Niagara Town Abstracts
In the early period of settlement there were very few town grants. Niagara Town was one of them. The following description of the Town of Niagara is quoted from the Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Counties of Lincoln and Welland, Ont. Toronto: H.R. Page & Co., 1876. Today this community is known as the town of Niagara-On-The-Lake.
Town of Niagara
The village of Niagara of which we have made frequent mention in the general history of the counties of Lincoln and Welland, has a population of about two thousand people and is the oldest settled place in the Province of Ontario. During the American Revolution, Fort Niagara on the American side of Niagara River, was held by the English troops, and the site of the village of Niagara served as a general camping place for troops that under various leaders made excursions into the settlements of the Americans. Col. John Butler with his rangers, Capt. Joseph Brant, or Thayendanegea, the chosen leader of the Six Nation Indians, with Sir John Johnson and other prominent persons made Niagara their head quarters for a long time during the days of the Revolution, and during this time only a few log houses were built where Niagara now stands; the officers’ quarters and buildings for other purposes being within the fort, but on the opposite shore of the river. At the close of the Revolution in 1784, Butler’s Rangers, 444 in number, were disbanded here and many of them erected houses given them.
In 1792, Gov. Simcoe, who was appointed Governor of Upper Canada, came to Newark as he named it (now Niagara), and made it the Capital of Upper Canada, and the little village then promised to be one of the future large cities of Upper Canada. Vessels from Lower Canada brought their cargoes here, which were carried from this point and Queenston around the Niagara Falls to Lake Erie; business was at all times brisk, and the settlers from forty and fifty miles inland made it their head quarters for procuring their supplies.
In 1796, Fort Niagara, which until that time had been held by the English, was given up to the Americans, and Governor Simcoe deemed the Capital of Upper Canada altogether too near the guns of the newly acquired American fort, moved the capital to Little York—also known as Muddy York, and now Toronto.
During the war of 1812-15 Niagara was one of the main points which the Americans assailed, and for several months was in their possession, and their troops were quartered in Fort George and buildings in the little place including one of the churches, where in the cemetery attached, marks of axes may still be seen on some of the bread slabs of stone which the Americans used as blocks to cut up beef on for their troops.
On Dec. 13th, 1813, the stirring little place was burned by the Americans who then withdrew their troops across the river. An eye witness of the appearance of Niagara immediately after being burned, thus speaks of it:—“Nothing but heaps of coals and the streets full of furniture that the inhabitants were fortunate enough to get out of their houses met the eye in all directions. Mr. Gordon’s house, my old quarters, was the only one left standing. The garrison was left abandoned, many tents left standing, the barracks and wood work nearly consumed. We were very apprehensive that a mine was left for our destruction. A musket cartridge burst upon our ascending the cavalier bastion; each took it for a match to a concealed mine and gave our lives up for a rise in their air; fortunately our fears were groundless”
Niagara recovered slowly from the effects of the war, but gradually the place began to thrive and at the present day many fine business blocks, residences and several fine churches, school houses and other buildings grace the place. From its being so pleasantly located at the point where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario, with the attractions of boating, fishing and shooting wild fowl, and with fine drives through the adjacent country, it is rapidly coming into favor as a popular resort with those who seek to gain their health, or those who wish to throw off the cares of business and enjoy the many pleasures which are here afforded.
Fort George now in ruins, overlooking Niagara River, and Fort Mississauga now dismantled, with Ontario’s waves washing at its foundation, have their own story of days now passed.
One mile south of Niagara is the Butler farm, where, in the midst of a little clump of pine and oak trees is the tomb of Col. John Butler, the leader of Butler’s Rangers against the Americans during the years of the Revolution. Some historians have given Col. John Butler and his Rangers a most unenviable reputation; but the unprejudiced searcher for the truth will learn that the facts will give him and his followers no worse reputations than those who were their neighbors before the Revolution and took part in the revolt of the colonies, deserved.
Ship building is carried on at Niagara, the steamer City of Toronto and several smaller crafts have been built here. The subject of building a ship canal from this place which would connect with the new Welland Canal near Thorold, has been agitated at various times and should this project ever be carried out there is no doubt that Niagara would soon assume greater importance as a business place than at the present time.
The Canada Southern Railway gives facilities to those who would reach the place, and during the summer months the cars connect with steamers which carry passengers to Toronto and down the St. Lawrence River.