Building Waterdown

The life of Alexander Brown, Part 2

In 1819, Alexander Brown was among the residents of East Flamborough Township who signed the circulated questionnaire from Robert Gourlay, commenting on the conditions and incentives for those interested in settling in the township. Among the comments about the township was that its very small population had resulted in little development and perhaps this forced Brown to realize that his construction of a couple of sawmills had largely failed to attract settlers or other interested developers in the way nearby Crooks Hollow in West Flamborough had succeeded under the influence of James Morden and later James Crooks.

During the early part of the 1820s, Brown agreed to sell much of his property to a young entrepreneur, Ebenezer Culver Griffin from Smithville, Ontario. In 1823, he was appointed as one of the Commissioners of the Burlington Beach Canal project, initiated to allow schooners from Lake Ontario to safely cross the narrow sandbar at the entrance of Burlington Bay. Once completed in 1833, Brown and his sons constructed a small shipping station on the north side of the bay to serve the area. Known as Brown’s Wharf, it was located at the foot of an Indian trail that ran from Waterdown to the bay – the area that is now known as LaSalle Park.

The volume and variety of produce passing through Brown’s Wharf increased dramatically during the next two decades as Waterdown, through the influence of Ebenezer Griffin and his brother, Absalom, rapidly developed into a prosperous industrial village. Goods shipped from the wharf included thousands of barrels of flour and apples, pearl and potash for the manufacture of explosives, building stone from escarpment quarries, lumber for ship masts and woollen goods. Products also entered the township through the wharf and were hauled up the escarpment by teamsters in convoys of wagons – overtime work being paid by a bottle of whiskey per man.

Colonel Alexander Brown died on August 9, 1852, at his home on Burlington Bay and was buried in Union Cemetery, Waterdown.

Opening the Brown’s Wharf shipping station, located in what is now known as LaSalle Park in Aldershot, was the key to bringing prosperity to Waterdown.

Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at

This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 9 June 2006.


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