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Colonial Niagara

During the early years of settlement life on the new frontier was filled with extreme hardships. Most of the new settlers had left everything behind in New York. Many of these early years were spent in a log cabin.

By 1791-1792 Governor Simcoe was surveying the area for a site for the new Capital of Upper Canada. A government house was erected and streets laid out for the ever increasing population of newly arrived UEL.

The first complete survey of the town of Niagara and its division into lots was adopted by the Land Board in a meeting held at Niagara in 1791. This newly formed Land Board made up mainly of local gentlemen and appointed by the crown granted land rights to new immigrants.

Members of this very important first meeting were as follows:

Commander of Posts - Colonel Gordon

Esquires - Lt Col. Butler, Peter Tenbrook, Peter Hamilton, Benjamin Pawling, John Burtch, John Warren,and John McNabb.

A great flow of immigration began from the American colonies. Quakers and Mennonites, disillusioned with the new congress left their prosperous farms in Pennsylvania to come to the wilderness of Niagara. Many of these loyalists were of Dutch, German and English descent. All of the new arrivals were Protestants, of either the Church of England, Dutch Calvinists or German Lutherans.

However, regardless of religious affiliation all the new settlers had one commonality…their allegiance to Britain and the Crown. At the turn of the 19th century there were about 50,000 settlers living in Upper Canada.

By the time of the War of 1812, a mere twelve years later, there were approximately 70,000. There were small pockets of settlement throughout Ontario but the majority of the population was centred in Newark, or Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Both Newark and the village of Queenston were important centres for the moving of goods into the interior. At Queenston all boats had to be unloaded and their cargoes transferred on to wagons pulled by teams of oxen up the steep hill from Queenston to Chippawa.

The settlers who farmed the fertile fields in the Niagara Peninsula prospered. Apple, cherry and pear trees could be found on every farm. Newark was a thriving British colony and the nucleus of all trade in Upper Canada. Farmers from as far as 40 miles would bring their produce to Newark to sell or barter. Within a few short years many settlers were able to build better houses and provide themselves and their families with some of the finer things.

Articles had to be shipped all the way from Montreal and the journey was not an easy one. Commodities were scarce and when available commanded an inflated price. The settlers persevered and eventually the store-bought yarns were replaced with wool that was grown, spun and dyed on the family farm. Girls from a very young age were taught how to operate a spinning wheel and a loom. Early settlers to Niagara also grew flax which was then spun and weaved into fine linens and provided the early farm homes with drapery and bedding.

These were hard times but the women were industrious and the land produced a bountiful harvest. Newark, the newly formed Capital of Upper Canada, was also the capital of culture and refinement in this new wild frontier.

Places of worship or a meeting hall became prime locations for eligible young men to find a bride. From 1792 - 1800 the young women of Niagara have been recorded as to include:

1 Miss Adams
2 Miss Addisons
2 Miss Balls
2 Miss Brants
1 Miss Butler
1 Miss Claus
2 Miss Clements
3 Miss Clenches
3 Miss Crooks
1 Miss Cumming
1 Miss Fry
1 Miss Hanier
1 Miss Hatt
1 Miss Ingersoll
2 Miss Kerrs
1 Miss Murray
2 Miss Merritts
3 Miss Secords
1 Miss Prendergrast
2 Miss Servos
1 Miss Street
2 Miss Stuarts
3 Miss Symingtons
2 Miss Tenbrooks
1 Miss Thompson
1 Miss Wright