house in st davids

St. Davids, Ontario

Before the arrival of the white settlers the Indians had a trail from Lake Ontario to the top of the Niagara Escarpment following the course of the Four Mile Creek. The Indians also had a trail that followed the base of the escarpment that ran from Queenston (and the Niagara River) in the east to Burlington Bay. St. David's, just a few kms west of the village of Queenston is at the junction of these two original Indian trails.

st. davids main street historic photoThe first settler to take up land in the area was Major David Secord, an officer in Butlers Rangers. He was granted 500 acres by the Crown. Another family member, Peter Secord was granted 300 acres in the vicinity.

The village sits at the base of the escarpment. Halfway up the escarpment are the St. David's springs, the source of the Four Mile Creek which meanders through the picturesque village on it's way to Lake Ontario.

The Four Mile Creek also provided the waterpower that ran several mills that were built in the village. Samuel Lutz built the first grist mill in 1792 powered by water from the creek. By 1810 there were four mills operating in St. Davids, as well as a distillery, a cooper (barrel maker) shop and a shoemaker.

St. davids homeSt. David's was a hub of activity before the War of 1812. Some of the earliest family names to settle in St. Davids are Fairlie, Meadows (Middaugh), Ostrander, Stewart, Secord, Turner, Butler, Clement, Crysler, Lowrey, Lutz (Lutes), Woodruff and VanEvery. A few miles west of St. Davids were the Warners and the Gorings. The Warner family cemetery can still be seen from the highway as you near Niagara Falls.

Another notable resident of St. Davids was Charles Ingersoll, the brother of Laura Ingersoll Secord. Laura Secord would gain notoriety for her heroic walk from Queenston to DeCew to warn the British of an impending American attack.

The village of St. Davids sustained substantial damage during the war of 1812. It was taken by the Americans six times, regained by the British forces seven times. Finally on July 19th, 1814 the Americans were driven out of St. Davids but before leaving they burned the entire village to the ground destroying over 40 homes and buildings.

The British, so enraged by the burning of Newark, Queenston and St. Davids retaliated by burning down Washington, the capital of the United States in August 1814. After the war of 1812 the village rebuilt itself from the rubble. David Secord donated land at the base of the escarpment for a church and cemetery.The village grew to include a plough works, a saddlery and harness shop, three blacksmith shops, and a shoe polish factory. By 1830 St. Davids had a large stone quarry. There was also a small office that published "The Spectator".

log cabin tourist camp, st. davidsEventually the grist mills that were used to sustain the industries were no longer needed and gradually the local economy shifted from small industry to growing tender fruit. Several canneries sprang up in the area as well as a mobile home camp. In 1970 the village of St. David’s combined with Niagara-on-the-Lake and formed the regional town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.