His father Colonel Joseph Ryerson, a native of the State of
New Jersey, distinguished himself for his bravery during the American
Revolutionary War, having entered the ranks of the Loyalists when a mere lad of
15 years and having taken part in many battles.
When hostilities came to
an end, he and his brother, Samuel, who had also fought as a Colonel on the
British side during the war, joined the trek of Loyalists to the province of
New Brunswick. Here Colonel Joseph Ryerson married Mehetabel Stickney, said to
have been the first child of English stock born in the colony.
In 1794, Colonel Samuel removed to Upper Canada and settled
at the mouth of Young's Creek, where Port Ryerse stands today. Five years later
he was followed by Colonel Joseph Ryerson and his family, who endured great
hardships during the journey, as well as during the early years of their
pioneer life in this province. He received a grant of 2,500 acres of land lying
between Vittoria and Port Ryerse, as well as a deed of the island now known as
Ryerson's Island, adjoining Long Point Island.
Colonel Joseph fathered six sons, five of whom became
ministers of the gospel. Egerton was the fifth son. The three older boys took
an active part in repelling the American invaders in the War of 1812. Egerton,
although only 10 years of age at the time, was fully imbued with the patriotic
ardour of his brothers and regretted that his tender years did not permit him
to share their experiences.
Young Egerton was bred to farming pursuits and expected to
do a man's work long before he was manís age. He was always given to study
however, and even when busy in the fields, he would find odd moments in which
to acquire useful knowledge from his books.
He also attended the District
Grammar School near Vittoria at intervals. Judge James Mitchell was the able
teacher of this school and he afterwards married a younger sister of Egerton.
At an early age, Egerton was strongly drawn towards that
militant Christianity preached by the early Methodist Society. This fact created
an estrangement between him and his father. Colonel Ryerson was an Anglican,
though he already had two sons in the Methodist ministry, which he evidently
He gave Egerton the choice of leaving the church or quitting
his house. The young man revealed his independence of spirit by choosing the
He obtained a position as usher and assistant teacher in the
District Grammar School, which he filled successfully for two years. Then his
father capitulated and requested him to come home again and devote his energies
to the task of farming.
Egerton was proud of the fact that he could do more
farm work in a day than any hired man his father ever had.
Complying with his
father's request, he returned to the farm where he remained until he attained
his majority. Then the urge for learning was too great and he enrolled in the
Gore District School at Hamilton, where he placed himself under a talented
So diligently did he apply himself to his new studies that after
six months a breakdown in his health occurred and for a time his life was
despaired of. He decided at this time that if he recovered, he would devote his
abilities to the Methodist ministry.
* Transcription footnote: United Empire Loyalist Colonel Joseph Ryerson's
brother, United Empire Loyalist Captain Samuel Ryerse, was promoted to
Lt.-Colonel in 1800 by Upper Canada Lt.-Governor John Graves Simcoe when
Samuel was appointed head of the Long Point settlement's first