All About Niagara
To find the Niagara Region on a map isn't difficult. Bordered by Lake Ontario to the north, Lake Erie to the south, and the Niagara River and the U.S. along the east, it's an easy area to define.
To describe Niagara would be a more difficult task. No where else in Ontario, or Canada, will you find a more varied or unique geography, or a richer cultural past.
To even begin to trace the history of Niagara we would have to go back 10,000 years. The continent at that time is experiencing a warming trend and the once massive glaciers are melting, opening up vast areas for vegetation and creating lakes, rivers and waterfalls.
Forests begin to flourish in the warmer temperature and fish and waterfowl begin to inhabit the marshlands. Berries and wild plants give sustenance to the indigenous people that began to inhabit the area.
However, the Niagara Region is constantly evolving, and the Niagara Falls of ten thousand years ago is much closer to Lake Ontario, around where Queenston is located.
It is over the course of a few thousand years and the erosion of the Niagara Escarpment inward apx 11 kms. that we begin to see the Niagara Falls that we know today. In fact, when the first Europeans set eyes upon the Horsehoe Falls, rather than having the unique horseshoe shape we see today, they probably saw a falls with a crest that was straight.
European settlement didn't take place in the Niagara Region until the mid to late 1700's. Although communities were flourishing in the American colonies, land west of the Niagara River was always considered a wild frontier.
Fort Niagara, before being signed over to the Americans was used as an outpost for John Butler and Joseph Brant, who would retreat there after marauding attacks on the thirteen colonies.
Niagara may have been a wild frontier, but it was the only frontier available to those dissillusioned with the new republic of America. All the land to the west of Fort Niagara, or the Canadian side was a vast wilderness of forests and swamps.
When the French arrived in 1725 the Mississaugas had their main settlement on the west bank of the Niagara River adjacent to Fort Niagara. The commons of Niagara-on-the-Lake was a vast clearing in the forest where an earlier group of Neutrals had camped. Here the Mississauga people raised their crops of beans and maize, an early form of corn.
The new inhabitants of this vast expanse of land were tradesmen, bankers, lawyers and wealthy landowners. Most would leave all worldly possessions behind in search of a new homeland. Many came for the free land alottments given to those who fought for Britain.
Regardless of their nationality, they all believed in the British form of government as opposed to an American Republic.
Niagara's history reflects a cultural heritage of both indigenous and european settlement. Monuments have been built to the heros of war, and buildings have withstood the test of time to reveal life in a different century. However the very name Niagara, from the Indian word "Onighara" meaning big water sums it up the best.