Exploring Great Destinations in the Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada

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Willoughby Township

The township of Willoughby is bordered on the south by Bertie Township, on the west by the Township of Crowland, on the north by the Welland River, separating it from the Township of Stamford and on the east by the Niagara River.

It was the smallest township in Lincoln County. In 1784 about ten families of United Empire Loyalists were given land grants. In 1787 the township was surveyed and more families arrived with most settling along the River Road which ran from Chippawa to Fort Erie.

A large tamarack swamp which ran in a north eastern direction along the centre of the township divided it into two making settlement in the early years quite difficult. By 1817 there were only sixty three inhabited homes in the township and barely more than 300 persons, including the population of Chippawa and Fort Erie.

The War of 1812 brought American invaders into the township and many residents suffered terribly at the hands of the Americans. Most of the homes along the river road were burned and the inhabitants left with little more than the clothes on their backs.

The township would again find themselves in the centre of a war when the Mackenzie Rebellion took place in 1837. Marauding parties from Navy Island would land along the riverbank and plunder the homes along the river's edge. Travellers along the river road would often have to dodge bullets and other artillery being fired from Navy Island.

Since the river road was the only means of travel within the township the development of Willoughby township did not progress at the same rate as other townships within the county. Around 1830 a large group of Quakers and Mennonites from Pennsylvania emigrated to Upper Canada and purchased land along Lyons Creek.

Much of the tamarack swamp was drained and productive farmland soon replaced it. The Quakers and Mennonites were a hard working industrious people and after their arrival the township began to develop. In 1885 the Township of Willoughby had a population of about 1,200 people and contained 622 horses, 1.268 sheep and 1,339 horned cattle.