Niagara Falls

Chronicles

of our

Early Settlers

 

1600 to 1900

 

 

 

The history of the City of Niagara Falls is a tapestry of enriched heritage. Each thread was spun upon the blood, sweat and tears of those brave pioneers that had the fortitude and determination to strive for their dream despite the hardships and obstacles

 

The future direction of our society has indelible roots to our past. History will predict the future.

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Indian Nations

the French

the British

American Revolution

Post Revolution

Pioneer Families

Phillip Bender

Portage Road

Early Commerce

Rumor of War (1812)

War of 1812

Battle of Queenston

Battle of Newark

Battle of Beaverdams

Battle of Chippawa

Battle of Lundy's Lane

Battle of Cooks Mills

End of War (1815)

Post War Development

Western New York

William Forsyth

Schooner "Michigan"

Steamboat "Superior"

Thomas Barnett

Steamship "Caroline"

MacKenzie Rebellion

Brock's Monument

Niagara's Freedom Trail 

Harry Oakes

Loretto Convent

Water Works

Frontier Amusement Park

 

 

 

 

Indian Nations

The first record of human settlers to the Niagara Peninsula, came from southwestern Ontario between 1300 and 1400 A.D.

One of the earliest native tribes called themselves the "Onguiaahra". It is a name from which the "Niagara River" originated.

Among the early settlers were an Iroquois group of Indians called "Atiquandaronk" (Attouanderonks). Their name was given to them by their enemies, the Huron Indians and the Iroquois Indians.

The French explorers that came to Niagara gave this Indian tribe the name "Neutrals" because of their position and status as peace keepers between the two warring Indian nations - the Huron's and the Iroquois.

The Neutral Indians were the leaders of a group of ten tribes of the Iroquois Nation. Other tribes included the Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Huron, Petun, Erie and the Susquehannock.

The Neutral tribe was governed by a "Queen of Peace" named "Jikonsaseh". She preserved the peace and neutrality of the Neutral tribe as well as maintaining a separation between the Huron's in the West and the Iroquois in the East. Jikonsaseh lived in a village called "Keinuka" which was located just east of the Niagara River.

In the early 1600's, the Neutrals had a population of 20,000 - 40,000. The Neutrals were well structured and had a developed hierarchy both politically and economically. The Neutrals brought with them many skills. In addition to being peace keepers and fierce warriors, they were also traders, farmers and business people. The Neutrals brought the humble beginnings of industry to the Niagara Frontier.

In 1626, the first European, Etienne Brule arrived in Niagara. This signaled the beginning of the onslaught of European explorers coming to the "New World" (North America) including Niagara. Brule may have the first of the white missionaries to visit the Neutral Indians.

The Seneca Indians occupied the east bank of the Niagara River near Lake Ontario.

In 1639, fearing the Seneca Indians, the Wenroe Indians, a transient tribe who lived in villages along the east side of the Niagara River, escaped to Huron territory with the aid of the Neutral Indians.

In 1640, the state of war broke out among the Seneca and Huron Indians. This war began when a Seneca warrior was killed by a Huron Indian while attempting to take refuge in a Neutral Indian village. The warrior was an Onondaga Indian Chief, Annenraes.

The Seneca blamed the Neutral for their part in the killing of the chief. The Seneca planned to avenge his death by attacking the Huron and Neutral Indians.

In 1647, the Seneca along with a group of Onondaga Indians began advancing towards Huron territory. On route, the Onondega war party met Chief Annenraes in the forest. Contrary to reports of his demise, Chief Annenraes was alive and safe. The Seneca continued with their plan to wage war against the Huron and the Neutral Indians.

In 1649, the Seneca and other members of the Iroquois Nation attacked the Wenroe and Huron Indians.

As the Indian wars continued over the next six years and soon the Huron Nation in the north was in ruins and scattered throughout the country.

The warring Iroquois Indians were victorious. They no longer had any enemies that would divide their warriors. In 1652, the Iroquois moved into the Niagara area, forcing the Neutral Indians eastward to the area of Albany, New York.

By 1653, the Neutral Indians had all but ceased to exist as an Indian Nation. Some of the remaining Neutrals were adopted by the Seneca while others joined the Huron's at Mackinac.

In 1654, the Erie Indians lived in villages along the south side of Lake Erie. The Erie Indians attacked a Seneca Village and intercepted a Seneca war party returning from a raid upon the Huron Indians. Included in those Indians captured was Chief Annenraes of the Onondaga tribe.

In retaliation, the Seneca sent 1,800 warriors against the Eries only to be beaten back. Chief Annenraes was burned to death at the stake at an Erie Indian village.

In 1655, the Seneca Indians attacked in massive numbers and slaughtered the Erie Indians. This battle marked the end of the Erie Indians along Lake Erie.

The Mississauga Indians gradually moved into those areas left vacant by the Neutral and Erie Indians.

In 1680, French explorer, Rene-Robert Chevalier, Sieur de La Salle wrote of meeting the Mississauga Indians.

In 1722, Tuscarora Indians lived on a reservation on the east bank of the Niagara River. The Seneca Indians adopted the Tuscarora and O'Neida Indians. Both tribes became members of the Iroquois League of Six Nations.

In 1745, the French forced the Mississauga Indians to the east side of the Niagara River. The Mississauga's were granted temporary admittance into the Iroquois Nation.

During the war between the French and the British, the Mississauga Indians supported the French and the Iroquois supported the British. During the American Revolution, the Mississauga Indians supported the British.

After the American Revolution, the Mississauga Indians settled along the banks of the Chippeway River (Village of Chippawa).

In 1788, nearly 600 Mississauga Indians lived at Queenston.

In 1850, a Mississauga Indian was reported to have killed the last deer on Goat Island.

In the early 1800's, Delaware Indians lived upon the banks of the Cattaraugus Creek.

   

 

 

The French

In 1615, Samuel de Champlain arrived in Ontario. The Huron Indians were at war with the Iroquois Indians. Champlain led a war party of Huron and Algonquin Indians into Iroquois territory and gave the Iroquois a taste of battle using muskets and bayonets.

The Iroquois retaliated by wiping out the Huron's and opposing French expansionism. This played a major role in the French's failure to establish a permanent link to the New World.

In 1626, the first authenticated white man in Niagara was Father Joseph de la Roche-Dallion. Father Roche-Dallion preached to the Neutral Indians at various villages.

In 1666, the first French explorer, Rene-Robert Chevalier, Sieur de La Salle briefly visited the Niagara area along the East bank of the Niagara River.

On December 6th 1678, La Salle returned to Niagara a second time to establish a portage that was to bypass the cataracts of Niagara at Fort Schlosser (a supply depot located opposite Chippawa).

On December 7th 1678, along with his Lieutenant Dominique La Motte de Luciere, and Jesuit Preist, Father Louis Hennepin, La Salle made his way southward from the shoreline near Queenston. La Salle and his party portaged across the peninsula to the shore of the Chippawa Creek (Welland River) at Chippawa. La Salle established an outpost at the mouth of the Chippawa Creek at the Niagara River. As La Salle's group walked, they could hear the roar of the Falls of Niagara and could see the column of mist rising high in the sky, but they did not stop. La Salle and his group continued to portage (walk) towards Chippawa.

On the morning of December 8th 1678, La Salle and his group retraced their path back to the Falls of Niagara. Here they spent the afternoon viewing the mighty cataracts. Father Louis Hennepin viewed the Falls of Niagara for the first time and made a sketch of it. This first sketch appears in a 1699 book entitled "New Discovery" (first French edition 1697).

La Salle built the first ship in 1679, to sail on Lake Erie. The ship named the "Griffin" set sail in the spring of 1679, but sank during a storm on its maiden voyage while returning to Niagara.

To ensure the security of the portage that La Salle had developed, he attempted to built a fort called "Fort Conde" at the current site of Fort Niagara. La Salle's attempt ended in failure when the fort accidentally burned to the ground before its completion.

In 1687, the French made another attempt to protect their fur trade. Led by Jacques-Rene de Brisay, Marquis de Denonville, the French attacked the Seneca Indians. This attack failed terribly.

De Brisay built a fort called Fort Denonville (at the site of Fort Niagara) to further establish roots in the region and to offer better protection for themselves. During the winter, the Seneca Indians surrounded the fort, forcing the French to starve to death without supplies. Only 12 of the original 100 French soldiers survived. The French abandoned Fort Denonville.

In 1720, Chabert Joncaire, a Frenchman and an adopted Seneca Indian, built a trading post at the present site of Lewiston. This thirty foot by 40 foot cabin called "Magazin Royal" was enclosed within a stockade. An Indian settlement was established around this supply post.  

In 1726, the French tried to re-establish friendly relations with the Seneca Indians. They did so through Chabert Joncaire who had married a Seneca woman. Joncaire acting as a mediator, asked the Seneca Indians to allow the French to establish a trading post but not a fort.

When the Seneca agreed, the French deceived the Seneca by building a large stone building called the "House of Peace". This building was a castle which today is part of Fort Niagara. The French called the building "Fort de Niagara". It was located seven miles north of "Magazin Royal" at the mouth of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario.

From "Fort de Niagara", the French were able to control the portage and all trade into the Great Lakes.

Joncair became the portage master and employed hundreds of Indians to help carry cargo up the escarpment at Lewiston.

In 1750, Chabert Joncaire built and established Little Fort Niagara

In 1750, the lower landing at Lewis Town (Lewiston) was a hub activity in the Niagara area as supplies destined to other settlements in the south were distributed. At least 200 Seneca Indians were employed as porters.

By 1750, the French were taking 200,000 livres of furs each year through Niagara 

In 1755, among British threats of war, the French reinforced Fort Niagara.

In 1755, Queenston was known as Le Platon.

 

 

 

The British Are Coming

In 1759, the British attacked the French at Fort Niagara. After 19 days, the French surrendered to the British. The French withdrew from the Niagara Peninsula.

As they withdrew, the French destroyed "Magazin Royal" and development at the lower landing at Lewiston.

The British immediately took over the portage and replaced many of the Seneca Indians. Road grading along the portage took place to allow supply wagons to be pulled up the escarpment.

The replacement of Seneca Indians along the portage by the British resulted in hostilities between the British and Seneca Indians developing.  

In 1762, as British and Indian hostilities increased, the British built Fort Demler at Lewiston. Fort Demler was built as an auxiliary outpost between Fort Niagara and Fort Schlosser at Niagara Falls. It provided safe refuge for British soldiers and citizens in an increasingly hostile environment.

Fort Demler consisted of a log storehouse and a blockhouse built within a stockade at the edge of the gorge overlooking the Niagara River.

On the morning of September 14th 1763, a British wagon train was attacked by 500 Seneca Indians along the top of the Niagara Gorge above the Devils Hole Cave. The outnumbered soldiers were killed as were 80 reinforcement soldiers sent to aid the British. This became known as "the Massacre at Devils Hole".

In November of 1763, Fort Demler was attacked by the Seneca Indians but this attack was unsuccessful. This was one of a series of Indian attacks along the Great Lakes against the British which became known as the "Pontiac Rebellion".

In 1764, Lewiston became a staging center for British soldiers. A series of military redoubts (an outwork or fieldwork - square or polygonal building without flanking defenses) were built along the length of the portage to provide some measure of safety.

Captain John Montresor, a British engineer had been sent to Niagara in the aftermath of the Indian insurrection in order to strengthen British fortifications. Montresor selected the sites and plans for the building of eleven two storey log blockhouses strategically located along the length of the Portage Trail.

In 1764, the British built a mechanized tramway which was known as "the cradles" to further assist movements of boats, supplies and arms to the top of the escarpment. Captain Montresor had devised this new way of hauling goods up the steep bank of the Niagara Escarpment which was known as "Crawl On All Fours". It would become the first elevator built in North America. It consisted of two wooden tramways leading from the dock along the Niagara River at the base of the escarpment to the top of the cliff. Two cradles were linked by rope over a pulley at the top so that when one cradle moved down one tramway, the other cradle moved upward. Each cradle was capable of carrying 12 - 14 barrels of supplies at a time. This cradle tramway was still in operation 46 years later.

During Captain Montresor's four month stay in Niagara during1764, he also designed and built a British fort where Lake Erie and the Niagara River meet. This fort was called "Fort Erie".

In 1765, the British built Navy Hall along the shore of the Niagara River in Newark. Navy Hall would become a military complex and supply stores. It also was a naval base.

The British occupied much of eastern and central North America.

On April 19th 1775, the British attempted to disarm the Massachusetts militia near Boston. The British were fired upon and defeated at battles in Concorde and Lexington.

 

 

 

The American Revolution

The American Revolution was beginning.

The American colonists resented taxation that the British had levied upon its citizens in order to pay for their war effort against the French and the Indians. The British began taxing imported cargo being shipped into ports.

In 1774, the famous Boston Tea Party took place. Several men dressed as Indians, dumped a load of tea into the Boston Harbor to protest a tax that the British had levied against imported tea.

The American Revolution had begun.

At the beginning of the revolution, the colonists were divided into three groups. They were:

a) revolutionaries

b) British loyalists

c) neutrals

The revolution supporters joined Continental armies and/or militias. Loyalists joined the British army. Those uncommitted were forced to choose sides.

The Loyalists that supported the British during the American Revolution are those that settled in Niagara. The Loyalists became known as the United Empire of Loyalists.

Although many Loyalists were British, many supporters were Europeans and Americans (born in colony).

One such loyalist was John Butler. Butler and his family were residents of the Mohawk Valley in New York before they were forced to flee to the Niagara frontier in 1777. John Butler would form a group of men which went on to fight the Revolutionary forces on behalf of the British. This group of soldiers became known as "Butler's Rangers".

One of the very first settlers in the Niagara Falls area was Mr. Phillip Bender and his family. Bender emigrated to the East Coast from Germany in 1750. In 1776, the Bender family fled to the Niagara frontier for refuge. In 1778, Bender joined the Rangers.

In 1777, James Secord and Peter Secord joined Butler's Rangers and were among the first settlers in Queenston.

The American Revolution and divided loyalties tore apart the Iroquois Nation. Many Iroquois tribes pledged support to the British, while the Tuscarora Indians and the Oneida Indians supported the Americans.

In 1778, with French backing, the British and their supporters were forced by the Americans to retreat westward to the Niagara area. Here settlements grew up along the East side of the Niagara River.

Fort Niagara became the hub of all British and Loyalist activities. Increasing numbers of new settlers to the frontier was creating a dangerous drain on supplies and food stuffs. Crowding became problematic.

The British were reluctant to settle along the West side of the Niagara River because of a 1763 treaty, giving those lands to the Indians.

In 1781, Colonel John Butler purchased a parcel of land along the West bank of the Niagara River from the Mississauga Indians. Butler allowed the Secord brothers to settle here along with several other families including the Dolson family, the Shower family and the Lute family. With an abundance of blood, sweat and tears, these families prospered.

The settlers had established homesteads on a 100 acre tract of land in the area of Queenston. Butler had also established his regimental headquarters here as well.

During the next year, another eleven families joined those that had come to live in the Niagara. Most of the family patriarchs were current or former members of Butler's Rangers.

 

 

 

Post Revolution

On April 26th 1783, notice of the signing of the Paris treaty ending the American Revolutionary War was received. The Americans had won. The British and their loyalists were expelled from American territory and would risk severe penalty or death if they tried to return to their previous homes.

Most of the United Empire Loyalists settled in Niagara along the west bank of the Niagara River.

On July 1st 1783, the King of England signed a proclamation to provide land grants on remaining British territories to those Loyalists that had supported the British. Butler was instructed to purchase all the lands between lake Erie and Lake Ontario for settlement by the Loyalists.

This further land acquisition was secured from the Mississauga Indians in 1784. Six hundred and twenty-nine persons settled along the West bank.

On June 24th 1784, Butler's Rangers were disbanded.

John Graves Simcoe had commanded the British Queens Rangers during the American Revolution. At the end of this conflict, Graves returned to England.

In 1791, the British established Fort Chippawa at the mouth of the Chippawa River (Welland River) and the Niagara River. This fort which consisted of a small block house surrounded by twelve foot high cedar posts was used as a stockade and supply depot.

In June of 1794, American Envoy John Jay drafted a treaty between the Americans and the British entitled "the Jay's Treaty". This treaty negotiated the peaceful withdrawal of British forces from Great Lakes Posts on American soil. It also established national boundary provisions between the Americans and the British that had to be complied with by June 1st 1796.

The British had occupied Fort Niagara since taking it from the French in 1759. The British did not withdraw from Fort Niagara until 1796. because of this withdrawal, the British now required fortification along the west bank of the Niagara River.

On July 26th 1792, Navy Hall in Newark became the residence of Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe and his wife.

Newark (Niagara on the Lake) had become the first capital of Upper Canada. The first sitting of the Legislature took place on September 17th, 1792.

Lieutenant Governor Simcoe was convinced that war with the Americans was inevitable and that Newark would be in harms way, so he changed the capital city of Upper Canada from Newark to York (Toronto) which he founded in 1793.

In 1802, construction of Fort George was completed.

Upper Canada was divided into four districts: Lunenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg and Nassau. Niagara was part of the Nassau district.

 

 

 

Pioneer Families

In August of 1780, James Secord, Sampson Lutes, Michael Showers and Isaac Dolson moved to the west bank of the Niagara River and settled on lands the British had acquired from the Mississauga Indians.

Other families who soon followed were the Fields, Depues (Depews) and the Phelps.

In 1782, the first settlers to Niagara Falls were Phillip Bender along with his wife and three children and Thomas McMicken (Mickmicking) along with his mother, sister, two children and a negro slave.

In 1783, eight more families settled along the west bank. They included John Reilly, John Coon, Peter Thompson, John Burtch, James Forsyth, John Chisholm, Francis Ellesworth and Thomas Millard.

In 1785, other early settlers included James Park, John McGill, Archibald Thompson, James Thompson, John Thompson, Benjamin Canby, Thomas Cummings, Adam Kreisler, John McEwan, David Secord, Robert Hamilton, Timothy Skinner, Adam Vrooman, Charles and John Wilson. They were followed by the Lundy, Cook, Durham, Biggar, Ramsay, Pugh (Pew), Rowe, Tice, Rose and Corwin families. 

In August of 1782, Colonel John Butler conducted the first official census. There were sixteen farm/settlers and their families. Two families (the Bender's and the MicMicken's) had settled in Township #2, later called Mount Dorchester and then Stamford.

In 1779, Michael Gonder and his son are believed to be the first settlers in Willoughby Township.

In 1778, Peter and Henry Buchner were the first to settle in Crowland Township.

The first settler in Chippawa was Thomas Cummings.

One of the first settlers to locate on land upstream of the Falls was John Burtch. Burtch had served the British as the keeper of the stores at Fort Niagara from 1779 to 1783. He was rewarded with a tract of land along the shore of the Niagara River from Chippawa Creek to the Upper Rapids. When Fort Chippawa was built, the military took over Burtch's plantation. Burtch was given more land but it was not in Niagara. Burtch died in 1797. He as the first person to be buried in Drummond Hill Cemetery.

Francis Ellesworth had built a house closest to the Falls. It was located just above the Table Rock on the top of the moraine. Ellesworth would later sell his house to Charles Wilson who would establish Wilson's Tavern.

In 1800, Queenston (then known as Queens Town) had a development of twenty or thirty houses. By 1807, the settlement of Queenston had grown to about 100 houses.

In 1807, the new settlement of Lewiston (then known as Lewis Town) had grown to include approximately 12 houses.

 

 

 

Phillip Bender

In 1782, Phillip George Bender and his family became the first settlers in Niagara Falls. A native of Germany, Bender and his family had settled in New Jersey until the American Revolution forced them to seek refuge with the British in Niagara.

Bender had joined Butler's Rangers and provided loyal service for five years. Upon his discharge and as a reward, Bender was offered his choice of land for settlement along the west bank of the Niagara River. Bender chose land just north of the Falls. His property extended from  present day Robinson Street (south) to Seneca Street (north) and from the Niagara River (east) to Stanley Avenue (west).

Bender built a stone house which was located just south-east of the present Casino Niagara. This house was destroyed during the War of 1812.

Bender operated a farm and a quarry. The quarry was located just above the Niagara Gorge and was located at the current site of the Niagara Falls Museum at Bender Hill. Limestone quarried from this site was used  for the towers and retaining wall of the Railway Suspension Bridge. Some of the limestone from Bender's Quarry may today be found at the entrance of the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge.

Bender and his wife are buried at the Drummond Hill Cemetery in unmarked plots. 

 

 

 

Portage Road

The early settlers needed a pathway to get around the area. They used a trail that led from Isaac Dolson's property located in Queenston below the Niagara Escarpment. This trail wound its way up to the top of the escarpment and across the landscape through the homesteads of the McMicking's, Rose's, Tice's, Rowe's, Pugh's, Reilly's and Millard's. This path ran past the bottom of Drummond Hill through the homesteads of the Forysth's (near the Falls), Ellworth's, Ramsay's, to John Burtch's property on the banks of the Chippawa River. It was this trail that would become the forerunner of the Portage Road.

This trail was the only one to cross the newly settled land from Queenston (north) to Chippawa (south). It was quickly improved and widened to allow the free flow of men and supplies. It was to be known as the "portage road". This road which dates back to 1788, became the main supply route.

In 1788, Robert Hamilton, George Forsyth, John Burtch and Archibald Cunningham formed the first organized portage between Chippawa and Queenston. Ox drawn carts with supplies became a regular site along the Portage Road.

The Portage Road would become a vital transportation link during the War of 1812 and for the future settlement and development of the Niagara Peninsula.  

 

 

 

Early Commerce

As more and more people settled in Niagara so did the demand for supplies and services. As time went on, traffic along the Portage Road increased as travelers, soldiers and fur traders rode along this road to circumvent the Falls of Niagara.

In 1785, John Burtch received permission to build the first saw and grist mill along the shore of the Niagara River approximately one mile upstream (south) of the Horseshoe Falls. Burtch's Mills were built on the site of the present day Toronto Power Generating Plant. He would become the first man to use water from the Niagara River for industrial purposes.

In 1787, John Donaldson built a saw and grist mill at the outlet of the Muddy Run Creek along the edge of the Niagara Gorge. This is the present day intersection of Ferguson Street and River Road.

In 1787, Thomas Hardy established a tannery business. It was located in the Hollow, the area about half a mile south (upstream) of the Horseshoe Falls.

Jesse Cole became one of the first shoe makers. His business was located in Stamford.

In 1791, the only place of accommodation was a log hut for travelers which was located on the Portage Road just above the Horseshoe Falls. Visitors followed a path to the Table Rock to view the Falls.

In 1794, Benjamin Canby and John McGill built a saw and grist mill on the high banks overlooking the Islands (Dufferin Islands). The mill became known as Bridgewater Mills.

In 1796, an Inn was located at "the Crossroads" which was located at an intersection of Portage Road and Lundy's Lane.

In 1796, there were two hotels in Chippawa. The Fairbanks House was a hotel that had been built by Joshua Fairbanks and was located at the mouth of the Chippawa Creek. Fairbanks went on to build hotels at Queenston and Niagara Falls. John Fanning built a similar hotel which was known as Fanning's Hotel which was located farther inland.

In 1796, the Portage Road under went further construction to improve the road leading up the escarpment.

In 1797, Charles Wilson became the proprietor of the log hut on the Portage Road. It was renamed "Wilson's Tavern". During the War of 1812, Wilson's Tavern was used by the British as a command post.

In 1798, two stage coach lines began operation. John Fanning began operation of a regular stage coach service between Chippawa and Newark (Niagara on the Lake). J. Fairbanks and Thomas Hind began operating the second stage coach service between Newark and Chippawa.

In 1799, tailors were among the first merchants that established businesses.

In 1799, Andrew Rorbach built the Whirlpool House Inn. The Inn was located along the Portage Road. The Inn is today a small white residence located at the intersection of Portage Road and Churches Lane.

In 1799, Bridgewater Mills was sold to Robert Randall of Maryland. Randall obtained permission to add iron works to the mill. Randall claimed to be the first person to produce iron bar. Randall was so successful that he became the largest land owner in Upper Canada. In 1808, heavily in debt, Randall was jailed in Montreal. There he remained until after the War of 1812.

Samuel Street Jr. and Thomas Clark took over Bridgewater Mills. They became two of the most wealthy and powerful people in Upper Canada. Thomas Clark built his house on Clark Hill over looking the Islands (Dufferin Islands). This house is on the site of the present day Oakes Hall Estate.  

In 1800, James Machlem (Macklem) built a new tavern in Chippawa called "Macklem's Inn".

In 1801, James Macklem,  Abraham Markle and William Hamilton began operation of a stage coach line called the "Niagara and Chippawa Stages". This stage coach provided regular service between Chippawa and Newark. This service came to an end in 1802 when the business was dissolved.

In 1809, Mrs. Thomas Hustler of Lewiston built the first tavern on the American side of the Niagara Frontier.

In 1816, a regular stage coach service between Niagara and York (Toronto) was commenced. It cost $5 and took 17 hours.

James Forsyth built a hotel along the Portage Road near present day intersection of Main Street. Forsyth was the owner of the land on which the National Hotel was built near the "crossroads". The National Hotel was later renamed the Prospect Hotel. In 1799, Forsyth sold this hotel to J. Buchner. In 1827 Buchner sold this hotel to Harmanus Crysler.

In 1800, Doctor John Lefferty established a medical practice in Stamford. His office was located on Lundys Lane near the present day intersection of Dorchester Road.       

The War of 1812 led to the suspension of regular travel along the Portage Road and the destruction of many buildings.

 

 

 

Rumors of War

In 1807, Great Britain was engaged in a protracted war with Napoleon's France. Britain passed laws allowing their armed forces to stop any neutral ship on the high seas in order to prevent that ship from trading with occupied Europe or delivering arms and ammunition to the enemy.

American ships were regularly stopped and boarded by the British navy . The Americans protested but those protests were ignored. The Americans began warning the British that to continue to ignore American protests would result in war between their two countries. To make this situation much worse, the British after seizing American ships would kidnap American sailors and conscript them into serving with the British navy. The British had forced approximately 3,000 American soldiers to fight for Britain and had seized up to 400 American vessels.

In February of 1807, the British Frigate "Melumpus" was anchored in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia when three American sailors escaped to the nearby American Frigate " Chesapeake". The British warship, Melumpus gave chase and in a short sharp exchange of cannon fire disabled the American warship, Chesapeake. The three American deserters were captured by the British and hanged to death in Halifax.

In America, Indiana Governor, William Harrison forced the western Indian tribes from their hunting grounds in exchange for a paltry sum of money. The Shawnee Indians resisted.

On November 6th 1811, Governor Harrison’s troops attacked the Indians at Tippecanoe. From that point onward, Governor Harrison had turned all Indians of the western nation into mortal enemies of the Americans. Shawnee Indian Chief Tecumseh vowed his people would assist the British in their coming war with the Americans.

As war with the Americans seemed imminent, British Major General Isaac Brock began reinforcing of the forts throughout Upper Canada. Governor General Sir George Provost felt that the British would most likely abandon Niagara if attacked by the Americans. The British primary defense would be at Halifax and Quebec City.

The British had now become allies with the western Indians.

 

 

 

The War of 1812

On June 26th 1812, while Major General Isaac Brock was entertaining American officers at Fort George in Newark (Niagara on the Lake), he received news that a state of war had existed between the Americans and the British since June 11th 1812.

Major General Brock was 42 years old and was an imposing figure at 6'3". Brock announced the declaration of war to his guests. After saying goodbye and wishing each other well, the Americans departed.

This marked the beginning of the War of 1812. This war would continue for the next three years before it would end.

The commander of the American forces in the Niagara Frontier was General Stephen Van Rensselaer. The Americans had 6,000 soldiers along the frontier while the British had 1,200 regular soldiers bolstered by various militias.

The Americans attacked Fort Niagara (Youngstown, New York) forcing the British to abandon the fort for the safety of Fort George along the western banks of the Niagara River.

 

 

 

Battle of Queenston Heights

On October 13th 1812 at approximately 3 a.m., the Americans under the command of General Rensselaer invaded Upper Canada at Queenston. The invading forces were quickly spotted by a lone outpost sentry. This sentry notified the main group of British soldiers that had been posted to Queenston Heights.

The Americans began drawing British fire. At the onslaught of this battle, American Commander Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer was killed after being struck by six musket balls.

American artillery batteries in Lewiston, New York began to bombard British troop positions in Queenston signaling the coming of the main American invasion force.

At Fort George, Major General Brock could hear the sounds of battle and instantly realized that Queenston was under attack.

Major General Brock quickly rode to Queenston with his aides de camp, Lieutenant Colonel John Macdonell and Captain John Glegg. Brock had left orders for the main British garrison to be ready to march towards Queenston at first daylight.

Upon approaching Queenston, Major General Isaac Brock witnessed a massive number of Americans being readied on the American shoreline at Lewiston to join the invasion force. Brock sent an immediate message to British troops at Fort George and in Chippawa to send reinforcements.

Major General Brock knew the British were badly out numbered. He also knew the vital strategic military importance of controlling the high ground at Queenston Heights.

Major General Isaac Brock found himself in the middle of the battle as the American infantry led by Captain John Wood had been able to sneak up the escarpment to near the top of Queenston Heights.

Major General Brock ordered his troops to retreat into the village in order to regroup. Brock wanted to reclaim the high grounds of Queenston before reinforcements arrived. He began to counter attack the Americans with the 200 soldiers that were at his service. The attack was stalled by American artillery fire. With his troops pinned down, Brock mounted his horse "Alfred" and ordered his troops to continue their charge by yelling "follow me, boys".

During this charge in an attempt to retake the Redan Battery at Queenston Heights, Major General Isaac Brock was shot by an American marksman who had hidden behind a tree. Brock was shot in the chest with a musket ball at close range. Here Major General Isaac Brock fell to the ground mortally wounded.

As the British soldiers were about to retreat, two companies of British militia from York arrived with aide de camp, John Macdonell.

In the ensuing battle, the Americans had taken control of Queenston Heights and over run the village below forcing the British to retreat yet again. In this battle aide de camp. Macdonnell was shot and killed.

Victory at the battle of Queenston Heights was clearly won by the Americans.

The bodies of Major General Brock and Lieutenant Colonel Macdonell were carried back to Newark where they laid in state for three days before being buried at the northeast bastion of Fort George.

The New York State militia were watching the battle from the American shore. They witnessed the death and destruction first hand and saw the results as the dead and injured Americans were ferried back across the river. When the time came for them to join their regular American army counterparts on the Canadian side of the river, they refused to go which under their constitution they had the right to do.

Without the assistance of the New York militia, the regular American troops had no reinforcements to help them fortify their newly won ground.

British Major General Roger Sheaffe, replaced Major General Brock.

Major General Sheaffe waited for reinforcements before attempting to mount a counter attack against the Americans. When the British did mount their attack, they were able to out flank the Americans. The Indian allies of the British began firing at the Americans as well.

Being out maneuvered and without reinforcements, American commander, Winfield Scott surrendered to the British.

This brought to the end the first of many battles yet to come.

As a result of this military blunder, American General Van Rensselaer resigned his command and was replaced by Brigadier General Alexander Smyth.

Brigadier General Smyth was determined to punish the British for the British victories at Queenston and earlier at Detroit. Smyth proclaimed publicly that he would invade Upper Canada before the end of the month. This announcement provided ample warning for the British.

On November 17th 1812, in order to stop an American invasion, the British bombarded Smyth’s headquarters and on November 21st 1812, bombarded Fort Niagara. The Americans responded with an artillery barrage of their own striking at Fort George.

On November 28th 1812, 400 American soldiers invaded Upper Canada by crossing the Niagara River between Black Creek (Buffalo) and Fort Erie. While one group seized the gun batteries between Fort Erie and Frenchman’s Creek, the second group destroyed the Frenchman’s Creek bridge in order to slow the arrival of reinforcements from Chippawa. The British army quickly foiled this American incursion, forcing the Americans to retreat back to Black Creek.

During the winter of 1812 - 1813, there was little war activity in Niagara. Both the Americans and the British used this time to re-supply, reinforce and other wise solidify their armies.

The war between the Americans and the British continued in Kingston and along the St. Lawrence River.

On February 20th 1813, the British attacked and defeated the Americans at Ogdensburg, New York.

On April 27th 1813, the Americans attacked Fort York (Toronto). The British were outnumbered and were forced to abandon the fort but not before setting it and all the remaining ships and supplies on fire.

The Americans occupied York until May 18th 1813. Before leaving the Americans burned the Parliament Buildings to the ground.

 

 

 

Battle of Newark

On May 25th 1813 at day break, the Americans began heavy artillery bombardment of Fort George, a prelude to an invasion. The bombardment all but destroyed Fort George leaving the British with little fortification.

On May 27th 1813, the Americans invade Newark (Niagara on the Lake) from Fort Niagara. Badly out numbered, the British abandon Fort George and retreat west to Stoney Creek (Hamilton/Burlington) with the Americans in pursuit.

On June 5th 1813, the Americans reached Stoney Creek. Here the British and their Indian allies attacked the Americans. During the battle, the Americans were forced to retreat back to Fort George in the Niagara Peninsula with the British now in pursuit.

The Americans were able to fight off the British attack at Fort George.

 

 

 

Battle of Beaverdams

Laura (Ingersoll) Secord was the wife of James Secord. They lived in Queenston.

On June 14th 1813, American Brigadier General John Boyd ordered Lieutenant Colonel Charles Boerstler of the American 14th infantry to march to Decew House near Beaverdams to attack the British troops under the command of Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon.

On June 21st 1813, three American officers stopped at the house of Laura Secord in Queenston. They forced Secord to prepare and serve dinner to them. As these officers ate their meal, they spoke of their impending attack upon the British at Decew House not thinking that Laura Secord was listening.

After the Americans had left the house of Laura Secord, as a United Empire Loyalist, she realized she had to warn the British troops. Secord knew that this information was so important that she would have to deliver the message personally.

On June 22nd 1813, Laura Secord left home on a perilous journey walking to Decew House to warn the British encampment. Secord did deliver the warning to British commander, Lieutenant Fitzgibbon.

 On June 23rd 1813, Lieutenant Colonel Boerstler set out for Queenston with 700 soldiers. They rested over night at Queenston before setting out again the next morning. The Americans began marching westward along the top of the Niagara Escarpment through the village of Stamford.

The leader of the Iroquois Indians, Dominique Ducharme had picked out a site along the route where the British and the Indians could ambush the Americans. With Caughnawaga warriors on the right and Six Nations warriors on the left the Americans were ambushed as they made their way along the gauntlet. The fierce battle resulted in many dead and injured. The Americans stood their ground and fought. The British were still outnumbered by the Americans.

Fitzgibbon demanded the Americans surrender from Boerstler, however it was not until the British had received reinforcements after a lengthy period of time did Boerstler know he was overpowered and then surrender.

Once the British and the Indians had completely surrounded the Americans, the Americans surrendered ending the battle of the Beaverdams. This was an Indian victory that was decided by those warriors fighting along side of the British.

Laura Secord became legendary for her courage and determination in warning the British of the impending American attack.

On September 10th 1814, the Americans defeated the British in the greatest sea battle of the war.

Despite British victories at Chateauguay and at Cryslers farm which ended the American threats of occupying Montreal and Quebec, the American navy battled the British navy at the River Thames and were victorious. This battle seriously damaged the British naval capability and allowed the Americans to rule the waterways. The battle of the Thames made the British hold of the Niagara Peninsula very weak because the American navy now controlled the waters of the Niagara River.

On December 10th 1813, The Americans abandoned Fort George after their numbers had dwindled to less than 100 soldiers. Rather than trying to hang onto the fort without proper reinforcements and supplies, they decided to return to Fort Niagara.

During their withdrawal, the Americans torched the settlement of Newark, burning it to the ground. The British troops who had retreated to Burlington while the Americans occupied Queenston and Newark (Niagara on the Lake) returned to a devastated Newark and an abandoned but still standing Fort George.

The British were outraged by the actions of the Americans.

The British began fortifying Fort George using building techniques developed by the Americans during their occupation. The British began building a new fortification at the mouth of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario directly opposite Fort Niagara. This new Fort was called "Fort Mississauga". 

On December 13th 1813, the British infantry marched to St. David's.

On December 18th 1813, the British attacked the Americans at Fort Niagara. As the battle raged, soldiers were fighting at close quarters with bayonets and by hand.

On December 19th 1813, the British defeated the Americans at Fort Niagara. Sixty-five Americans soldiers died and six British soldiers died during the battle.

In retribution for the American burning of Newark, the British burned Lewiston, Manchester (Niagara Falls, New York) and Fort Schlosser.

As the British continued their march southward, they continued to burn everything in their path. On December 28th 1813, the British burned the settlement at Black Creek and Buffalo.

The winter of 1813-1814, was mostly quiet again. The Niagara Frontier lay in ruins. The Americans and the British spent the winter re-supplying and reinforcing.

In the spring of 1814, the British had defeated Napoleon in Europe. Soon the British troops in Europe would be re-deployed to the war against the Americans.

The American commander for the Niagara Frontier was Major General Jacob Jennings Brown. It was Major General Brown’s plan to feign an attack on Niagara while actually attacking Kingston instead.

The Americans massed their troops in Buffalo. The British had 2,700 soldiers in the Niagara Peninsula along with Indian allies composed from the Ottawa's,Chippewa's, Delaware's, Munsey's, Wyandot's, Fox, Shawnee, Moravian's, Cherokee, Kickapoo's and the Sioux tribes.

 

 

 

Battle of Chippawa

On July 3rd 1814 at approximately 2 a.m., the Americans invaded Upper Canada by crossing the Niagara River from Black Rock and landing north of Fort Erie. The invasion force was spotted and the Americans landed under a hail of gun fire.

The meager British force of 137 soldiers quickly surrendered before being over run by a much larger American force.

Once landed, the 6,000 American soldiers began marching northward towards Chippawa.

The battle of Chippawa began on July 5th 1814 at Street's Creek (Usshers Creek). It took place in a fields located between Street's Creek and Chippawa Creek (Welland River). The battle lasted approximately thirty minutes. The 1,300 American regulars had defeated the 1,500 British soldiers. During this battle the British had sustained 148 soldiers killed, 221 wounded and 46 captured. The Americans had sustained 44 soldiers killed and 224 wounded.

The Americans forced the British to retreat under heavy gun fire to Chippawa Creek (Welland River). As the British rear guard withdrew over the King's Bridge, they removed the wood plank flooring rendering it impassable. This would be the first battle where the American regular forces defeated the British regular forces. 

The British were under the command of Major General Phineus Riall. The British retreated to the North side of the Welland River to escape the advance of the Americans. For the next three days, the British and the Americans faced each other from across the river, before the British retreated to Fort George as the Americans marched northward.

On July 12 1814, the Americans burned the settlement of St. David's.

The burning of St. David's enraged the British. British reinforcements were ordered into the battle. They arrived from York.

The Americans now had a troop strength of 2,800 soldiers.

On July 24th 1814, Major General Brown withdrew his forces back to Chippawa in order to re-supply his army.

Major General Brown had decided to by-pass Fort George and attack Burlington Heights instead. Brown reasoned that if Burlington Heights fell into American hands, then Fort George and Fort Niagara would be cut off from men and supplies.

 

 

 

Battle of Lundy's Lane

Approximately 100 yards west of Portage Road on Lundy's Lane stood a Presbyterian Church built in 1775. It was a small red log building which stood on the highest ground on Lundy's Lane Hill (presently known as Drummond Hill). Along the south side of this church was a small enclosed grave yard.

Lundys Lane Hill at 710 feet above sea level towered above the surrounding landscape.

To the south side of Lundy's Lane Hill (present site of Barker Street) was a young orchard below the grave sites. Among the tender trees stood a small house and a farm yard.

The closest house to the battlefield was James Forsyth's house ( present site of Ukrainian Catholic Church - Main Street). The next closest house was that of Haggai Skinner who lived north of the battlefield on present day Drummond Road. The only homes on Lundy's Lane were the homesteads of the Lundy's and the Green's quite a distance away.

Surrounding Lundy's Lane Hill were meadows and cultivated fields with thick woods less than a mile away stretching in every direction.

According to a letter written about the Prospect Hotel by the son of the original builder, Robert Fairbank, there is a tunnel that runs from Drummond Hill Cemetery to the Prospect Hotel. Now boarded up, it was originally used as an escape route by defenders, during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

On July 25th 1814, Major General Phineus Riall began marching his British army southward towards Chippawa from Queenston. They arrived at Lundy's Lane Hill at noon. Lundy's Lane Hill was located just west of Portage Road and was the highest point of land in the area. It provided an excellent vantage point in all directions over looking the lower surrounding area.

Major General Jacob Brown thought the British would march eastward in an attempt to cut off the supply lines to Fort Schlosser. Because of this, Brown ignored a sighting of British troops along the Portage Road near the Falls.

At 5 p.m. on July 25th 1814, Major General Brown was convinced that the British were invading Lewiston by crossing the Niagara River at Queenston. Brown ordered General Winfield Scott to march towards Queenston with a brigade of soldiers in an attempt to force the British to withdraw.

The movement of Scott’s brigade was spotted by a British sentry, William Hamilton Merritt. The Americans had fired in Merritt's direction, but Merritt made his escape. Merritt rode to Drummond Hill on Lundy's Lane to notify the main British force.

The Americans stopped at Wilson’s Tavern located along the Portage Road above the Horseshoe Falls. General Scott questioned Mrs. Wilson about the British. In order to save her tavern, Mrs. Wilson told Scott that the British had 800 regular soldiers along with 300 militia and Indian allies. She told Scott that the British were being led by Major General Rail and that they were encamped at Portage Road at Lundys Lane.

Without waiting for reinforcements, Scott and his brigade pushed ahead. Mrs. Wilson in providing information to Brown unwittingly over stated the strength of the British forces. As General Scott and his American infantry moved forward they did so very carefully and slowly.

As the Americans approached Lundys Lane, British Major General Riall ordered his men to retreat from Lundys Lane Hill back to Queenston.

As Riall and his soldiers were retreating, they met British Major General Gordon Drummond along with reinforcement troops on the Portage Road approximately one mile north of Lundys Lane. Major General Drummond countermanded General Riall’s orders and ordered all the British troops back to Lundys Lane Hill.

In the meantime, Scott was still of the belief that half of the British army were by now on American soil so he ordered his brigade to move slowly forward. Because of the errant information, Mrs. Wilson had given to Scott, the British troops had just enough time to return to Lundys Lane Hill.

Scott and his infantry brigade advanced, the British opened fire. Scott quickly realized that he was facing the bulk of the British forces, however the American out numbered the British. The battle of Lundys Lane continued into the night.

The Americans forced the British to abandon Lundys Lane Hill and retreat a short distance to the north. Several counter attacks including an attack from the rear by the British were unsuccessful. This bloody battle had left many dead and wounded.

At approximately midnight, the British were on the verge of a certain defeat, when the Americans were ordered by Scott to withdraw back to Chippawa. Scott needed water for his troops and was unaware that a water supply closer to Chippawa was available.

Once the Americans had abandoned Lundys Lane Hill, it was quickly retaken by the British.

The Americans had tried to retake Lundys Lane Hill from the British on the morning of July 26th 1814, however found that the British had reinforced and entrenched themselves.

Before the battle had ended, 5,000 American soldiers had faced 2,200 British soldiers, militia and Indians in the largest and bloodiest battle of the war.

The Americans withdrew to Fort Erie. As they retreated, they burned Bridgewater Mills to the ground.

Casualties during this battle were heavy. The Americans had sustained 173 soldiers killed, 624 wounded and 117 taken prisoner. The British had sustained 94 soldiers killed, 559 wounded and 221 taken prisoner.

British General Riall had been taken prisoner by the Americans. Americans, Major General Brown and General Scott were seriously wounded during the battle.

On August 2nd 1814, Major General Gordon Drummond and his British forces attacked the supply lines to the Americans at Fort Erie. The Americans forced the British to retreat to Chippawa.

Most of the dead soldiers were burned on the battlefield in a gigantic funeral pyre. The location of this pyre is present site of the old manse for Drummond Hill Presbyterian Church.

The log meeting house was destroyed.

 

 

 

Battle of Cooks Mills

On October 19th 1814, the Americans sent 2,000 soldiers to the settlement of Cooks Mills to cross Lyons Creek in order to attack the British in Chippawa from the unguarded west. At the settlement of Cooks Mills, the Americans met 750 British soldiers under the command of General Riall as they tried to cross Lyons Creek. A short but violent exchange took place which resulted in many casualties on both sides. The Americans were forced to retreat back to Fort Erie and failed in their effort to mount a surprise attack against the British.

This battle also known as the skirmish at Lyons Creek was the last battle fought on Canadian soil. American General Izard, commanding a force of 8000 men, moved up to Chippawa. There, the British General Drummond had established a defensive position complete with new field defences. The Americans attempted to outflank the British, but Drummond responded quickly.The British had congrieve rockets and one cannon and these proved effective in balancing the numbers.

The British lost 19 men killed or wounded and the American losses were acknowledge to be 67 men, apart from the fact that 200 bushes of wheat and flour were destroyed by the American brigade nothing else resulted from this sharp skirmish as very soon circumstances compelled the Americans to exchange their advance for a somewhat inglorious retreat. The Americans were forced to retreat back to Fort Erie and failed in their effort to mount a surprise attack against the British.

Both commanding officers filed reports claiming victory.

 

 

 

End of the War (1812 - 1814)

On December 25th 1814, a peace treaty was signed at Ghent, officially ending the state of war between the British and the Americans. The War of 1812 had come to an end and the Niagara Frontier laid in ruins. Until word of the treaty had reached combatants from both countries, several large battles occurred in early 1815 including the Battle of New Orleans on January 9th and the final naval clash that occurred on March 23rd.

The British returned Fort Niagara to the Americans while the Americans returned Fort Erie to the British during their disengagement. The results of this war are unclear. Neither the Americans or the British were victorious. There were many casualties of war. Both sides had suffered staggering losses in the dead, wounded and missing soldiers. The landscape had been changed forever. Nearly all settlements were destroyed as was the commerce and economies of both countries. Pain and hardships had been inflicted upon thousands of non combatants across the Niagara Frontier.

The War of 1812 - 1815, did provoke a solidarity upon those nationalist from both countries.

America became much more cohesive and strong even though the American civil war lay ahead.

The birth of the nation of Canada in 1867, was just around the corner.

The borders between the two countries remained the same as they had before the war began. The original International Boundary line had been established by the Jay's Treaty of 1794.

In July of 1815, the British moved their military headquarters to York and abandoned Fort George as it was too expensive to maintain.

Both American and British borders would remain heavily guarded by military troops until the 1870's.

The only disarmament agreement reached between the two countries following the War of 1812 was the Rush-Bagot Treaty of 1817 which limited naval forces in the Great Lakes. According to this agreement both countries were limited to four naval vessels per side to patrol the Great Lakes. None of these ships could exceed more than 100 tons nor carry more than one 18 pound gun.

The remaining fort property was leased to local families. This continued until 1911, when preservationists realized the historical importance of Fort George.

At the end of the war, Fort Chippawa was abandoned.

Next to the Falls of Niagara, the battlefields of the War of 1812 became the most popular tourist sites. Tours were given of the Lundy's Lane battlefield by war veterans.

In 1845, Captain Anderson built a forty foot tall wooden observation tower overlooking the Lundy's Lane battleground. It was located along the north side of Lundy's Lane just north-east of the present day Drummond Hill Church.

In 1846, Donald McKenzie built the second tower on his property west of the Lundy's Lane Hill manse. It was a two storey building with a eighty foot tall tower with an observation deck with a telescope mounted on top. This tower burned to the ground on July 4th 1851.

In 1850, Adam Fralick built a enclosed wooden tower next to his tavern directly across from the Lundy's Lane Presbyterian Church. It was visible for miles around.

In 1855, Mr. Davis built a tower known as the "Durham Tower" overlooking the battlefield. It was located on the south-east corner of Lundy's Lane and Drummond Road. In 1870, this tower was destroyed during a wind storm.

The final tower was built at the site of Fralick's tower by citizens of Drummondville. Known as the Lundy's Lane Observatory, this steel frame tower stood 102 feet tall and had a steam driven elevator. The use of this tower was short lived. The tower was idle from 1895 until it was dismantled in 1921.

The American Civil War of 1861 - 1865, resulted the publics interest in the War of 1812 dwindling.

By mid 1880, the Lundy's Lane battlefield and cemetery had been overgrown with weeds.

In 1887, Canon George Bell of All Saints Church founded the Lundy's Lane Historical Society. A movement had begun to clean and preserve this historical site.

On July 25th 1895, a monument was dedicated to the soldiers of the Battle of Lundy's Lane. Beneath the monument is a vault used as a depository for the remains of soldiers found on the battleground.

 

 

 

Post War Development

There were no bridges in Chippawa to cross the Chippawa Creek. Samuel Street operated a rowboat ferry until 1816, when Street built a wooden bridge.

In 1817, there were two bridges in Chippawa. The bridge closest to the mouth of the Niagara River was called the "King's Bridge".

In 1817, the population had increased to 1,200 people. Nearly every one farmed for a living.

In 1818, a distillery was built near the present day site of the Queen Victoria Restaurant.

In 1820, tourists began returning to the Falls of Niagara

In 1822, William Forsyth built the Pavilion Hotel. It was located on the present site of the Oakes Inn adjacent to the Minolta Tower.

In 1826, Zeba Gay established a nail factory at the foot of Cedar Island. Mr. Utley had established a clock factory.

In 1827, Hermanus Crysler built the Prospect Hotel. It was located along "the front" which was a strip of hotels situated in the present site of Queen Victoria Park opposite the Table Rock. Other hotels located along "the front" included: the Museum Hotel, the Table Rock House, the Brunswick Hotel and the Prospect Hotel. These hotels were situated in a row between Robinson Street and the Table Rock. Because of their close proximity to each other and the Table Rock, they attracted unsavory characters including hucksters, thieves, prostitutes and carnival types.      

In 1832, Captain Ogden Creighton (retired army) purchased land from the Bender family. Creighton then laid out a series of streets and building lots for a village he would call "Clifton". Creighton lived in a house at the Jolley Cut (present end of Robinson Street at Skylon Tower). Creighton did little to promote his village of Clifton before he died in 1850. Business tycoon, Samuel Zimmerman took over the endeavors of Creighton.  

In 1833, Crysler began construction of the first Clifton House located on the current site of the Oakes Garden Theater (Clifton Hill and River Road).  

In 1847, Saul Davis built the Prospect Hotel along "the front" (Queen Victoria Park).

By 1850, sixty thousand people visited the Falls of Niagara each year.

In 1853, the Canadian side of the Niagara Gorge housed a series of paltry curiousity shops.

In 1854, ten acres of the Islands (Dufferin Islands) were given to Samuel Street. Street named the islands "Cynthia Islands". He named the islands after one of his sisters.

In 1854, Saul Davis built his Table Rock House to the north of and adjoining Thomas Barnett's Table Rock House. For a short time they compete for customers before Barnett sells out to Davis in 1877.

In 1855, the Government of Upper Canada took over all the properties along "the front" including the property of Saul Davis. Saul Davis moved to Niagara Falls, New York where he built a new hotel. 

On June 19th 1856, the Village of Elgin and the Village of Clifton were amalgamated and became known as the "Town of Clifton".

In 1857, Samuel Street obtained a lease from the government for Cedar Island (present site of the Canadian Niagara Power Company). Street built a fifty foot tall wooden tourist observation tower called "Street's Pagoda". The tower was too far from the brink of the Falls to offer a good view and as a result did not earn much money.

Samuel Street formed the Niagara Falls & Chippawa Plank Road Company. A portion of a road from Cynthia Islands (Dufferin Islands) to Chippawa became a toll road.

The area around Street's saw & grist mill became an area for other manufacturers.

John Hardy built a tannery on Cedar Island.

In 1872, Samuel Street died. At the time of his death, Street was a Member of Parliament for Welland County.

When Sutherland Macklem inherited his uncles estate (Samuel Street), he opened Cynthia Islands to allow public access.

In 1881, by a special act of the Parliament of Canada, the name of the Town of Clifton was changed to "Town of Niagara Falls".

On March 13th 1882, Drummondville became the "Village of Niagara Falls".

In 1887, Cynthia Islands and Cedar Island were deeded back to the Government of Canada. The name of Cynthia Islands were changed to Dufferin Islands. 

On January 1st 1904, the Town of Niagara Falls and the Village of Niagara Falls were amalgamated to form the "City of Niagara Falls"

Hotels in the early 1900's included the Elgin House (Bridge Street at River Road), the Rosli Hotel (Bridge Street at Cataract Street), the Windsor Hotel (Bridge Street), the Columbia Hotel (Bridge Street at Erie Avenue), the Suspension Bridge Hotel (became the Klondike Hotel - Bridge Street) and the Savoy Hotel located in the former Zimmerman Bank building (Bridge Street at Zimmerman Avenue).

In 1914, more than one million people per year were visitors to the Falls of Niagara.

Prohibition ended in Canada in 1926. Prohibition ended in USA in 1932. For six years, liquor smuggling became an enterprising yet illegal business.   

 

 

 

HISTORY OF THE NIAGARA FALLS TOWNSHIPS

 

 

 

WESTERN NEW YORK

Prior to 1788, with few exceptions the Western New York area was owned and occupied by Indians of the Neutral Nation. Those exceptions included the military outposts of the French and British at Fort Niagara and Fort Schlosser.

Fort Schlosser was situated approximately one mile above the Falls, opposite Chippawa. Fort Schlosser was originally called "Little Niagara" by the French. The fort was destroyed in 1759 after the French surrender of Fort Niagara to the British.

In the place of Fort Little Niagara, the British built a small stockade. It was rebuilt by American soldiers and named Fort Schlosser. 

Indian Chiefs': Corn Planter, Red Jacket and Farmers Brother represented the Indians in treaties ceding territory of Western New York.

Augustus Porter, a surveyor, was the first person to purchase and settle upon the land along the American side of the Falls once the British occupation ended. Porter had first visited the Falls in 1795 and 1796. He understood the value and the beauty of the Falls of Niagara.

In 1805, the State of New York offered lands along the American shoreline of the Niagara River for sale. Prior to 1805, no buildings had been built or improvements of any kind had been made in the vicinity of the Falls.

What had been previously been built by the French and the British was in ruins except for a house which was built under the British rule near the site of the British stockade. This house had been occupied for many years by John Stedman (Steadman). Stedman had claimed a large tract of land along the Niagara River near the Falls by falsely claiming to have obtained title from the Indians.

Stedman visited Goat Island and established a herd of goats,  from which the island derived its name. The goats perished during the winter of 1780. Stedman cleared approximately ten acres of land on the island nearest the gorge.

By 1806, Goat Island had little development. Bears and wolves were common sights along with a plentiful deer population.

Augustus Porter,  his brother Peter Porter, Benjamin Barton and Joseph Annin jointly purchased large tracts of land at Lewiston, Niagara Falls and Black Rock (Buffalo). In addition to their land purchases, they were also granted exclusive rights of transportation across the portage.

Augustus Porter settled in Niagara Falls, Barton in Lewiston and Peter Porter in Black Rock.

In the summer of 1805, Augustus Porter built a saw mill and a blacksmith shop.

In 1806, Augustus Porter moved his family to Niagara Falls. In 1808, Porter built a new house. This house was destroyed during the War of 1812 but was rebuilt on the same site in 1818.

During the War of 1812, government messages were delivered by pony express. This and weekly mail service continued in this manner until 1815.

In the following years, transportation on the lakes became the primary business of Porter, Barton & Company. They built a number of vessels for Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, to supply military posts and to provide transportation needs of the Indian traders and fur companies.

In 1807, Porter & Barton built the first grist mill at Niagara Falls.

In 1808, a rope manufacturing company was established. It provided cordage for lake vessels for the Americans and English alike.

In 1810, Niagara Falls, New York consisted of twelve dwelling houses, a grist mill, a saw mill, a tannery, a tavern, a post office and a rope walk measuring 360 feet long. The walk rope was constructed of hemp.

Prior to 1812, most of the large trees north of Bridge Street had been cut. Young trees and undergrowth lined the edge of the Falls.

On the Canadian side, only Burnett's Museum occupied the area of the Table Rock. The area in between the table Rock and the Clifton Hotel was a wet cedar swamp with cedar trees growing down the banks.

In 1815, the Seneca Indians sold their rights to Grand Island to the State of New York for $11,000. Buckhorn Island and Beaver Island were subsequently sold to the State of New York for $1000 in cash and $500 per year.

In 1816, Augustus Porter bought Goat Island from the State of New York. In 1817, he built a wooden bridge from the mainland to the upper end of the island. This bridge was destroyed by ice during the following winter. In 1818, Porter built another bridge to Goat Island but closer to the Falls. In 1856, this bridge was replaced with an iron bridge. These bridges allowed Bath Island and Goat Island to become accessible for industrial purposes.

An eastern section of Goat Island was used for the manufacturing of iron.

Manufacturing companies were built on Bath Island including a woolen factory in 1820, a forge rolling mill and a nail factory in 1822 and a paper mill in 1823. The Cliff Paper Mill continued to operate until 1885, when Bath Island reverted to part of the newly formed New York State Reservation Park. The Bath Island Paper Mill had become the largest in the US. 

By 1824, Grand Niagara (soon to become the Village of Manchester) had become known as a mill town.

The Village of Manchester would become a centre for manufacturing and mills during the early years of the industrial and power revolution.

Manchester later became what it today the City of Niagara Falls, New York.

In 1832, the Village of Manchester had 550 citizens. Parkhurst Whitney build the new Cataract House Hotel. Development at Niagara Falls was becoming unsightly and unwelcome.

In 1836, the Buffalo - Niagara Falls Railway began operating with two trains daily. The rail cars were horse-drawn.

Throughout the 1830's and 1840's, Manchester was a tourist hamlet.

By 1838, 20,000 people were visiting Niagara Falls annually.

By 1847, 45,000 people were visiting Niagara Falls annually.

By 1850, 80,000 people were visiting Niagara Falls annually.

The 1840's heralded the arrival of two daily steam powered trains between Niagara Falls and Buffalo.

By 1841, a trip from New York City to Niagara Falls took only forty-eight hours with a train speeding along at 16 miles per hour. Only several years prior, a trip from Albany to Niagara Falls took several weeks to complete.

In 1850, the population of Manchester was less than 3,000 people.

In 1853, Manchester consisted of several streets with a large railway station in the center and a number of hotels including the Cataract Hotel and the Eagle Hotel.

In 1859, the area of Prospect Point Park was known as White's Pleasure Grounds. This was the area from where Blondin began his first wire walk.

By 1870's, large mills and factories had been build upon the edge of the gorge and the river banks upstream of the Falls.

From 1877 until 1885, under private ownership, Prospect Park offered the best view of the Falls. During its years of operation 863,000 people visited the park. The park included an incline railway to the base of the gorge, a ferry house, two pavilions, an art gallery and an electric lighthouse. At the base of the Falls, the Prospect Park Company erected a large brightly painted sign marking the entrance to the tunnel for the Cave of the Winds.

On July 15th 1885, the State of New York created the New York State Niagara Reservation Park. Prospect Park was acquired for part of this newly formed State Park.

By 1901, Niagara Falls had become one of the greatest industrial/manufacturing centers in the entire US.   

In 1912, Niagara Falls, New York had a population of 35,000 people.

In 1935, the State of New York built the Grand Island bridges.

 

 

 

William Forsyth

William Forsyth was one of the most successful and aggressive businessmen in Niagara following the War of 1812. He was a small, thin scrawny man who had for years been involved in smuggling boats across the Upper Niagara River to his home along the banks of the Welland River. He was known as the king of smuggling which began in 1796 when the border between the Americans and the British was established. He used the profits from his smuggling operation to become the a leader in the tourism industry.    

In 1798, William Forsyth's father, James Forsyth, received a crown land grant of 388 acres fronting on the Niagara River at the crest of the Horseshoe Falls and the Table Rock except for a sixty-six foot wide military chain reserve along the edge of the gorge. The military chain reserve stretched along the edge of the Niagara River from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and was used by the military to move men and supplies. This chain reserve is the main reason for the existence of the Niagara Parkway today.

In 1817, Forsyth acquired Wilson's Tavern, which was located on Portage Road above the Table Rock. It was called the Niagara Falls Hotel. In 1818, Forsyth built a covered stairway at the foot of his property which led to the Table Rock and the Horseshoe Falls.

In 1818, Forsyth began the first row boat ferry service crossing the Niagara River below the Falls.

In 1820, Forsyth began a stage coach service from Black Creek (Buffalo) to Queenston. He later expanded his service to bring visitors from Newark (Niagara on the Lake) and Fort Erie to stay at his Pavilion Hotel. He bribed other stagecoach operators to deliver vistors to his hotel as well.  

In 1822, in order to keep up with the competition, William Forsyth tore down the old hotel and built a new and larger hotel which he called the "Pavilion Hotel". Until 1836, the Pavilion Hotel was the best hotel available. The three storey clapboard hotel was elegant by standards of the day. It had balconies which offered the very best views of the Falls.

Forsyth built the first stairway down the gorge below the Table Rock to the river below. He operated the first tours behind the Falls.

John Brown was Forsyth's competition. In 1820, Brown built the Ontario House Tavern south of Forsyth's Pavilion Hotel on the present site of Loretto Academy property. Brown used the stairway to the Table Rock that Forsyth had established in 1818.

John Brown operated a stage coach service from Clifton (Niagara Falls) to Newark (Niagara on the Lake).

In 1827, William Forsyth with the help of John Brown and General Parkhurst Whitney, proprietor of the American Eagle Hotel staged the first tourist stunt at Niagara Falls by sending the lake schooner "Michigan" with a cargo of live animals over the Falls.

In an attempt to monopolize tourism to the Table Rock, Forsyth enclosed the sixty-six foot military chain reserve which bordered the Niagara Gorge. He did so to prevent anyone other than his customers, from getting the best possible view of the Falls. By excluding the general public from the Table Rock and by breaching the chain reserve, Forsyth put himself on a collision course with the government.

In 1832, the Government of Upper Canada led by Governor Sir Peregrine Maitland intervened in the chain reserve dispute between Forsyth and the general public. The Government ruled against William Forsyth. This ruling resulted in Forsyth losing all his assets and forced his expulsion to Bertie Township (Fort Erie).

William Forysth was forced to give up his Pavilion Hotel and 400 acres of land. Forsyth sold all his property to a group of businessmen.

This group of men had formed a real estate development company called the "Niagara Falls Company". The company planned to sub-divide this land into lots that would be serviced with running water. The company was to call this development the "City of the Falls". Company officials included John Murray, Thomas Clark, James Buchanan, Henry Dunn, Thomas Dixon and James Robinson. the highlight of this city was a spring fed bath house which was built on the south side of the present Murray Street. Water was to be pumped under pressure through wooden pipes wrapped with steel bands. This ended in disaster when the pipes exploded under the pressure. Sales never did meet expectations and transportation trends changed with the coming of the steam locomotive railroad. The plans for this new city collapsed.

The Pavilion Hotel was used as a military barracks during the MacKenzie Rebellion.

In 1839, the Pavilion Hotel was destroyed by fire.

In 1843, the Pavilion Hotel was rebuilt but was smaller than the original.

In 1848, Adam Crysler purchased the Pavilion Hotel

 

 

 

Schooner "Michigan"

It wasn't until some years after the bitter fighting along the shores of the Niagara River during the War of 1812, that Niagara started to come into its own as a tourist attraction.

By the 1820's there were three hotels catering to the visitors of Niagara Falls. These hotel owners were responsible for the first stunt over the Falls in order to attract attention of members of the public and to boost the tourist trade.

The Canadian tourism was growing while factories lined the banks of the American shore.

In 1827, William Forsyth of the Pavilion Hotel with the help of John Brown of the Ontario House and General Parkhurst Whitney of the Eagle Hotel in Niagara Falls, New York  staged the very first tourist stunt at Niagara Falls.

Forsyth bought an old condemned lake schooner named "Michigan"

The "Michigan" was 16 feet from keel to the deck. The water depth at the crest of the Horseshoe Falls was nearly twenty feet deep back then (presently 3 - 5 feet).

The hotel owners then advertised in advance that they would send the schooner over the Horseshoe Falls on September 8th 1827. A dozen or so wild animals were placed on board and the event took place as advertised before an estimated crowd of 15,000 people.

The animals placed on board the doomed ship included a buffalo, two small bears, two raccoons, a dog and a goose. To further add to the stunt the ship was decorated to look like a pirate ship with dummies of humans tied to the deck.

With a crowd estimated at 15,000, the ship was released into the currents of the upper Niagara River on September 8th 1827. As the Michigan reached the rapids, its hull was torn open and the schooner began filling with water. The two bears running loose on deck jumped free of the schooner into the rapids. They were were able to swim to Goat Island. The other animals were caged or tied to the ship died when the schooner went over the Horseshoe Falls. At the base of the Falls, only the goose had survived the plunge and was rescued.  

To learn more about this attraction, visit the Daredevils Halls of Fame section.

 

 

 

Steamboat "Superior"

In September of 1831, an attempt was made to repeat the tourist attracting stunt of sending the Schooner "Michigan" on a trip over the Horseshoe Falls. An old steamboat called the "Superior" purchased by a group of promoters and it was advertised that this ship would be sent over the Horseshoe Falls.

The Superior was launched in 1822 and was outfitted with a steam engine from the "Walk in the Water", the first steamboat to sail on Lake Erie. The "Superior" became the second steamboat.

During this stunt, no animals were placed onboard the doomed boat. On the appointed day infant of a large crowd, the Steamboat was set adrift towards the crest of the Falls. The "Superior" struck one of the islands and became stranded a short distance from the brink of the Horseshoe Falls. The crowd soon left in disappointment. Long after everyone had gone, high water re-floated the "Superior" and carried this boat to her destruction over the Falls.

 

 

 

Thomas Barnett

In 1818, Thomas Barnett built a spiral staircase to the base of the Falls. He gave out certificates to those tourists who completed a trip behind the "Sheet of Falling Water". In 1827, a tourist could walk 153 feet behind the cascading water of the Horseshoe Falls. By 1856, the distance a tourist could walk behind the "Sheet of Falling Water" was 230 feet before reaching the termination rock preventing any further progress.

In 1826, Thomas Barnett established the "Thomas Barnett Museum" (presently the Niagara Falls Museum) at the Table Rock. It was located on the north side of the current Murray Hill.

In 1827, Barnett erected a stone building 300 feet (91m) south of the Table Rock. He used this building as his museum and observation deck. Barnett built a stairway to a small observation deck at the base of the Falls.

In 1855, Barnett advertised that he had constructed a tunnel below the Table Rock.

In 1859, Barnett built a new museum at the current site of the Victoria Park Restaurant.

In 1877, Thomas Barnett sold the museum to Saul Davis.

Today the Niagara Falls Museum is located on River Road at Bender Hill. 

 

 

 

Steamship "Caroline"

In 1822, Commodore Vanderbilt built the steamship "Caroline". The Caroline was a steam driven side paddle wheel boat. From 1836 to 1837, the Caroline provided regular daily trips between Buffalo and Chippawa with her sister ship the "Victory".

In December of 1837, the Caroline was sold to a new owner. This owner allowed the Caroline to be used as a transport for arms, munitions, supplies from Buffalo to those supporters of William Lyon Mackenzie on Navy Island.

 

 

 

Mackenzie Rebellion

William Lyon Mackenzie, a Scottish native, was a journalist with a strong sense of social justice. He became the first Mayor of Toronto and a member of the House of Assembly for  York County.

Mackenzie was a leading critic of the ruling oligarchic elite of Upper Canada. Mackenzie began to organize an armed resistance to the ruling government.

In December of 1837, led a small insurrection against the British at York (Toronto). Following this unsuccessful coup d' état, with a bounty of 1000 £ for his apprehension, Mackenzie fled through the Niagara Peninsula to the home of sympathizers along the shore of the Niagara River. Pursued by British troops, MacKenzie fled by boat to Grand Island. 

On December 13th 1837, MacKenzie and his group of 300 - 400 rebel supporters had taken refuge on Navy Island. Most rebels were unemployed Americans. Here Mackenzie proclaimed himself Chief of State of the New Republic of Canada and began to organize his new provision government. He further declared Navy Island to be the new home of his government. Bonds were sold to finance the new government. Weapons and money were obtained from sympathizers and other supporters.

The American steamboat "Caroline"  was used to transport men, arms, munitions and supplies from Buffalo to Navy Island.

Navy Island is Canadian territory as specified in the Treaty of the Ghent. It is the only Canadian Island in the Niagara River.

Growing concern, over Mackenzie and his rebel supporters takeover of Navy Island, caused the Government of Upper Canada to send Colonel Allan Napier MacNab and his militia to deal with them.

The British bombarded Navy Island however it had little effect. On January 14th 1838, MacKenzie and his supporters moved to Grand Island again. Both sides continued to bombard each other which threatened to escalate into war with the Americans. 

Knowing that the only mode of transportation and communication that the Mackenzie rebels had was the steamship "Caroline", MacNab ordered Lieutenant Andrew Drew to destroy it.

The "Caroline" was docked at Fort Schlosser in Manchester (Niagara Falls),  New York. To destroy the "Caroline", the British would have to invade American soil and risk re-igniting the War of 1812.

At night on December 29th 1837, British troops invaded Fort Schlosser. They set fire to the steamboat "Caroline" and set her adrift. The "Caroline" plunged to her destruction over the Falls. During the battle, an American soldier, Amos Dupree, was killed.

The British agreed to pay the Americans for any damage while the Americans allowed prisoner of war, Alexander McLeod free and not to put him on trail for the killing of Dupree.

The destruction of the "Caroline" put an end to the plans of William Lyon Mackenzie and his rebel supporters before they got started. General Winfield Scott ordered American troops aboard the steamer "Barcelona" to remove MacKenzie and his supporters from Grand Island and transported to Black Rock (Buffalo) as three armed British Schooners watched.

Mackenzie was later arrested by U.S. officials for breach of the Neutrality Act.

On June 11th 1838, twenty-six men sympathetic to Mackenzie under the leadership of James Morrow, invaded the Niagara Peninsula from Grand Island. They pushed inland to the Short Hills (Fonthill / Pelham). Here they and twenty-two additional supporters attacked a group of thirteen British soldiers. The British soldiers surrendered only to be rescued a short time later by another platoon of British soldiers.

James Morrow was hanged. The other supporters were banished to Tasmania.    

 

 

 

Brock's Monument

In 1824, the first monument memorializing British Major General Isaac Brock was erected at Queenston Heights. The white limestone tower was 65 feet (19.8m) tall. Inside this tower was a circular staircase inside the viewing area at the top of the tower. The bodies of Major General Brock and his aide de camp Lieutenant Colonel Macdonell were entombed at the base of this tower. The monument was dedicated on October 13th 1824.

On April 17th 1838, Benjamin Lett, an Irish Canadian rebel sympathetic to the Mackenzie Rebellion and a group of saboteurs set off an explosive blast at the base of Brock's Monument causing irreparable structural damage.

The bodies of Brock and Macdonell were disinterred from the vault and reburied in the Hamilton family cemetery in Queenston.

On October 13th 1853, construction of the new Brock's Monument was begun. It was designed by Toronto architect, William Thomas. It was completed in the autumn of 1856. The tower is 184 feet (56m) tall and inside has a 235 step circular stairway to a small observation deck at the top. It was paid for from public donations.

At the beginning of the construction of the new monument, the remains of Brock and Macdonell were disinterred from the Hamilton cemetery and reburied in a vault underneath the monument.

On April 5th 1929, during a heavy gale, the outstretched arm of the statue of General Brock broke off and fell to the ground below. It broke into three large pieces weighing one thousand pounds. The arm and the entire upper portion of the statue needed replacement. Scaffolding was build around the tower to the very top to allow workers to reconstruct the statue of General Brock. 

 

 

   

Niagara's Freedom Trail

In 1793, Governor General of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe, introduced legislation challenging the legal status of slavery.

In 1834, slavery came to an end when it was abolished throughout the British Empire.

In America, the northern states opposed slavery. This resulted in the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Although well intentioned, this act was a weak piece of legislation. Although barring slavery in the north and soon to the states in the west, it still allowed slave owners to recapture  former slaves living in the north. During the 1840's, 1850's and 1860's, the Underground Railroad operated at its peak.

The Underground Railroad was a series of safe houses located throughout America and Upper Canada where run away slaves were housed, given assistance to escape by people committed to antislavery.

The Buffalo/Fort Erie communities were major conduits of the Underground Railroad. The escaping families were ferried across the Niagara River to Fort Erie. Here, they  were accommodated at the Bertie Hall. The former slaves would remain here until permanent accommodations and jobs could be found. Once this was done, the former slaves would disperse to areas throughout Upper Canada.

 

 

 

Sir Harry Oakes

Harry Oakes came to Canada in 1911. He was an American born prospector and mining engineer.

Harry Oakes was born in Sangerville, Maine on December 23rd 1874 to his parents William Pitt Oakes and Nancy (Lewis) Oakes.

In 1912, Harry Oakes became a very rich man with the discovery of an iron ore mine near Kirkland Lake. This mine was developed by Mr. Oakes and three brothers, Tom Tough, George Tough and Jack Tough. This mine became known as the Tough Oakes Mine which was rich with iron ore. Harry Oakes continued to prospect by himself. In the latter part of 1912, Oakes discovered a gold mine known as Lake Shore Mines near Kirkland Lake. Lake Shore Mines became the second largest gold mine in North America.

To finance Lake Shore Mines, Mr. Oakes sold his share of Tough Oakes Mine for $200,000.

In 1923, Harry Oakes married Eunice McIntyre. She was 26 years younger than 48 year old Harry.

Harry Oakes settled in Niagara Falls because of its close proximity to Buffalo.

In 1924, Mrs. Oakes gave birth to their first born child, a daughter, Nancy. The the years that followed, Oakes had two other children: a son, Sydney and a daughter, Shirley.

Oakes was a very difficult man to work for. He was a driven man subject to sudden temper outbursts.    

Mr. Oakes and his family lived in Niagara Falls from 1924 until 1934 when they moved to the Bahamas.

In 1928, Harry Oakes built a mansion for he and his family on top of Clark Hill over looking Dufferin Islands. The cost of this home exceeded $500,000. The home was formerly owned by Paul SchoelIkopf, president of the Niagara Falls Power Company. Mr. Oakes rebuilt this estate house to include thirty-five (35) rooms, seventeen (17) bathrooms and air conditioning throughout. It also included a swimming pool and a five hole golf course. Harry Oakes named his estate Oak Hall.

Throughout the difficult years of the depression, Harry Oakes became a philanthropist. Mr. Oakes deliberately created many jobs for those without by restoring the original Portage Road. This section of Portage Road had been closed and re-routed to accommodate the building of the Canadian Southern Railroad.  The section of Portage Road that paralleled the existing railway tracks located near the top of the moraine overlooking the Falls and passing by the front of Loretto Academy was rebuilt. This section of road became known again as Portage Road. The road located at the top of the moraine was named Oakes Drive in tribute to Harry Oakes.

Workers were paid two dollars for half a days work.

He was a supporter of local athletics.

In September of 1930, Mr. Oakes deeded 16 acres of farm land at the corner of Stanley Avenue and Morrison Street for an athletic field. This park was named Oakes Park and it opened for public use in 1931. As a condition for this transfer of parkland, Mr. Oakes insisted that city owned land at Poplar Park remain a playground.

Harry Oakes is best known for his contribution of Oakes Garden Theater to the Niagara Parks Commission. This is the property on the north-west corner of Clifton Hill and River Road where the former Clifton Hotel was situated before it was destroyed by fire on December 31st 1932. In exchange for this property, the Niagara Parks Commission gave Mr. Oakes two small sections of land which occupied the south side of present day Clifton Hill above the glacial moraine.

In 1934, Harry Oakes was named the ninth member of the Niagara Parks Commission.

In 1934, Harry Oakes and his family moved to Nassau in the Bahamas in an attempt to escape the massive Canadian taxes that the ruling Conservative Government had levied against him. It was costing Mr. Oakes $17,500 in taxes per day to live in Canada as well as 25% of the gold mined at Lake Shore Mines.

Harry Oakes had become the richest man in Canada. He was paying over $3 million dollars in taxes per year.

In 1939, Harry Oakes was granted the title of a baronet of the United Kingdom. 

On July 8th 1943, Harry Oakes was murdered in the Bahamas where he was living. The person(s) responsible for his killing were never apprehended. His death remains a mystery.

In 1954, the City required the land at Poplar Park for the site of the present Greater Niagara General Hospital. The Oakes family granted this request and withdrew the condition imposed for the acquisition of Oakes Park.

In 1959, the Niagara Parks Commission purchased this property. The Niagara Parks Commission administration offices and archives presently occupy this building.

Oakes Garden Theatre was opened to the public on September 18th 1937.

The grandchildren of Mr. Oakes continue to this day to run the Niagara Falls holdings under the name of Hoco Enterprises (formerly Welland Securities). It is today one of the largest owners of real estate property in Niagara Falls. "HOCO" is the acronym for the Sir Harry Oakes Company.

  

 

 

LORETTO CONVENT

 

In 1856, John Lynch, an Irishman, founded a Seminary near Lewiston, New York. The site today, is part of the grounds of Niagara University. As a child, Lynch had envisioned Niagara Falls as a place for people to worship.

Lynch became the Archbishop of Toronto. Archbishop Lynch purchased a plot of land overlooking the Falls along the Canadian side of the Niagara Gorge. He deeded six acres to the Sisters of Loretto.

The Loretto Convent began in 1861 at the former site of a tavern called "Canada House". This tavern was located in front of the current Loretto Academy building on Stanley Avenue overlooking the Falls.

The abandoned and derelict tavern was repaired and remodeled for five Sisters of Loretto Community.  

 

 

 

WATER WORKS

 

Prior to 1834, water for the settlers was fetched from Indian wells, springs and cisterns.

In 1834, the City of the Falls project was the first attempt to pump water through wooden pipes to a bathhouse located at the top of Murray Hill. This was to be an initial step which would have had water pumped in similar fashion to residences within the new community.

Although the idea was worthy, the wooden pipe could not withstand the rigors of the water pressure. The City of the Falls project ended with this failure.

In mid 1850, Samuel Zimmerman built a commercial water works. The water plant consisted of a raceway built near the brink of the Horseshoe Falls to carry the water to an eight foot long by eight foot wide overshot waterwheel. The water flowed over the waterwheel to a pump which was built into a twelve foot deep hole carved into the rock in front of the Saul Davis' Table Rock building.

The water was pumped into a reservoir on top of the moraine. Here, a six inch diameter pipe extended to the Great Western Railway on Bridge Street to service the locomotives and the people on the trains.

When Samuel Zimmerman died in 1857, the water works was purchased by Z.B. Lewis and George Bender for fifteen thousand ($15,000) dollars. The water line was extended to Drummondville.

The supply of water became inadequate because the flow of the water above the Falls was away from the banks and towards the center.

The Town of Niagara Falls purchased the water works with the permission of the Queen Victoria Niagara Falls Parks Commission.

In 1890, a more modern water pumping station was built. The new station was capable of pumping three million gallons of water per day. Drawing water to meet demand was still difficult.

In the early 1900's, in order to divert more water towards the intake of the pumping station, a tower was built close to the bank of the river just above the Falls. The tower was then toppled into the water to form a weir.

In 1908, the Niagara Falls Water Commission dumped limestone blocks into the river to block off a gap which existed between the shoreline and the toppled tower to augment the water flow to the water works.

The City of Niagara Falls water works remained at the Table Rock until 1931 when the new water pumping station was relocated in the Village of Chippawa.          

 

 

 

FRONTIER AMUSEMENT PARK


The Niagara Falls Amusement Park was known as the Frontier Amusement Park which was operated by the Frontier Amusement Company.

The Amusement Park was principles were: Alma Eva Bender, Edward Davis and the Imperial Bank of Canada. Bender's lease covered the five acre site with a lease which had four years to run when the company went into receivership in August of 1908.

Davis' lease covered an area of 10,000 square feet while the Imperial Bank lease covered the Administration Office building within the confines of the amusement park.

According to the Niagara daily Record dated April 12th 1909 and July 10th 1910, the Judicial Sale of the Frontier Amusement Park was begun pursuant to the Winding Up Order dated August 27th 1908, under the guidance of  J.E.P. Rothwell - liquidator acting under the provisions of the Winding Up Act Chapter 144 RSC (Revised Statutes of Canada) with the approbation of George W. Wells esquire.

The amusement park land being part of block IV in the City of Niagara Falls according to plan #36 of the Town of Niagara Falls.

The property was designed and equipped as an amusement park, well fenced and provides wide wooden walks. The building and erections are frame and consist of an Administration building, an observation tower about 70 feet high overlooking the cataracts, the upper rapids and the gorge. It also contained a bandstand and a roller rink (100 X 50 feet).

Adjoining the park and hitherto operated in connection with it on a joint percentage basis is a popular amusement device known as a rollercoaster.

On the park are about twenty amusement devices erected by various independent concessionaires under lease hold agreements yielding to the parks percentage of receipts. Rentals consisting of Theaters, a restaurant, a tea garden bazaars and other attractions.

The park and all the buildings were brilliantly illuminated with electric lights.

It was officially known as the Frontier Amusement Company Limited. The park was sold off for a bargain of approximately 12 cents on the dollar and shortly thereafter, torn down.

 

 

 




  

 

 

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Date last updated: June 19, 2012

 

 

 

 

The preceding 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 see...so 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:
 

niagarahistory@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

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