While the construction of the canal inspired a great deal of urbanization of the Niagara Region, but not all towns came into being because of the canal. Even before the canal came to the region, the area attracted a great deal of colonization in the days during and following the American Revolution mainly by Loyalists. Officially today they’re called United Empire Loyalists, and they formed the core of the original European population in Upper Canada, created out of the Province of Quebec. Quebec had been under British occupation since the end of the French-Indian War, and the government was maintained to match that of NewRead More →

By 1836 the Welland in its current form remained woefully behind the times. Compared to the canal systems along the St. Lawrence River, the military Rideau Canal, and the under-construction Trent-Severn waterway, the Welland Canal remained little more than a cheap imitation to the technology of the day. Technology had moved on, and most ships now used steam power rather than sail power larger ships, especially those with side wheels and greater drafts and displacements prevented the larger modern cargo and passenger vessels from fitting through the canal. To simplify the problem, the Welland Canal had outgrown its usefulness. But the need for a canalRead More →

The province that we know of as Ontario today looked a lot different some two hundred years in the past. There were no superhighways, factory outlets, or any major population centre every hour along the road. Trips were measured in days, not hours, and unless you were wealthy and in the merchant class, you rarely left your home settlement. The major cities numbered populations in the hundreds maybe thousands if lucky. And in Upper Canada (Ontario) the major centres were York (Toronto), Niagara (Niagara-On-The-Lake), and Kingston. The first major push to bring new immigrants into the backwater of Upper Canada was underway after the Anglo-AmericanRead More →

If you mention the Welland Canal today many people will think of the massive shipping channel cutting across the Niagara Penisula, an artificial river you see from the Garden City Skyway that carries the QEW over the top the channel. Part of an elaborate and technologically advanced highway and major trade corridor from the Atlantic Ocean to the northernmost Great Lakes. The Canal has humble beginnings. Since the earliest days of human settlement in the Niagara Regions, the major transit between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie has been the Niagara River. Even the first peoples realised they required a long portage as the great falls,Read More →

While the idea of cutting a channel to safely carry cargo and people across the Niagara Penisula was not a new one by the time William Hamilton Merritt came along and pushed the idea forward to completion, Merritt is the one credited with the concept. William’s father, Thomas Merritt served under Sir John Graves Simcoe in the Queen’s Rangers during the American Revolution. After the war ended Thomas and his wife Catharine Hamilton settled in Saint Johns, New Brunswick for some time. But the call of home beckoned and the two returned to Bedford, New York. In Bedford, on the 3rd of July 1795 thatRead More →

Earlier this year I completed the second major historical photographic project on the Confederation of Canada and the events and places that lead up to the joining of four British Provinces in British North America into the Dominion of Canada in 1867. Over the course of that project, I came across many events and locations that inspired me to try and tell the deeper story. Of course, I couldn’t tell every story so instead, I selected two that I felt I couldn’t tell the whole story due to the timeline for the project ending in 1867. One of these is the railroad through Ontario theRead More →

The term Dominion within the British Empire was not new. England first used the term to describe its relationship with Wales, much to the chagrin of the Welsh. But in the new Canadian context, Dominion would be a new concept. Canada was not a Province of the greater Empire, nor was she fully independent. A Dominion was a grey area, autonomous in all domestic concerns, but in the greater world, she remained sub-servant to England. In a nutshell, this meant that the Governor-General represented not only the interests of the Crown and the British Parliament, and Canada could neither send or receive ambassadors from foreignRead More →

Slavery is an ugly word and one sadly we here in the 21st Century still struggle with, both as an institution and a sticking point in the history of both Canada and the United States. And in any discussion about the pre-confederation history of Canada slavery is something that is intertwined with the increase in diversity in the population of the province and many who once were slaves impacted the province through their actions. Since the creation of the Act to Reduce Slavery in 1796 and the general emancipation of black slaves in the British Empire in 1833 provinces of the Empire provided new hopeRead More →

The Welland Canal had brought expansion and growth to the Niagara Region, along the canal work camps flourished into settlements, villages, and towns. But the canal remained under private control, and to maintain the wooden infrastructure they needed income from ship traffic and the fees paid to transit the canal. The trouble with the wooden structures is that they were getting old and starting to fall apart and by the start of the troubles of 1837 many of the locks could no longer function. And with the canal at standstill ships could not transit therefore no money would come to the canal, so the locksRead More →

Back when I was starting to work on my 1867 project a friend and fellow reenactor pointed me towards a facebook group called Friends of the Welland Canal. The facebook group is a joint effort between local residents and a group known as the Welland Canal Advocate (WCA). Over the Victoria Day long weekend, Heather and I took the opportunity to attend one of the monthly WCA hikes that took us through a section of the first and second canals that run through St. Catherine’s Centennial Gardens. That said when the canals were in operation, the area was actually in a separate community known asRead More →