William Crooks was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland on the 6th August, 1776, the son of William Crooks and Margaret Ramsay. One source refers to William Crooks, senior, as a surveyor or contractor involved in the laying out of Edinburgh’s “New Town,” although others refer to him as a weaver. But the evidence of a letter written later in life by William, junior, (discussed below) suggests a middle class education rather than one available to the son of a weaver. About 1792, William emigrated to the Fort Niagara, N.Y. area to join Crooks and Company, a company established by his half-brother Francis (? – 1797) and his older brother James (1778 – 1860). Francis had emigrated to the New World about 1788, James following him in 1791. With the expropriation of the Crooks and Company premises for the improvement of defensive works at Fort Niagara, the brothers moved across the river to Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) in Upper Canada. “After Francis died in the West Indies in 1797, the brothers formed W. and J. Crooks, which became competitively engaged in numerous enterprises, particularly military provisioning, the shipment of grain and flour to Lower Canada, brewing and distilling, and the production of potash.”
In 1810, William and James commissioned Asa Stanard of Niagara to build them the schooner, ‘Lord Nelson.’ She ran cargo between Niagara and Prescott on the St. Lawrence River for the company until, just before the outbreak of war in 1812, she was seized by the Americans, outfitted for war, and renamed ‘Scourge.’ The schooner capsized and sank on August 8, 1813, during a storm, with considerable loss of life, and still lies 300 feet below the surface of Lake Ontario, just north of St. Catharine’s. The heirs of James and William finally were awarded compensation by the United States government for the commandeering of the ‘Lord Nelson’ in 1914, a sum of $5,000, which with 4% interest over 93 years amounted to nearly $24,000. It was not until 1930, however, that any compensation was received by the 25 beneficiaries chosen out of 100 claimants.
Other members of the Crooks family arrived in the Canadas in 1803. They included Margaret Ramsay Crooks, who was by then a widow, William and James’s four brothers, Francis (1782-1845), Ramsay (1787-1859), Matthew (dates unknown) and John (1797-1833) along with four sisters, Helen (1784 -1813), Margaret (married ? Notman), Elizabeth (married ? Smith) and Jane/Jennet (married John Secord).
On December 1, 1808, William married Mary Butler, and in the same year moved to live at The Forty (Grimsby). He appears to have remained there for the rest of his life, despite the acquisition of land over the years in York. An Order-in-Council of June 7, 1797 granted him a town lot in York (on condition of improving the same within 12 months) and in 1802 he traded William Allan a town lot in Newark for a town lot in York. On October 8, 1803 he purchased the north half of Park Lot 26 from Alexander McNabb of Niagara, but sold this on May 4, 1822 to George Taylor Denison.
Over the next 20 years, the following children were born to William and Mary in Grimsby. William (1810-1864), Johnson (1811-1812), James Ramsay (1812-1865), Walter (bapt. 1815 – ?), Thomas Butler (1816-1838), Ann, (1817-1823), George Garden (bapt.1819 – ?), Francis (bapt.1820-1832), Margaret (bapt.1823 – ?), Andrew (bapt. 1824 – ?), Allen McCauley (1826 – ?), Mary Elizabeth (1828-1847), and Johnson Alexander (bapt.1830 – 1832). A typically large family for the period, with the usual sad number of short lives.
William appears to have prospered, although not achieving the prominence of two of his brothers. William’s brother, James, was to go on to considerable success as a merchant, among other activities building the first paper mill in Upper Canada, and as a politician in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada. James married Jane Cummings in 1808, producing eight sons and five daughters, one of whom was Adam Crooks, lawyer, politician and the first Minister of Education of Ontario. His brother, Ramsay, became a wealthy fur trader and eventually president of John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company. He married Marianne Pelagie Emilie Pratte in 1825 and together they had five sons and four daughters.
William’s other brothers, Matthew, Francis and John, lived out in their lives close to William. Matthew owned a mill in Ancaster, and family lore says that Francis opened the first general store in Grimsby. He and his wife Mary Stagg had nine children. John is mentioned frequently in the history of Grimsby’s St. Andrew’s church as a prominent member and financial supporter.
William purchased John Green’s gristmill on Forty Mile Creek and entered into Grimsby life taking an active part in business, military, religious and Masonic activities. He became Grimsby’s first postmaster in 1816, the post office being either in or near his home. The Lincoln Militia Return for 1818 lists him as Captain of the 4th Regiment. A letter he wrote in the same year on the subject of education in Grimsby, reveals an educated, articulate man, who is keenly aware of the problems of the district he lives in. 
William died in 1836 leaving more than 7,000 acres of land in 20 townships. His wife and family moved after his death to the village of St. Ann in Nelson township, Halton County. He and Mary are buried together in St. Andrew’s churchyard, Grimsby, along with their children William, Johnson, James Ramsay, Thomas Butler, Ann and Mary Elizabeth.
 Altar tomb inscription, Grimsby Episcopal Church, Ontario.
 Ouellette, David. “James Crooks.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985, vol. VIII, p. 185; Land Petition, 7 October, 1796 (UC Land Petitions bundle C2-37, Library and Archives Canada).
 “Early Records of St. Mark’s and St. Andrew’s Churches, Niagara.” Ontario Historical Society, Paper and Records, vol. 3, Toronto, 1901. Available at: http://www.tbaytel.net/bmartin/niag-mar.htm
 Carnorchan, Janet. Centennial of St. Andrew’s, Niagara, 1794-1894. Toronto: W. Briggs, 1895. Available at: http://www.canadiana.org/