Located west of Niagara-on-the-Lake and situated in the centre of the township is the small community of Virgil, Ontario. The area along the Four Mile Creek was originally settled by United Empire Loyalists.
The town of Virgil was originally referred to as The Crossroads because it was situated at the junction of the old Indian trail Creek Road and Black Swamp Road which ran from Virgil to Homer or the Upper Ten.
Black Swamp Road was notorious for it's muddy conditions and was used extensively early on by the British military to move supplies to and from Fort Niagara inland in the winter months when the road would freeze over.
Eventually the road would be graded and gravelled to allow for better passage by horse and buggy during the summer months. At this time it became known as The Stone Road. Today the Stone Road is Hwy. #55.
In 1844 The Crossroads was named Lawrenceville, after a prominent settler in the area, George Lawrence. Somewhere between 1862 and 1876 the town was given it's present name, Virgil.
During the First World War the area saw an influx of Russian Mennonites escaping persecution in Europe. Their labour and expertise in farming was a much needed boast to the "blossoming" tender fruit industry. Below is an excerpt from an article published in the Globe & Mail and the Toronto Star, 1943:
"On March 23, 1943, Rev. G. Agar, Rev. Ferguson and Professor McCready of Toronto, visited a new Canadian settlement near St. Catharines, Ontario. Some eight or nine years ago, Mr. Peter Wall, a Russian officer, founded this settlement which today has about 200 families.
Mr. Wall bought up large grain farms, with unproductive and exhausted soil. He subdivided this land and resold it in ten to twelve acre lots to poor Russian families, many of whom were day labourers, and some even on relief.
By intense cultivation, hard labour and frugal living, this district has been turned into one of the most productive fruit bearing districts in the Niagara Peninsula. The social and economic development of the people of the St. Catharines-Virgil-Niagara-on-the-Lake district has attracted a great deal of attention."
During the early to mid 1900's several canning factories sprang up to process the fruit harvested locally. One such canning factory was located at the corner of Lakeshore and Four Mile Creek Road.
The canning factory was built in 1939 by Mr. Wall and a group of shareholders, who were farmers from the local area. Each shareholder would have one vote in the co-op. The canned cherries, peaches, plums, pears and tomatoes were canned under the label "Pride of Niagara".
Due to a number of factors the Niagara Canning Company went bankrupt in 1948. In 1942 the canning factory employed 200 people. Mr. Wall's home, located a short distance from the canning factory, was a lovely two storey brick farmhouse, built under a grove of tall pines with views to Lake Ontario.
Today the large stone building that was once the canning factory is still standing and is now the home of a local winery.
The Virgil Dam, a small man-made dam along the Four Mile Creek is home to the Virgil Dam Conservation Area, where visitors can park and launch a canoe or cast a line into the creek.