Niagara Falls
Townships: a history



Township of Stamford

Stamford was originally called Mount Dorchester or Township Number 2. It was named for Sir Guy Carleton Lord Dorchester. It was the second township surveyed in this part of the country, Niagara being the first. It received the name Stamford from Governor Simcoe, who named it and other portions of Welland County after well known places in Lincolnshire, England.

This township was first allotted to about twelve families. Among the first white people to settle in Stamford in 1776, were the Cooks and the Durham's from New Jersey. Lundy's Lane was the first road used by the settlers. It was originally an Indian trail.


Township of Willoughby

Navy Island containing 300 acres is included in the Township of Willoughby. In 1779, Michael Gonder became the first settler in Willoughby Township. He lived along the banks of the Niagara River. Five years later, ten other United Empire Loyalist families settled in the township. Undeveloped land was sold for one shilling per acre. Settlement was slow to develop because much of the land was already held by only a few land owners.
By 1850, land was selling for 25 shillings per acre. There were only two main roads in Willoughby. One road ran parallel along the Welland River while the other ran East to West through the swamp.




Chippawa is an Indian name meaning "people without moccasins". Throughout the years it has been spelled "Chippewa" and "Chippeway".

The Village of Chippawa was incorporated in 1850. The land along the North side of the Welland River was in Stamford Township while the land on the South side of the Welland River was in Willoughby Township.

The French had built a stockade in Chippawa before they were forced out of Niagara by the British. During the American Revolution a blockhouse was constructed and was known as "Fort Welland". During the days of the portage, Chippawa was located at the head of the portage and became a center of activity. A small settlement grew up around the stockade. Chippawa continued to grow and thrive until the Great Western Railway came to Niagara.

The 1814 battle of Chippawa took place south of the village of Chippawa near Usher's Creek (Street's Creek).


Learn more about the History of Chippawa 



Niagara Falls

Niagara, originates from the Indian name "onyakarra". Over the years, this name was changed to "Nijhgarrah" meaning "Thunder of Waters". The Indians had told Cartier in 1534 of the existence of the immense cataract and of the over land portage.

Between 1778 and 1785, General Haldimand was Governor of Canada. During this time, many people came to Niagara to settle. In order to become self sustaining, Haldimand proposed that land around the forts be cultivated and that new settlers be given implements necessary to work their land. This was the beginning of agriculture in the Niagara Peninsula.

Philip Bender became one of the first settlers in 1782. He owned land on the brow of a hill overlooking the gorge and facing the Falls which is today the area surrounding Bender Hill. Much of the land on which the City of Niagara Falls is land that Mr. Bender owned.
Francis Ellesworth owned the house nearest the falls. People used to walk down a rattle snake infested deep gully lined with of stones and stumps to get a good view of the falls.

The first mills along the shore of the Niagara River was located where the present Toronto Power Generating Building is located. John Burtch built the first mills in 1786. Years later, the mill was purchased by Samuel Street. The mill was burned to the ground by the Americans during the War of 1812. After being rebuilt, the mills continued to operate until 1873.

Year by year, more settlers came to Niagara. Not until 1846, did a village exist at the Falls of Niagara. In that year, a company was formed to build a bridge across the gorge for the Great Western Railway of Canada.

Samuel Zimmerman was the founder of the Village of Elgin named after the Governor of Canada. The village formed surrounding the site of the first suspension bridge built across the Niagara Gorge. The Village of Elgin was located in the area that is today Bridge Street at the Whirlpool Bridge.

In 1853, the Village of Elgin was incorporated. In 1856, the boundaries of the Village of Elgin were expanded to include the area of the Table Rock. In view of this expansion and its subsequent increase in population, the Village of Elgin was now had enough citizens to become a town rather than a village. Because the name Elgin had been previously used, the name of the newly formed town was changed to the Town of Clifton.

In 1881, at the request of the citizens, the Town of Clifton was changed to the Town of Niagara Falls.

In 1904, the Town of Niagara Falls became the City of Niagara Falls.




Queenston was named after the famous military regiment, the Queens Rangers, once commanded by Colonel Simcoe. It was originally known as "Queenstown".

The first known settler was Robert Hamilton. In 1789, Hamilton built a storehouse and wharf along the shores of the Niagara River. Hamilton would become quite wealthy and owned most of the land in the Niagara Peninsula below the escarpment.

In the early years of development, Queenston became an important docking facility for the loading and unloading of cargo and furs. Four or five vessels being unloaded of their 100 ton cargo was a common sight.













Date last updated: February 12, 2012



The following locations and facts about them are but a few of many famous sites & attractions to be found in Niagara Falls. The best of it is FREE to think of Niagara Falls when planning your next vacation. If you have questions of a current or historical nature about the Niagara Falls area or suggestions feel free to e-mail Rick at





Niagara Falls

a history