Early Commerce In Niagara

As an increasing amount of people settled in Niagara so did the demand for supplies and services. As time went on, traffic along the Portage Road increased as travelers, soldiers and fur traders rode along this road to bypass the Niagara Falls.

In 1785, John Burtch received permission to build the first saw and grist mill along the shore of the Niagara River approximately one mile upstream (south) of the Horseshoe Falls. Burtch’s Mills were built on the site of the present day Toronto Power Generating Plant. He became the first man to use water from the Niagara River for industrial purposes.

In 1787, John Donaldson built a saw and grist mill at the outlet of the Muddy Run Creek along the edge of the Niagara Gorge. This is the present day intersection of Ferguson Street and River Road.

In 1787, Thomas Hardy established a tannery business located in the Hollow, the area about half a mile south (upstream) of the Horseshoe Falls. Jesse Cole became one of the first shoe makers in Niagara. His business was located in Stamford.

In 1791, the only place of accommodation was a log hut for travelers which were located on the Portage Road just above the Horseshoe Falls. Visitors followed a path to the Table Rock to view the Falls.

In 1794, Benjamin Canby and John McGill built a saw and grist mill on the high banks overlooking the Islands (Dufferin Islands). The mill became known as Bridgewater Mills.

In 1796, an Inn was located at “the Crossroads”, which was located at an intersection of Portage Road and Lundy’s Lane.

In 1796, there were two hotels in Chippawa. One was the Fairbanks House, located at the mouth of the Chippawa Creek, was a hotel that had been built by Joshua Fairbanks. Fairbanks went on to build hotels at Queenston and Niagara Falls. The second hotel, which John Fanning built, was known as Fanning’s Hotel and was located farther inland.

In 1796, the Portage Road under went further construction to improve the road leading up the escarpment.

In 1797, Charles Wilson became the proprietor of the log hut on the Portage Road, and was renamed “Wilson’s Tavern”. During the War of 1812, Wilson’s Tavern was used by the British as a command post.

In 1798, two stage coach lines began operation. John Fanning began operation of a regular stage coach service from Chippawa to Newark (Niagara on the Lake). J. Fairbanks and Thomas Hind began operating the second stage coach service from Newark to Chippawa.

In 1799, tailors were among the first merchants who established businesses in the Niagara Area.

In 1799, Andrew Rorbach built the Whirlpool House Inn located along the Portage Road.

In 1799, Bridgewater Mills was sold to Robert Randall of Maryland. Randall obtained permission to add iron works to the mill. Randall became successful enough that he became the largest land owner in Upper Canada. Although in 1808 he fell heavily in debt and was jailed in Montreal where he remained until after the War of 1812.

Samuel Street Jr. and Thomas Clark took over Bridgewater Mills became two of the most wealthy and powerful people in Upper Canada. Thomas Clark built his house on Clark Hill over looking the Islands (Dufferin Islands). This house is on the site of the present day Oakes Hall Estate.

In 1800, James Machlem built a new tavern in Chippawa called “Macklem’s Inn”.

In 1801, James Macklem, Abraham Markle and William Hamilton began operation of a stage coach line called the “Niagara and Chippawa Stages”. This stage coach provided regular service between Chippawa and Newark. This service came to an end in 1802 when the business was dissolved.

In 1809, Mrs. Thomas Hustler of Lewiston built the first tavern on the American side of the Niagara Frontier.

In 1816, a regular stage coach service between Niagara and York (Toronto) was commenced at a cost of $5 and the travel time took 17 hours.

James Forsyth built a hotel along the Portage Road near present day intersection of Main Street. Forsyth was the owner of the land on which the National Hotel was built near the “crossroads”. The National Hotel was later renamed the Prospect Hotel. In 1799, Forsyth sold this hotel to J. Buchner. In 1827 Buchner sold this hotel to Harmanus Crysler.

In 1800, Doctor John Lefferty established a medical practice in Stamford. His office was located on Lundys Lane near the present day intersection of Dorchester Road.

The War of 1812 led to the suspension of regular travel along the Portage Road and the destruction of many buildings.

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