Taming Rock Chapel, Part 2

When the survey of West Flamborough Township was completed in 1793, this southeastern section of the township fronted onto the triangular water body that became known as Coote’s Paradise, so Concession 1 contained land that was almost entirely below the Escarpment, while Concession 2 comprised land both above and below.

During the last years of the 18th century, several American loyalists began moving into the area. Widow Ann Morden and her children were the first family to arrive in 1788, selecting land on the lower slopes, “on the sunny side of the Dundas Valley,” even before the surveyors had completed their work. When Augustus Jones had completed his surveying of the township, he recorded that several members of her family were squatting on 1,600 acres of land and so named the major stream of the area Morden’s Creek, after them. Ann, who was accompanied by some of her children, including her eldest son John, remained in West Flamborough until 1822, when the extended family moved to London Township in southwestern Ontario.

Other early settlers in the Rock Chapel area included Daniel Cummins, Harker Lyons and Isaac Smith. All were “Late Loyalists” from New Jersey, arriving at Niagara several years after the end of American War of Independence. Possibly their continued loyalty to the British Crown had resulted in political and social persecution; more likely they were attracted by the offer of free land from the British government, “in return for nothing more but an Oath of Allegiance.”

Lyons and his wife, Mercy Peer, received 400 acres, Lots 20 and 22 in Concession 1, in 1794, Daniel Cummins purchased several hundred acres in the second and third concessions and Isaac Smith received Lot 18 in Concession 2. Not all the first settlers were so fortunate in their allocation of land, as the Escarpment was to cause tremendous problems and hardship to those who were awarded land containing the vertical cliff face or land above, with no way to access it.

Smith, a blacksmith by profession, travelled to the top of the escarpment with a yoke of oxen and a sleigh when he arrived in 1796, as it was the only means of transportation to his new home.

His son became one of the outstanding farmers in the township, with claims that he had “the first pure-bred Holstein cattle in the province, was the first to grow alfalfa hay, and the first to grow mixed grains of oats, peas, barley and spring wheat.”

The Lyons family homestead was one of the first in the Rock Chapel area.

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

This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 11 August 2006.


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