Biography of James Ingersoll

James Ingersoll, for forty-five years Registrar of the County of Oxford, is a son of J. Thomas Ingersoll, from whom the town of Ingersoll was named, and Sarah Whiting, sister of General John Whiting, of Great Barrington, both natives of Berkshire county, Mass., and was born in the township of West Oxford, now Ingersoll, September 10, 1801. In the Sentinel Review, of Woodstock, in January, 1879, Mr. Ingersoll published a sketch of the early settlement of the County of Oxford, and from that sketch we learn That his father came to Upper Canada in 1793, being induced to come hither partly by the proffer made by Governor Simcoe, in his proclamation of certain tracts of land to parties who would come to Canada and settle, and partly by the account given of the country by Capt. Brant, Chief of the Six Nations, whom Mr. Ingersoll met about the same time, while the Chief was on a visit to New York. The result was that Mr. Ingersoll and a few others made application for a township, Mr. Ingersoll being selected to present the petition. A council was held in March, 1793 at Niagara, then the seat of Government; the grant of a township was made, and the selection was on the Thames river, where Ingersoll now stands, Mr. Ingersoll cutting the first tree, which went into the first log house, or white man’s building of any kind, at that place. In that rude structure our subject was born probably the first white child that saw the light of this world in Oxford County.

Thames river, where Ingersoll now stands, Mr. Ingersoll cutting the first tree, which went into the first log house, or white man’s building of any kind, at that place. In that rude structure our subject was born probably the first white child that saw the light of this world in Oxford County.
The condition of the grant of the township was that Mr. Ingersoll and his associates should furnish forty settlers, who were each to have a farm of one or two hundred acres of land on paying to the Government a fee of sixpence, sterling, per acre; the families were furnished, and their names are published in the Woodstock paper mentioned above. About that time some evil minded persons reported to the Home Government that Governor Simcoe was likely to injure the country by encouraging Americans to settle here, as they might hold the land in bulk and thus prevent discharged Loyalist soldiers and their political friends from procuring grants. The result was that an order from England canceled several grants, that of Mr. Ingersoll among the number; he became disgusted, removed to the Township of Toronto, on the Credit river and there died in 1812, leaving a widow and seven children, Charles Ingersoll, the eldest. son, was in the war of 1812-14, raising at the start, with Mr. William H. Merritt, a troop of Light Dragoons, of which Mr. Merritt was Captain, and he a Lieutenant. The company served through the war.
Born in the woods, and there spending most of his youth, the subject of this brief biography, browsed, as best he could, on the underbrush of knowledge, doing much more, in the line of mental drill, out of school than in, securing in fact a good business education. His brother, Charles, came into possession of the original Oxford farm in 1817, and the next year James was sent there to take charge of it. In the sketch referred to he thus speaks of matters in those days:

“On arriving at the old place which I left when only five years of age, I had no recollection of it. During the war all the fences were destroyed and all the boards on the old barn had been removed, but the log house in which I was born was standing and occupied by an old man named Ebenezer Case. The first improvement undertaken was the building of a saw mill, which was put in operation on the 14th of April, 1819, after which we commenced the building of the old Ingersoll House, having sawn our own lumber. In 1820 we began to erect a small grist mill with one pair of stones, and buildings for a store, distillery, and ashery. My brother removed his family to Oxford in 1821. Soon after this he was appointed a Magistrate, Postmaster, and a Commissioner in the Court of Request. He acted with the late Peter Teeple, Esq., in this Court. Soon after this he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the Second Oxford Militia, was returned to Parliament in 1824 and again in 1829-30; and he was a member at the time of his death in August, 1832.

At twenty-one years of age, (1822) Mr. Ingersoll opened the first store in what is now the town of Ingersoll, with its five thousand inhabitants. He traded for ten years, commencing on a very moderate scale, and having a general variety of articles, including of course, pipes and tobacco, popular articles always in a frontier settlement. His recollections of his commercial life in a backwoods settlement are quite vivid, and it is amusing to hear him relate some of the incidents of those times.

Lieutenant. The company served through the war.

Born in the woods, and there spending most of his youth, the subject of this brief biography, browsed, as best he could, on the underbrush of knowledge, doing much more, in the line of mental drill, out of school than in, securing in fact a good business education. His brother, Charles, came into possession of the original Oxford farm in 1817, and the next year James was sent there to take charge of it. In the sketch referred to he thus speaks of matters in those days:

“On arriving at the old place which I left when only five years of age, I had no recollection of it. During the war all the fences were destroyed and all the boards on the old barn had been removed, but the log house in which I was born was standing and occupied by an old man named Ebenezer Case. The first improvement undertaken was the building of a saw mill, which was put in operation on the 14th of April, 1819, after which we commenced the building of the old Ingersoll House, having sawn our own lumber. In 1820 we began to erect a small grist mill with one pair of stones, and buildings for a store, distillery, and ashery. My brother removed his family to Oxford in 1821. Soon after this he was appointed a Magistrate, Postmaster, and a Commissioner in the Court of Request. He acted with the late Peter Teeple, Esq., in this Court. Soon after this he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the Second Oxford Militia, was returned to Parliament in 1824 and again in 1829-30; and he was a member at the time of his death in August, 1832.”

At twenty-one years of age, (1822) Mr. Ingersoll opened the first store in what is now the town of Ingersoll, with its five thousand inhabitants. He traded for ten years, commencing on a very moderate scale, and having a general variety of articles, including of course, pipes and tobacco, popular articles always in a frontier settlement. His recollections of his commercial life in a backwoods settlement are quite vivid, and it is amusing to hear him relate some of the incidents of those times.

During the Rebellion of 1837-38, Mr. Ingersoll was Major of Colonel William Holcroft’s Regiment, serving to the close of that ill conceived contest. He is now Lieut. Colonel of the Regimental Division, South Riding of Oxford.

Prior to that date, as early as 1834, Mr. Ingersoll was appointed Registrar of Oxford, and that office he still holds, being one of the oldest County Officers in the Province. In 1848, the office was moved to Woodstock; since which date Mr. Ingersoll has been a resident of this place. Though, at the time of writing, he is in his seventy-eighth year, his slightly bent form is seen every day at the office, he having a vigilant eye though he has never worn spectacles and being a model of correctness in business. He is a accommodating in his disposition, and has great urbanity.

He was baptized into the Church of England, steadfastly adheres to its faith and tenets, and is warmly esteemed for his exemplary life. In January, 1848, Mr. Ingersoll married Miss Catherine MacNab, a native of Ireland, and they have one daughter and three sons, and have lost one son. Mary Blanchard is the wife of William A. Campbell, County Clerk of Kent, residing at Chatham; James Beverley is clerk in the Registrar’s office, Woodstock; John MacNab is a merchant’s clerk in Montreal, and George is at home.

Mr. McClenahan, Postmaster at Woodstock, in a series of articles on the history of Oxford County concludes the introductory paper as follows:

“If Thomas Horner was the first white settler in this section, with equal truth may it be said that James Ingersoll was the first white child born in the county. The history of the section it will be seen covers few decades of the past. What was a howling wilderness at the birth of our present Registrar, is now an expanse of towns and villages, traversed by three important lines of railway a county possessing all the luxuries of life, and in agricultural wealth, and in the comfort and costliness of its farm residences, its roads, churches and schools, not a whit behind the most interesting of English shires, and surpassing in the matter of remuneration to the tact and care of the husbandmen, the much lauded valley of the Genesee in the neighboring State of New York.”



MLA Source Citation:

The Canadian Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self Made Men, Ontario, Volume 1. Toronto: Toronto American Biographical Pub. Co. 1880. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 29 August 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/canada/biography-of-james-ingersoll.htm - Last updated on Aug 6th, 2012


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