History | Egerton Ryerson | His Career | His Legacy 

A friend and admirer of Dr. Ryerson describes him in the following words in the prime of a magnificent manhood':

      "His well-developed finely-proportioned, finely-knit frame; his broad, lofty brow; his keen, penetrating eye, and his genial, benignant face, all proclaimed him every inch a man.
      "His mental powers vigorous and well-disciplined; his attainments in literature varied and extensive, his experience extended and diversified; his fame as a preacher of great pathos and power widely-spread his claims as a doughty, dauntless champion of the rights of the people to civil and religious liberty, generally acknowledged; his powers of expression marvelous in readiness, richness and beauty; his manners affable and winning; his presence magnetic and impressive, he remained a tower of strength, a centre of healthy, helpful influences, a man to be admired, loved, imitated and followed.
      "Dr. Ryerson was truly a great man, endowed with grand qualities of mind and heart which he consecrated to high and holy aims; and although in early life and in his public career beset with many difficulties, he heroically achieved for himself among his own people, a most enviable renown.
      "His name was a household word throughout the Dominion and his memory a legacy and an inspiration to future generations. And while Canada owes more to him, than any other of her sons, his fame is not confined to the land of his birth, which he loved and served so well, but in Britain and in the United States he was widely-known and truly respected."

Dr. Ryerson was a man of exceptional physique and possessed of almost tireless energy. But he found it necessary in later life to take occasional vacations. One of his favourite havens was Ryerson's Island in Long Point Bay, the property which his father had obtained from the Crown and which was shown on old maps as Pottahawk Point.

In his memories The Story of My Life, he tells of one vacation spent here in 1861:

"At Port Ryerse I made myself a little skiff, in which I rowed myself to and from Ryerson's Island, a distance of some thirteen miles from Port Ryerse, and about four miles from the nearest mainland�the end of Turkey Point.
He continued these vacation jaunts to Ryerson's Island until late in life. For many years he was considered one of the best shots at Long Point. When over seventy years of age he killed from 70 to 80 ducks in one day in his punt and with his own gun.

Again, in his memoirs Dr. Ryerson describes another lake voyage:

"When invited to meet and address the common schools of the county of Norfolk at a county school picnic held in grove near Simcoe, the 24th of last June (1864), I determined to proceed thither not by railroad and stage as usual, but in a skiff 15 � feet long, in which I had been accustomed to row in Toronto Harbour for some months, between six and eight o'clock in the morning.

"Providing as far as possible against the double danger of swamping and capsizing by a canvas deck, proper ballast and fittings of the sail, I crossed Lake Ontario alone from Toronto to Port Dalhousie in nine hours; had my skiff conveyed thence to Port Colborne on a Canadian vessel, through the Welland Canal, and proceeded along the north shore of Lake Erie, rowing in one day, half-way against head wind, from the mouth of Grand River to Port Dover, a distance of forty miles, taking refreshments and rest at farmhouses, and bathing three times during the day.

The following day, scarcely conscious of fatigue, I delivered two addresses, one to a vast assemblage of school pupils in a grove; the other a lecture to teachers and trustees in the evening."

He returned to Toronto by water as he had come, encountering a fierce gale on Lake Ontario and only succeeding in reaching the Toronto Yacht Club House after herculean exertions.

In 1876, owing to the infirmities of his advanced years, Dr. Ryerson at his own request was relieved of the arduous duties of Chief Superintendent of Education. This office was then abolished and its functions vested in the Minister of Education. Dr. Ryerson retired on full salary of $4,000 after 32 years of tireless service.

Following his retirement, Dr. Ryerson occupied himself with his History of the United Empire Loyalists a voluminous work and one, which throws much light on the part played by U. E. Loyalists in the building of Canada.

He preserved to a late period in life wonderful degree of mental activity and to the last maintained his interest in public affairs, as in the Methodist denomination of which he had been so long a leading figure.

His death occurred at Toronto on February 19th, 1882, in his 79th year, with interment being made in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

The Government recognized his valuable services to the province by a grant of $10,000 to his widow. One of his closest friends paid him this tribute:

"Such benefactors of his country as Dr. Egerton Ryerson deserve to be held in lasting and grateful remembrance. His imperishable monument, it is true, is the school system which he devised. To future generations of Canadians his career will be an inspiration and an encouragement. With early educational advantages far inferior to those which he brought within reach of every boy and girl in the land, what a noble life he lived, what grand results be achieved."

"The history of Upper Canada" declares another eulogist, "during a period of nearly sixty years, is as much bound up with the labours of Egerton Ryerson as with the work of any other public man. He gave us lofty ideals of the meaning and purpose of life, and he had an abiding faith in the power of popular education to aid in the realization of those ideals; he fought for free schools in Upper Canada when they needed a valiant champion. Let the present generation of men and women honour the memory of the man who wrought so faithfully for their fathers and grandfathers."

This is a complete verbatim transcript of Bruce's article. Our illustrations did not accompany Bruce's original in Historical Highlights of Norfolk County. We also added links, and extra paragraph breaks to facilitate online comprehension. Reprinted from the original with the kind permission of the Pearce Family. Copies of Egerton Ryerson's books are available for inspection in the Norfolk Historical Society Archives. Ryerse and Ryerson descendants will also want to purse the Ryerse-Ryerson family history, published in 1994, and available in the Norfolk Historical Society's Gift Shoppe.

"At Port Ryerse
 I made myself
 a little skiff,
 in which I 
rowed myself 
to and from 
Ryerson's Island,
 a distance
 of  some 
thirteen miles
 from Port Ryerse,
and about
 four miles
 from the
 nearest mainland
 � the  end of 
Turkey Point

"Dr. Ryerson was
 truly a great man, endowed with
grand qualities
 of mind and  heart
 which he
 to high and
holy aims;
 and although
 in early life
and in his 
public career
 beset with
 many difficulties,
 he heroically achieved for
 himself among
 his own people,
 a most enviable renown

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