Loyalists Settle in Niagara

By Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Niagara-on-the-Lake 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. 

Portrait of Colonel John Butler (1728-1796)Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

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). 

Copy of the 1784 map of Land OwnersNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Butler's Rangers Belt PlateNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

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 Axe HeadNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

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

Land Board Minutes, June 24, 1791 (Copy)Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

A Town Laid Out

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. 

King George III SealNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

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

Cooper's Burning Iron Cooper's Burning IronNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

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.

Cooper's Burning Iron Cooper's Burning IronNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Hide-Covered TrunkNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

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

Masonic Gavel Masonic GavelNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

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

Masonic Gavel Masonic GavelNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Servos Family Cup and SaucerNiagara-on-the-Lake Museum

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

Queenston, 1888Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum


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. 

Land Grant issued to David Secord, 1790 Land Grant issued to David Secord, 1790Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

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. 

Land Grant issued to David Secord, 1790 Land Grant issued to David Secord, 1790Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

China Bowl, ca. 1810Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

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.

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