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Early Niagara Townships

As early as 1792 Americans from the colonies in New York State were already arriving along the shores of Lake Erie. These earliest of settlers were labelled United Empire Loyalists because they were rejecting the newly formed method of government in the United States, and preferred the British form of government. However not all UEL were of British descent.

These earliest of settlers were more likely to be Quakers and Mennonites. Their religion did not allow military duty so many of these refugees sought land further inland...away from the fighting that was taking place along the Niagara River and the American colonies. It should be noted however, that these settlers played an instrumental role as well in the War of 1812. By that time some of the newly arrived settlers had already cleared land and planted crops which could then be transported along various waterways to the British military at Niagara.

In fact the population of Niagara grew at such a rate that new settlers would often find a place in the wilderness and lay claim to it. It became necessary to divide the territory into counties and townships.

In September 1792 Governor Simcoe called a meeting of the first legislature at Niagara. Prior to this he had declared a proclamation announcing the formation of a new province and fixing boundaries for the electoral districts. Upon his arrival at Niagara (Newark) he issued another proclamation dividing Upper Canada into nineteen counties to be represented by sixteen members.

Up until this time many of the settlements bore the names of the earliest inhabitants, a family legacy of sorts. Governor Simcoe's method of naming conventions was simple. All the counties would be named after a county in England or Scotland and then the townships would be named after various towns and villages within the original township in England or Scotland.

The first district to be named was Niagara. Originally Simcoe had renamed the town Newark and for many years it would be known as Newark but the name never stuck and people continued to refer to Newark as Niagara. Later the additional "on-the-Lake" title would be given to distinguish it from its southern neighbour, Niagara Falls.

Niagara district became the County of Lincoln, and each township within would be given the name of a township within Lincoln County, England. Hence the township names Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Grantham, Clinton, Louth, Grimsby, Caistor, Stanford, Gainsborough, Willoughby, Thorold, Crowland and Bertie.

All of the above townships initially formed The County of Lincoln in 1792. However in 1845 the southern portion of Lincoln County was annexed to form Welland County. In 1970 both counties almalgamated to form the Regional Municipality of Niagara.