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The United Empire Loyalist Settlement at Long Point, Lake Erie
Chapter XXXV. Ryerse (Captain Samuel)

Of this family there were two brothers, Samuel, the elder, and Joseph. They were descendants of an old Dutch family, and their ancestors had held judicial appointments under Kings George II. and III. At the opening of the Revolutionary War, Samuel Ryerse enlisted a company of over a hundred men for the service of the king, and was appointed captain thereof, his company being designated as the Fourth Battalion New Jersey Volunteers.

The original spelling of the name is Ryerson, but on making out his commission a mistake of spelling was made, and the form Ryerse continued through sundry despatches, commissions and patents, and was finally retained by this branch of the family.

After the war the Legislature of New Jersey having confiscated his a position at Malcolm’s Mills, now known by the name of Oakland. The Norfolk militia, commanded by Major Salmon, marched out to attack them. The forces met on the banks of the river which flows through Oakland. Before the engagement the wily American sent a detachment unnoticed down the river; hence the British troops were attacked both front and rear and quickly routed. The battle is sadly spoken of to-day by the old settlers as the “foot race.”

The victorious army of McArthur then marched to Waterford, burning the mills there—Avery’s and Sovereign’s. A detachment also came through Simcoe ravaging and plundering. Thence the ravagers marched to Lyndock, and the whole force being reunited, retreated by the Bostwick Road to Talbot Street, and along that highway to Detroit. The members of the various branches of the Culver families have always taken an important part in the affairs of the townships in which they reside.


After the war the Legislature of New Jersey having confiscated his property, he, in company with others, moved to New Brunswick and was given a grant of land near Fredericton, being assigned three thousand acres of the new survey.

In 1794 he took his family (for he had been married in New Brunswick and had four children) back to Long Island, New York, in the hope of being able to settle there, but he soon found that the bitter hatred of the Americans for the Loyalists had not died away in the slightest, and so determined to come back to Canada. Before removing his family Captain Ryerse and a friend came to this part of the country on a prospecting tour. At Niagara he was welcomed by Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe, who promised him a liberal grant of land, amounting in all, with that given to the members of the family on coming of age, to over eight thousand acres.

Late in that fall he returned to New York and made preparations to move his family the following spring. At the opening of navigation they started in a sloop up the Hudson in company with the family of Captain Bouta, and from Albany portaged across to Schenectady, where they procured one of the Schenectady boats, which have been described in a previous chapter.

In this flat-bottomed boat they made their way against the current up the Mohawk, and thence up Wood Creek. Between the head of navigation on Wood Creek and the Oswego river, which flows into Lake Ontario, is a portage of ten miles, over which their boat had to be drawn by hand on a kind of a rude waggon, the wheels being simply slices of a round beech tree.

They skirted the southern shore of Lake Ontario to Niagara, then up the Niagara to Queenston, from which place they had a long and wearisome portage of nine miles, till Chippawa was reached. From that place all was smooth sailing to the Long Point district, which they had chosen. The long journey was completed on the last day of June, 1795. The spot selected by Captain Ryerse was the land surrounding a creek, towards which the forest-covered acres sloped gently down. This was called Ryerse Creek, and the little settlement which grew up at its mouth, Port Ryerse.

Before the fall a comfortable log-house was erected with the help of the settlers already there, a more pretentious building than was common, for it contained a parlor, two bedrooms, a kitchen and a garret. As there were valuable water facilities on his land, one condition of his patent right was that he erect both a saw mill and a grist mill. In 1797 the former was built and the latter the following year. This milling enterprise (the flour mill) was almost the ruin of Captain Ryerse, for he did not understand flour milling, and for some years no one arrived in the settlement that could properly manage his mill. In addition, the cost of repair was heavy, as much of the supplies and machinery necessary could only be procured for cash, which was exceedingly scarce in the Ryerse family at that time, for he had to sell part of his land at a dollar an acre to assist in building it. The dam broke, the machinery got out of order, bolting cloths and other supplies were continually needed, and it was certainly a financial loss for many years. The toll was only one bushel in twelve, and the settlers had not much wheat to grind, what they raised being intended solely for their own consumption. During the summer season the mill was absolutely idle. However, experientia clocet, and in any case it was a very great benefit to the little settlement, for no other mill at that time existed nearer than at Niagara Falls, a hundred miles away.

The saw-mill, on the contrary, brought in better returns. The machinery was simpler and less apt to get out of order, and it did not require skilled operators. Sawn lumber was a staple article of trade, and the toll was half the lumber sawn. The lumber found a ready sale, not so much for cash, as for whatever the settlers had to barter. Consequently, the saw-mill was remunerative, but the flour-mill a heavy loss.

In 1800 Capt. Ryerse was appointed his Majesty’s Commissioner of the Peace for the District of London. He was first Chairman of the courts of Quarter Sessions, and Judge of the District and Surrogate courts.

The duties of magistrates in those days were not simply judicial. They had to solemnize marriages, register births, bury the dead, prescribe for the sick, and read the Church service on Sundays. They were the judges, lawyers, doctors, ministers, and even the dentists of the community. Virtual paragons they must have been to have attended to the various wants of all ranks and conditions of men.

About the beginning of the century the militia of the district was organized, and Mr. Ryerse was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of Militia. The regiment used to meet annually on the 4th June, the King’s Birthday, for training. It was a motley company, the majority being big slouching, round-shouldered young men, armed with old flint-lock muskets. These could be easily distinguished from the few spruce, upright and military-looking soldiers who had served a quarter of a century before in the war of American Independence.

In 1804, the log-house mentioned was burned, having caught fire from the rudely constructed chimney, and all the books and keepsakes, articles of plate and bric-a-brac, brought from New York and prized beyond all price, were burned. For some time thereafter the family lived in the house of the miller who managed the grist mill for Mr. Ryerse.

The later years of Mr. Ryerse’s life were spent in the weakness of failing health. That dread disease consumption had laid its icy fingers on a constitution never too strong. In 1810 he was compelled to resign the military and political offices he held, and in June, 1812, passed away at the age of sixty. He was buried in the little plot of ground on which was afterwards erected a church (as he had designed) to mark his resting-place.

The mills and property of Mr. Ryerse were destroyed in the war of 1812. On the 14th of May, 1814, an American force crossed Lake Erie, and, after plundering and burning the town of Dover, marched along the Lake Shore to Port Ryerse. When it appeared there Mrs. Ryerse entreated the officer in command to spare her property, for she was a widow and defenceless. But she only succeeded in saving her house. The mills and all other buildings were remorselessly given to the flames. The excuse argued was that the buildings had been used as a barracks and the mills had furnished flour to British troops. The militia of the district, under Colonel Talbot, was near Brantford at the time, and in his unfortunate absence the labors of the late Captain Ryerse were destroyed.

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