A Different Language
The earliest known inhabitants in the Lincoln area were several groups of Iroquoian-speaking Indigenous people who lived mainly along the northern shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. In 1615, Samuel de Champlain referred to all tribes in our area as the Neutral people, or “la Nation neutre", because of their peace with the Five Nations and Huron-Wendat.
Neutral Nation Confederacy peoples (Attawandaron, Aondironon, Wenrehronon, and Ongniaahraronon) inhabited this area prior to about 1650. The Huron-Wendat referred to the Neutral peoples as “Attawandaron” meaning “peoples of a slightly different language” or “people whose speech is awry.”
Iroquois HomeThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
The Neutral people farmed, fished, and hunted. They grew corn, squash, beans, and tobacco, a combination of crops that together provide a complete, non-meat protein source. Neutrals lived in about 40 long-house settlements that included large, fenced-in villages. Around 1600, their population numbered approximately 40,000 people.
The LonghouseThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Unfortunately, diseases brought by European contact and war with the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse) decimated their population. By 1653, the remaining Neutral people were absorbed into other Indigenous Nations. When United Empire Loyalists began settling in Lincoln after the war, they found only a small group of Indigenous people living in caves near Beamsville.
Rock Carved FaceThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Traces of the Neutrals were preserved for centuries underground. Many archaeological finds from the area reveal a strong network of trade, particularly between the Neutral peoples and French colonists. Several faces were also found carved into the stone cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. Sadly, these were destroyed or removed by vandals in the 1980s.
For Crown and Country
At the outbreak of the American Revolution (1775-83) American colonists of different backgrounds remained loyal to the British Crown. Some felt a personal or familial loyalty to the British, while others believed that differences and injustices between Britain and the American colonies could be solved without revolution.
The Battlefield of Stoney CreekThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Some groups of persecuted Black and Indigenous people living in the thirteen colonies felt the British Crown could protect them from revolutionaries. Other colonists were attracted by the ample land and provisions in the north. Loyalty to Britain led to persecution by other American colonists, including loss of property, harassment, imprisonment, and occasionally death.
More than 19,000 Loyalists fought for Britain during the American Revolutionary War. The Loyalists were supported by thousands of Indigenous allies, mostly Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) from New York State.
Joseph BrantThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Many Loyalists fought in militias for the British Crown. Of these militias, the most famous was Butler’s Rangers, a unit stationed in Niagara-on-the-Lake and made up of colonists from New York State. Militias were supported by Indigenous allies, such as Mohawk leader Thayendanegea (Col. Joseph Brant).
Revolutionary WarThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Captain Peter Hare (1748-1834), an officer in Butler’s Rangers, participated in numerous battles along the American frontier. After the war, Hare farmed land in Lincoln and his gravestone is still visible at Snure Cemetery in Jordan. Numerous other Loyalists settled and farmed across Lincoln, and their names (Beam, Konkle, Bradt, Haines, Claus, and many others) are still alive in Lincoln today.
Those fleeing enslavement from the American Colonies made up roughly 10% (several hundred) of the Loyalist population who settled in Upper Canada after the American Revolution. Detailed sources about the lives of Black Loyalists in Lincoln have not been well preserved, and as a result, we know relatively little of their time here.
Richard Pierpoint_ War MuseumThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
One of the few lives recorded in any detail is that of Richard Pierpoint (c.1744-c.1837). Pierpoint was a freedom seeker from Bundu (Senegal) who fought in Butler’s Rangers during the Revolution. For a short time, Pierpoint owned land in Louth Township (now Jordan and p part of Vineland) and settled more permanently on land in St. Catharines.
During the War of 1812, Pierpoint convinced a Jordan tavern owner and former soldier, Robert Runchey, to raise a unit of Black soldiers initially known as, “Captain Runchey’s Company of Colored Men”, which later became known as the “Coloured Corps”.
Ruchey's TavernThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Runchey’s Tavern was used as a meeting place to recruit black troops during the War of 1812.
Pierpoint and the “Coloured Corps” fought at the Battle of Queenston Heights, the Battle of Fort George, and supported British troops at the Battle of Stoney Creek.
Runchey's TavernThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Despite their service during battles in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812, Black Loyalists faced persistent racism and discrimination in Upper Canada.
Many received only 50% of the land given to white Loyalists, and despite the successes of some individuals and families, most ended up poor, without land, and forced to work as labourers, servants, and wait staff.
After the American Revolution, Lincoln was primarily settled by United Empire Loyalists, many of whom were former Butler’s Rangers. Jacob Beam settled on government granted land in 1788. In 1799, Pennsylvanian Germans (also known as Pennsylvanian Dutch) walked to Upper Canada to escape religious persecution, military service, and capitalize on the opportunity for good farm land. They obtained large tracts of land and founded the villages of Jordan and Vineland. In 1801, Canada’s first Mennonite congregation was established.
Campden Post OfficeThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Settlers were drawn to Lincoln for its ample arable land, large forests, and numerous waterways, all of which allowed for bountiful farming, hunting, and fishing. As with much of the region, agriculture became a primary industry, but many others flourished throughout the 1800s. Weavers like Samuel Fry wove textiles, John Petty made carriages, and Newton Perry built homes. Together they created thriving communities.
Fred GrobbThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
The region also developed a robust support system of industries that supplied farm equipment and irrigation systems, and sustain the area’s thriving agricultural sector. Despite the increase of large farms, many local farms are still family operated today.
A Long Road
After the upheaval of the American Revolution, Mennonites from Bucks County, Pennsylvania immigrated to Canada in the 1780s and 1790s.
In the early 1700s, war, crop failure, taxation, and violent religious persecution in Germany and Switzerland encouraged waves of Swiss/German Mennonite emigration to North America. Thousands embarked on the treacherous journey across the Atlantic to form German speaking communities throughout Pennsylvania.
Mennonite ChurchThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Throughout the 1800s, services for the First Mennonite congregation were held at three churches – the Moyer church in Vineland, the Mountain church in Campden, and the Jordan church.
Vineland Mennonite Church on Victoria AvenueThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
The Mountain and Jordan churches have since closed, but the First Mennonite Church still holds regular service.
Mennonite CongregationsThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Fleeing Communism and religious persecution, a separate group of Mennonites arrived from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1924. Approximately 1,000 Russian Mennonites immigrated to Vineland and joined the First Mennonite Church. In 1936, they obtained their own charter and established the Vineland United Mennonite Church, which still stands today on Menno Street in Vineland.
The Nipponia Home and Yamaga
Born in 1886 in Toyohama, Japan, Yasutaro Yamaga moved to British Columbia in 1908 with the dream of one day owning 5,000 acres of Canadian farmland. Yasutaro became involved in agriculture and was well respected in his community. He helped establish many groups and institutions, including the Haney Fruit Ranchers Association and the Japanese Language School in British Columbia.
Yasutaro YamagaThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
After the bombing of Pearl Harbour during WWII, laws were passed that forced any Japanese Canadian within 100 miles of the Pacific Coast to vacate their home. Chosen for the respect he had earned from his community, Yamaga was selected as the only Japanese member of the committee that considered offers of payment for the Japanese farms during the disposition of Japanese property in 1942. Forced to relocate, Yasutaro and his family fled Maple Ridge, British Columbia to Hamilton, Ontario.
Nipponia HomeThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
A man with a passion for activism and bridging cultural barriers, Yasutaro dreamt of opening a home to serve aging Japanese Canadians. A $25,000 donation of Yamaga's personal savings and $27,000 from 853 community donors brought the project to life. In 1959, Yasutaro’s persistence made his dream a reality.
Picture3The Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
The grounds of the Nipponia Home were renowned for their beautiful ornate garden designs, reflective of traditional Japanese landscaping practices. Both traditional Japanese and Canadian meals were served daily, including dishes like sushi and sukiyaki.
Grand opening of the Nipponia HomeThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
While various Japanese cultural traditions made the Nipponia Home unique for its time, so too did the stories of the residents. Many faced the hardships of financial loss and discrimination. The Nipponia Home served the Lincoln community for almost 40 years, closing its doors in 2000.
With a naturally favourable climate, people have been drawn to form communities here where they could farm and cultivate food. The Attawondaron Indigenous peoples (Neutrals) were the first to farm in the Niagara Region, where they grew corn, beans, squash, and tobacco.
g45849The Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Beginning in the 1780s, United Empire Loyalists permanently settled the area and grew wheat, oats, and barley. Throughout the 1800s, many farmers planted fruit trees, and by the beginning of the 1900s, Lincoln had a thriving commercial fruit and canning industry. During the First and Second World War, much of Lincoln’s produce was sent to feed soldiers overseas.
995080c-2The Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Since 1906, Lincoln has made important contributions to horticultural research when the first agricultural research facility was established in Vineland Station. The facility is still in operation today and is known as the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.
Picture4The Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Like much of the region, Lincoln experienced a boom in grape cultivation and the establishment of vineyards and estate wineries in the 1970s and beyond, as well as the development of a thriving greenhouse sector. Today, the local area is home to award-winning wineries and supports many of Niagara’s 200 greenhouses that focus on floriculture, vegetable production, and more recently, licensed cannabis production for medicinal marijuana.
Today, the Town is part of the Niagara Fruit Belt, where a large percentage of Canada’s soft fruits are grown and sold within the province and across Canada.
From Far Away and Close to Home
Every year since the late 1960s, men and women have travelled from Mexico, the Caribbean, and other countries to work in Lincoln’s fields and farms. Known as the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), migrant workers spend up to half a year away from their families and communities to save money to send home. For many workers, the chance to earn relatively high wages and support families back home is a coveted opportunity, and some wait years for their chance.
Seasonal WorkersThe Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Their presence not only contributes positively to local agriculture, but also to our community. Throughout the spring and summer, migrant labourers can be seen not just working in the fields, but also attending and supporting local churches, festivals, and businesses. Migrant workers play a role in helping the area grow - both literally and as a community.
Like all of Niagara Region, Lincoln was originally part of Upper Canada and governed as part of the province of Quebec. In 1791, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe, created the vast area known as Lincoln County, making it part of Upper Canada and dividing the area into twelve townships. The county and township names, like many other places in the region, had namesakes from other towns and cities in Britain.
The widespread nature of settlement combined with ethnic and religious diversity created small but distinct communities within the boundaries of Beamsville, Clinton Township, and parts of Louth Township.
99761a-2The Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
Discussions about joining all the small towns together began in the 1960s. Some argued that if they united, the towns could gain greater efficiency, share resources, and achieve stronger lobbying power at the regional and provincial levels of government.
Picture6The Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
On January 1st, 1970, the Town of Lincoln was formed, combining the town of Beamsville, township of Clinton, and roughly half the township of Louth, including all communities within their boundaries. Since amalgamation, Lincoln has continued to grow and prosper.
Lincoln County Map reproduction, c1800The Town of Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre
As the population grew, the town boundaries also expanded. Today, Lincoln is a large and geographically diverse place - from the sweeping Jordan Valley to the vast fields of Rockway. In the past few decades, Lincoln has also welcomed new groups of settlers, many coming from the Greater Toronto Area and beyond. Here they can find a place with the comforts and amenities of the city but with a small-town feel and sense of community. Here, we can all belong.