John Denison

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John Denison
Born 1755-11-20
Died 1824-10-28
York, Upper Canada
Occupation miller, brewer, land speculator
Known for member of Upper Canada's Family Compact

John Denison was an early settler of Upper Canada. He was a militia officer, and became a member of Upper Canada's notorious family compact.[1] Through the friendship between his family and Peter Russell, a senior administrator of the new Province, and his sister Elizabeth Russell, Denison and his family became one of the Province's richest families.

Denison's wife, the former Sophia Taylor, had been a childhood friend with Elizabeth.[1] When Simcoe learned he would be appointed Lieutenant Governor, he lined up individuals, who would accompany him, who would be appointed to positions of influence. They would, in effect, fill a role similar to that of the landed gentry in English counties - this was the family compact. Simcoe had picked Russell, who, in turn, encouraged Denison to join them.

Denison, his wife, and three sons, arrived in Kingston, Ontario, in 1792.[2] He advertized an invitation for farmers to cultivated barley, in 1792, and used that barley to open a brewery, in 1793.[3]

At 57, he lead a militia company in 1812, with his three sons serving under him.[3]

A dozen years near the top of the administration of the Province had made Russell the largest landowner in the Province.[4] He was also a slave owner. His sister Elizabeth became the Province's largest landowner, when she inherited his property, on his death, in 1808. She gave Amy Pompadour to her friend.[5][6] Pompadour has been described as the last slave in the Province.[3] Denison family tradition states they later freed her.


  1. 1.0 1.1 James Granville Fleming. The Fighting Denisons, Maclean's magazine, 1913-12-01. Retrieved on 2021-02-20. “There was a close intimacy between John Denison and his wife and Peter Russell and his sister; so much so that when the Russells decided to go with Colonel Simcoe, they endeavored to induce their friends to accompany them. Mrs. Denison was eager to make the journey and her husband was strongly tempted by the stories of the excellentshooting and fishing that were to be enjoyed in the new world.”
  2. David Gagan. The Historical Identity of the Denison Family of Toronto, 1792-1860, Erudit, p. 127. Retrieved on 2021-02-20.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Robert Evelyn Denison. A history of the Denison family in Canada, 1792 to 1910 : for the use of members of the family only, Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, 1910, p. 14. Retrieved on 2021-02-20. “The cottage referred to in this account, appears to have been built on Front Street, near Bay. Help for household work was very hard to get then as now, and we read that Miss Russel presented Mrs. John Denison with a negro female slave, Amy Pompadour, said to be the last slave ever legally held in Upper Canada.”
  4. Template:Cite DCB
  5. William Renwick Riddell. Upper Canada-Early Period, July 1920, p. 324. Retrieved on 2021-02-20.
  6. (1994) Peggy Bristow: We're Rooted Here and They Can't Pull Us Up: Essays in African Canadian Women's History. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9780802068811. Retrieved on 2021-02-20. 

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