Village of Chippawa

a history



In 1678, Chippawa appears in historical reports. Throughout the years it has been known by a number of names but was originally known as Chippeway. 

The legendary name of the Welland River was “Chemonda”.

In 1783, the first settler in Chippawa was United Empire Loyalist, Thomas Cummings. Cummings who was born in Scotland was granted a 200 acre parcel of land at the mouth of the Chippawa River at the Niagara River along the south-east bank. Amongst the heavy treed pine grove, Cummings built his home. 

Infant James Cummings was the first white baby born in this new settlement. 

In 1783, John Burch was granted a parcel of land on the opposite side of the Chippawa Creek. His tract of land extended westward along the banks of the Niagara River to Cedar Island. Here , Burch built a plantation. 

In 1786, John Burch built a saw mill and a grist mill along the banks of the Niagara River where the current Toronto Power Station building now stands. 

In 1791, Burch became a member of the land board committee and in 1785, he became the local Justice of the Peace. 

John Burch died in 1797. Burch was 55 years old at the time of his death and he was buried at the Drummond Hill cemetery. 

Burch’s property and mills were sold to Samuel Street Junior. Samuel Street continued to operate the mills until they were burned to the ground by retreating American troops during the War of 1812. 

By 1791, the hamlet of Chippawa had a number of other families settle here. They included the family names such as: McEwen, Dunbar, Harry Ramsay, Oldfield, Bealey, Heaslip, Stoneheap and John Rowe. 

In 1791, Fort Chippawa was built on property expropriated from John Burch’s plantation.

 In 1792, when Governor Simcoe arrived at Niagara he began renaming places to reflect the British governance. Chippawa Creek became the Welland River and Fort Chippawa was renamed Fort Welland. 

In 1794, William Canby and John McGill built a saw and grist mill on the high bank along the south side of current site of Dufferin Islands. A little settlement built up around these mills. This settlement became known as Bridgewater and was located approximately 1 kilometer north of Chippawa. 

In 1795, Chippawa consisted of one inn and a similar number of other houses. Chippawa Creek which flowed into the Niagara River had little flow and was stagnant. 

In 1799, near the Canby - McGill Mills at Bridgewater, a burning spring was discovered. It was said that if a candle were held to it, the spring would ignite and would continue to flame for a long time. 

In 1799, Robert Randall of Maryland acquired an interest in the Canby -McGill mills. Randall added a flour mill and gave the name of the whole property as Bridgewater Mills. Randall later built an iron foundry and became the first person in the Province to make wrought iron objects. 

Robert Randall became one of the largest land owners in Upper Canada. He was however imprisoned in Montreal during the War of 1812 because of large debts he owed. As a result Randall lost most of his wealth. 

Tourism in Chippawa and Niagara Falls flourished. 

Several new hotels were established in Chippawa. In 1796, John Fanning operated a hotel and in 1801, Macklem's Tavern was opened for business. 

The Welland River at the entrance to the Niagara River  had a treacherous sandbar which limited vessel navigation. 

In 1798, lots on military reserved lands at Queenston and Chippawa were given to merchants: Hamilton, Clark and Dickson to build warehouses for their goods. 

John Fanning started the first stagecoach service carrying passengers and mail between Newark (Niagara on the Lake) and Chippawa. He soon expanded his operations to include service between Chippawa and Fort Erie. His coach service operated three times per week: every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  

In 1798, a second stagecoach service was started by J. Fairbanks and Thomas Hind. Fairbanks owned a house near Fort Chippawa. 

In 1801, the third stagecoach service was started by James Macklem. It ran from Macklem's Tavern in Chippawa. 

In 1803, Chippawa became a Port of Customs. James Muirhead was the first collector of customs. 

In 1802, a post office was opened in Chippawa. All mails were now being carried by Post Master stage coaches. 

By 1806, Chippawa had three mills. 

By 1809, Chippawa has a settlement of 10-12 houses along with two taverns. The taverns were owned by John Fanning and Mr. Stevens. 

War of 1812 placed everyone and everything in harms way. One of the major battles of the war took place on July 4th 1814 south of the village. Four thousand American troops were encamped along the south side of Street’s Creek (Ussher's Creek). The British had four hundred and ninety men protecting Fort Welland. The land between Street’s Creek and Chippawa had been cleared and cultivated This strip of land extended approximately one half mile from the banks of the Niagara River and was lined along the western border by a large and thick forest. 

On July 5th 1814, one of the bloodiest battles of the war took place on this cleared strip of land between British and American forces. The British with a strength of 1,500 - 2,000 men confronted the far superior American army. During the battle the Americans sustained 328 killed, wounded or missing in action. The British sustained 415 casualties. The British suffered a major defeat and were forced to retreat to Fort Welland and in doing so in order to prevent Americans from pursuing them, they destroyed the King’s bridge which allowed the only access across the Welland River. 

Following the War of 1812-1814, most of the Niagara Frontier lay in ruins as was Chippawa. 

All the mills and settlement houses at Bridgewater were burned to the ground by American troops. The settlement at Bridgewater was never rebuilt. In Chippawa many buildings were damaged or destroyed. This included the Post Office and King’s Bridge. 

Of the Burning Springs, Captain Richard Langslow wrote “the burning springs bubbled up under the ruins of Clark’s Mills. This gas was used while the mills existed to light the works below.”  

In 1816, Thomas Clark was granted possession of 14.5 acres of the chain reserve between Bridgewater and Cedar Island. 

Samuel Street built a new bridge across Chippawa Creek at his own expense. The Government had repaired the old King’s bridge but it’s location was so far downstream that it was seldom used. 

Samuel Street Jr. and Colonel Clark bought the Bridgewater Mills from Robert Randall before the War of 1812. 

In 1817, Colonel Thomas Clark was given a lifetime membership to the Legislative Council of the Parliament of Upper Canada. 

He married Margaret Kerr. Margaret was the granddaughter of Sir William Johnson and Molly Brant. 

After his marriage, Clark built a mansion overlooking the islands below (Dufferin islands) on the high bank called Clark Hill. 

In 1837, Thomas Clark died. Clark Hill was passed into the hands of Thomas Clark Street, the son of Samuel Street Jr. 

Thomas Street rebuilt on Clark Hill. Street never married and following the death of his mother, Street’s sister Caroline (the widow of Dr. T. C. Macklem) managed the household.

Caroline had two sons. One of her sons drowned tragically at the age of 8 years old. Her son Sutherland Macklem inherited Clark Hill and all the adjoining properties.

The islands below the high bank had been the private property of Thomas Street. He named the islands - Cynthia Islands after the name of one of his sisters.

All but one of the islands disappeared when the first hydro development project began. The tiny islands seen today are man-made.

Sir Harry Oakes bought the Clark Hill mansion and after completing major renovations renamed the mansion “Oak Hall”.

During World War II, Oak Hall was used as a convalescent home by the Royal Canadian Air Force. 

By 1819, Chippawa had few houses. Lumber sales had become an important industry and large tracts of land were cleared for agricultural purposes. 

In 1820, the first church was built in Chippawa. It was the Trinity Church.  

In 1824,  a decision to construct the first Welland canal was made. The Welland River at Chippawa was the eastern terminus of the new canal. The canal was opened in 1829. 

In order to prepare the Welland River for the canal, the sandbar at the mouth of the Welland River and the Niagara River was removed by dredging. A cut measuring 15 chains long was made in the narrow peninsula which formed the east bank of the Welland River and the arm of land on which the end of King’s Bridge and her defenses stood. As a result, an island was created. As a result of dredging, the waters of Chippawa Creek began a reverse flow. The water now flowed from the Niagara River into the Chippawa Creek. 

This man-made island became known as Hogg Island. It is believed the island was named after one of the workmen, Thomas Hogg. 

The course of the canal ran from Twelve Mile Creek  to Chippawa. 

By 1824, Chippawa had a settlement of 150 citizens.

In 1827, the stagecoach transportation began operating again. 

In 1841, following the death of her husband James Secord, Laura Ingersoll bought a small cottage from James Cummings. It was located on the south bank of Chippawa creek west of the current Cummington Square. Laura Secord died in 1868 at the age of 93. She was buried at Drummond Hill cemetery. In 1871, the cottage of Laura Secord located on Water Street was purchased by Ernest Peters. 

In 1831, a group of businessmen including Samuel Street and James Cummings formed a company to build a railroad between Chippawa and Queenston. They applied for a charter. In 1835, a charter was granted and construction on their railroad began. It was to be the first railroad in Canada. By 1845, the railroad was in operation. Cars carrying passengers were being wheeled around by a team of three horses along a wooden roadway. The rails were constructed of wood and strapped with iron. Passenger carriages were drawn by three horses hitched in tandem.

The carriages were box like compartments with doors on each side along with running boards to allow easier access. The seats ran across and each carriage had room for about 20 passengers. Luggage was carried on the roof and the driver had an outside seat at roof level. The carriage had four wheels and was pulled along at 5 miles per hour (mph).  

The railroad ran from a station at the foot of Queenston Heights just above the wharf. The line followed a general north-south direction along a route that is today Stanley Avenue. Approximately ¼ mile north of the current Ferry Street the railroad turned to a south-easterly direction and followed the path of the moraine  at Falls View. The railroad then traveled along the high bank past Clark Hill and into Chippawa where the terminus was located at a steamboat wharf located on the current intersection of Front Street and Norton Street. 

This railroad could not operate during the winter. This railroad became known as the Erie and Ontario Railroad Coach. 

Steamboats brought travelers to Queenston from York (Toronto). At Chippawa, passengers could take the steamboat “Emerald” to Buffalo on a daily basis. 

On Saturday September 24th 1853, while the Chippawa - Queenston horse-cars were crossing the St. Catharines - Suspension Bridge Road, a  loose hitch pin caused the car to run off the road. One lady sustained a fractured collar.

In 1854, the original railroad was rebuilt for steam operation. The route was changed to provide for a gentler grade  at Queenston and to be located closer to the Railway Suspension Bridge in Niagara Falls. The railroad was extended from Queenston to Niagara on the Lake. 

In 1860, the railroad was extended again, from Chippawa to Fort Erie. This railroad was operated by the Erie and Niagara Railroad before becoming part of the Michigan Central Railroad. 

A cairn located at the corner of Stanley Avenue and Morrison Street commemorates this first railroad in Upper Canada and the 3rd in the Province. 

In 1832, the Niagara Suspension Bridge Bank of New York opened in Chippawa.

In 1832, the first shipyard was built along the banks of the Chippawa Creek by Mr. Lovering. 

Ships built over the years included: the Emerald (1844), the Eclipse, the City of London and the Clifton (1854). 

Engines and boilers for these and other ships were built at Macklem's Foundry & Steam Engine Manufacturers Company. Macklem also owned a tannery and a stove manufacturing Company. Macklem's Foundry  burned to the ground in 1842 but was rebuilt. All were located on River Street (now Macklem Street). 

In 1852, a distillery was built in Chippawa. It employed thirty-five (35) people and produced 1,200 gallons of whiskey per day. It was located along Main Street at the western limits of the hamlet.

On December 13th 1837, the MacKenzie Rebellion on Navy Island (just south of Chippawa) took place. 

On October 6th 1849, the Village of Chippawa was incorporated. In 1850, James Cummings became the first reeve of Chippawa. He was the son of Thomas Cummings.

By 1850, King’s bridge was gone as was the fortifications of Fort Chippawa. A new road was built from Bridgewater to Chippawa and became known as Bridgewater Street.

By 1850, Main Street Chippawa had John Bartleys Tannery and Mr. T Davidson  a planning mill. 

The village square was first called “Pelham Square” named after Charles A. Pelham who was a member of Parliament in 1792. As the Village of Chippawa grew in size the name of the Village Square was renamed ”Market Square” and then to the current “Cumminton Square” in honour of the first settler in Chippawa. 

Willoughby Hall was owned by James Cummings and was located at the corner of the current Main Street and Niagara Parkway. 

Laura Secords house was located on the south side of Bridgewater Street west of Cummington Square. 

The Village of Chippawa’s first Doctor was Doctor Robert Aberdein. 

By 1853, Chippawa had a Post Office, a Dry Goods store, a Tailor Shop, a steam cabinet and chair factory and John Thomas’ grist mill. 

The ship “Clifton” was steam powered and had two funnels abreast. It had been built by Mr. Macklem. In 1860, the “Clifton” was decommissioned. The “Clifton” was converted to use as a lumber scow. 

By 1858, nearly a dozen inns and taverns were scattered throughout the Village of Chippawa. John Flett opened a General Store, Adam Herbold had a grocery store and bakery. Thomas Davidson had a steam powered planing mill as well as a sash, blind and door factory. 

In 1853, Robert Slater, an English physician was also a hotel owner. He had two sons: James and Jonathan. Robert settled in Willoughby Township along the banks of the Niagara River, approximately 11/2 miles south of Chippawa. Here he built a home, storehouses and a dock. The estate was called “Willoughby Grove”. His dock would be named “Slater’s Dock" and it became a favorite dock for tourists arriving from and/or going to Buffalo. 

In 1853, Chippawa had two common schools.

By 1871, Chippawa had its first milliner, Mrs. Rozina Bothrell. By now the Village boasted six general stores, two grocery stores, two bakeries, two butcher shops, one tailor, a number of cabinet makers, an upholsterer, shoemakers, a tin-smith, wagon makers, gun-smiths and a watch maker. Other new businesses included cigar maker - Hiram Barney,  hatter -K. Emmons, a second distillery and several tanneries.

In 1861, James Macklem died.

In 1865, Oliver Macklem died.

In 1865, a potash asheries factory was opened.

In 1864, the population of Chippawa had grown to 1,450 people.

In 1870, two public schools were opened. They were school #8 - Stamford Township and school #3 - Willoughby Township. 

In 1871, the population of Chippawa had dipped to 972 people.  Chippawa was no longer the terminus of the Welland canal and the suspension bridge built at Niagara Falls in 1846, took many tourists and citizens away from the Village. The arrival of the Great Western Railroad to Niagara Falls in 1853 diverted traffic away. 

In 1874, a Fire Brigade was formed and the first piece of firefighting equipment was purchased. They had 57 volunteers. 

In 1875, James Cummings died. 

By 1881, the population of Chippawa had dwindled to a mere 642 people. 

In 1881, one of the largest fires in the history of the Village occurred. As a result 26 houses on the west side of Chippawa Creek were destroyed. Sparks from a passing wood burning locomotive landed on the roof of a nearby freight shed starting the fire. 

Mr. Vanderbilt of the New York Central Railway was looking at buying the Erie and Ontario Railroad.

In 1886, Christian Kaumeyer opened up a print shop. 

By 1899, the population of Chippawa had shrunk to only 446 people. Cement sidewalks were slowly replacing the existing wooden sidewalks. 

In 1903, Ontario Power Development Company began building two power stations, the Toronto Power Station and the Canadian Niagara Power Station (Rankine Plant). 

In 1910, the Norton Silicone Carbide plant opened. 

In 1917, construction of the hydro canal to channel water to the Chippawa-Queenston Power Station began. Dirt from the old cut was dumped on the opposite side of Hogg Island and formed a barrier across the mouth of the creek. 

The lighthouse at the mouth of the creek, had fallen into disrepair and was no longer needed. The creek was again dredged to allow for a reverse flow from the Niagara River into the creek to feed the hydro canal upstream. 

In 1919, the Fire Brigade purchased a new gasoline powered fire truck. In 1938 a new pumper truck was added. In 1961, all the firefighting equipment was upgraded and a new fire station was built. 

In 1925, Weightman Lumber Mill and Building Supplies opened for business.

 In 1926, Kaumeyer Paper Product factory was opened for business.  













Date last updated: February 20, 2012