If you’re on your way to Serena Gundy Park you may find yourself on one of Leaside’s smaller streets, a crescent named Rykert, abutting another crescent, called Thursfield.
When the Town of Leaside was laid out in 1912, many of the streets were named for railway executives or politicians. Rykert Crescent was named for John Charles Rykert (1832-1913) who served in all levels of government and enjoyed a successful legal career in his hometown of St. Catharines.
Rykert’s family came to Canada right after the War of 1812. His father, George, was born in Schenectady, N.Y. in 1797, and he served as a Member of the Legislature of Upper Canada, 1822-1841.
Public service ran in the family. George’s son, John Charles Rykert, was active in local affairs of his birth city. He was captain of the St. Catharines troop of cavalry for 15 years, serving in the Fenian Raids of 1866. He was also a volunteer fireman. For more than 20 years, Rykert was reeve of St. Catharines and Grantham Township, and served five terms as warden of Lincoln County. As county warden, John Rykert was host when the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) visited St. Catharines in 1860. That royal connection may even have saved his life. The Prince came to Rykert’s rescue after he was thrown from his horse during a parade.
In 1860, John was elected to the Parliament of Upper and Lower Canada, representing the riding of Lincoln. In 1878, he was elected to the House of Commons, serving there until his retirement in 1890.
Rykert’s hobby was fruit farming, and the first Niagara grapes were grown on his farm. He was a member of the Ontario Board of Agriculture for more than 30 years. John Charles Rykert died at St. Catharines on December 28, 1913 – the last surviving member of the first Parliament of Ontario – and is buried in Victoria Lawn Cemetery in that city.
Interestingly, at no time did Rykert live in Leaside! But not only does he have a street named after him here, but Leaside has a twin street named after John Charles in St. Catharines.
Jeanne Hopkins is a passionate local historian and the author of many articles and five books on local history.