There were several transportation routes that were established by the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee people in the region prior to colonial settlement. These routes became vital to European settlement. The east-west route, which became known as the Iroquois Trail, began in present day Queenston and stretched to Hamilton, and the north-south route (west-bank portage route) connected Queenston to Fort Erie.
Robert Hamilton is largely considered to be the founder of Queenston, (which has also been called The West Landing and Queenstown) but Isaac Dolson was the first loyalist to settle in village, ca. 1780. Robert Hamilton became a prominent member in the Queenston and Niagara communities, largely due to the exclusive rights he and his associates obtained to operate the portage route on the west side of the Niagara River. This gave travellers and merchants access to the Upper Great Lakes via boat in Chippewa.
View of Queenston (1836/1866)Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum
Hamilton eventually acquired thousands of acres of land and owned numerous businesses, including a distillery and tannery. He also constructed a stone house, along with wharves and storehouses for his mercantile business.
During the War of 1812
The Battle of Queenston Heights was the first major engagement in Niagara and took place on October 13, 1812. American forces crossed the Niagara River and took possession of the heights above Queenston. In the end, the battle was a British victory, but Queenston would remain embroiled in the conflict for the remainder of the war. By 1814, Queenston was in ruins, with many homes, businesses and storehouses either burned or damaged by cannon fire.
Major General Sir Isaac BrockNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum
During the Battle of Queenston Heights, the British suffered a devastating loss when the hero of Upper Canada, Major-General Isaac Brock, was killed. The province decided to commemorate Brock by building a monument and tomb for him in Queenston.
Handbill of the Burrial of Sr. Isaac BrockNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum
General Brock's Monument Above Queenston by William Henry Bartlett (1809-1854)Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum
There seems to be some debate on whether the first monument (pictured) was finished, but Brock, along with his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell, were buried beneath the monument in October of 1824.
Brock's Monument, Queenston HeightsNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum
On April 17, 1840, the monument was bombed. It is believed that Irish-Canadian, Benjamin Lett, who was involved in William Lyon Mackenzie’s 1837 Rebellion, was the culprit. The Native Allies spearheaded a fundraising campaign to construct a second monument (pictured), which was built in 1853.
Landscape of Nations
In 2016, The Landscape of Nations unveiled The Six Nations and Native Allies Commemorative Memorial in Queenston Heights Park. This memorial commemorates the contributions and sacrifices made by the Six Nations and Native Allies during the War of 1812 and recognizes the ceremony of peace and reconciliation, which restored peace among the Native nations who fought on opposing sides.
Queenston Heights Postcard StandNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum
Queenston Heights became a popular battlefield tourist destination in the 1820s and 1830s. In 1895, the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) became the owners of the Queenston Heights property and they began promoting the heights, not as a battlefield site, but as an ideal location for a picnic or afternoon outing.
Restaurant, Queenston HeightsNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum
Many families, businesses and church groups went to the heights for picnics or family reunions. The NPC even built a pavilion for dancing, a wading pool, picnic grounds, a restaurant and a souvenir shop to attract more visitors. On some days, Queenston Heights had more tourists than Niagara Falls!
Looking Down Niagara River from Queenston HeightsNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum
The heights remained a popular tourist destination into the 1920s and was aided by the steamship and railway companies who encouraged travellers to see Queenston Heights and Niagara Falls. To this day it remains a popular tourist destination.
View of Queenston with Brock's MonumentNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum
Around 1839, travelling became easier. Queenston became linked to Niagara Falls and Chippewa via Ontario’s first railway, The Erie and Ontario Railway. An electric rail line, The Niagara Falls Park and River Railway, opened in 1893 and connected Niagara Falls and Queenston. This rail line, coupled with the Niagara Navigation Company steamships, saw over 345,000 people use the route to see the Falls in 1893. This number continued to grow until the 1930s.
Queenston and Lower Niagara from Queenston Heights, Canada.Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum
Queenston-Lewiston Suspension Bridge
The idea to build a bridge at Queenston was first proposed in 1824, but there was no immediate need for a bridge, since people and materials could be shuttled across the river by ferry boat.
The idea to build a bridge didn’t die out. The Niagara Suspension Bridge Bank opened in 1840 to raise capital funds for the project. The bank failed after one year.
Remains of the First Queenston Lewiston Bridge, ca. 1864Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum
By 1850 the construction of the suspension bridge began and it opened one year later for the use of pedestrians, horses and carriages. In 1864, a strong storm destroyed the bridge (pictured).
Suspension Bridge from Queenston to LewistonNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum
The ferry service resumed operation until the second suspension bridge opened in 1899.
Queenston and the Niagara River, 1901Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum
Queenston BrockettesNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum
Queenston remains a vital, historic and welcoming community in Niagara-on-the-Lake and is home to the Laura Secord Homestead, Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum Willowbank School of Restoration Arts and Riverbrink Art Museum!