Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Mystique of St. Catharines, Part 2

The Mystique of St. Catharines, Part 2

By Touko Fukami
The MiTSS News
November 4, 2072

The Merritt family arrived after this time, among the later Loyalists to relocate following the American Revolution. They were from the Carolinas, New York state and New Brunswick. In 1796, Thomas Merritt arrived to build on his relationship with his former Commander and Queen's Ranger, John Graves Simcoe, now the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada.

At an unknown early date, an inn was built by Thomas Adams on the east side of what is now Ontario Street. It became a community meeting place, election centre, stagecoach stop, and mail delivery deposit. This was preceded by the church and a log school house completed before 1797, all located on the east bank of the 12 Mile Creek at the extreme west end of the what was known at that time as Main Street. This was an extension of the old Iroquois Trail and was renamed St. Paul Street by the settlers and descendant by the mid-19th century. Several mills, salt works, numerous retail outlets, a ship building yard, distillery and various other businesses were developed next.

The first Welland Canal was constructed from 1824 to 1833 behind what is now known as St. Paul Street, using Twelve Mile and Dick's Creek. William Hamilton Merritt worked to promote the ambitious venture, both by raising funds and by enlisting government support. The canal established St. Catharines as the hub of commerce and industry for the Niagara Peninsula.

Merritt also played a role in making St. Catharines a center of abolitionist activity. In 1855, the British Methodist Episcopal Church, Salem Chapel was established at the corner of Geneva and North streets, on land granted to the congregation by Merritt in the early 1840s. The area became known to refugee slaves from the United States as a place of "refuge and rest"; it was a destination, one of the final stops in Canada on the Underground Railroad for refugee African-American slaves. By the mid-1850s the town's population was about 6000, 800 of whom were "of African descent". St. Catharines remains an important place in Black Canadian history.

The Town of St. Catharines was incorporated in 1845. St. Catharines was incorporated as a city in 1876. The St. Catharines Armoury is a recognized Federal Heritage building, #1991 on the Register of the Government of Canada Heritage Buildings.

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