On April 24, Historical Society President John Burtniak delivered an entertaining and enlightening presentation on some of the vanished villages in the Niagara area. With a combination of facts, anecdotes and images, the Society learned about the humble beginnings of these villages, an idea of their econonic and social peaks, a good reasoning for their decline and disappearance and view of the area today and what evidence may remain. Here is a recap of some of the villages covered in John’s talk:
Jordan Harbour – Located along Lake Shore Road and on the Twenty Mile Creek, this village was primarily a cottage community but at its height boasted a post office, railroad station, school, town hall, stores, warehouses and more. The construction of the Queen Elizabeth’s Way (QEW) appropriated enough land to effectively end Jordan Harbour’s time as an independent community.
Silverdale Station – Situated along the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway, this village grew from being merely a grain loading stop on the rail line to include a general store (complete with a post office and agricultural cooperative), a church and a school.
Shipyards / Miller’s Bay – A planned community along the Niagara River established by the Canadian Shipbuilding Company in 1903. The Company built an impressive shipbuilding yard in Miller’s Bay and provided lodging houses for its employees. Along with a number of these boarding homes, Shipyards also had a hotel, railroad station and a post office. In 1913, the post office changed its name to Miller’s Bay and so did the community. When the Company left the area, the village diminished soon afterwards.
St. Johns on the Short Hills – Probably the village with the greatest potential to be something bigger, it was established early by Benjamin Camby and John Darling around 1790. Camby immediately established a saw mill. Soon afterwards, St. Johns became a prominent industrial village complete with grist mills, fulling mill, woolen mills, iron foundry, potashery, tannery, brickyard, schools, churches and a post office. The fate of the village took a sour turn with the opening of the Welland Canal which drew away people and commerce. The final blow was when the railroads were constructed and no lines were built through St. Johns.
Some other vanished or severely diminished villages noted included: Decewtown, Reynoldsville, Power Glen, Thorold South, Window Village, Homer, Stromness, Blackhorse Corners, Netherby, Candisville, Brookfield Station, White Pigeon and Caistor Center.
With so much potential and promise, it makes one wonder what our current villages, towns and cities will be like 100 years from now.
This was also the Society’s annual general meeting. It was a very good year for the Society. There are about 180 active members in the Society. All reports were positive and we are moving forward with good programmes and direction. 2008 / 2009 promises to be another excellent year. The Society’s Executive remains the same from last year. See who the Executive are under the Executive tab at the top of this page.
There is a special gathering for the Historical Society of St. Catharines on May 10 at 11:00 a.m. for the annual Oille Fountain Potting Ceremony. As well, the Society will be part of the official historical designation ceremony for the old Grantham Town Hall in downtown St. Catharines – not far from where the potting will take place. All are welcome to attend. See more details under the Special Events tab.
The next regular meeting of the Society is on May 22 at the St. Catharines Museum at 7:30 p.m. Pat Menon will be presenting on W.B. Allan – a St. Catharines’ Architect.
5 thoughts on “John Burtniak sheds light on some “Vanished Villages””
The correct spelling of a Thorold pioneer is Benjamin Canby.
My research into the vanished village of St. Johns indicates only one woolen mill, only one school at any one time, only one lumber mill, and no brickyard. Some structures did indeed use brick, but these were obtained elsewhere.
I am open to correction.
Hard to find mention of the fracas that took place at St Johns in the middle of the night in June, 1838. The village was a hotbed of discontent with the government, and about 10 cavalry soldiers were stationed there to keep and eye on things. Three groups of rebels, some Upper Canadians, some Americans, attacked and captured the soldiers. The soldiers were eventually released, and the rebels fled. All were caught. Some were sentenced to deportation to Van Diemen’s Land, and one was hanged at Niagara.
The village wasn’t always as peaceful as it is now.
My Grand Father was an employee of the old NST railroad and was a conductor.I find it interesting nothing much here on the railroad.I suppose Art Smiths estate must of had something in memorabilia as he worked with John Thomas Bartley my grandfather.Looking learning.
John Street ran a grist mill in the valley below the cemetery. The mill’s still there, with much of the gear from the 1880s. His house is nearby, one of the very few surviving domestic buildings. It has been added to over the years, and is now being used as an educational facility. Street’s mill dam can be easily spotted from the valley road.