The memorial commemorating the Battle of Crysler’s Farm towers from its lofty position over the St. Lawrence River, flanked by cannon. The tree lined manmade escarpment upon which it sits was created out of the once blood soaked battlefield soil scooped from the former John Crysler farm prior to the flooding of the St. Lawrence River for the Seaway and Ontario Power Project. Surrounded by farmer’s fields the memorial then stood at road side level on the north side of the highway facing the river.
The roadway itself once hugged its way along the riverbank, having been widened from a footpath during the arrival of the United Empire Loyalist settlers post 1784. In the late fall of 1813 residents living along the roadway with a clear view of the river may have straightened up from their chores to stare with wary curiosity at the sight of battleships in full sail gliding past their very doorsteps. The sound of cannon and musket fire echoing along the river would confirm their worst fears.
The creation of the Seaway and the damming of the river for the power project resulted in the inundation in 1958 of 170 year old family farms, graves, and towns and an overall destruction of the area’s founding history as orchards were leveled and family homes were moved or burned. [See http://lostvillages.ca/] This also would see the original Crysler Farm memorial site submerged.
In the years that followed the battle in 1813 it has been said that farmers often plowed up the hastily buried human remains, of that day in November. Frost continued to push to the surface the buried reminder of a day of conflict and a lifetime of sorrows. Little else remained to remind the residents let alone the Colony of the sacrifices made on that day. Perhaps stories told on winter nights. As is often the case though, those stories are felt best to be forgotten. A medal may have been pulled from a drawer, turned over and contemplated before being put away, but those too were few in number. Only twenty-four General Military Service Medals were handed to members of the Dundas Militia. Compiled from three lists, LAC 1812 -1969 Medals; a LAC document Order in Council 1897 Privy Council; and one compiled by J Smyth Carter, the recipients were: Nicholas L Ault, Charles Arkland, Peter Baker, Jacob and Peter Brouse, John and George Cook, John Crysler, John Doran, George Grant, George Glass, Conrad Kintner, Joseph Langevin, Frederick Laut, Peter J Loucks, Angus McKay, Louis Pelletier, John Piller, Guy Read, Robert Redmond, Edward Shaver, John Strader, John St. Etienne and Robert Thompson. Three went to the 2nd Grenville Militia: Simon Fraser, Guy Read and Reuben Sherwood. In true governmental fashion soldiers were given the choice of cash or a medal for their service – a yearly pension of twenty dollars in 1875 was awarded to any surviving veterans of the war. With perhaps a family to feed the choice was all too obvious. Land grants could also be applied for, though realization of the actual land would be held up for years. Peter Fetterly Jr applied for land as the son of a UEL on the 22nd of April 1816 and was granted land in Simcoe County on the 16th of March 1832.
It was not until 1895 when the Canadian governing body led by the Mackenzie Bowell government saw fit to erect a monument to the battle and its veterans.
It took 200 years for recognition of the skirmishes which preceded the battle and their attending casualties to be honoured. The Bicentennial saw the local townships of South Dundas and South Stormont erect signage along County Road #2 under the direction of Hon Col (ret’d) SD&G Highlanders William J Shearing.
Here then is a short history of some of the players involved, or who at least are mentioned in the history of the Crysler’s Farm Battlefield Memorial – foibles and all. It should be noted that though the battle title has been awarded to that of John Crysler as it was his home which served as British headquarters and then as a hospital post battle, much of the actual battle was fought on the farm of Peter Fetterly. – PM Sir Mackenzie Bowell was a dyed in the wool Orangeman and Freemason. Unveiled by Bowell’s Minister of Railways and Canals John Graham Haggart, came from a stonemason family, Arthur Dickey was a Nova Scotian and the Minister of Militia and Defence, lastly Hugo Ross was the local Member of Parliament his roots ran deep in local politics also…
Homer Hugo Ross, MP for Dundas Cornwall and Stormont:
Homer Hugo Ross was born on the 11th of August 1847 the son of John S. Ross and Charlotte Carman daughter of Peter. John S. Ross was born in Osnabruck. A store owner he was a member of township council and Reeve in 1876. He was MP for Dundas from 1861 – 1872 and again from 1878 – 1882. Educated at the local Grammar School under Albert Carman Hugo Ross graduated in 1864 from the University of Toronto. He taught high school in Gananoque and Perth. Was a partner with his brother Allan J. Ross (Allan became one of the few area millionaires) in the hardware business.
Hugo Ross of Iroquois won the Dominion election of 1891 of Iroquois defeating Morrisburg barrister Adam Johnston. [Johnston was again defeated in 1896 by Andrew Broder]
Hugo married 29 October 1884 Minnie (Mary Maud) Redmond daughter of Nicholas Redmond and Jemima Lock. The couple had nine children. Hugo Ross passed away in Brockville on the 11th of July 1913 and is buried in the family plot in the Anglican cemetery below Iroquois.
Sir Mackenzie Bowell Fifth Prime Minister of Canada 1894 – 1896:
Sir Mackenzie Bowell was born the 27th of Dec 1823 in Rickinghall, Suffolk, England the son of John Bowell and Elizabeth Marshall. The Bowell family had made the move to Upper Canada in 1832 and settled in Bellville where Mackenzie was apprenticed to George Benjamin the owner of the Belleville Intelligencer, which at the time was Belleville’s only newspaper. The first edition of the Intelligencer had hit the streets in 1834. Bowell eventually became co-owner of the paper with a brother-in-law and remained as owner until his passing. An Ensign in the Belleville Rifles from 1858 – 65, he later served as a Major of the Hastings Battalion from 1867 until 1872. A history has stated that he was at Amherstburg during the Upper Canada Rebellion 1837, but he would have been only fourteen at the time; American Civil War 1861-65 and the Fenian Raids 1866 (15th Battalion of Infantry Belleville – Canadian General Service Medal). He married Harriet Louise Moore (11 May 1828 – 2 April 1884) and the couple had five children.
Bowell’s political career most likely began as the owner of the newspaper the traditional trade of old for seeding one’s political views. An ardent Orangeman whose views became tempered in later years (Grandmaster of the Orange Order of British North American Lodge from 1870 – 1878) and Freemason, Tory, he entered politics and was elected to the House of Commons in Confederation year 1867. Despite the Conservative’s loss of the 1874 election, Bowell had held on to his own seat and later that year he played a key role in having Louis Riel expelled from Parliament. Conservative power returned in 1878 and Bowell was appointed as Minister of Customs. In 1892 he became minister of Militia and Defense. When Prime Minister Sir John Thompson passed away suddenly in 1894 Bowell was sitting as Minister of Trade and Commerce. At Thompson’s passing Bowell took on the role of Prime Minister. Knighted in 1895 he held the position of Prime Minister until 1896 at which time the en masse resignation of over half of his ministers over issues concerning the Manitoba School Act forced him to resign. [Sir Charles Tupper took over the country’s lead, but despite the change in rule the Tories were defeated that same year.] Bowell resigned his own seat but held the seat of Leader of the Opposition in the Senate until his resignation in 1906. Sir Mackenzie Bowell died on the 10 December 1917 in Bellville, Ontario.
The Honorable John Graham Haggart:
John Haggart Sr. came from Breadalbane Scotland to Canada in the 1820s. He worked as a stonemason laborer on the Welland Canal and was employed as a contractor on the Rideau Canal. Settling in the Lanark area, by 1840 he owned a collection of carding, flour and sawmills and had constructed a number of Georgian style homes. He married Isabella Graham.
John Graham Haggart was born on the 14th of November 1836. John Graham was studying to become a lawyer when his father was laid to rest in 1855, after which time he took over the family business. He married on the 26th of May 1861 Caroline Douglas.
Businessman / miller, he was a town councilor in Perth and sat as mayor of the town through a total of three terms: 1861 – 62, 1863 – 64 and 1871 – 72. In 1861 Haggart raised the Perth Militia in which he was a captain until 1871.
Haggart’s life seemed always to have a tendency towards the controversial side. A long time Conservative, in 1871 he ran as a Liberal for a seat in the Provincial Legislature as member for Lanark South – and as a prime example of early Canadian voting whims and oddities he finished a close second. The following year, 1872, he won both the Conservative nomination and election. In 1892 he won the leadership for the Ontario Conservative party following Bowells appointment as Prime Minister. He entered cabinet as Post Master General in 1888. Haggart had been considered for the position of Prime Minister following the deaths of Sir John Abbott and Sir John Thompson, however apparently his reputation on Parliament Hill as a womanizer (rumors were that he and his wife had been separated for some time) nixed his chances at becoming leader of the country. [Haggart’s wife does not rest in the family plot.] Haggard later was a leader in the revolt that saw seven of Bowell’s ministers resign and led to his being replaced by Charles Tupper.
Just prior to the 1891 election it was revealed that the unused funds, designated for the cancelled deepening of the route between the Rideau Canal and Perth (sarcastically known as “Haggart’s Ditch”) due to the project running over budget and the route being considered to be underutilized, had been diverted to extend the canal to Haggart’s flour mill. Despite the controversy Haggart still managed to hold onto his seat. He remained as MP of Lanark South for 41 years. Serving under Sir John A McDonald and Sir John Abbot he was Post Master General changing portfolios in 1892 to Minister of Railways and Canals until the Conservative defeat in 1896. The second longest [Sir Wilfred Laurier being the longest] sitting minister his tenure in the House of Commons remarkably extended from 1872 until 1913. He passed away on the 13th of March 1913.
The Honorable Arthur Rupert Dickey B.A., Q.C.:
Arthur Rupert Dickey was born on the 18th of August 1854. The son of Father of Confederation and Senator Robert Barry Dickey [the son of judge and military leader Robert McGowan Dickey and Mary Blair Stewart] in Amherst, Nova Scotia. R. B. Dickey refused to acknowledge the early resolutions of confederation until the Maritimes were guaranteed more just financial returns rather than what was set down in the preliminary talks. A graduate of Toronto University, a lawyer, he entered as a result of a by-election the House of Commons in 1888 representing Cumberland County, NS. He served again in 1891 and 1896 as Minister of Justice, Attorney General, Minister of Militia and Defense and Secretary of State of Canada. He was one of the six Ministers who resigned from Bowell’s cabinet in 1896. Arthur Rupert Dickey drowned on the 3rd of June 1900 at his native Amherst at the age of 46.
Eugène Étienne Tachè:
Eugène Étienne Tachè was born in the Saint-Thomas Parish of Montmagny, Quebec on the 25th of October 1836 the son of Father of Confederation Minister Étienne-Paschale Tachè. Educated in both Montreal and Toronto, Tachè was surveyor, civil engineer, civil servant and a self taught architect being well read in historical architecture. In Quebec City he had been awarded the architectural design tender for the Armory Hall and Parliament Building as well as the court House.
Having developed an interest in heraldry he set about creating heraldic embellishments (notably the Quebec provincial coat of arms and its motto “Je me souviens”) for buildings and monuments with the idealistic view that Canada would be bequeathed its own commemorative symbols. Tachè passed away on the 13th March 1912, and lay in state at Quebec’s Notre Dame Basilica.
A Call from the Honoured Member from Dundas, Cornwall and Stormont:
House of Commons Debates, 7th Parliament, 3rd Session 29 March 1893, Government of John Sparrow David Thompson:
“Mr. Ross (Dundas), I take advantage of the presence of the Minister of Militia to call attention to a motion I had upon the Order Paper, but which we did not reach. I notice that when the militia items in the main Estimates were voted, there was a re-vote of $2,000 for certain monuments on the battle- fields of Canada. In the conversation that occurred, when that item was passed, I understood the Minister to say that the points likely to be chosen for monuments this year – and I was glad to see the government contemplated immediate action – were Lundy’s Lane, Stoney Creek, and possibly Chateauguay. I wish to put in a word for the battle-field of Crysler’s Farm. We all know that Queenston Heights, a scene of one of the battles of the war of 1812 is largely provided with a fine monument and rightly so. I see that private enterprise has taken hold of Lundy’s Lane, and I daresay the Minister of Militia would be glad if private enterprise should also erect a monument at Crysler’s Farm. Now we have two battle-fields in the western peninsula provided for and I think a word ought to be said for Central Canada and for the Province of Quebec. When we consider what the American plan of campaign was on that occasion when we consider that the object they had in view was the capture of Montreal, expeditions being sent from Sackett’s Harbor, 10,000 men under Wilkinson and a large force under Hampton, lying at Chateauguay, with the design of advancing when the western force had proceeded far enough – when we consider the importance of the attack. I think we ought to give due weight to the battles that destroyed that combination. Wilkinson’s army proceeded safely after escaping some of the British arrangements to prevent progress. They got down the St. Lawrence as far as Crysler’s Farm, and there they halted for the night. Colonel Morrison who was in command, managed to draw them into battle, and there is no doubt that battle was one of the best evidences of the prowess of the British arms which has ever been given. I will quote from Allison with regards to the importance of the battle of Crysler’s Farm. He says: “The glorious defeat of an invasion so confidently announced and so strongly supported, diffused the most heartfelt joy in Lower Canada and terminated the campaign there in the most triumphant manner.” Christie says this: “This called, the Battle of Crysler’s Farm, is, in the intimation of military men, considered the most scientific military affair during the late war, from the professional skill displayed in the action by the adverse commanders; and when we consider the prodigious preparation of the American Government for that expedition with the failure of which their hopes of conquest vanished, the battle of Crysler’s Farm may probably be classified as the most important, and the best fought that took place during the war.”
Mr. Patterson (Huron) I call the attention of the Minister of Justice to these very strong adjectives used in connection with the battle. There is no doubt that the plan of campaign on the part of the American’s was well arranged; and although their leaders were not capable of seizing the points of the situation further evidence was given that, although the armies matched against each other at the battle of Crysler’s Farm were very unequal in point of numbers, as soon as the British soldier gets a chance in a fair field with the bayonet, seemingly nothing can stand before him. In this connection I might quote an expression of Lord Napier regarding the battle of Alberia in the Peninsular War, when he said “And then was seen with what strength and majesty the British soldier fights.” It sometimes happens that the ludicrous enters into the most solemn things in life, and there is one little circumstance to which I wish to call the Minister’s attention. We know that the ancer played an important part in the history of Rome, and, we find that the busy bee had a share in the glories of Crysler’s Farm. I quote from Croil’s valuable and interesting history of Dundas County. Referring to what occurred at that time, the writer says: “Previous to the battle of Crysler’s Farm the American soldier had imprudently been feasting to excess upon honey, which they found plentiful in Matilda and Williamsburg, The consequence was, that hundreds of them were so weakened and enervated by dysentery, that they reeled and staggered like drunken men, as they were marched up through the land ankle deep, to face the resolute charge of the British bayonet. Even in the field of battle they could not be restrained from repeating the impudence, in passing Bouck’s farm, where stood nearly one hundred bee-hives, in consequence, before the battle was over, their bloated corpses presented a disgusting aspect, as the honey with which they were gorged oozed from their mouths, their noses, and even their ears.” So even the bees largely aided. All the forces in the country wee united for one purpose, and I hope that will always be the case. I trust I have referred to a matter on which we are all agreed, and the Minister of Militia will consider that this is deserving of serious consideration. There is a chimney standing there still, and when the Minister visits the scene he will not find it very difficult to locate the battle-field.
Mr. Mills (Bothwell) What better monument do you want?
Mr. Ross (Dundas) If we had ivy growing there over the ruins, or even a tablet erected that might prove sufficient, What is deserved, however, is that the matter should receive attention, Speaking of the topography of the place, I notice one of the Kingston newspapers in attempting to locate the battle- field places it opposite to Ogdensburg. I think Crysler’s Farm deserves to be better marked.
SIR RICHARD CARTWRIGHT I think the Minister of Militia should give a short description of the several battle-fields, stating his preferences…”
Looking at the obelisk design of the monument it makes one wonder at the influence and overtones of Freemasonry that may have played a part in its creation. The previously mentioned players by and large were tied to the Masonic apron. The role of the Masons in respect to both military and political histories and events, on both sides of the border and from across the ocean is a centuries long and often checkered one. The memorial overlooks the United States – the country from which the expulsion of the United Empire Loyalists was conducted post American Revolution. George Washington was Commander-in- Chief of the Continental Army as well as becoming the first president of the country. Other players included Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere. Third President was Thomas Jefferson. Fourth President James Madison a “War Hawk” of the War of 1812. Henry Clay a Kentuckian was a key collaborator and promoter of that war. They each have the distinction of being Freemasons.
On the farm of Abram Vanallen, Lot 12 Con 1 Williamsburg a 38 foot high monument designed by Eugène Étienne Tachè was erected, cannon gracing each side. [This was one of three erected memorials in 1895: Chateauguay and Lundy’s Lane being the other two by the Bowells government.] On the monument a Plaque read:
In honour of the brave men who fought and fell in the
Victory of Crysler’s Farm,
On the 11th of November, 1813
This monument was erected by the Canadian Parliament
A later plaque replaced the engraved one:
Here, on the farm of John Crysler, was fought one of the decisive battles of the War of 1812. On 11 November 1813 Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Morrison, with 800 British and Canadian regulars, militia and Indians, engaged an American force of 4,000 under Brigadier-General John Boyd. The open terrain was suited to the training of the well-drilled British regulars who, after two hours of heavy fighting, routed the enemy. This victory ended a major American thrust at Montreal.
Government of Canada 1923
According to John Graham Harkness K. C. (grandson of Peter Fetterly) about 6,000 people were in attendance. Prime Minister Sir Mackenzie Bowell and Cabinet Ministers presided on the day of the unveiling. A Guard of Honour formed by the Morrisburg High School Cadets carrying the flag of the Second Regiment of the Royal Dundas, marched to the wharf at Morrisburg headed by the 59th Regimental Band. The flag had been carried at the Battle of the Windmill (1838) and was previously owned by the late Col Henry G. Merkley. A stirring speech was given by Minister of Militia A. R. Dickey.
J. Smyth Carter was a local boy born in Rowena, Matilda Township on the 7th of September 1877 to Thomas Smyth Carter and Catharine Cecelia Plantz. Having witnessed the event as an impressionable eighteen year old the unveiling of the memorial must have left an indelible mark on him. In his work The Story of Dundas Being a History of the County of Dundas from 1784 To 1904 (1905) he wrote:
“Just eighty-two years after the spilling of blood there a monument was erected by the Canadian government on the Crysler battlefield, lot 12, con 1, township of Williamsburg, now the property of Abram Vanallan. It is a plain obelisk, 38 feet high, appropriately engraved and prettily situated, while the cannon flanking either side are silent reminders that we are still on guard. On September 26, 1895, the monument was unveiled by Hon. John Graham Haggart. Many other distinguished personages were present. The day was ideal, thousands of visitors were in attendance, while military display, patriotic speeches, and stirring music amid the profusion of national emblems helped to quicken the pulse of patriotic people and render the memories of the famous battle as lasting as the pile of stone erected to mark the place of victory. Of those present on that historic occasion not the least notable were Samuel Crysler, aged 90, and George Weaver, aged 91, who heard the roar of battle and witnessed some of the movements on that occasion eighty-two years previous.”
“There is at the present day a certain stereotyped form of loyalty which is as hollow as a straw. To this we claim no allegiance, but if we learn to appreciate the labors of those who preceded us we shall be assured that the motto “Canada for Canadians” is not inappropriate. Our fathers adopted it, their loyalty inspired it, and we, their descendents, should regard it a sacred privilege to maintain it. Those ties of sentiment which keep and preserve nations, as well as families, are more indissoluble bonds than national laws, and which crystallized or made manifest in some substantial way lay the foundation of a nation’s greatness.”
In closing Carter writes, his words echoing through the years:
“The services of the militia of Dundas and sister counties deserve an honoured place in history, and in no better way can we cherish the memory of those brave fellows than by paying tribute to the spot on which they fought and bled for their country. At the Crysler’s Farm battle-ground the erection of a monument was a worthy act, but nothing further has been done. If on the anniversary of the battle some kind of gathering were instituted which would bring together on this landmark the descendents of those worthy heroes of earlier days, who could estimate its patriotic influence on this generation? Surely the people of Eastern Ontario might move in this direction. Let a public demonstration be annually held.”
Rebecca Murray researcher Library and Archives Canada re:Toronto Evening Star September 25 1895
Ross Speech: canadiana.org: Library of Parliament House of Commons Debates, 7th Parliament, 3rd Session – Volume I, pgs 3443-3444, 1893.01.26 -1894.12.12
The Dictionary of Canadian Biography http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bowell_mackenzie_14E.html: PB Waite: AO, RG 22-340, no.5320. Ottawa Evening Journal, 11 Dec. 1917. Sentinel and Orange and Protestant Advocate (Toronto), 27 July 1899. G. E. Boyce, Historic Hastings (Belleville, 1967). Canada, an encyclopædia (Hopkins), 6: 223–26, 268. Canadian annual rev. (Hopkins), 1901–8. Canadian biog. dict. Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1912). CPG, 1874, 1905. Encyclopaedia of Canadian biography . . . (3v., Montreal and Toronto, 1904–7), 1. O. M. Hill, Canada’s salesman to the world: the Department of Trade and Commerce, 1892–1939 (Montreal and London, 1977). A history of Canadian journalism . . . (2v., Toronto, 1908–59; vol.1 repr. New York, 1976). Ontario Register (Lambertville, N.J.), 8 (1990): 216. P. B. Waite, Canada, 1874–1896: arduous destiny (Toronto and Montreal, 1971).
John Graham Haggart:
Biography http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/haggart_john_graham_14E.html Larry Turner
Haggart, John Graham, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol.14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1998: AO, RG 22-168, no.2786.
-Elmwood Cemetery (Ottawa), Tombstone inscriptions. NA, RG 31, C1, 1871, Perth, div.2: 31; div.3: 11; schedule 6: 5. Old Burying Ground (Perth), Haggart family plot.
-Perth Courier, 22 Jan., 5 Feb. 1869; 24, 31 March 1871; 14, 21 March 1913.
-Perth Expositor, 7 May 1885, 22 Oct. 1891, 14 May 1896.
–Canadian directory of parl. (Johnson).
–Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1898 and 1912).
-Ont., Chief election officer, Hist. of electoral districts (1969), 187; Ministry of Culture and Recreation, Heritage administration branch, Historical sketches of Ontario ([Toronto]), 1976: 12–13. Larry Turner, The second Tay Canal in the Rideau corridor, 1880–1940 (Parks Canada, National hist. parks and sites branch, Microfiche report ser., no.295, Ottawa, 1986). Larry Turner with J. J. Stewart, Perth: tradition & style in eastern Ontario (Toronto, 1992). Waite, Man from Halifax.
A. R. Dickey
Wikipedia: References: University monthly newsletter 1900 – Frank Shutt.
-Parliament of Canada: PARLINFO www.parl.gc.ca
Homer Hugo Ross/John S. Ross
Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry A History John Graham Harkness, K.C. 1946, Mundy-Goodfellow Printing Co. Ltd, Oshawa, Ontario
Canadian Census’ – Library and Archives Canada; http://automatedgenealogy.com/.com; OntarioGenWeb http://ontariocensus.rootsweb.ancestry.com/
Library and Archives Canada: Military Heritage/Military Medals, Honours and Awards 1812 – 1869
Library and Archives Canada/Orders-In-Council: Rolls of Officers and men Colonial corps who received medal for War of 1812 – Col. Secy. [Colonial Secretary] 1897/03/04 No. 60
J. Smyth Carter The Story of Dundas Being a History of the County of Dundas From 1784 To 1904: 1905 St. Lawrence News Publishing House Iroquois, Ontario
Pietre-stones Magazine, freemasons-freemasonry.com, Masonic Papers – Bro. S. Bent Morris 33 degree G. C. – American Freemasons and the Spirit of Freedom.
J. Smyth Carter, The Story of Dundas Being a History of the County of Dundas From 1784 To 1904: 1905 St. Lawrence News Publishing House Iroquois, Ontario
John Graham Harkness K.C., Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, A History :1946 Mundy-Goodfellow Printing Co. Ltd., Oshawa, Ontario