( Originally Published 1924 )
THERE are those who think that one should not to one's forebears and that it savors of pride not consistent with latter-day democracy. I would refer such to the following quotation from "When Knighthood was in Flower" which expresses very clearly my ideas on the subject.
"We Cascodens take a great pride in our ancestors. Some persons, I know, hold it to be uncommon like and the height of vanity, but they usually have no ancestors of whom to be proud. The man who does not know who his great-grandfather was, naturally enough would not care what he was. Even admitting that it is a vanity at all, it is an impersonal kind of failing which, like excessive love of country, leads virtue-ward, for the man who fears to disgrace his ancestors is certainly less likely to disgrace himself."
The Ryerson family is of Dutch Huguenot origin. It is an old one, for the name appears in the History of Amsterdam in the list of " sheppen," of sheriffs, in A.D. /330 and reappears from time to time in the list of burgomasters, councilmen and treasurers up to the year 1693. In the Ryerson genealogy we read that when the bloodthirsty Philip II of Spain was crowned King of the Netherlands, he at once established the Inquisition and sent as his Regent, Margaret, Duchess of Parma, who in her bigoted misrule caused many to be put to death for heresy (i.e., Protestantism). It was but natural that the people rose against such atrocities and waged a bitter war for many years under the guidance of William, Prince of Orange, who ultimately expelled the Spaniards from Holland. The Ryerson family took an active part in driving the tyrants from the country and suffered severely thereby. This is confirmed by the Ryerson coat-of-arms, which shows that in battle the family was nearly exterminated. The battle axes and uprooted trees tell the story. One member of the family named Albert was beheaded for " heresy" on April 13th, 1675.
The earliest record of the family in America is that of two brothers, Martin and Adrian, who came to New Amsterdam (New York) in 1647. Another Ryerson, Jan, arrived in 1637 and settled at Renselaerswyck (now Albany, N.Y.) in 1637, but whether he was related to Martin and Adrian and left any descendants, is not known.
The Canadian branch of the family is descended from Martin. The name was originally spelt Reyerzoon, but was abbreviated to Reyertz, later to Ryerse, and anglicized to Ryerson, about the year 170th Martin Ryerson married on May 14th, 1663, Annettje Joris de Rapeije in the Dutch Reformed Church in Brooklyn. One, Catalina Jeronymus, was witness and Dominic Selyns performed the ceremony. She was the daughter of Voris de Rapelje, who came to New Amsterdam in 1621 and settled at Brucklein (Brooklyn, N.Y.). She is believed to have been the first white woman born on Long Island. Martin was a man of considerable means, a burgher and magistrate of New Amsterdam. He died in 1687 leaving eleven children by his wife Annettje, five sons and six daughters.
Adrian's descendants took the name of Adriance, an old Dutch custom, and they still arc to be found in many parts of the United States.
Yoris Ryerson, grandson of Martin, owned a farm of fifty acres running from Broadway down Wall Street. This farm he exchanged in 1711 for six hundred acres of wild land in New Jersey. He settled at Pompton Plains, which thereafter became the headquarters of the family.
The Revolution of 1775 found the family divided in its sympathies, as is often the case in civil wars, for example during the American Civil War, it happened therefore that one brother remained neutral and continued to live in the old homestead, with the result that he was raided by both the contending armies, his house being in the line of advance and retreat. Another became a Continental soldier and three remained loyal to the British Crown. At the close of the war the Loyalist brothers' property was confiscated and they were forced, like so many other United Empire Loyalists, to emigrate to what was then the wilds of Canada. One brother, Francis, settled in Nova Scotia, while Samuel and Joseph took up land near Maugerville in New Brunswick. Samuel did not remain long in New Brunswick, but removed to Upper Canada, where he settled on the shores of Lake Erie and founded the village of Port Ryerse. Ile retained the old spelling of the name as do his descendants.
Joseph, my grandfather, the youngest of the brothers, on the advice of Samuel, sold his property in MaugervilIe in 1798 and joined his brother in Upper Canada. His allotment of land was near Vittoria, then a dense bush. While in New Brunswick he had married Mehetable Stickney, who came of a preloyalist family.
Joseph entered the royal army as a cadet in 1775, at the age of fifteen. He was unable to handle the cumbrous musket of those days, so he was given a shot gun. A few months later volunteers were called for to proceed south to besiege Charleston, Carolina. Joseph volunteered, but the Inspector-General at first refused to accept him, but the boy urged that he was growing stouter and stronger every day and displayed such enthusiasm that he was allowed to go. He was enrolled as a light infantry volunteer and attached successively to the 37th, 71st and 84th Regiments_ The light infantry was composed of fine fighting material who gave such a good account of themselves that on their return, three years later, only eighty-six out of five hundred and fifty were left to tell the tale of their adventures. The corps was broken up and the volunteers returned to their respective regiments.
Joseph had been distinguished above his fellows by his dauntless bravery and by the number of hairbreadth escapes from death and capture. He had been entrusted with the carriage of important despatches from Charleston to a point nearly two hundred miles from the coast Having delivered them he returned in safety, although narrowly avoiding capture several times. For this service he was made an ensign. He was subsequently ordered to carry despatches to New York by sea and again acquitted himself creditably. As a reward for this second display of courage and adroitness he was promoted to a lieutenancy in the Prince of Wales New Jersey Volunteers.
After his return north he continued in active service until the close of the war, during which he took part in six pitched battles and many skirmishes, but was only wounded once. One of Captain Ryerson's old comrades of the Bay of Quinte, Peter Redner, said he was a man of daring and intrepidity and a great favorite with his company. He represented Captain Ryerson as one of the most determined men he had ever met, and having the service of his country ever uppermost in his mind often exposed himself to great danger to accomplish his purpose.
When living in New Brunswick Joseph had been promoted to a captaincy. In 1806 he was made a major by his brother by virtue of his authority as Lieutenant of the County of Norfolk. He was further promoted to lieutenant-colonel by Sir Isaac Brock in 1812, when he was appointed to the command of the First Norfolk Regiment of Militia, and in 1820 was made full colonel by Sir Peregrine Maitland, K.C.B., Governor and Major-General commanding in Upper Canada. In the war of 1812-14 he was given the command in Western Ontario. He and his three eldest sons served throughout this war. In 1799 he had been appointed sheriff of the Western or London District and held various other offices, including that of Chairman of the Board of Quarter Sessions of the Peace.
He died at his home near Charlotteville, County of Norfolk, in 1854, after having drawn a pension from the British Government for his services, in the American Revolutionary War, for seventy years, in the 94th year of his age. Colonel Ryerson has been described as a large man, over six feet in height, of powerful frame and decided character. It is to be regretted that no portrait of him exists. By his wife, who predeceased him in 1850, he had six sons and three daughters.My father, George Ryerson, was the eldest son of Joseph. He was born at Maugerville, N.B., March 7th, 1791, and removed with his father and the family to Upper Canada in 1798. Ile, with the others, endured the hardships of pioneer life in the then wilds of Norfolk County. He was twen ty-one years of age when the war of 1812-14 broke out and was commissioned by Sir Isaac Brock as a lieutenant in the First Norfolk Regiment under his father's command. He raised a company, of which he was acting-captain, and joining Brock's force proceeded up Lake Erie and took part in the capture of Detroit. After its fall he was ordered to carry despatches back to York (Toronto). He was severely wounded during a night attack on Fort Erie, Nov. 13th, 1813, and lay for many months in hospital at Fort George, Niagara-on-theLake. On his recovery he joined the Incorporated Militia of Upper Canada and with this regiment took part in the battles of Lundy's Lane, Beaver Dams, Stony Creek and other minor engagements. He remained in the Incorporated Militia for some years after the war and was stationed at Toronto, in the Oki Fort. Resigning his commission he proceeded to Union College, Schenectady, to complete his education. Ile became, like his brothers, interested in religion, and joined the Methodist Church, was ordained and became a missionary to the Indians and an itinerant preacher. About 1828 he was sent to England to represent the Methodist Church in the great Clergy Reserve controversy and spent some years in that country. While in England he came under the influence of the celebrated Edward Irving and became a minister of the Irvingite or Catholic Apostolic Church, of which he became, in time, the head in America.
He was three times married. First, to a sister of the Hon. John Rolph, to whom was born one son and one daughter. The son, Joseph William, early removed to the United States, served in the American Civil War and died in 1906. The daughter married John McLaughlin and died in 1873.
By his second marriage, with an English lady, Sophia Symes, he had one daughter,Sophia Mehetable, who married Rev. J. E. Gillmore and has issue.
By his third marriage, in 1858, he had one son, the author of this book. His wife was Isabella Dorcas, daughter of Hon. Ansel Sterling, of Sharon, Conn.
Mr. Sterling was eleven times elected to the Legislature of Connecticut and four times to the Congress of the United States, and later became Chief Judge of Litchfield County, Conn. The Sterling family is descended from Captain William Sterling, who settled at Lynne, Conn., in 1634, and was more remotely descended from the Sterlings of Kier, Scotland.
George Ryerson died December 19th, 1882. My mother died December 19th, 1892, exactly ten years later.*
Samuel, the second son, remained on the farm, his five brothers becoming ministers. He was born in 1794 and died in 1830. He accompanied his father to Upper Canada and having married Eliza McMichael settled on a farm of his own near
*1 find the following account of the capture of Detroit which my father communicated to Dr. Canniff and which was published in Bedford's Magazine in 1877, under the title of "Fragments of the War of 1812."
"No sooner had Hull crossed to Detroit than Lieutenant Ryerson's company was at once employed to construct a masked battery opposite Detroit, under the direction of Captain Dixon of the Royal Engineers. At this point there stood on the banks of the river a number of large oak trees. Behind these they proceeded to erect the batteries, but the work had to proceed quietly, and no one was to be seen during the day passing the place. The men would go into the woods at night, dig until near morning, when they would as quietly go away into the woods beyond sight. By the time Brock arrived the batteries were completed and the guns in place. The night before the crossing of the British, the trees concealing the Vittoria, Norfolk County. He took part in the war of 1812. He left issue, one son and three daughters.
William, the third son, was one of the most eloquent platform and pulpit orators of his day. He served in the war of 1812 and entered the Methodist Church, was ordained, and like his brothers was a missionary to the Indians. He became President of the Wesleyan Conference in 1841. He successfully contested a seat in the Parliament of Upper Canada in the sixties of the last century, but his defective hearing prevented a successful political career. He was born in 1798 and married Mary Griffin and left issue, three sons and three daughters. He died in 1873.
John, the fourth son, was ordained in 1822. in 1854 he was sent by the Methodist Conference to investigate the mission field of the North West battery were cut down. The British crossed the Detroit river about two miles below the fort; and the numerous boats, some of which drifted farther down, filled with soldiers, with their bayonets glistening in the morning sun, presented a most animated appearance. Having landed, they quickly fell into line and took the way towards the fort, distant half a mile. They had expected the foe would oppose their landing, and were surprised to find no opposition whatever. About half a mile from the fort was a ravine, where there were deserted villas. This concealed them, and they turned in among the tall green corn, and passed unseen. Presently they were ordered to prepare and partake of their breakfast. Meanwhile the batteries on the Canadian side had opened fire, much to the astonishment of the Americans, and were sending shot and shell into the fort. After breakfast crock's troops were ordered to fall in. The total force did not exceed 700 men. They fully expected, as they took their places in the ranks, to be led into action, and to encounter a much larger force, but there was no hesitation. What, then, was their surprise to find as they came in sight of the fort, that the way was unopposed and the gates wide open. It had not been made known that the pompous American General who had so lately invited the Canadians to remain peacefully at home, while he drove the red-coated oppressor out of the country, had ignoiniously surrendered to a small body of Canadian Militia, with a Territories and has left an interesting account of the journey to Hudson Bay and through the then little-known West. He was one of the leaders of the Methodist Church and was sent to England as a delegate to the British Conference in 1846. He held various positions in Victoria College. Like his brothers he served in the war of 1812, although only a boy at the time. He married Mary Lewis and left issue, one son and one daughter. He died in 1878.
Egerton, the fifth son, was the most noted of the brothers. His name and his fame will endure always as the founder of the Ontario School System_ As his life and work have been fully described in many volumes, I will refrain from quoting them in detail. He was ordained into the Methodist Church in 1.825. In 1.829 he founded the Christian handful of regulars. The first intimation Lieutenant Ryerson's company had of the state of affairs was upon entering the gates to notice the arms of the Americans stacked in a small enclosure. Then they became aware that the whole American army were prisoners of war. it was the trusty flank companies that Brock detailed to take possession of the prisoners and fort. These companies were not equipped like the regulars, and as the little squad passed in, the ongazing women hooted and railed at their appearance. For this the Canadians cared not, for their joy was full. In thus occupying the fort of Detroit, Lieutenant Ryerson heard not a single shot of small arms, and believes not one was fired. The only firing done was that of the battery before mentioned. This battery, it was then stated among the men, was the final means of causing surrender. While General Hull was holding a council of war to decide upon the answer to General Brock's demand for surrender, and was hesitating, one of the shells from the battery entered the very room he occupied and killed several present. This so frightened him that a surrender was determined upon. Lieutenant Ryerson saw the dead bodies, and believes these were. the only persons killed on this occasion. Shortly after he passed by the great chief Tecumseh, who was sitting in his buckskin clothes with his brother, the Prophet, smoking his pipe, with his face perfectly cairn, but with the greatest satisfaction beaming in his eyes. His hated foe, who had chased him like a beast and had wronged his people, was at his feet; but he carried out his promise to Brock not to allow his braves to maltreat the prisoners."
Guardian. He founded Victoria College in 1840 and became its president in 1842_ In 1845 he was appointed Chief Superintendent of Education and began his great life-work, retiring in 1879. lie wrote many books, of which the most important are "The United Empire Loyalists and Their 'nines," "The Puritans of Old England" and the "Story of my Life." He married first, Hannah Aikman and second, Mary Armstrong and left issue, one son and one daughter. Ile died in 1882.
Edwy, the youngest son, was also a minister. He was first a Methodist and afterwards a Baptist. He held many charges in Stratford, Niagara Falls and elsewhere. He was born in 1811 and died in 1858. He married first, Emily, daughter of Rev. Daniel Freeman, and on her death her sister Phoebe, and left issue, one son and four daughters.
The daughters of Joseph Ryerson and Mehetable Stickney wereŚMary, who married Colonel John Bostwick, of Port Stanley; MelietabIe, who married John Williams; and Elizabeth, who married Judge James