CRYSLER, JOHN, businessman, politician, justice of the peace, office holder, and militia officer; b. 24 July 1770 in Schoharie, N.Y., son of Philip Crysler and Dorothy Meyers; m. first June 1791 Dorothea Adams (d. 1803) in Williamsburgh Township (Ont.), and they had three sons and four daughters; m. secondly 20 Nov. 1803 Nancy Loucks, and they had two sons; m. thirdly 19 April 1808 Nancy Finkle, and they had six sons and four daughters; d. 18 Jan. 1852 in Finch Township, Upper Canada.
Prior to the American revolution John Crysler lived in New Dorlach (Sharon Springs), N.Y. In 1777 his father joined the British army at Fort Stanwix (Rome, N.Y.) and served under Sir John Johnson*. Crysler himself served as a drummer with Lieutenant-Colonel John Butler*’s rangers and arrived in the province of Quebec in 1779. He was discharged in 1784 at the age of 14 and settled with his father in Township No.4 (Williamsburgh). In 1801 the younger Crysler was granted tavern and shop licences in the Eastern District of Upper Canada and imported liquor, tobacco, and salt from Lower Canada. Between 1806 and 1810 he bought more than 4,600 acres of timber-rich land in Finch and Mountain townships, 2,500 acres of which he sold in September 1810 to John Richardson* of the Montreal firm of Forsyth, Richardson and Company. In 1808 he had received a licence to cut timber and was under contract to supply masts for the Royal Navy. During his early life, it is reported, Crysler “amassed a large property” and erected several grist-mills and sawmills.
Crysler had entered public life in 1804 when he was elected to the House of Assembly for Dundas. During the sessions from 1805 to 1808 he established himself as a supporter of the government, though in 1807 he joined Robert Thorpe* and David McGregor Rogers* in opposing the bill “to establish Public Schools in each and every District” of the province. The following year Crysler returned to his business pursuits in Williamsburgh. In addition, he had been appointed a justice of the peace for the Eastern District in 1806; until the outbreak of the War of 1812 and for more than 30 years thereafter, he regularly attended the district Court of Quarter Sessions.
In 1812 Crysler was a lieutenant in the 1st Dundas Militia. He was promoted captain the following year and saw active service throughout the war. On 11 Nov. 1813 he was present at the battle of Crysler’s Farm. This battle, which halted an American advance on Montreal, was fought on his land in Williamsburgh Township, and the British commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Wanton Morrison*, used Crysler’s farmhouse as his headquarters. Crysler himself carried the dispatches containing news of the victory to Montreal. His farm had sustained heavy damage during the battle, however, and further damage resulted from the subsequent use of his farmhouse and outbuildings as a hospital and barracks. By early 1816 Crysler had received £400 in compensation.
Crysler also served in the assembly from 1812 to 1820, continuing to vote with the majority on most issues. Re-elected in 1824 for this, his last term as the member for Dundas, he supported the administration’s spokesman, Attorney General John Beverley Robinson*. After 1825, however, his attendance gradually declined, probably because of his increasing commitments in the Eastern District. He had been collector of customs for Cornwall since at least 1818, and in 1826 he received a government contract to survey concessions 7, 8, and 9 of Osnabruck Township. Crysler had been promised a percentage of the land surveyed, but on completion of the survey the government discovered that, since most of the land had already been granted, it could not uphold its part of the contract.
There are other indications that the 1820s were difficult years for Crysler. His deputy collector of customs was found guilty of “misconduct and neglect,” and in 1822 a special act of the legislature was passed “for the relief of John Crysler,” allowing him to continue to collect his percentage from the revenues which were to be paid back as restitution to the government. In February 1825 Crysler’s workmen were jailed and fined by Sheriff John Stuart of the Johnstown District for cutting timber on clergy reserves. That May Stuart also seized a load of Crysler’s timber bound for Montreal under a contract for a new Roman Catholic church there, a claim having been made that the timber was suitable for masts for the Royal Navy. Crysler may have been experiencing financial problems as early as 1820. In that year Allan Napier MacNab* obtained a £3,000 judgement against him for debt. Though Crysler paid this judgement in 1824, two others in 1834 to different creditors amounting to just over £3,000 remained unsatisfied. In all, 28 judgements worth in excess of £12,000 were registered against him in the Court of King’s Bench between 1820 and 1835. One reason for these difficulties may have been Crysler’s business methods. In 1830, for instance, John Strachan* wrote an angry letter concerning land Crysler had sold him in 1819. Strachan had discovered that 1,200 of the 1,400 acres were “under water or barren rocks,” which “surprised and disappointed me . . . as I neither purchased water nor rocks.” It was commonly believed that Crysler’s lavish hospitality and generosity also contributed to the change in his fortunes.
Despite the state of his enterprises Crysler remained a prominent man in Dundas County. Supporting his claim to land for services during the War of 1812, judge Archibald McLean* described him in 1837 as “one of the oldest and most loyal Inhabitants of the Province.” On 1 Nov. 1838 Crysler was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 1st Regiment of Dundas militia, and later that month, at the age of 68, he led his regiment against the Patriots at the battle of the Windmill near Prescott [see Plomer Young*]. In 1843 he moved to Finch Township in the northern part of Stormont County. The village of Crysler, at the site on the South Nation River where he operated a sawmill and a grist-mill, is named after him. He died there in 1852. His oldest surviving son, John Pliny Crysler, represented Dundas in the Legislative Assembly from 1848 to 1851 and from 1854 to 1857, and was county land registrar between 1867 and 1881.
Anglican Church of Canada, Diocese of Ottawa Arch., United Anglican Missions of Williamsburg, Matilda, Osnabruck and Edwardsburg, Ont., reg. of baptisms, marriages, and burials (mfm. at AO). AO, MS 35; MS 451, Stormont County, Finch Township, Crysler cemetery records; MU 500; RG 1, A-I-5, 8: 68; C-I-3, 14: 460; 15: 486; RG 8, ser.I-1-H, 2: 14; RG 22, ser.47, 2: 173, 190, 304, 314; ser.131, 1, 4. MTL, Sir George Prevost papers, memorial book, 154–56. PAC, RG 1, E3, 15: 15 (mfm. at AO); L3, 97: C9/39; 120: C20/163; 122: C21/135; 123: C22/12; RG 5, A1: 2994, 37350–51, 38255–59, 38423–25, 40622–23, 123920–24; RG 8, I (C ser. ); RG 31, A1, 1851, Finch Township; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841. PRO, CO 42/381: 280–84. Stormont Land Registry Office (Cornwall, Ont.), Abstract index to deeds, Finch Township, 1: 225, 227–28, 252–53, 283–84 (mfm. at AO, GS 5580); Deeds, Finch Township, vol.A: 27, no.26 (mfm. at AO, GS 5582). United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Court-house (Cornwall), Road petitions, Finch Township, no.6 (mfm. at AO, MS 40).
“Accounts of the receiver-general of Upper Canada for the year 1801 . . .,” AO Report, 1914: 746, 758, 770, 777. Arthur papers (Sanderson). “District of Luneburg: Court of Common Pleas,” AO Report, 1917: 401, 406. “Journals of Legislative Assembly of U.C.,” AO Report, 1911; 1912. Statistical account of U.C. (Gourlay), 2, app.B: xcv. “United Empire Loyalists: enquiry into losses and services,” AO Report, 1904: 481. U.C., House of Assembly, Journal, 1825–28; Statutes, 1822, c.23. Armstrong, Handbook of Upper Canadian chronology. H. C. Hilliker, Crysler and Chrysler history and family trees (1v. and supp., n.p., 1974–81). Places in Ont. (Mika). Political appointments, 1841–65 (Coté; 1866). Rolls of the Provincial (Loyalist) Corps, Canadian command, American revolutionary period, comp. M. B. Fryer and W. A. Smy (Toronto, 1981), 59. James Croll, Dundas, or a sketch of Canadian history . . . (Montreal, 1861; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1972). J. F. Pringle, Lunenburgh or the old Eastern District; its settlement and early progress . . . (Cornwall, 1890; repr. Belleville, 1972). R. L. Way, “The day of Crysler’s Farm,” The defended border: Upper Canada and the War of 1812 . . . , ed. Morris Zaslow and W. B. Turner (Toronto, 1964), 61–83.
Revisions based on:
Library and Arch. Can. (Ottawa), R10875-4-5 (Executive Council Office of the Province of Upper Canada, land submissions), mfm. C-1650, land petition no.53 (John Crysler, 20 Feb. 1807). W. D. Reid, The loyalists in Ontario: the sons and daughters of the American loyalists of Upper Canada (Lambertville, N.J., 1973).