Early Governance as it Relates to Grantham Township

Information gathered by Society member Bill Stevens:


The settlement of what is now known as Ontario was precipitated by the declaration of American Independence and subsequently the fall of British rule in what is now the United States of America. Some of those wishing to remain Loyal to the British Crown fled to Fort Niagara. In May of 1781 the British purchased lands on the west side of the Niagara River from the Mississauga Indians. A small number of settlers had settled on the west side in 1780 and this number grew quickly with the land purchase and survey in 1782. In 1783 the Peace Treaty was signed and England officially recognized the U.S.A. The growing number of Loyalists resulted in the purchase of additional lands from Mississauga Indians on May 22, 1784 (and confirmed by a treaty signed on December 7, 1792). It was this second purchase that now allowed settlement in Grantham Township. Soon after the purchase settlers began to make their way into the area that would become Grantham Township. But it wasn’t until after the survey undertaken between December 27, 1787 and March 31, 1788 by Daniel Hazen of Township Number 3 (which was later called Grantham Township) that these settlers could claim their land holdings with the Land Board.


During the above time period of 1780 and 1791, the area of Grantham Township was part of the British Province of Quebec and the following were the Governors of the Province of Quebec:


1778 – 1786 – Sir Frederick Haldimand
1786 – 1795 – Sir Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester


By proclamation of July 24, 1788 Upper Quebec, now known as Ontario, was divided into four districts for the primary purpose of administering justice and land distribution. The area of Grantham Township would become part of Nassau District.


On June 19,1791 royal assent was given to the Constitutional Act which split the Province of Quebec into Lower Canada and Upper Canada. From December 26, 1791 to February 10, 1841 the area now known as Grantham Township was in the British Province of Upper Canada. The Legislature for Upper Canada consisted of 16 representatives elected by the people and the Legislative Council consisted of 7 councillors nominated by the Crown.


On July 8,1792 John Graves Simcoe was appointed the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada. He served in this position until 1798, but was in England for the last two years of his term.


On July 19, 1792 a proclamation divided the Province of Upper Canada into 19 counties. The counties would provide a basis for elections, the distribution of lands and organizing the militia. Sixteen representatives were elected to the first Legislative Assembly. Some of the representatives represented more than one county. For example, Lincoln County was divided into 4 ridings. Riding #1 shared representative Nathaniel Pettit with York and Durham counties; riding #2 returned Benjamin Pawling; riding #3 returned Isaac Swayze and riding #4 shared representative Parshall Terry with Norfolk.


The first parliament of Upper Canada met on September 17, 1792 at Newark (now Niagara On-The-Lake). At this first session of the Legislature, the names of the four districts (previously named by Lord Dorchester in 1788  were changed and the Nassau District became the Home District.


On April 9, 1793, there came into operation “An Act to provide for the nomination and appointment of Parish and Town Officers within the Province.” The era of town meetings and quarter sessions began and lasted until 1841, when Upper and Lower Canada were reunited.

In the absence of Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe, on July 21, 1796 Hon. Peter RUSSELL was appointed President of the administrative council of Upper Canada, a position he held until 1799. During his term, on October 15, 1797 the Provincial offices in Newark closed with the move of the capital to York.


On August 17, 1799 Hon. Peter HUNTER was appointed Lieutenant Governor and held this position until 1805. During his term of office, on January 1, 1800 the four districts were revised and the number of districts expanded, at which time the Home District area was changed and the District of Niagara was created. Niagara consisted of four ridings of Lincoln and Haldimand.

In 1800 the following officials of Grantham Township are known: Clerk of Peace – Ralfe Clench; Sherriff – James Clark; District Court Judge – William Dickson; Surrogate Court Judge – Dr. Robert Kerr; Surrogate Court Registrar – Allan McNabb.


The following is a list of the head of government for Upper Canada:
September 11, 1805 – 1806 – President, Administering the Province of Upper Canada  – Hon. Alexander GRANT
August 25, 1806 – 1812 – Lieutenant-Governor of Province of Upper Canada – Hon. Francis GORE (he went back to England between 1811 and 1815- in his absence the civil administration was committed successively to the senior military officer in the province)


Presidents Administering the Government of Upper Canada
October 9, 1811 – October 13, 1812 – Major-General Sir Isaac BROCK
October 20, 1812 – June 18, 1813 – Major-General Sir Roger Hale SHEAFFE, Bart.
June 19, 1813 – December 12, 1813 – Major-General Francis Baron de ROTTENBURG


Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada
December 13, 1813 – April 13, 1815 – Lieut. -Gen. Sir Gordon DRUMMOND, G.C.B.
April 25, 1815 – Lieut. -Gen. Sir George MURRAY
July 1, 1815 – Major-General Frederick Phipps ROBINSON, K.C.B.


Lieutenant-Governor (2nd Administration)
September 25, 1815 – 1817 – Hon. Francis GORE


June 11, 1817-1818 – Hon. Samuel SMITH


Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada
August 13, 1818 – 1828 – Maj.-Gen. Sir Peregrine MAITLAND, K.C.B.


Accession on March 8, 1820 – Hon. Samuel SMITH


Accession on June 30, 1820 – Maj.-Gen. Sir Peregrine MAITLAND, K.C.B.
Accession on November 5, 1828 – Maj.Gen. Sir John COLBORNE, K.C.B.
Accession on January 25, 1836 – Maj. Sir Francis Bond HEAD, K.C.B.


Accession on February 27, 1838 – Maj.Gen. Sir John COLBORNE, K.C.B.


Accession on- March 23, 1838 – Maj.Gen. Sir George ARTHUR, K.C.B.


Grantham Township records can be found in the Special Collections area of the St. Catharines Public Library. These records list the following Township Clerks as of the first meeting in January of each year: 1818 – 1819 – William CHISHOLM; 1820 – Samuel WOOD; 1821-1842 – Charles ROLLS.


February 10, 1841 – June 30, 1867 – Upper and Lower Canada became the united Province of Canada. Upper Canada became known as Canada West.


In 1841 the “District Councils Act” was passed and continued through 1849.


1849 – the “Baldwin Municipal Act” was passed which provided for the creation of municipal councils. Thus on January 1, 1850 Grantham Township was incorporated and Township Council was elected and a Reeve was elected from the elected council members by those members.


On July 1, 1867 the name Canada West was changed to the Province of Ontario

Happy Birthday Mr. Merritt

Statue of William Hamilton Merritt in downtown St. Catharines, Ontario.It isn’t everyday that you turn 215!

The Historical Society will be celebrating William Hamilton Merritt’s birthday on Thursday, July 3.  The event will take place at 7:00 p.m. at the Merritt statue on St. Paul Street at the east end of the Burgoyne Bridge (opposite of the Cenotaph).  It will include a historical walk around Mr. Merritt’s old neighbourhood including sights of the first and second Welland Canals. 

All are welcome to attend.

W.B. Allan – a St. Catharines’ Architect

William Allan - St. Catharines architectOn Thursday, May 22, Pat Menon reintroduced the Historical Society of St. Catharines to the life and work of former local architect William Bryson Allan.  Allan (1838 – 1911) was born in Scotland and immigrated to Canada in the 1850s.  After bouncing around Quebec and Ontario for a few years, he settled in St. Catharines in 1861 and started a furniture business with his family while also dabbling in undertaking, sewing machine sales and photography.  But it was apparent that Allan had a talent for architectural design.

St. Catharines Collegiate designed by W.B. AllanAllan’s first known design was the Riordan Mill in 1867.  In 1870, Allan married Isabella Dougan who was the daughter of a successful local builder.  Now with contractors, furniture makers and an architect in the family, the Allan’s and Dougan’s formed a formitable business team.  From there he did not look back.  Chronologically, some of Allan’s designs include: St. Paul’s Ward School (1871), Central School on Court Street (1872), First Presbyterian Church (1872), the expansion of the family furniture factory (1875), St. James Ward School (1876),  and St. Andrew’s Ward School (1883).  Other designs included the Protestant Orphans’ Home, Grantham Academy / St. Catharines Collegiate, St. Thomas Ward School, Merritton Cotton Mill, the R.H. Smith Company (saw works), the Oddfellows Hall, and the Merritton Town Hall.  From the late 1860s to 1900, Allan was quite prolific in St. Catharines. 

Allan’s last design was Memorial Hall in Niagara-on-the-Lake which opened in 1907.  Memorial Hall was the first building in Ontario designed specifically to be a historical museum.  The museum celebrated its 100th anniversary just last summer. 

While other local architects such as Tully, Latshaw, Dorr, Wiley and Badgley often receive more praise for establishing the architectural character of St. Catharines, it is important to remember the other architects like William Allan who added significant and memorable works of brick and mortar within our city.

John Burtniak sheds light on some “Vanished Villages”

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:

Rittenhouse School, Jordan HarbourJordan 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.

Basics of St. Johns from Page\'s 1876 mapSt. 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. 

Basics of Caistor Centre from Page\'s 1876 mapSome 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. 

April 24 Meeting – Some Vanished Villages of Niagara –

Generations ago, there were villages throughout Niagara that held much promise for the future.  They had general stores, schools, churches, mills and more.  Fast forward 100 years and some of these villages are not even on a modern day map.  Perhaps merely a footnote in a history book.  What happened to these villages?  Why did they disappear?  And what evidence is left of their existence?

Join the St. Catharines Historical Society on April 24 at 7:30 in the St. Catharines Museum to hear Society President John Burtniak reveal the fate of these villages of yesteryear.

Historical Documentary Preview – “Echo of the Future: A Tale of Sunnyvale”

On Thursday, June 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Mills Room at the St. Catharines Central Public Library, the Historical Society and the Library will be sponsoring the preview of the DVD “Echo of the Future: A Tale of Sunnyvale” .  This 47 minute film tells the story of Sunnyvale (Silicon Valley), California’s early radio manufacturing industry and the Bessey family.  The Besseys lived in St. Catharines before moving out to California and making it big and our city is part of the film.  Please join us.

For more information on the film, visit the film’s blog at http://www.echoofthefuture.com/.