The Advance-News, Ogdensburg, NY - August 26, 1933
History of the Croils Set Forth
Paper by Canadian Writer Tells of Early Settlers on St. Lawrence Island
Sarah C. Eamon, convener of historical research of Stormont county, Ontario, has prepared a very interesting paper regarding the settling of Croil’s Island. This island is in the town of Louisville, just above Long Sault Island. The paper giving the colourful history of the Croil family follows:
Of the Scottish settlers that came to the township of Osnabruck, none take precedence over the family of Croil, whose name has been preserve for prosperity by the island lying opposite the village of Farran’s Point, in the St.. Lawrence River. This island was at first known as Stacey Island, but after William Croil’s residence upon it, it received the name of Croil’s Island.
There were four Croil brothers - Thomas, William, James and John, all of whom answered the lure of the new world and settled in Canada. These brothers were born at Glasgow and their father was a West Indian merchant who amassed a considerable fortune. Their mother was the daughter of William Richardson, a manufacturing merchant in Glasgow.
The eldest son, Thomas Croil, went to represent his father’s firm in Barbados, West Indies. Later he came to Croil’s Island, and acquired a small farm, where he lived until his death in 1851, at the age of 41, and was buried in the old “God’s Acre” at Woodland.
William Croil came to Canada in 1835 and bought Stacey Island where he lived for 20 years surrounded by a devoted Scottish tenantry, who had followed him to Canada. In 1837, he married Caroline, daughter of Matthew Richardson, of Halifax. His home farm on the island consisted of 400 acres, with the rest of the land being occupied by half a dozen tenant farmers at $2 per acre, payable in farm products as there was no cash in circulation. He called his homestead “Kelvin Grove.” The home was pleasantly situated on rising ground in full view of the river, which is very rapid and deep at this point.
Across from it on the Canadian shores, stood the home of “Old Charlie Farran”, one of the original United empire Loyalists and the great mogul of the county, at that time.
Later in 1841, James Croil came to the island and lived with William. William was a splendid horseman and an excellent sailor. He could build a boat and make his own sails. In all these arts he found his brother, James, and apt pupil.
The winters were spent in the woods, providing fuel and fence rails, and in drawing sawlogs to the mill when the ice “took”. In the long winter evening the brothers played the flute and fiddle in concert, crocheted, patched their mittens and moccasins, said prayers, banked the fire and went early to bed. The great event of the winter was the sugar making for which they made their sap troughs, cut from ash.
In June, 1847, James married a Miss Richardson, of Halifax, a sister of William’s wife. Previous to his marriage, in 1845, he bought Crysler’s Farm from the Hon. Peter McGill and Joseph Shutter, of Montreal, who held a mortgage on it. The price paid for the farm was $6,000. James Croil was very proud of his historic farm of 500 acres, though the mansion house was in need of repairs as well as the farm buildings and fences. He called his homestead “Archerfield” and later built a fine new mansion. The furniture for his home was made by his own clever hands, a particularly fine piece of handicraft being a book case, which took him four months to make.
John Croil, the youngest brother bought a farm west of Aultsville. On the river bank he built his home, “Sunnyside,” now owned by rev. Mr. Sinclair. Here he set out a fine orchard, and was a popular lecturer on agricultural and horticultural subjects.
He was twice married, his second wife being a Miss Robertson of Maple Grove, a first cousin of the late Carleton Robertson.
William Croil left the island after 20 years’ residence and went to Hochelaga, near Montreal where he made a pleasant home for his family on the banks of the St. Lawrence and where he indulged in his favourite pastimes of horsemanship and boating. He died in 1873 [in Nassau, Bahamas] and was buried in Mount Royal cemetery.
In St. Matthew’s church, Woodlands, of which William Croil was an elder, there are today two precious mementos of his stewardship in that church. One is a tablet erected by his Scottish tenants on the occasion of William Croil’s departure to live in Hochelaga. These faithful friends, to show their love and respect for William Croil, erected the tablet in his memory, at a cost of $100, a very great sum in those money scarce days. Near the pulpit of St. Matthew’s is a chair made by Mr. Croil. Both TABLET and CHAIR are still in St. Matthew’s, a precious link with past days and a lasting tribute to the memory of a good and honourable gentleman.
The Croil brothers were all well educated and each would have done better in some other line of work, but each chose farming.
William should have been a minister or engineer, and each of the others would have made capable business men had they not fallen in love with farming.
Both William and James were elders in the Presbyterian church at Woodlands. William was ordained an elder in 1841 and James in 1850, along with Richard Loucks, of Aultsville. These two were ordained elders by Rev. Isaac Purkis.
A word may be said about the old wooden church of Osnabruck. It was of the barn order, with walls innocent of paint. It had been built in 1795 by the joint efforts of Lutherans and Presbyterians. In 1857, it was fell to the Presbyterians, who removed the old building to Pleasant Valley and erected a brick edifice, the present St. Matthew’s. The first two ministers were Lutherans and the services were conducted in the German language.
When James Croil joined the church in 1841, the men and women sat apart on either side of the church. The congregation consisted chiefly of Islanders, who always went to church rain or shine, ice or no ice in the river. While living at Archerfield, James Croil frequently attended the Williamsburg Episcopal church, the nearest Presbyterian church being that of Osnabruck nine miles distant.
On one occasion an infant was to be baptized and when the sponsors were asked to name the child, the name given was “Selah”. In vain the minister explained the “Selah” was not a proper name. The child was christened Selah. Was it a boy or girl? Nobody could tell.
James Croil left Archerfield to reside in Montreal. Needless to remark, he took his bookcase with him.
Mr. Croil became an elder in St. Paul’s church and was very influential in Presbyterian circles, editing the “Presbyterian” and later “Record” of the Presbyterian church in Canada. He was also the author of numerous books, one very interesting and valuable one being “Dundas” or “A Sketch of Canadian History”. This book and Judge Pringle’s book, “Lunenburg, or the Old Eastern District,” should be in the libraries of every school in Ontario.
James Croil lived to the patriarchal age of 94, dying in 1916.