Settlement in Waterdown and eastwards along Dundas Street dates from 1806, almost immediately after the British Crown came to an agreement with the Mississauga Indians for the purchase of their lands which stretched from the East Flamborough Townline to the Humber River.
With access to the interior from the north shoreline of Lake Ontario far easier east of East Flamborough, families with names such as Bastedo, Hopkins, King and Chisholm soon arrived and settled on the newly surveyed lands of Nelson and Trafalgar Townships. Other settlers moved further westward into East Flamborough, attracted by the potential power of the Grindstone Creek as it descended over the edge of the Niagara Escarpment and Col. Alexander Brown’s establishment of a small sawmill on its banks, just south of Dundas Street.
By the time Ebenezer Culver Griffin commenced selling lots from his prepared plan of the Village of Waterdown in 1831, there were a number of residents already living along the eastern entrance to the village. This oldest section of Waterdown, where Dundas Street descends gently to the Grindstone Bridge, has long been known as Vinegar Hill.
The name appears to have been in use from the earliest years of village settlement and may have originated because of the many market gardens with apple orchards that once lined the hill. Much of the apple crop, especially the windfalls and bruised fruit, were used for the production of cider made from late summer onwards. With no modern refrigeration available for storage, the cider had a very short life before fermentation changed it to vinegar. By the early Fall, the smell of fermenting apples was almost certainly noticeable to residents and visitors as they entered the village, and may explain the origin of the name.
By 1841, a decade after Griffin began selling off his property as village lots, there were 48 households listed on the Assessment Roll for Waterdown. Virtually all the development that had occurred in town by this date was at the eastern end of the village and most of the one-storey log or frame cottage-style houses were concentrated along Vinegar Hill and the east bank of Grindstone Creek facing onto Dundas Street. Besides this road, there were several small milling operations and factories located along the banks of the Grindstone, just two commercial buildings erected during the 1820s and a small burial ground.
Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 10 February 2006.