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The Founding of Niagara

The founding of Niagara was based on a need by the British military to supply provisions and provide some military fortification to their remote outposts.

Govenor–General Haldimand had formulated the plan to settle experienced farmers in the area. Up until this point the forts and military had been supplied with provisions from Britain and this method was proving to be troublesome.

The early influx of settlers from the US provided the British with the manpower. In 1778 plans were being made at Fort Niagara for loyalist refugees to settle across the Niagara River on the west bank. Here the land was already settled and being farmed by the native Mississauga people.

Governor Haldimand instructed the superintendent of Indian Affairs to purchase the land so that colonization could take place. The new settlers would receive provisions for a year. They would be supplied with a horse to clear the land. After one year any produce grown on their property that was not needed for their personal use was to be sold to the garrison at Niagara.

By December 1780 there were five Loyalist families settled onto the west side of the Niagara where up until now the area had always been considered a vast untamed wilderness.

Land tenure had always been the accepted method of farming up until now. The military would allow the farmer to settle on the land and farm it, but the farmer would never own the property. This did not sit well with the new settlers, and they soon made their displeasure known. The Loyalists would make an argument to the government that if they had to put their lives at risk to fight for the King, repayment should be made in the form of land grants.

New recruits for Butler's Rangers were only trickling in to sign up and this seemed a good solution to raise the number of enlisted military to seriously defend British territory. Around 1783 Britain announced Land Grants to its loyal subjects. Each family was granted land according to family size and rank of military servicemen, with the average land grant being 200 acres per person.

This also gave the British the added advantage of the land being settled by veterans and ex-militia men. Influential persons of the day living in Upper Canada included Colonel Gordon, the commandant, Colonel Butler, of Butler's Rangers, Guy Johnston, superintendent of Indian Affairs. Dr. John Ker, who was a prominent physician and magistrate. He was married to the daughter of the Indian chief Joseph Brant. Dr. Muirhead was another magistrate and physician. He was married to a daughter of Colonel John Butler. Robert Hamilton was also a well known magistrate who resided in Queenston.