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The Coat of Arms of Wainfleet Township consists of a white shield charged with a red cross which symbolizes the arms of Lincoln, England. The Maple Leaf is used to represent Canada. The Wagon Wheel and Bars WavyTownship of Wainfleet Crest depicting the Anglo-Saxon meaning of Wain "a wagon" and Fleet "a creek - a river", that is "a creek through which a wagon can pass." The Harrow representing the development of Agriculture in the area.

Crest: A Cranberry Bush, indicative of the natural flora in this area, on a wreath of colours argent and gules.

Supporters: The Mississauga Native, representing the tribe that settled along Lake Ontario. The Franciscan Priest, representing Father Daillon, the first Euroepan 1626-1678, being among the priests that established the settlement.


The History of the County of Welland published by the Welland Tribune Printing House, 1887 stated "It may be said that English Speaking Canada had no existence before immigration of the United Empire Loyalists from the United States which began in 1783".

The earliest settler of Wainfleet Township was David Morgan Sr. who, with his son David, paddled a canoe across Lake Erie to reach Point Industry. This was during the Revolutionary War. Point Industry in 1840 was renamed Morgan's Point in his honour. He brought corn and potatoes with him to start a crop. From his first crop of corn, he and his son loaded a bag in his canoe, paddled down Lake Erie and the Niagara River to Chippawa, portaged around the falls and on down Lake Ontario to Kingston to the nearest grist mill, then back home the same route with his bag of corn meal.

Soon after, in 1785, Street's grist mill was built at Niagara Falls so the settlers living along Lake Erie could paddle down to the mill. But for those inland the trip was made on horseback. Later, the two Zavitz Brothers built the first grist mill in Wainfleet Township at Sugarloaf.

The first record of the survey of Wainfleet Township was in 1788 when Lieut. P.R. Frey was instructed to proceed with the survey of this part of the Niagara Peninsula. At that time it was a part of Lincoln County. It was named Wainfleet by Lieut. Gov. Simcoe after Wainfleet, England, as it also had an extensive marsh. Wainfleet appeared under its present name on the map of Upper Canada in 1798.

Some settlement had preceded the surveys giving rise to many disputes later. The British Government gave grants of land to retired officers and men for their services to their county as some wished to remain and make their homes here. After the American Revolution, there were many former British subjects and Pennsylvania Dutch who, wishing to remain under the British flag and to escape persecution in the newly formed United States, settled in the Niagara Peninsula. These loyal people were known as the United Empire Loyalists and received a grant of land from the British Government and some supplies with which to start a new life. The first child born to each United Empire Loyalist family received a grant of 200 acres. Among those receiving grants dating between 1796 to 1813 are many familiar names, descendants of early settlers, such as: McGill, Canby, Zavitz, Smith, Burk, Gleason, Furry, Misener, Doan, Cook, Minor, Kinnaird, Gibson, Hardison, Hamiltion, Cochran, Wilson, and Chambers.

The following sections will discuss the history of Wainfleet and the local area from 1 A.D. to the present, covering 2,000 years.


The first Native tribe known to have settled in this area of temperate climate, teeming with the bounty to sustain life, was the Mound Builders. This tribe, which some experts believe to have originated from the Ohio Valley, are thought to have settled in the Niagara Region around 1 A.D. Relics of the Mound Builders have been found near Lewiston, NY, and through carbon dating methods, they have been shown to belong to a period no later than the second century A.D. It is unknown just when the tribe left the area surrounding the Niagara River, but it is supposed that they were probably driven off around the sixth century, since there is no evidence of burial mounds in the region dating from the following century. It is also supposed that the invaders who drove them off were the ancestors of what were to be known as the Five Nations or Iroquois Natives.Township of Wainfleet

Sometime after the Mound Builders' departure came a tribe known as the Chippawa Natives, but they did not stay long. The Attowatians, or Neutrals, followed. The Neutral Nation was so-called because of their impartiality towards the wars and disputes between the Huron Natives to the north and the Iroquois to the south of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

At first the tribes were nomadic. They were hunters and gatherers of food who followed fish and game. Two migratory routes through the area were marked by paths which the tribes followed. These hunters, however, eventually developed primitive methods of farming. Through trial and error they learned how to cultivate the arable lands of the region, raising crude plots of maize, berries, and herbs as well as various vegetables. At the time of Champlain's expeditions, the Neutrals were renowned for their production of tobacco. And so with an abundance of crops and game, the natives of the Peninsula lived a relatively peaceful existence in harmony with nature.

It is unknown how or when trade began among the different tribes, but it is known that trade began on the Great Lakes at least six centuries prior to the arrival of the Europeans in America. The early lack of trade development was probably due to transportation difficulties. Heavily forested terrain greatly restricted overland travel, leaving only water routes which were often barred by such obstacles as rapids or the falls at Niagara. These falls, called "OH-NEE-AH-GAH-RA" which means "Thunder of Waters" by the natives, were revered as a god by the early native inhabitants.

The natives of the area had two major deities. The "Holder of the Sky" was a source of wisdom for them. Like the Greeks in ancient times who sought advice and answers in oracles at Delphi, the natives consulted this god before any major decisions were made. To complement this positive god, the natives also had a god which was responsible for the negative aspects of existence. The "Great Voice" was responsible for war, fears and natural disasters. There are legends that tell of human sacrifices made to appease this god, but these legends belong more to folklore than to fact.

This, then, was the state of Native Settlement prior to the coming of the Europeans. The Peninsula was inhabited by the Neutral Natives, a peaceful tribe with primitive methods of agriculture. To the north the Huron Natives and across the lakes to the south were the Iroquois, enemies of the Hurons.

The Iroquois were a war-like nation made up of five tribes: Cayugas, Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, and Senecas (between 1712 and 1722 the Tuscaroras came from South Carolina to join the confederation thus making it the Six Nations). These five tribes had formed a loose confederation and lived side-by-side in comparative harmony, their savage attacks restricted to tribes which did not belong to the confederation, such as the Hurons. Their domain covered an area which stretched from the east end of Lake Erie to the Hudson River.

The territory of the Iroquois was greatly enlarged after the arrival of the Europeans. Fur trading soon became a major industry throughout French Canada and the British Colonies. To ensure profitable relations with the Europeans, in the early 1600s the Iroquois instigated wars with tribes to the west in fur-bearing territories. The Iroquois were very successful and celebrated victories as far south as Georgia. Although these wars did not directly affect the Neutral Natives which inhabited the Niagara region at the time, hostilities between the Iroquois and the Hurons to the north would have their effect on the Neutral Nation fifty years later.

With the arrival of the Europeans and fur-trading, it was not long before opposing alliances were set up among them and the Natives. Champlain arrived from France and set up an alliance with the Hurons, so their enemies, the Iroquois, approached the Dutch and British. The first hostile encounter between these opposing factions came in 1609, when Champlain and three companions were asked to accompany a Huron war party in an attack on their enemies. Not wishing to lose their respect, Champlain agreed and he and his companions went with the Hurons to Lake Champlain. Here, armed with his musket, something with which the Iroquois were not acquainted, he sent the opposing forces fleeing in the opposite direction. The Iroquois would not forget this humiliation caused by the Hurons.

In 1648 the Iroquois began to wreak to revenge. In July of that year, armed with Dutch guns, the Iroquois went on the warpath to revenge those killed by Champlain and his companions. The results of this hostile expedition were devastating for the Huron tribes. That winter the Iroquois, quite uninvited, spent the fall and winter months in Niagara, in Neutral territory, celebrating their successes by feasting and rioting. With the arrival of spring they left the land of the Neutrals and once again set off to rampage Huronia. Again the Iroquois massacred the Hurons at every opportunity, and succeeded in defeating them handily. The Neutrals, horrified at what had happened to the Hurons, took pity on them and opened their homes to any Huron fugitives who had been lucky enough to escape the inhuman devastation carried out by the invaders. This act of charity, however, was to seal the doom of the Neutral Nation as the Iroquois turned on them. The customary Iroquois inhumanity came to the forefront once again as they massacred women and children, tortured and killed prisoners, and destroyed all in their path. Those who managed to escape joined the fleeing Hurons and were scattered into oblivion.

And so the Niagara Peninsula, because of events triggered nearly a half a century earlier by Champlain, became a virtual "wilderness waste" for more than one hundred years, with only the occasional Mississauga Native hunter or French adventurer passing through. As for the Iroquois Nation, disease brought by the Europeans and alcoholism took their toll as the nation underwent a gradual decline, eventually giving into the French and then later the British.


The first documented account of a French explorer in the Niagara region is that of Father Hennepin. Father Hennepin was a Roman Catholic priest who had come to Canada from France as a missionary to explore. In 1679, while traveling with LaSalle, Father Hennepin came to the peninsula and became the first known European to see Niagara Falls. In August of that same year, LaSalle, aboard the "Griffon", a ship which he had built at Niagara, sailed by Sugar Loaf Hill on his way to Fort Michilimackinac on Lake Michigan, thus being perhaps the first European to set his eyes on what is now Wainfleet Township.Township of Wainfleet  Le-griffon

But while the expeditions of Hennepin and LaSalle were the first documented accounts of excursions into the region, there may have been those that preceded them. In 1615, for example, Champlain sent Etienne Brule into the region to rally support for a proposed campaign against the warlike Iroquois. It was on this journey that Brule became the next European to see Lake Ontario, the Niagara Region, and possibly Niagara Falls.

Another who may have been in the area was Joseph de la Rote Daillon, a Recollet missionary to the Hurons who came down the Grand River into Neutral territory. The priest reported that the Natives lived in squalor and wickedness, but such things did not deter his fervor, and friendly relations soon existed between them. This friendliness was soon to end, however, when Daillon's good intentions interfered with the Hurons' financial interest in Neutral furs. The Neutrals had been marketing their furs through the Hurons via Huronia and the Champlain Road. Daillon merely suggested that the Neutrals might find it to their advantage to market their own furs via the St. Lawrence River to Ville Marie, thus cutting out the Hurons, and opposing the threat of Iroquois take over on the newly proposed route. Because of this the Hurons poisoned the minds of the Neutral Natives against Daillon, and so Daillon, first missionary to the Neutral Natives, was forced to leave the area.

In 1639-40 two more missionaries, Father Jean de Brebeuf and Father Chaumont, Jesuits, volunteered to visit the Neutral tribes around the Grand River. Again the Hurons turned the Neutrals against them and they were forced to leave. The next missionary to enter the area was Father Hennepin, of whom we have already been informed.

After LaSalle sailed by Wainfleet in 1679, the Niagara Peninsula was relatively quiet for the next one hundred years. This period of inactivity was to abruptly come to an end, however, after the American Revolutionary War of 1776-78. All those who allied themselves with Britain during this war were forced to leave their lands and seek refuge elsewhere. In most cases that "elsewhere" was Canada.

Among the many Loyalists who were making their way to Canada was Wainfleet's first known settler, David Morgan. But included also in the migration were Mohawk Natives who had allied themselves with British forces during the war, and who were therefore compelled to leave their lands in what is now New York State. Because of their support of British troops, they were given a grant of land along the Grand River, just to the west of what was to become Wainfleet Township. These Six Nations Natives were led by their famous chief Joseph Brant (Theyendenega) and they proved themselves to be greatly civilized. These tribes, who more than two hundred years earlier had inhumanely wiped out the Neutral Nation, were now a race of intelligent and honest men with good judgment and a love of truth. They did much to aid the first European settlers of the area, sharing their knowledge of how to live in the wilderness. Remnants of the cruel and revengeful side of their nature, however, did on occasion become evident, such as the case in the 1780s when three Natives stole a wagon laden with rum. The victim fired at the thieves, his riffle finding its mark. Had it not been for the cool head of Joseph Brant, a small massacre would have taken place as some drunken natives sought to revenge the fatal shooting incident.

Since this time the native population of the area has played no major role in the history of the region. They have lived in relative peace and harmony with the Europeans who came to settle the area.


The earliest European settlers were United Empire Loyalists who fled to the township and vicinity at the close of the American Revolutionary War. At this time the greater part of Wainfleet was heavily forested and unfit for cultivation owing to poor drainage back of the shore. To move from place to place was difficult; the only "routes" in the township were hardly recognizable Native trails which tended to keep to the sand shore strip in an effort to avoid the low-lying swampy regions inland; the only alternatives were to canoe along the Welland River or Lake Erie shore.

David Morgan from Pennsylvania, the first recorded settler, located his cabin on the well-drained soil found at Burnaby - one of the few dry areas in the township conveniently close to lakeshore transportation. His first crops were potatoes and corn - grown for subsistence purposes. At the close of the Revolutionary War Wainfleet's settlement was enlarged by an influx of new families - among them the Farrs and Zavitzs - who settled along the lakeshore close to water transportation.

The pioneer life of those days was severe; the nearest flour mill, until 1786, was at King's Mill at Niagara-on-the-Lake. In order to reach it settlers had to canoe east along the Niagara River and then portage north along the American shore to below its rapids where they resumed canoeing to the river mouth. The return trip was quite arduous. After 1786 the distance was shortened as a grist mill was constructed at Table Rock in the vicinity of the Niagara cataract. In 1792 the first grist mill was constructed in the township by the Zavitz brothers at Sugar Loaf Hill. The mill provided much needed milling facilities, not just for the settlement of about 100 people at Sugar Loaf, but for the entire Lake Erie shore.

Growth of settlement during the 1776-1829 period was mainly restricted to the sheltered bay head beach areas where boats could be brought close to shore - away from underwater extensions of the rock promontories. Cultivation on the well-drained undulating sand plain was almost nil, because between this region and the sand shore region lay the low-lying impassable swampy clay region and peat bog. Settlement on the drier limestone area was very sparse for the shallow infertile soils were not conducive to cultivation.


The construction of the Welland feeder canal from the Grand River across the clay plain to Welland, undertaken to provide a sufficient head of water for the operation of the Welland Canal, brought about a change in the settlement geography of the township. The completion of the canal prompted the municipal government to install a grid of drainage into the feeder canal. The excavated material from the ditches was utilized to form a road foundation thus allowing the building of a grid of roads through the low-lying clay and sand regions. The installation of the roads and ditches encouraged agricultural settlement inland, and the completed feeder canal (1832) was large enough to accommodate horse drawn barges and schooners loaded with cargoes of lumber and wheat, thus providing shipping facilities for people who settled near the canal's bank.

During this period a wagon route was built through the township from west to east connecting Dunnville on the Grand River and Port Colborne just east of the township. An extension of this route went north to the Welland River and then followed the river downstream to Welland. As this was a dirt road, traffic was restricted to dry periods when the road was passable.

By 1850 the township's population had increased to 1,500 from approximately 460 in 1817 reflecting a rapid increase of people coming into Wainfleet from Europe. This trend continued and by 1885 the population, chiefly of Irish extraction, had grown to 3,000.

Intensive clearing of the sand and clay plains took place with some of the lumber being cut by four sawmills for local use, while some of the logs were floated down the Welland River to a sawmill in Welland. By 1885 there were 4,000 acres of sand and clay plain sown in winter wheat; the yield that year was more than 100,000 bushels. Much of this grain was sold for cash and the grain was shipped and carted to markets in the growing cities such as Welland, St. Catharines, Hamilton, and Toronto.

Agriculture development expanded in the township. The Welland Bog region of the township, which up to now had been avoided owing to lack of funds for development, was purchased by the Municipal County Council with the expressed objective of starting to reclaim the land. Drainage ditches were installed, and by 1882 there had been 8,000 reclaimed acres disposed of to farmers while a remaining 5,000 acres were sold for later development.

In the southeastern part of the township quarrying activities commenced on the limestone plain with the advent of railways to the township in the 1850s. 200,000 bushels of white lime was produced yearly and exported to Buffalo.

In the early 1850s the great Western Railway subsidiary, the Air Line, was built between Detroit and Buffalo via Wainfleet Township. Although the rail line was primarily built to provide a "short cut" for American goods passing between the two mentioned cities, the railway did build Marshville Station to handle local freight and passenger service. Not long after, another railway, the Buffalo and Lake Huron Line, was built in 1858 crossing through the southern half of the township. The competitor railway opened Wainfleet Station one and a half miles northwest of Burnaby to provide rail facilities for local agricultural products and passengers.

Along with the construction of the feeder canal, roads, and railways, widespread settlement of the township occurred and hamlets developed at what are now Winger and Wainfleet Villages.
Winger developed on the present site of Highway #3 as a collection point for produce from the surrounding dairy and mixed farms which were becoming established throughout the clay and sand plains in this section of Wainfleet. A creamery was built to make butter, which was then carted to markets in Welland and Dunnville. A grist mill was also built at Winger to grind local corn into feed. As there is no trace of a former water supply at Winger, this mill probably was powered by a wood burning steam engine.
Marshville (Village of Wainfleet):
In the 1820s a hotel and tavern were built at the intersection of what is now Highway 3 and the Feeder Canal, which was under construction. For many years the facilities of the hotel and tavern were available to road and canal travelers. Upon the completion of the canal in 1828 a grist mill was built at this community known as Marshville. The mill was powered by water diverted from the canal into a raceway leading to a tributary of Forks Creek. The mill's services plus the availability of canal transportation resulted in Marshville in the 1830s developing into an agricultural collecting centre for products which were then shipped out of the township to markets via the Feeder Canal. The shipping services curtailed when the canal was closed upon completion of an extension of the Welland Canal to Port Colborne in 1890. The name Marshville was later changed to Wainfleet when the inhabitants discovered that flour sales dropped because prospective buyers refrained from buying from an obviously marshy area.
In contrast to the growth of Marshville, Burnaby in the south half of Wainfleet maintained the same size that it had in the early days of settlement as it was off the main transportation routes. Its general store and post office served the local farmers.

The period of 1832-1890 saw change in transportation along the lakefront. Local lake shipping was discontinued as farmers in the southern half of the township began to rely on faster transportation media made possible by the completion of railways and a lakeshore road to Port Colborne. Incentive was given to this changeover by the fact that the larger ships of the period would have had a difficult time in the shallow waters offshore.

The roads and drains made overall settlement of the township feasible but the physical environment did present problems to the new settlers. Often in winter snow drifts would isolate the farms for several weeks, and in wet weather traveling on the slippery clay roads was hazardous and sometimes impossible, thus hindering the movement of perishable agricultural produce to market.

The main theme that dominated the geography of this period was the extensive modification of the physical landscape by man. Men installed drainage ditches to lower the water table thus making land clearing and agriculture possible. Men built railways and roads thus introducing efficient means of travel throughout Wainfleet - except in the Wainfleet Bog. Farms were built inland throughout the township and changed the pattern of settlement from a line of farms along the lakeshore. With means of getting their goods to market via road and rail, farmers replaced subsistence farming with commercial farming.


By 1901 settlement had left very few sections of the natural landscape untouched. Roads and railways crossed the entire township and settlement had cleared and drained extensive tracts of land. Small communities were also firmly in place at Winger, Wainfleet Village, and Burnaby. Commercial farming had become the livelihood of the township with oats and wheat the main cereal crops on the well-drained regions, while dairy farming prevailed on the lower lying wetter lands. This was Wainfleet just before the turn of the century, a township with a stable established agricultural economy.

After 1901, Wainfleet began a phase of upheaval and change. Census data reveals that the area underwent a decrease in population from 1901 to 1921, and that the 1901 population level was not regained until 1941. This decrease was partly due to external development. The extensions of the railways resulted in the opening of new farm land in the prairies, and it was this lure of the West that took many young farmers from the township. In the years from 1914 to 1920 the additional feature of war contributed to this decrease. Many men left the farms of the township to contribute to the industrial war effort or go off and fight directly in the war.

No information is available from the census on township crop acreage from 1891 to 1901, but it can be ascertained that from 1911 to 1921 crop acreage did drop. Wheat decreased from 4,684 acres to 4,372 acres, oats from 5,280 acres to 5,068 acres, and hay from 10,516 acres to 9,333 acres. This decrease in cultivated land accompanied the decrease in the township's farm labour supply.

The rise in population from 1921 to 1931 reflects a new trend for some people to move back to the farms after the war, but a continued decrease in grain acreage continued for the same period (wheat acreage decreased from 4,327 to 3,228). This is largely explained by the fact that full-time farming was not the sole means of livelihood. Many inhabitants of Wainfleet were seeking work in the nearby urban areas of Welland and Port Colborne, but continued to farm part-time. The advent of widespread use of cars, and improved surfaces on rural roads, encouraged many former full-time farmers to hold full-time jobs in while living on the farm and working small acreage. This trend continued to the end of period for grain acreage decreased from 23,328 acres in 1931 to 20,150 in 1951.

Changes in livestock management were also instigated by part-time farmers. For example, some diary farmers in the clay region who changed to part-time farming switched to raising beef cattle, since it required less attention than raising dairy cattle.

In the late 1920s and 1930s a new trend in settlement began to modify the landscape as suburban dwellers began to settle along Highway 3 west from Port Colborne to where the highway veers north. Lower township taxes, the country landscape and the convenience of driving on all weather roads to work in Port Colborne and Welland were prime inducements for this new settlement.


The last half of this century saw more and more people living in Wainfleet who did not depend on agriculture for income. The number of people moving into Wainfleet Township continued, but these new arrivals worked in the factories and businesses located in Welland, Port Colborne, and St. Catharines. Intensive clearing of the sand and clay plains took place with some of the lumber being cut by four sawmills for local use, while some of the logs were floated down the Welland River to a sawmill in Welland. By 1885 there were 4,000 acres of sand and clay plain sown in winter wheat; the yield that year was more than 100,000 bushels. Much of this grain was sold for cash and the grain was shipped and carted to markets in the growing cities such as Welland, St. Catharines, Hamilton, and Toronto.Other industries also formed in Wainfleet that were outside of agriculture include manufacturing and other commercial enterprises. Wainfleet presently has a population of over 6,000.

Even with all the changes that had occurred through thisThe first record of the survey of Wainfleet Township was in 1788 when Lieut. P.R. Frey was instructed to proceed with the survey of this part of the Niagara Peninsula. At that time it was a part of Lincoln County. It was named Wainfleet by Lieut. Gov. Simcoe after Wainfleet, England, as it also had an extensive marsh. Wainfleet appeared under its present name on the map of Upper Canada in 1798. century Wainfleet Township has still held onto its agricultural roots. While other rural communities disappeared in this century to development, Wainfleet has still managed to remain rural and be a primarily agricultural community. Agriculture is still Wainfleet's largest industry heading into the new millennium.

Some changes did occur during the last half of this century along Wainfleet's lakeshore. More development occurred after World War II and into the following decades along the lakeshore. Cottages line the entire lakeshore from Sugar Loaf Hill to Long Beach. In the summer months the lakeshore has become a major vacation destination for beach goers and cottagers. This allowed a major influx of dollars heading into the township and the development of new businesses, primarily near Long Beach.

In 1970 many townships in the Niagara Peninsula lost their township status with the creation of the Regional Municipality of Niagara. This move combined Welland and Lincoln Counties under one governing body. Many local townships disappeared as a result of this move. The townships of Crowland, Humberstone, and Willoughby were annexed by larger communities such as Welland, Port Colborne, and Niagara Falls. Wainfleet retained its township; In the early 1850s the great Western Railway subsidiary, the Air Line, was built between Detroit and Buffalo via Wainfleet Township. Although the rail line was primarily built to provide a hip status and continues to hold it till this day. The year 2000 marked Wainfleet's 200th birthday, but as mentioned here, the area has a history far older than that.

Along with the construction of the feeder canal, roads, and railways, widespread settlement of the township occurred and hamlets developed at what are now Winger and Wainfleet Villages.