Road and 16th Avenue. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. ^ "Unionville Plan Earns Kudos". Markham Economist & Sun. June 10, 2010. Retrieved March 30, 2019. In addition, there will be a bicycle network, a pedestrian system with linkages, and a piazza with a statue of William Berczy.
  11. ^ Frank Scarpitti (December 1, 2014). "Mayor's Inaugural Address, 2014" (PDF). Markham, Canada. Retrieved March 30, 2019. My other source of inspiration is William Berczy and his group of settlers. They embarked on a journey to make a new home. In a place called Markham.
  12. ^ "More dogs, taller trees: Berczy Park is (partially) back in action". CBC News. December 5, 2016. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  13. ^ "Government of Canada Announces new National Historic Designations". Parks Canada. February 15, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  14. ^ "William Berzcy (1744-1813)". Parks Canada. February 15, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2019.

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