Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Mystique of St. Catharines, Part 1

The Mystique of St. Catharines, Part 1

By Touko Fukami
The MiTSS News
November 3, 2072

St. Catharines (2071 population 151,800; metropolitan population 395,207) is the largest city in Canada's Niagara Region and the sixth largest urban area in Ontario, with 96.11 square kilometres of land. It lies in Southern Ontario, 51 kilometres (32 mi) south of Toronto across Lake Ontario, and is 19 kilometres (12 mi) inland from the international boundary with the United States along the Niagara River. It is the northern entrance of the Welland Canal. Residents of St. Catharines are known as St. Cathariners. St. Catharines carries the official nickname "The Garden City" due to its 1,000 acres (4 km2) of parks, gardens and trails.

St. Catharines is situated in an area for commerce and trade since it is located between the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and the Fort Erie - US Border. Manufacturing is the city's dominant industry, as noted by the heraldic motto, "Industry and Liberality". General Motors of Canada, Ltd., the Canadian subsidiary of General Motors, was the city's largest employer, a distinction now held by the District School Board of Niagara. TRW Automotive operates a plant in the city, though in recent years employment there has shifted from heavy industry and manufacturing to services.

St. Catharines lies on one of the main telecommunications backbones between Canada and the United States, and as a result a number of call centres operate in the city.

The city was first settled by Loyalists in the 1780s. The Crown granted them land in compensation for their services and for losses in the United States. Early histories credit Serjeant Jacob Dittrick and Private John Hainer, formerly of Butler's Rangers, as among the first to come to the area. They took their Crown Patents where Dick’s Creek and 12 Mile Creek merge, now the city centre of St. Catharines. Although never documented, some local St. Catharines historians speculate that Dick’s Creek was named after Richard Pierpoint, a Black Loyalist and former American slave. Secondary to water routes, native trails provided transportation networks, resulting in the present-day radial road pattern from the City centre. The surrounding land was surveyed and Townships created between 1787 and 1789.

After the Butler’s Rangers disbanded in 1784 and settled the area, Duncan Murray as a former Quartermaster in the 84th Regiment of Foot (Royal Highland Emigrants) was appointed by the Crown to distribute free Government supplies (victuals) for 2 years to the resettled Loyalists. He did this from his mill, built on the 12 Mile Creek in Power Glen. After his death in 1786, his holdings were forfeited to merchant Robert Hamilton of Queenston.

Hamilton tried to operate for profit the already well-established Murray’s Distribution Centre and Mill under the management of his cousin. Among other ventures, Hamilton became land wealthy, expropriating lands from subsistence Loyalist settlers who were incapable of settling their debts. Murray’s distribution centre, later Hamilton’s warehouse, and its location have long been a mystery. Hamilton’s major profits were derived from transhipping supplies for the military and civic establishments from his Queenston enterprise, not from charitably supplying the subsistence Loyalist settlers. Hamilton lacked interest in social development and sold his business to Jesse Thompson before the turn of the 18th century.

The small settlement was known as “The Twelve” and as “Murray’s District” to military and civic officials, but the local residents in 1796 and earlier referred to it as St. Catharines. This is confirmed in St. Catharines’ first history, written by J.P. Merritt: “to be historically accurate the name St. Catharines preceded all of these….”

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