Capt. John W. Myers, Belleville’s Legendary Miller

John Walden Meyers, of German descent was born January 22, 1746 in Albany New York U.S.A. gained fame and became a folklore legend as a Loyalist during the American Revolution. Myers enrolled in the King’s Loyal American Rangers (King’s Rangers/Rogers’s Rangers) which were raised in 1779 and functioned until 1784 led by Robert and James Rogers. James was active in the scouting and recruiting around the north shore of Lake Ontario as well, they participated in the capture of the American Fort Anne and Fort George.

Myers recruited soldiers for Colonel Gabriel Ludlow and later for Colonel Robert Rogers. Myers job was mostly gathering intelligence and he carried dispatches through hostile enemy lines for the British army from his home in Albany. The officers and men’s role were that of secret service agents (spies) for the Crown forces in rebel territory. Disguised as civilians, their fate, if captured was to be hanged. Myers, of the King’s Rangers was well known for his daring attempt to capture rebel General Philip Schuyler in his home near Albany in 1781. Myers was one of the many Loyalists whose defeat in the American Revolution that led to the beginning of permanent settlement in what is now Ontario.

An interesting story from the Ranger’s research: Meyers once while carrying dispatches from New York was nearly captured by the Rebels. While in a friend’s home, the rebels approached the front door and knowing his fate if caught, he jumped out a back window and started off for the woods, the pursuers saw him and ran after him. Soon out of breath, he lay down behind a fallen tree. The pursuers tied up their horses and rushed past him. Myers got up, selected the best horse and started off for New York.

At the time of the American Revolution Myers was a farmer making a modest living near Albany when he married Polly Kruger and they raised a family of seven. After the war ended in 1783, Myers moved to Cataraqui (Kingston) Ontario for a short time. Myers first stop in Thurlow (Belleville) made him one of the first settlers of the area. He was known to have built a hut here and he stayed for about a year before moving on later to became Sidney Township’s first settler (squatter). He built a log cabin here and cleared some land for farming.  By the late 1780’s the government was encouraging the construction of saw and grist mills to encourage settlers to the area. In 1787 Myers petitioned for a mill site on Lot 7 in Sidney Township with the idea of adding a saw and grist mill to the successful farm he had now established here. The petition was denied because the stream here was shallow and thus it lacked sufficient water power for a mill site. Myers soon had his sights set on the perfect mill site on the Moira River, now Belleville. Keeping an accumulated 3,800 acres of land, livestock and a brickworks in Sindey he was about to move to Thurlow Township again.

In 1787, Myers was thought to have settled on Lot 7, 8 & 9, Concession 1 in Sidney Township, the patent on this land was issued to George and Tobias W. Myers. Myers Sr. likely had the Land Board assign the property to his sons. Today, that property is likely the site of the Royal Canadian Air Force in Trenton. In 1811 Lot 11, Concession 1 in Rawdon Township was patented to John W. Myers for a mill site, today the dam site is still visible at Stirling.   In 1800 a petition was granted to Myers at Lake Consecon, a former stream, for a mill site. A saw mill was actually built here by Mattlias March in 1804 and a grist mill was later built by his son Archibald Marsh.

In 1878, Myers petitions for a mill site on the east side of the Moira River in what is now Bellelville because it was narrow, it was shallow enough to build a dam and had a river bank to sustain a mill pond. With this in mind he purchased 100 of 200 acres of the north half of Lot 5, Concession 1 in Thurlow Township from John Taylor in 1790.   The above lot was originally owned by George Singleton, later purchased by Taylor from the Singleton estate and finally by Myers. A major problem soon surfaced, it was discovered after a later land survey that his dam encroached on Lot 4, a Mississauga Indian Reserve and Myers could not complete his mills without interfering on this property. It is unlikely this land was ever used for a burying ground, but Myers obtained a long-term lease from the Indians for one-half of Lot 4 which was granted to them but it seems later it was reserved for the government. This problem was resolved in the Town Plan of 1816, the disputed 2 acres of land on Lot 4 with the dam and a dwelling already on the mill site were granted to Meyers. The remains of that mill already constructed, are shown in the pictures at 54 Station Street, Belleville in this post.

By 1790, Myers had completed the districts first dam and mill near the mouth of Myer’s Creek (Moira River). This fledgling industry became Myer’s Mill and later became known as Bellville (Belleville) in 1816. Myers, being the enterprising sort he was, added more projects to his successful milling business. After gaining the confidence and trust of the local Mississauga Ojibwas he became involved in the fur trading business.

Soon after this Myers added a distillery, a fulling mill and an inn to his property. A short time later he acquired a fleet of vessels, including a small schooner that carried cargo to Montreal, doing business with Richard Cartwright and David Rogers. Capt. Myers at one time kept a bateaux to carry freight to Kingston and Montreal operated by Jacob Stevens. He would charge for the freight down the St. Lawrence River and give travelers a free passage back. Within ten years of settling in the Bay of Quinte region, he moved his family into one of the first brick houses in Upper Canada, the bricks were produced on one of Myers farms, likely from his brickyard in Sidney Township.

At the time of his death, Captain John Meyers was a very wealthy man, he had accumulated over three-thousand acres of land. He served as a Justice of the Peace from 1788 until his death in 1821, was appointed a commissioner for the administration of the oath of allegiance to new settlers in the Midland District and in 1802 he became the first Master of the local Masonic Lodge. In 1820 he was made one of the VP’s of the Midland District Agricultural Society. Myers was also a trustee for the construction in 1820 of the St. Thomas Church, the first Anglican Church in Belleville. John W. Myers, Captain in His Majesty’s Corps of Royal Rangers died on November 22, 1821 at age 76.

Regards, Ranger

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