PATRICK, WILLIAM, Methodist clergyman, businessman, and politician; b. 21 Feb. 1810 in Scarborough, Upper Canada, son of Asa Patrick and Belinda Gilbert; m. 31 May 1835 Abigail Ann, daughter of George Brouse*, and they had one child who died in infancy; d. 6 Aug. 1883 at Brockville, Ont.
William Patrick’s father immigrated as a child to Upper Canada from Scotland and settled on a farm outside Newmarket. During the War of 1812 he was connected with the commissariat department in York (Toronto), and later followed commercial pursuits. He sent William first to a local common school and then to the Home District Grammar School run by John Strachan*. At an early age William showed a strong commitment to the Methodist faith, and in 1828 he studied at the Cazenovia Seminary in New York. (His strong Methodist convictions have led to confusion of his career with that of William Poyntz Patrick of Toronto, a prominent Methodist layman and later a member of the Catholic Apostolic Church who was a clerk in the office of the Upper Canadian House of Assembly and chief office clerk of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, and who died on 13 Oct. 1863.) From 1829 until early 1836 William Patrick devoted himself to the Methodist ministry in Upper Canada, having been ordained in 1833. During these years he served briefly on circuits and missions in Long Point in Leeds County, Belleville, Whitby, Perth, Prescott, and the Rideau area. “The extreme youth, pleasing manners, piety and pathetic manner in preaching, made young Patrick’s ministrations exceedingly popular,” but by 1835 his failing voice persuaded him to abandon the ministry and to become a merchant.
The next year Patrick and his wife opened a small store in Kemptville and three years later they moved to Prescott where he began a dry goods business. By 1851, at which time he went to England on an extensive buying trip, Patrick was a well-established, successful businessman and an agent for the Provincial Mutual and General Insurance Company. He later served as a director of the Ottawa and Prescott Railway. While in Prescott Patrick also acted as a Methodist lay preacher.
Politics beckoned, and in 1849, following the burning of the Parliament Buildings in Montreal, Patrick delivered an address of loyalty to the governor general, Lord Elgin [Bruce*], on behalf of the people of Grenville County. During his absence in England in 1851 he was nominated by the Reformers of Grenville to run in the election called for December of that year. Throughout the campaign he spoke in favour of reciprocity and the promotion of agriculture, lumbering, and trade with the northwest. He defeated Dr Hamilton Dribble Jessup, a veteran Conservative. Re-elected in 1854 for the riding, which had become Grenville South, Patrick was a follower of Francis Hincks and was one of the Hincksite Liberals backing the Conservative-dominated ministry of Sir Allan Napier MacNab* and Augustin-Norbert Morin*. As a member of the assembly, Patrick advocated increased government aid to the Methodist Victoria College at Cobourg.
In 1856 Patrick crossed the floor and joined the Reform opposition, but to many Grits he remained a “miserable toady” for his support of Hincks. Nevertheless he was elected as a moderate Reformer in both 1857 and 1861. As a Reformer he maintained an uneasy but continuous relationship with the rival leaders, George Brown* and John Sandfield Macdonald*, the member for Cornwall. Patrick was moving closer to Sandfield Macdonald’s eastern Upper Canadian following. He supported the government of Sandfield Macdonald and Louis-Victor Sicotte formed in 1862, and unlike most Upper Canadian Reformers he remained with Macdonald during the crucial vote in March 1863 on the bill introduced by Richard William Scott* extending the rights of separate schools in Upper Canada. In the election of June 1863 Patrick was defeated by Conservative Walter Shanly*; ironically, despite his stand on separate schools, Patrick’s disagreement with the endowment of certain religious institutions cost him the Catholic vote.
Patrick was a supporter of confederation and as the 1867 elections approached it was rumoured that John A. Macdonald* was negotiating with him about suitable coalition candidates for Grenville South, a rumour hotly denied by Shanly, the sitting Conservative member. When, however, the Reform convention met in June 1867, Brown, acting on the advice of Luther Hamilton Holton*, who was concerned to bring in Reformers with a broader basis of representation, engineered the selection of a surprised and somewhat bewildered Patrick as chairman. The convention denounced the coalition with John A. Macdonald’s Conservatives and expelled William McDougall* from the party because of his support for coalition government. McDougall, the senior Reformer in John A. Macdonald’s cabinet, nevertheless supported Patrick for the federal seat during the elections that summer, while John A. backed Shanly, who subsequently won.
In 1872 Patrick was elected mayor of Prescott and from 1873 to 1876 served as town treasurer. From May 1873 until his death he was sheriff of the united counties of Leeds and Grenville, a position which led him to move to Brockville in 1876. According to his obituary in the Christian Guardian, Patrick performed his duties as sheriff with a “keen sense of Christian duty”; “it was his custom to read the Scripture and pray with the criminals under his care.” Patrick had maintained his involvement with the church both locally and nationally. In 1874, 1878, 1882, and 1883 he was an active delegate at the General Conference of the Methodist Church of Canada, and he was elected to its board of management. He left most of his estate for theological training at Victoria College and for the maintenance of missionaries abroad.
PAC, MG 24, B30; B40; MG 26, A. Surrogate Court of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville (Brockville, Ont.), no.1092, will of William Patrick, 12 Oct. 1883 (mfm. at AO). Carroll, Case and his cotemporaries. Brockville Recorder (Brockville), 9 Aug. 1883. Christian Guardian, 1874, 19 March 1884. Telegraph (Prescott, [Ont.]), 1849, 1851, 1861, 1863, 1867. Canadian biog. dict., I: 367–68. CPC, 1862. T. W. H. Leavitt, History of Leeds and Grenville, Ontario, from 1749 to 1879 . . . (Brockville, 1879; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1972).