Loyalists Settle in Niagara

Niagara Historical Society & Museum

The first stage of colonial settlement occurred in Niagara from 1779 to 1783, as a temporary arrangement that was designed to provide food to Fort Niagara during the American Revolution. 

During these years, the west bank of the Niagara River was the headquarters for John Butler and his Rangers (officially known as Butler’s Rangers) and Native allies. Following the American Revolution, Loyalist refugees fearing persecution, or wanting to continue to live under the Crown, made their way into Canada. These people were white American colonists, free Blacks and escaped slaves, and First Nations allies (mainly Six Nations Iroquois). 

Butler's Rangers were a Loyalist military unit that fought alongside the First Nations during the American Revolutionary War. Among the Rangers was also a body of former African American slaves.

Iron ax head used by Butler's Rangers and Native allies during the American Revolution.

A Town Laid Out
The main route of Loyalist settlement followed the Native trails that crossed the region. These roads were vital to the local economy because ships from Kingston would travel down the Niagara River to bring supplies to Queenston or Newark. Men could find employment hauling goods and farmers were regularly seen bringing produce into town. Taverns became integral to the budding community of Newark. When the land board met to plan the new town in 1791, one of the first acts was to grant permission for the construction of a public house and a Masonic Lodge. As the community began to develop, a plan for the town was needed. In 1794, two surveyors drafted the plan to include several important features: 3 four-acre blocks for a market, a four-acre public square, a church, a manse and a school. 

This seal was attached to Daniel Servos’ crown grant for Palatine Hill, located on Four-Mile Creek Road.

This branding iron was used to mark the heads of wooden flour barrels at the Servos grist mill, the first government grist mill in Upper Canada.

This trunk was likely used for smaller possessions by a Loyalist family emigrating to Niagara.

This gavel was used when Governor Simcoe received several degrees in Craft Masonry. Simcoe became a Master Mason on January 18, 1774.

The Servos family believed that the cup and saucer was important enough to be brought to Niagara after the American Revolution.

Queenston was originally called The West Landing to distinguish itself from Lewiston. When John Graves Simcoe chose Newark as the capital of Upper Canada, he built barracks at The West Landing for the Queen’s Rangers Regiment. Soon The West Landing became known as Queenstown and then eventually Queenston.  Robert Hamilton was an influential merchant, judge, member of the Legislative Council and one of the first Masons in the district. He is also considered to be the founder of Queenston even though he was certainly not the first to settle there. He was a pillar of the Queenston community, building warehouses, a distillery and tannery, and a wharf. 
St. Davids
Peter Secord, a member of the Butler’s Rangers, was excused from active service to begin farming on the west bank of the Niagara River in 1779. He was the first person to settle his family near the present-day town of St. Davids. By August of 1780, Peter and James Secord, Sampson Lutz and their families started to clear land at Four Mile Mills. Soon after, this area grew to become an important milling centre that relied on the water from Four Mile Creek.  David Secord, who served as a Sergeant in Butler’s Rangers, was granted a large tract of land. It was here that he established an inn, several mills, a distillery and a tannery, along with other businesses that would become the centre of the town that bears his name. He also provided the land that the church, cemetery, and schoolhouse were built on. 
Virgil & Homer
The land was granted to a former Butler's Rangers, George Lawrence, who operated a farm near the junction of Four Mile Creek Road and Black Swamp Road (Highway 55). This area became known as Crossroads. It wasn't until after the War of 1812, that Crossroads would grow into a community with churches and a school. Eventually, Crossroads would undergo a name change to Lawrenceville, after George Lawrence, and then would become known as Virgil. The community of Homer was another small village that was first settled in 1795 by Loyalist William Read. Originally known as Upper Ten Mile, the village stretched about a mile east and west of Ten Mile Creek along Queenston Road. 

This china bowl is believed to have belonged to Mrs. Lawrence of Lawrenceville. Her husband, George Lawrence, was the founder of Virgil.

Niagara Historical Society & Museum
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