When Upper Canada was created in 1791, eight years after the American Revolutionary War ended, it was viewed as a barrier to American expansion rather than the creation of a new country. And while some officials, such as the first Lt. Governor, John Graves Simcoe, foresaw the threat of future invasion, the challenges of establishing Upper Canada overshadowed everything else.
Although the townships of East and West Flamborough had been surveyed and many Crown grants of land awarded or set aside for government officials, militia and clergy in the years following the end of the American Revolutionary War and the establishment of Upper Canada, the population beyond the Niagara Peninsula was very sparse before war was declared in 1812. During the 1790s, less than a dozen property grants had been taken up by families in the Flamboroughs and less than 20 had been taken up at the Head-of-the-Lake by Loyalist families.
By 1805, settlement had begun to increase, with Loyalist families such as Hess, Filman, Horning, Land and Lottridge recorded as Crown Patentees in the area that would become Hamilton. Their properties covered almost 20 square miles, stretching from the south shoreline of Burlington Bay to about three miles from the Escarpment.
In the Flamboroughs, a small number of families had settled close to the shoreline of Burlington Bay and Cootes Paradise; names such as Fonger, Chisholm, King and Lyons appear in early land records. Atop the escarpment in West Flamborough, the first settlement, later known as Rock Chapel, had been established. There were no churches, schools or courthouses in the area, nor any form of local government, for the majority of land had been awarded to absentee owners, mainly government officials and soldiers who had no interest in the property, due to its remoteness from the centres of Niagara and York (Toronto) and the absence of roads, other than First Nation trails.
The same year, the British Crown reached an agreement with the Mississauga First Nation to purchase the land between the eastern boundary of East Flamborough Township and the Humber River, ownership that had proved to be a serious impediment to those wishing to settle on their lots on the Escarpment.
This release of land also initiated the construction of the second stage of Lt. Governor John Graves Simcoe’s plan for an east-west road across Upper Canada.
Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at email@example.com.
This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 15 March 2012.