Tour St. Catharines
History Of The City

Pre-1780's
  • Occupied by the Iroquois nations
  • Explored and visited by the French but not settled
  • Land was gradually transferred through treaties and proclamations to the British (who had defeated the French for control of Canada)
1783-84
  • The first settlers, Sergeant Jacob Dittrick and Private John Hainer of Butler's Rangers, came to the area where Dick's Creek met Twelve Mile Creek. This eventually became the centre of town
  • Native trails were used as travel routes, resulting in present day radial road pattern from the city centre
1783-86
  • First business was established -- a goods storehouse owned by Robert Hamilton and located near the present day Burgoyne Bridge
1786
  • First mill opened -- Crown Mills
1787-89
  • Land was surveyed
  • Townships were created
  • Grantham Township was created from part of Township #3
  • No provisions were made for the town site, resulting in haphazard growth
  • A small settlement was established known as The Twelve
  • Settlers now included military claimants, United Empire Loyalists, Mennonites and Quakers, mostly of English, Scottish, German Protestant, French Huguenot and Dutch Calvinist heritage
1792
  • Area became an important milling centre with five mills
1793
1796
  • St. George's church was founded on land deeded by Robert Hamilton for "the church at St. Catharines". It was located near the corner of Ontario Street and Niagara Road (what is known today as St. Paul Street)
1797
  • The first inn was built by Thomas Adams, located on the east side of Ontario Street next to what is now St. Paul Street. It became a community meeting place and stagecoach rest stop
1798
  • The Twelve became known as Shipman's Corner -- named after the inn's new owner Paul Shipman
1799
  • A wooden school house was built
  • Successful farms were emerging
1808
1810
  • "St. Catharines" name used on some merchants' bill-heads
1812-14
  • "War of 1812" with the United States
  • Village was not attacked but buildings were used for military purposes
  • Laura Secord walked 19 miles from Queenston to John DeCew's house to warn of an impending American attack on Beaver Dams
1816
  • Population now just under 100
  • Salt springs were discovered
1817
  • The post office was established with the name "St. Catherines" (note the spelling)
1818
  • William Hamilton Merritt, along with other mill owners George Keefer and John DeCew, surveyed the ridge separating the headwaters of Twelve Mile Creek and the Chippawa River (later known as the Welland River) with the idea of linking the two to insure an adequate water supply for their mills
1819
  • A fire destroyed much the village
1821
  • Name now officially being spelled "St. Catharines"
1824
  • Welland Canal Company incorporated. Its committee included: William Hamilton Merritt; his father Thomas; mill owners George Keefer, John DeCew and George Adams; tavern owner Paul Shipman; and merchant William Chisholm
  • W.H. Merritt obtained funding from the governments of Upper Canada and Britain, and from individuals in New York State and England
1825
  • Paul Shipman died and Niagara Road was renamed St. Paul Street in his honour
1826
  • Shipbuilding industry established
  • Bathing establishment started by Dr. William C. Chace at the salt works
  • The first newspaper was published -- "Farmer's Journal and Welland Canal Intelligencer"
1827
  • Population now at 384
1828
  • A schooner named "Welland Canal" was launched
1829
  • The first Welland Canal was opened from Port Dalhousie to the Welland River, following the Twelve Mile Creek and Dick's Creek. It had an eight foot draft and 40 wooden locks (each lock was 110 feet long and 22 feet wide)
  • A feeder canal was constructed from the Grand River in Dunnville to provide water for the Welland Canal since it could not be excavated deep enough to match the Welland River. This canal also provided local sawmills with access to timber resources of the Grand River Valley
  • Grantham Academy, a grammar school, opened. It was later named the St. Catharines' District Grammar School. Pupils came from across the peninsula to attend
1830
  • A dry dock was built in the valley below St. Paul Street
1832
  • A schooner named "W.H. Merritt" was launched by Russell Armington
1833
  • The first Welland Canal was extended from Welland to Port Colborne (then known as Gravelly Bay)
  • The newspaper merged with the "British Colonial Argus" to become the "British American Journal"
1835
  • Population reached 1,130
  • The first bank, "Farmer's Bank", was established
  • Land on North Street was given to the Blacks by W.H. Merritt and Oliver Phelps
  • The "British American Journal" joined with the "Farmer's Journal" and became the "St. Catharines Journal"
1836
  • St. George's church was destroyed by fire
1837
  • Following Armington's death, his shipyard was purchased by Louis Shickluna. The Shickluna Shipyards built many of the largest and fastest lake vessels, and designed special hulls -- including one for ice breakers
  • St. Catharines became a major shipbuilding centre of Upper and Lower Canada
1840's
  • St. Catharines called the "Garden City" for its location in the peninsula (which was known as the "Garden of Canada") and for its many gardens and nurseries
1842
  • Welland Canal purchased by the government of Canada
  • 2000 impoverished canal labourers looted stores, mills and a schooner for food
1845
  • Town of St. Catharines incorporated (with "ar" spelling)
  • Second Welland Canal opened with a slightly changed route. Wooden locks were replaced with limestone ones, 150 feet long, 26.5 feet wide and 9 feet deep
  • Population reached 3,500
1846
  • Telegraph system completed
1847
  • Bottling operation opened to market the mineral springs water
1849
  • New town hall built at the junction of King & James Streets. It was also used for concerts and theatrical events
1850's
  • Town became a popular haven for runaway slaves. Harriet Tubman, the "conductor" or "Black Moses" of the underground railroad, lived for a time on North Street
1850
  • First mayor, Burnard Foley, elected
  • Town divided into four wards (numbered one to four)
  • Second major newspaper, the "Constitutional", started
1851
  • Population at 4,368 (according to first official census)
  • 1,093 of the total population were Irish who had come to work on the canal
1852
  • "The Pride of Canada" was launched from Shickluna shipyards and sailed directly to England
  • Steamer named "Welland" was also launched
1853
  • "Great Western Railway" construction was completed, linking Windsor and Niagara Falls with a stop at St. Catharines
  • "St. Catharines and Welland Canal Gas Light Company" formed
  • St. Catharines was the first community in the peninsula to use gas for street lights
1854
  • Wards were reduced to three and named St. George's, St. Paul's and St. Thomas'
Mid-1850's
  • Resort hotels (spas) added. Gradually, spas became more important than the original salt works
1855
  • Railway access extended to Buffalo, Boston, New York City and the American West with the completion of a suspension bridge over the Niagara Gorge
  • Hamilton to Toronto section of railway opened
  • Water for fire-fighting remained scarce. The firehouse itself burned down
  • African Methodist Church, later renamed the British Methodist Episcopal (BME) Church, was dedicated
  • Full-time police force began with three constables
1856
  • "Welland Railway" line from St. Catharines to Port Dalhousie was opened. Station located on Geneva Street, north of Welland Avenue
  • "Great Western Railway" line from Toronto to Montreal completed
1857
  • Separate school system established
  • St. Catharines Horticultural Society formed
1858
  • "Welland Railway" line extended to Thorold
1859
  • "Welland Railway" line extended to Port Colborne
  • Steamer "Peerless" took passengers from Port Dalhousie to Toronto
1862
  • The Town Hall became the court house for Lincoln County
1863
  • Newsprint and fine paper industry started to develop with the establishment of St. Catharines Paper Mills in Merritton
1870
  • First central fire hall built
1875
  • Bylaw passed to construct a water works
1876
  • St. Catharines was incorporated as a city
  • City almost doubled in area as 1,000 acres, mostly in the north and east, were added (comprised of six wards: St. Andrew's, St. George's, St. James', St. Patrick's, St. Paul's and St. Thomas')
1877
  • Textile industry began with the opening of Warren Knitwear on St. Paul Street
1878
  • The telephone arrived with the relay of a concert from Hamilton to the Methodist Church on Ontario Street
  • Lachlan McKinnon opened a hardware store on St. Paul Street and manufactured carriages & wagons in a building behind the store. McKinnon's later became General Motors
1879
  • Telephone switchboard opened in an Ontario Street building
  • The first streetcars appeared called the "St. Catharines Street Railway". They ran from Welland House on Ontario Street along St. Paul and Queenston Streets to Hennessey's Corner at Thorold Road (now called Oakdale Road)
1880
  • Sewer system built
1881
  • Charter obtained for an independent railway ("St. Catharines and Niagara Central Railway") to connect St. Catharines to Niagara Falls
  • Train tunnel completed under the future site of the third Welland Canal. The tunnel was built to avoid delays for trains while the third Welland Canal was being constructed
1882
  • The Great Western and Welland Railways were purchased by and amalgamated into the "Grand Trunk Railway", giving the new system a monopoly to serve St. Catharines
1883
  • "Bell Telephone Company" established an exchange on St. Paul Street in the office of Charles E. Stuart
1884
  • The Canada Hair Cloth Company was incorporated
  • St. Catharines Electric Light and Power Company was incorporated
1885
  • Bell had 114 telephone subscribers and two public phones
1887
  • "St. Catharines and Niagara Central Railway" line opened from Niagara Falls to Thorold
  • Third Welland Canal opened. Locks were 270 feet long, 45 feet wide and 14 feet deep. The route differed between Port Dalhousie and Thorold -- it no longer followed the valley route and instead cut diagonally across farmland (bypassing the town centre). Original section from St. Catharines to past Merritton was closed to navigation but remained open to provide water power to mills
  • Streetcars powered by electricity supplied by a generating station on the Welland Canal
1888
  • "St. Catharines and Niagara Central Railway" line extended to St. Catharines. Station built on James Street at the end of Raymond Street.
Mid-1890's
  • Train tunnel under the Welland Canal replaced by a double-track steam-operated bridge on the original line of the track
1894
  • The six wards established in 1875 were reduced to three: St. Andrew's, St. George's and St. Patrick's
1895
  • Long distance calls could be made
  • St. Catharines became the centre of the fruit growing industry in Ontario
1898-99
  • "St. Catharines and Niagara Central Railway" offered for sale and bought by a newly-formed company known as "Niagara, St. Catharines and Toronto Railway" (NS&T)
  • NS&T granted the right to extend electric railway and to use vessels on the Niagara River and Lake Ontario
1902
  • Lakeside Park developed
1903
  • First rowing regatta held
1905
  • First street paved
1909
  • Reo Motor Car Company, founded by Ransome E. Olds, purchased Packard Electric motor car department to build automobiles. About 100 cars were produced per month
1910
  • First taxi cab commissioned -- a Reo car
1911
  • Population reached 12,484
1912
  • Jack Haney, a 23-year-old mechanic with the Reo Motor Car Company of St. Catharines, drove across Canada from Halifax to Victoria in a 1912 Reo Special touring car with English writer Thomas Wilby
1914
  • The Glen Ridge (later, Glenridge) and Burgoyne bridges opened
1921
  • Population reached 19,881
1931
  • Population reached 24,753
  • Fourth Welland Canal completed with entrance at Port Weller
  • Four bridges constructed across canal between Lake Ontario and the escarpment
  • Old (third) canal was filled in, with the middle portion being used as road lines
1932
  • Fourth Welland Canal was officially opened
1935
  • Canal depth increased to 25 feet
1940
1940-present More to come soon!
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