Part I: War Story
At the outset of the First World War, Æmilius Jarvis was a leader in the Canadian business community, a world-renowned yachtsman, and a champion of Canada’s Imperial connection. He was from a prominent Toronto family with Loyalist roots, and at fifty-four years old he was the father of three sons, two of whom were of age to fight. During the war, he contributed substantially to the infant Royal Canadian Navy, and dedicated his talent and energy to the war effort. Today, however, he is little-known outside of Toronto and Hamilton sailing circles. To understand why, we must look at how the Great War transformed his life and times.
Commodore Jarvis was the winningest and most famous sailor on the Great Lakes in his day, twice winning the venerable Canada's Cup, in 1896 and 1901. He was a seven-time Commodore of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, and was made honorary Commodore-for-life by the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club, the latter of which he helped found. Æmilius' countless business interests included the Steel Co. of Canada (ie. Stelco), several railways –including TTC forerunner Toronto Railway Co.–, and the King Edward Hotel (which he co-founded with the support of his Toronto Hotel Co. partner George Gooderham). He also co-founded/part-owned Arena Gardens, later known as the Mutual St. Arena, forerunner to Maple Leaf Gardens and the present-day Scotiabank Arena.
|[Click image to enlarge & for slideshow.] Recognizing the dire need in Toronto for upscale lodgings, & encouraged by Sen. George Cox, Æmilius Jarvis co-founded the King Edward Hotel with George Gooderham (Sr.). [Photo circa 1919.]|
This iconic WWI Navy recruitment poster specifically
advertises Æmilius Jarvis' 103 Bay St. recruitment centre.
[Library & Archives Canada]
He not only recruited men for the war effort, however; he also procured vessels, buying luxury steam yachts from well-heeled Americans and flipping them to the burgeoning Canadian Navy to be converted for military service. With the U.S. officially neutral early in the war, extreme measures were sometimes required to secure these yachts. In one instance, when a sale had been finalized but the U.S. Government had blocked the exchange last-minute, Jarvis slipped across the border with a ready crew and 'liberated' the vessel in the dead of night, navigating her back to Canada himself.  (*Reportedly, he in fact commandeered two steam yachts for the Royal Canadian Navy in this manner; Waturus and Columbia. They were subsequently re-named HMCS Hochelaga and HMCS Stadacona respectively, and the latter of the two later served as the R.C.N.'s flagship. )
The following spy mission tale comes from a story told in Jarvis' own words in his auto-biography/biography, “Æmilius: The Last Viking”, co-written and otherwise assembled by his grandson Robert Æmilius Jarvis...
|Æmilius Jarvis, President Canadian|
Locomotive Co. (Kingston, ON).
[Canadian Courier magazine, 1912.]
[Further evidence that British Intelligence were concerned about undue pro-German influence in the Tsar's court has emerged in the 21st century: it has been theorized from the known evidence of Rasputin's assassination that it was a British agent who delivered the coup de gras, the motive being grave concern over Rasputin's opposition to the war and -conversely- his dangerous influence over the German-born Tsarina.] 
The mission, at first, seemed to go off without a hitch. Jarvis successfully conveyed the message to the designated intermediary, one Pheonella Korotherovich (a spy for the Brits herself), without incident. Her task was then to deliver the message directly to the Tsar (bypassing his courtiers), as she evidently had access. On his way back to England, on a train and pulled into a station, Pheonella passed Jarvis in the train corridor, shooting him a look that said, 'I don't know you.' Jarvis played along in a split-second decision, and her assassins were, alas, in tow. She was shot and killed seconds later on the train station platform. 
Toronto Argonauts 'rugby
football' quarterback Bill Jarvis was a Lieutenant in the Canadian
Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.). Further to pro football, he was also a champion yachtsman, a pro hockey player dabbling in the European leagues, and an amateur boxer, topping the fight bill at Toronto's Arena Gardens. In late April 1915, while his father
was in England (having just returned from Petrograd), Bill fought in
the Battle of St. Julien, part of the “Second Battle of Ypres”
which itself comprised of four separate battles, infamous for being
the first time the Germans unleashed poison gas on a large scale.
(Also, it was during the Second Battle of Ypres that John McCrae
composed the poem "In Flanders Fields".) After two acts of heroism
-retrieving a fallen comrade, and maintaining communications between
units while under heavy fire-, Bill was witnessed by his mates being
shot and wounded. He didn't go
down. He was seen being shot
again, went down, and was subsequently presumed dead. After the
battle his body could not be found, and he was thus deemed Missing In
Toronto Argonauts QB William
Dummer Powell (Bill) Jarvis.
Bill and his father were very close. A distraught Æmilius couldn't accept that his prodigal son was dead, and -pushing his status as a Navy recruiter- forcefully traveled to the war zone himself to search for Bill! The desperate exercise proving futile, having found no trace of his fallen son, he returned to England and proceeded to lock himself in a lodging room at a friend's club for five days. When the staff finally broke down the door, they found he'd badly mangled his hands punching holes in the walls.
Thereafter, his zeal for business deals began to wane, and in subsequent years he'd spend more and more time away from his Toronto office in favour of his Aurora, Ont. farm, Hazelburn.  He ceased to properly mind his shop –Æmilius Jarvis & Co.– with an eagle eye, leading to catastrophic results later on.
* * * * *
Aemilius Jarvis Jr.,
awarded a Military Cross in 1918.
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. In the attack, volunteering to organize and maintain communication between the attacking troops and the quarry on the northern side of the wood, he personally ran out a wire, despite the intense machine gun fire and rifle fire, and acted as a telephone operator, thus enabling covering machine gun fire to be accurately maintained. His skillful and most fearless action contributed in a marked degree to the success of the attack.”
-Library & Archives of Canada
The Commodore was himself awarded a medal, a Special Service Decoration (S.S.D.), personally presented to him by Admiral Jellicoe, head of the Royal Navy. The award was specifically for Jarvis' contributions in the all-important Atlantic Q-boat patrol. Q-boats were decoy vessels, sometimes known as 'mystery ships'; they were heavily armed merchant ships, brandishing concealed weapons. They were employed to lure submarines into making surface attacks, thereby giving the Q-boats opportunity to fire and sink the unsuspecting subs. Jarvis was one of only two Canadians presented with an S.S.D., the other being Sir John Eaton.
* * * * *
Part II: Aftermath
After the war, many public grievances –which had been put on hold for the greater good during wartime– resurfaced, and soldiers returning to poor job prospects rose up. The most famous case of this was the 1919 Winnipeg General strike, but such social unrest was in fact taking place all over the country. As a result, the rich were beginning to become vilified. Having fame to go along with his fortune, Jarvis was about to become a ripe and opportune target in the political arena. Via his Æmilius Jarvis & Co., he made a deal with the United Farmers of Ontario (U.F.O.) provincial government in 1920 to buy back war bonds from Britain at extraordinary savings. A freelancer named Andrew Pepall (brother of Æmilius Jarvis & Co. manager Harry Pepall) had spotted an opportune window to buy, whilst the bond prices happened to be depressed. The payment rate for Jarvis' services was set and ultimately kept to the letter (the terms being dictated by the Province), and he put up his own money, at his own risk, to purchase the bonds to then flip to the Ontario Government under the agreement.
|R.C.M.P. on horseback charge the crowd during the Winnipeg General Strike, 1919. Over thirty people were injured in the action, and two were killed. [Photo via Library & Archives Canada.]|
This would lead to the Ontario Bond Scandal. Jarvis would find –four years after the deal was done– that there was little sympathy for him on the part of a war-weary public, regardless of his hefty and hearty contributions to Canada's war effort, not to mention his sacrifice.
Ontario Premier (1919-23),
The Commodore refused to take the stand in his own defense. Had he done so, he would almost certainly have been acquitted. He took the stand in the separate/belated trial of another accused, Andrew Pepall, and subsequently proved his own innocence beyond a doubt. (This presumption/conclusion was by all accounts, excepting of course the dogged position maintained in perpetuity by the Ontario Government and it's prosecutors.) In his own trial, however, Æmilius the elder was ultimately found guilty, and he and Peter Smith were jointly fined 600K, an astronomical sum in 1924, and the largest such fine ever (to that point) in the entire British Empire! Jarvis was sentenced to six months in jail, and further was not to be released until the fine had been paid. He appealed the latter portion of the ruling, arguing that it –in effect, being such an insurmountable sum– amounted to a life sentence, and the fine was ultimately lowered to 200K. The predominant theory as to why he refused to take the stand was, having already lost one son (Bill) in WWI, he wanted to protect Aemilius Jr. and thus took the fall himself, being the bigger fish that the prosecution and Premier Howard Ferguson's government would prefer to land anyways. (And, like a dutiful Captain, he went down with the ship.) Aemilius Jr. was alas found innocent of the charge.
|Former Ontario Treasurer Peter Smith & |
Æmilius Jarvis convicted of conspiracy to defraud
the government on Oct. 24, 1924. [Toronto Star]
The postwar climate contributed significantly to Jarvis' prosecution, both in terms of the pervasion of anti-rich sentiment, as well as some indifference felt towards our war heroes in certain cases. (I classify Jarvis as a war hero based on the risking of his life in delivering a message to the Tsar, his accomplice having been assassinated, and based on his having been decorated by Admiral Jellicoe of the British Royal Navy for his vital contribution to Canada's war effort.) Thus, beyond (and largely because of) losing a son in WWI, Jarvis was further an after-the-fact casualty of the war: In taking his eye off the ball at his business from the grief of loss, he opened a window for malfeasance to slip in, and it appears that –in this case– Andrew Pepall was that personified. (In fairness, it should be stated that Pepall was indeed acquitted on theft charges in his own separate Ontario Bond Scandal trial.)
|Canadian General Sir Arthur Currie |
attending his libel trial vs. a Port Hope
newspaper in 1928 (Cobourg, ON).
[Photo via Toronto Archives]
This was all front page news at the time, a political trial-of-the-decade, and Jarvis was alas a well-known public figure, both as a champion sailor, and as an enthusiastic and tireless Navy recruiter. Many have said that Canadians (as a whole) didn't always honour all our WWI heroes as we should've, and the ultimate one of those –General Sir Arthur Currie– himself wound up in court, having to sue a newspaper for libel. The General's war record was harshly pilloried by a Port Hope (Ontario) newspaper owned by a known British critic of Sir Arthur's, specifically regarding the eleventh-hour attack on Mons, an assault which he was under strict orders to make. (The Armistice was imminent, but not yet secured, at the time of the Mons attack.) The General's health deteriorated as a result of that 1928 trial, and he consequently died five years later. Æmilius Jarvis was no Arthur Currie, to be sure, but the point is that neither deserved to become targets, their opponents egged on or otherwise enabled by sour or otherwise indifferent public sentiment. Granted, the public was -as previously mentioned- understandably war-weary. However, as a secondary note, we Canadians tend to be too modest to accept too much success on behalf of one or another of our countrymen or women, much less to celebrate it. Heaven forbid! (If either of these men had been American, they would rather have been fêted and lionized to the moon, which of course is a bit extreme going in the other direction.)
Jarvis' reputation was little impacted by his conviction in terms of those who knew him. Tea magnate and frequent America's Cup challenger Sir Thomas Lipton publicly stood by him, as did over fifty of his fellow Toronto businessmen, the most prominent in the city including names such as Southam, Sifton, Gooderham, Pellatt, and Rogers. They all signed a forceful and detailed petition pleading Æmilius' innocence and denouncing his wrongful conviction to the Ontario Government.
Æmilius Jarvis horse-jumping in 1936, age 76.
In his 80th year he was spotted adjusting the
rigging, having rappelled all the way up the mast
of his 12-metre class racing yacht, Mitena.
[Photo via Toronto Archives]
Upon the occasion of his 80th birthday, Jarvis explained his perseverance to the Toronto Star. “Keep punching,” he reflected. “It sounds like a platitude to say that into all lives some rain must fall – but it's true. Trouble with some folks is that a little rain in their lives is considered permanent.”
The Commodore fought for his conviction to be overturned for the rest of his life, spending a reported $4-million in the effort(!) , but was pipped at the post repeatedly by petty politics. (This was namely by successive Ontario Conservative provincial governments, who'd had him charged in the first place. Federal governments, on the other hand, under both Prime Minister MacKenzie King and R.B. Bennett were highly sympathetic –clemency was on the table–, but such initiatives were blocked from action by an Ontario government protest which the Province refused to withdraw.) Due to this conviction, I believe, the city-builder, nation-builder, and war hero Commodore Æmilius Jarvis has been all but erased from various histories in which he played substantial roles, and is hence only remembered in the aforementioned Toronto and Hamilton sailing circles, where he remains a vital Legend to this day.
 “Great Canadian; Aemilius Jarvis Passes” The Express Herald, 23 December 1940. http://news.ourontario.ca/newmarket/116439/page/2
 “Æmilius: The Last Viking” by Edward Æmilius Jarvis & Robert Æmilius Jarvis [Canada, 2014]
 “British spy 'fired the shot that finished off Rasputin'” by Karyn Miller, The Telegraph  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/3344528/British-spy-fired-the-shot-that-finished-off-Rasputin.html
*If you're interested in the many aspects of the Æmilius Jarvis story, you can follow my Twitter feed @AemiliusJarvis.
|Æmilius Jarvis toured so much giving |
recruitment presentations, & was so well
known for it, that he became the subject of an
automobile newspaper advertorial.
[Image via Library & Archives Cda]
|W.D.P./Bill Jarvis fell at St. Julien on April |
24, 1915 during the 2nd Battle of Ypres.
He is commemorated at the R.C.Y.C., in
Toronto's historic St. James Church, & on
the Menin Gate.
[Library & Archives Cda]
|HMCS Stadacona, stealthily liberated by Æmilius Jarvis from a U.S. shipyard in WWI, later to become the Royal Canadian Navy flagship.|
|Bay St., Toronto, looking north from King St., ca 1914. Jarvis Building, housing Æmilius Jarvis & Co. (brokers), front right.|
|"The Zahra at the left, one of Æmilius Jarvis' splendid yachts, here shown in the George Cup race." [Macleans magazine, Jan. 1913]|
|Cheque from the Province of Ontario to Andrew Pepall for expenses incurred on trip to England with Æmilius Jarvis to buy back war bonds at the government's behest (to then flip back to the Province). The expenses were later deemed extravagant when a new governing party took power, & the Ontario Bond Scandal investigation was subsequently launched. [Photo via Toronto Archives]|
|Æmilius Jarvis w/ 2nd wife May née Read (following the passing of his 1st wife, Augusta) at Woodbine Racetrack, 1930s. [Photo via Toronto Archives]|
|Æmilius' beloved Hazelburn farm in Aurora, ON (1923). Aemilius Sr. is 3rd from the left, & son Aemilius Jr. is 2nd from the left. "Toronto & North York Hunt Club" operated next door at George Beardmore's Beverly Farm (now Beacon Hall Golf Club), later owned by Æmilius (Sr.). [Photo via Toronto Archives]|