by Ethel Rafter Williams
[Excerpted from The Williams-Rafter Family History, by Ethel Rafter Williams (Rochester, N.Y., 1962).]
[The Croziers] were Scotch Irish emigrants to America, families which had left Scotland for religious or political reasons and moved to Northern Ireland, whence after varying periods of time they made their way to the New World. Generally, they came in search of economic opportunity that they could not find in Ireland.
There is reason to believe that John Crozier, the ancestor of the Crozier family in America, lived in Ballinamore, County Leitrim, Northern Ireland. There is no known record of his birth or death, but it is known that he died before 1832. The family had originally come over from the Border Country between Scotland and England with a group of religious dissenters. John Crozier had two wives: Ellen Knight, who had four children, and Anna Coffle, who had eight.
During the years from 1820 to 1832 an epidemic of cholera, starting in Russia, swept through northern Europe. It attacked countries and cities along the highways of travel. The nature of the disease was not understood: there was no known, effective means of combating it. Accordingly, wherever it went, it spread despair and death. The terror-stricken peasantry of Europe abandoned their homes and fled to other provinces or countries, hoping to escape the dreadful scourge. Not uncommon was it for whole villages to band themselves into a little colony, charter a ship and set out to find new homes across the sea.
Quite frequently, in their unwillingness to be separated from their loved ones, they would take with them individuals known to be infected with the disease, with the result that whole parties were destroyed, and all records of them were completely lost.
In one such party Robert Crozier, with members of his family, came to North America in the year 1832. They were part of a large group which had chartered a small sailing vessel, with the intention of forming a colony in the State of Ohio. They sailed up the St. Lawrence River as far as the draught of their vessel would permit, disembarked, and abandoned the ship near the rapids beyond Montreal. They portaged around the rapids and then constructed some crude flat-bottomed boats and rafts. On these they loaded their meager possessions. By means of poles and sails, they resumed the journey, following the Ontario shoreline up the St. Lawrence, hoping eventually to reach their destination -- Ohio.
Long before the arrival of this party, the colonists on both sides of the river had heard of the terrible scourge which was devastating Europe. Fearful of the plague, they took measures to protect themselves from the disease which the fleeing Europeans were certain to bring with them. Guards were organized, and practically the whole Canadian shore from Montreal to Kingston was patrolled by armed men to prevent any landing by immigrants.
Along this unfriendly and inhospitable shore, the party of which Robert Crozier and his family were members worked their way. A number of times they tried to land to get fresh food and shelter from the cold, raw winds and rain. Each time, however, they were driven back by hostile farmers. Finally, sickness broke out, probably the dreaded cholera and hunger drove the terrified travelers to desperation.
Under the cover of darkness, they effected a landing near Brockville, Ontario, and took possession of an old barn on the Cryler farm for the night. By this time the guards had heard of the landing, and began to attack them. A fight ensued which lasted all night. The poor immigrants had no weapons to match the shotguns of the Canadian farmers, so that by morning they beat a retreat. Many of them died during the night from sickness and exposure. The living scattered in all directions.
Some were driven back to the river. Others, carrying what possessions they could, fled inland. Thus, families and friends became separated, many of them never to see one another again. Those who succeeded in gaining the boats worked their way up the river to the Great Lakes, making settlements along the route. Some went to Upper Canada: others settled in Ohio and Michigan.
Among those who escaped inland at Brockville was Robert Crozier with some of his family and friends. This small party first made a settlement at a place now known as Elizabethtown. There they built stone houses and barns, and began life again as farmers. It is doubtful if they could have picked a lonelier, more uninviting and poorer farming country than the one they selected. Only by the hardest kind of toil was it possible to eke out a living. The more progressive members of the little community gradually located elsewhere, and Elizabethtown never developed beyond the crude stages of its beginning.
This story of the Crozier family's arrival in America is based on notes taken by John R. Williams on a trip to Canada in 1896. He had gone to visit his mother's brother, Uncle Demetrius Crozier. His uncle took him to Elizabethtown to call upon his old aunt, Mrs. Ann Berry, a sister of Robert Crozier. She had been a member of the party which had come to Canada in 1832. Born in Ireland in 1815, she was then an old lady of eighty-one, but had a remarkable memory. She recited an almost complete record of her family, both before and after coming to Canada. The chronological material is on a chart made by John R. Williams at that time.