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The United Empire Loyalist Settlement at Long Point, Lake Erie
Chapter XLV. Ryerson (Lieutenant Joseph)


Joseph, younger brother of Samuel by nine years, was born in New Jersey, at a town called Paterson, on the 28th February, 1761. At the outbreak of the war of American Independence he entered the army in 1776 as a cadet. Being for some time too small to handle a musket, he used a light fowling-piece. About the close of that year, Sir Peter Parker and Sir Henry Clinton called for volunteers to form a light infantry corps, to go south for the purpose of besieging Charleston. Joseph is mentioned by Col. Sabine as being one of the 550 volunteers for this campaign. When Col. Ennis, the recruiting officer for this expedition, came to Joseph Ryerson, he told him that he was too small to go; but the boy replied that he was growing older and stouter every day, and the colonel, pleased at the ladís ready answer, accepted him.

The service was hard and dangerous, and scarcely a sixth of the force returned, Joseph being one of the eighty-six who got safely back to the Northern States after the unsuccessful siege. After this, the light infantry corps was dispersed, and the men who remained were returned to the regiments from which they had volunteered.

In 1778 he was made an ensign in the Prince of Wales Regiment. This honor was conferred on him in recognition of his services in the bearing of dispatches from Charleston to a point 196 miles in the interior. In the course of this he had many narrow escapes. One story is related by Peter Rodner, who had served in the same division, and remained, till death, his faithful and intimate friend.

He says that on one occasion Ryerson was sent on a scouting expedition and was rash enough to crawl up to a tent of American officers, when he was discovered by one standing in the door, but determining to save himself by an act of unparalleled intrepidity, walked boldly up, and, drawing his bayonet, plunged it through the heart of the hesitating officer and escaped before the startled Americans could give pursuit. He also mentions that Ensign Ryerson was one of the most determined men he ever knew, and with the service of his country uppermost in his mind, often exposed himself to great dangers for the accomplishment of his purposes.

In the following year he was promoted to a lieutenancy in the same regiment, in recognition of the courage which he showed in the bearing of special despatches by sea to the north, having eluded the enemy many times and repulsed them frequently at great odds. He was in six battles and several minor encounters, and once wounded.

In 1783 he went to New Brunswick, being assigned lands at Majorville, on the St. John. There he remained till 1799, when he removed to Upper Canada and settled in the township of Charlotteville.

In Canada, he held in succession the military offices of captain of the militia, major, and afterwards colonel.

In 1800 he was made a member of the first commission of magistrates, and was for some years chairman of the Courts of Quarter Sessions. In that same year he was appointed high sheriff of London District, which position he held for about five years. He held also the position of Treasurer of London District for eight years.

True to his loyalty to the British crown whenever danger threatened, in the war of 1812 he again shouldered his musket, and, together with three of his sons (George, William and John), remained in active service to the end of the war.

He seems to have been of a stronger constitution than his brother Samuel, and to have remained healthy and vigorous throughout his life. The Colonel lived till 1854 and was probably the last of the original U. E. Loyalists who joined the Royal Standard in 1776. His descendants, who live at the present time, have inherited his pluck and perseverance, unswerving loyalty to the Crown, and unsullied faith in the glorious destiny of the land for which their distinguished ancestor fought so long and so faithfully.

The families of the two brothers, Samuel Ryerse and Joseph Ryerson are connected by intermarriage with some of the best families of the Province. The circle of connection is very wide, including, among others, the Austin, Barett, Lee, Stirling, Wilson, Burch, Freeman, Williams, Bostwick (the late Colonel Bostwick, of Port Stanley, was a son-in-law of Joseph Ryerson), Wyatt, Rolph, Hazen, Mitchel, Clark and McMichael families.


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