St. Davids Heritage Day. 1780 - 2003
Wilkinson, Ed, Compiler
Media Type
Item Type
The St. Davids Ratepayers Association
St. Davids Heritage Day
1780 ~ 2003
Chronological History of St. Davids & vicinity - compiled by Ed Wilkinson.
Self Guided Tour of St. Davids including information on 26 buildings and the cemeteries.
Booklet: 23 pages; ill.; soft cover with photograph of "St. David's Business District Looking North on Creek Road, circa 1910."
Date of Original
May 24, 2003
Corporate Name(s)
The St. Davids Ratepayers Association
Local identifier
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.16682 Longitude: -79.11627
Copyright Statement
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library
Agency street/mail address:
10 Anderson Lane P.O. Box 430
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0
Full Text

St. David's Heritage Day

May 24, 2003, Lions' Club Park


10:00 am - Lincoln Militia Artillery Reinactors Gun Demonstration

10:15 am - Highland Dancers

11:00 am - Fort George Fife and Drum Band

11:30 am - Scottish Country Dancers

12:00 pm - Against the Grain Celtic Singers

1:00 pm - Fort George Fife and Drum Band

1:30 pm - Dunai Ukranian Dancers

2:00 pm - Lisan Dingman Nagy School of Ballet Arts Dancers

3:00 pm - Lisa Brillon and the St. David's United Church Young People Excerpts from Godspell

3:30 pm - Lisa Cosens Brillon Studio Singers

4:00 pm - Six Nations Native Dancers


Chronological History of St. David' 1

A Self Guided Tour of St. David's Historic 9


Bob Gill

Jacqueline Dingman

Ted McQuade

John Rigamonti

Ed Wilkinson

Bruce Woodruff


Margaret Fensom

Catherine Francis

Sonia Grantham (Skylight Graphics)

The Heritage Day Committee thanks the many volunteers, performers,

exhibitors, vendors and donors who have made this celebration possible.

St. David's Heritage Day 2003


Paul Kent and Kent Heritage Farm

St. David's Lions' Club


Scott Street Greenhouses (G. Valstar)

York Manor B&B (Brigitte Scheres-Rose)

Ontario Construction Co. (R. Rigby)

Penner Building Centre (Harry Penner)

Serenity Garden B&B, Guy & Telsie Bell

Design Electronics (Lorne Byj organ)

J. Fensom Trucking

Skylight Graphics (Sonia Grantham)

Five Corners Tim Horton's

Nick and Caroline Matovic

Harber Mfg. Ltd. (Blair Harber)

Niagara Trailers (John Pitrie)

Steve Watson Portable Toilets

Against The Grain Celtic Band


Bill and Carol Bannister

S & B Antiques

St. David's Golf Course

Schneider Foods

White Oakes Spa and Resort

Lisan Dingman Nagy Dance Studio

Niagara Gateway Wendy's

Skyway Truck Stop (Husky)

Queenston Pottery Studio

Gales Gas Bar

My Backyard Fine Garden Structures

Dynamic Industrial Services

Alfidome Construction Ltd. Niagara Falls

Matovic Family/ Radisson Hotel

Crystal Springs

Greaves Jams

Harvest Barn Country Market

Boston Pizza, Sports Zone, Clifton Hill

Niagara Motors

Anonymous Friend


St. Davids Petro Canada

Olde Fireball Restaurant

Anna's Antiques Commisso's Food Market, Portage Road A&P, Montrose Road

Avondale (Head Office)

Kraft Foods, St. David's

Coca-Cola Canada

Virgil Avondale

Country Cravings

NOTL Avondale

Regal Florist & Garden Centre

MB Foods, Virgil

Morrison Street IGA

Eagle Valley Golf Course

Christina LeRose

Jacqueline Dingman

Newville Candles

McDonalds (St. Catharines)

Brief Chronological History of St. David's, Ontario and Vicinity

Compiled by Ed, Wilkinson

[Given available information the following attempts to capture some early history. There are probably errors and any input to the writer would be appreciated.]

First Nations people inhabited the St. David's area before the arrival of mainly United Empire Loyalists settlers who left the United States to remain loyal to Britain. The area is named after Major David Secord (King David, King being a term given to leading business men) who was a Sergeant in the Butlers Rangers, Major in the Lincoln Militia, Magistrate 1796, and Member of Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada, 1811-1844. Died 1844. (8)

The more settled community was founded by Richard Woodruff (King Dick), veteran of the war of 1812 (who was granted 200 acres for his service), a member of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada, 1837. He died in 1872. (11)

Pre 1652. Two important trails intersect at St David's, the north-south trail from Lake Ontario to the top of the Escarpment (Creek Road) and the east-west trail along the ledge below the Escarpment (current York and Queenston Roads) that extended from what is currently New York State to Lake Huron.

The Neutral Indian community located here was called Onyahrah. The Neutral Indians were skilled flint napers and the first farmers in this area.

The largest First Nations Ossuary (mortuary or place for bones) in Ontario was located in 1828 west of the stone cairn on St. Paul Ave on the top of the Escarpment.

1652. The Neutral Indians of St David's were annihilated by the Seneca Tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy.

1775. A trading post was established at St. David's because of its strategic location at the intersection of the two major trails.

This settlement pattern makes St. David's amongst the oldest remaining settled communities in Ontario.

1780 (August). Peter Secord aged 53, his wife Abigail, three sons and two daughters with five horses commenced farming on lot 90 in St David's. (1) (2)

He is credited as the first non-First Nations farmer in Ontario and was officially recognized with an additional land grant. (5) (8) (10)

1781. The Niagara Peninsula was purchased by the British from the Mississauga First Nations and divided into 100-acre lots to be granted to the United Empire Loyalists. These lots are still used today to identify property location.

Land grants in St. David's and vicinity are shown in Figure I (2).

1782. Peter and James Secord with government approval first constructed a sawmill and then a gristmill, just south of York Road on Four Mile Creek. (4) (10)

Peter Secord's first house, built the same year, was the basement of the south section of the house at 215 Creek Road.

1783. Secord's saw and gristmills were completed in 1783. These mills were built with Government financing and operated by the Secords. This was the second gristmill in Upper Canada (now Ontario). Both the saw and gristmills burned down in 1814 and the gristmill was rebuilt in 1815-16 and operated until the 1930's.

At that time this community was called Four Mile Mills.

1785-86. Peter Secord built a larger house to accommodate his family (46 Paxton Lane).

Joseph Clement and his wife Margaret Duffett farmed Lots 88 & 89 and built their house at what

is now 290 Creek Road.

1789. Major David Secord built a gristmill at 137 Creek Road. This building was not burned in 1814 during the burning of St. David's by American troops and it is still standing.

1790. The first St. David's school, built around 1790, was a stone structure in the area of the present school. It remained in use until 1871 when a two-room school was built.

The first teacher was Frances Goring. He taught from texts he wrote himself. Mr. Goring was knighted later in life for his role in education.

1796. Major David Secord purchased Peter Secord's property in St. David's. Peter moved to the Long Point Settlement on Lake Erie. (6)

1801. The Warner Meeting House at the Warner Burying Grounds on Warner Road was built by Christian Warner and was the first Methodist Chapel west of Kingston.

1782-1812. St. David's grew to become an important milling centre using waters from Four Mile Creek. There were four gristmills, a sawmill, a tannery, shoe, soap, candle and barrel factories, as well as two churches, a school and thirty to forty homes. It was larger than either Niagara Falls or St. Catharines.

1800-1820.A Negro community consisting of small farms was located at the south end of Tanbark Road in the current area of Highway 405. Following 1815 these farms were gradually bought out and made up the Hanniwell farm.

Only one family named Graham refused to sell. Their descendant by the name of Hedgeman was the last resident of this group in St. David's.

The Baptist church was located on Tanbark Road. This road was named after the elm bark used at the tannery and it was laid on the road for a base.

1810. The first Regiment of Lincoln Militia was formed in St. David's and vicinity. This regiment was involved in more engagements than any other militia unit during the war of 1812-14.

1812. June 18th the United States declared war against Great Britain.

1812. (October) General Sheaffe with six companies of Lincoln militia, British regulars and First Nation warriors scaled the escarpment east of the village (see stone marker on York Road) and defeated the Americans at the Battle of Queenston Heights.

1813-1814. During this period, after the burning of York (now Toronto), St. David's was the Capital of Upper Canada as well as at various times headquarters for the British army in Upper Canada and all of Canada.

The stone monument in front of the St. David's Presbyterian Church on York Road states "Headquarters of DeRottenburg 1812" commemorating that St. David's was the capital and military headquarters of Upper Canada for a period in 1812.

St. David's was mentioned in dispatches seventy-nine times and was occupied by the Americans six times. At other times it was a no man's land held by one side or the other's cavalry patrols.

1813. David Secord donated land in the area of the present United Church Cemetery on York Road for a church, school and cemetery.

1813. Orders were issued from Solomon Quick's Tavern (on what is now Paxton Lane across from golf course) for the capture of Fort Niagara and the destruction of the American Frontier from lake to lake (Ontario to Erie) in retaliation for the burning of Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake). Troops departed from St. David's to successfully execute this order.

Solomon Quick's Tavern was demolished in 1932.

We frequently read of invading armies abusing women and children. We seldom read of women and children abusing invaders. However deprived of its male inhabitants of military age, the actively hostile attitudes of the females, boys and older men of St. David's and vicinity eventually became so objectionable that part of the village was burned in retaliation for injuries inflicted on occupying forces. (8)

Letter from Major MacFarland 23 US Infantry encamped at Queenston to his wife, dated July 1814 "The whole population is against us, not a foraging party but is fired on and not infrequently returns with missing numbers. The militia have burnt several private dwellings and on the 19th (July) burnt St. David's 30-40 homes" (7)

A picket of Canadian volunteers under Cornet (rank of an officer in the cavalry) Henry Woodruff surprised some American scouts west of the village. In the skirmish the American commanding officer Colonel Isaac Stone's horse was killed. He swore revenge. His revenge came two days later on July 19 with the burning of St. David's. (9)

1814. (July 19) The burning of St. David's. At least four buildings were spared the torch -Solomon Quick's Tavern, the gristmill at 137 Creek Road, the stone houses at 215 Creek Road and 46 Paxton Lane. The house at 290 Creek Road was partly damaged. (8)

Washington, DC was burned by the British in retaliation for the burning of St. David's and Queenston.

The last remaining shell of a burned house from the 1814 burning was dismantled in 1915 on the creek side of Paxton Lane. It was called the little red house and had two bake ovens in the cellar and two large chimneys and two large fireplaces, one at each end. The rafters and floorboards were put together with wooden pins. The cellar was built of stone and dug into the bank above the creek. This house belonged to Mr. William Woodruff.

1815. In 1813 Major David Secord gave a large tract of land for a church, school and cemetery. Church construction for all denominations started in 1815 but because of a division of opinion in the Methodist church members, remained unfinished until 1843, This church remained in use until 1949 and was located close to the ravine on York Road where the cemetery is today.

The current United Church is build on land donated by Mrs D.F. Woodruff and the first services were held in April 1949 in the basement. The sanctuary was completed ten years later.

Post 1814. The industrious inhabitants of the village rebuilt their community and it eventually consisted of four gristmills; a tannery; shoe, potash, plough and barrel factories; a harness shop; a brewery; a print shop; several blacksmith shops and three hotels as well as thirty to forty houses. (8)

1815. Richard Woodruff built a large general store on the southeast corner of York and Creek Road. This building was demolished in 1961 for road widening.

1816. The first newspaper in the area, The Spectator, was printed at what is now 1367 York Road.

Its columns were full of names of dead and wounded militiamen, the widows and children of the

war dead and the relief, pensions and grants awarded to the war victims.

1818. The first steam gristmill in Ontario was built by Richard and William Woodruff along the creek behind 215 Creek Road. The Lowery brothers later used it as a fruit evaporator. The mill has since been demolished.

Six years later the Woodruffs built a water-powered mill on a site leased from Major Secord.

1820. William Woodruff built a brick building to serve as a general store located at 246 Creek Road. This building is currently an antique store.

1835. St.David's was served by a horse drawn railway operating between Queenston and Chippawa. This was the first of its kind in Ontario. The station for St David's was at the intersection of York Road and Progressive Avenue. The stone abutment in this area was built in 1854. The railway converted to steam in 1850 and closed in 1959. The locals called the railway Paddy Miles after the conductor who ran the train for many years.

1835. In this year also the Queenston Quarry opened and continues to this day. It is the oldest continuing industry in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

1836. John Sleeman built a brewery ((Stamford Spring Brewery) south of Townline Road and on the west side of Creek Road. This brewery operated until 1900 when it was converted to a water bottling plant. Later it was a recreation and dance hall called Ravine Inn. It subsequently burned down. Some ruins are still evident.

1850 and later. Fruit growing gradually replaced mixed farming as the main industry in the area. David Jackson Lowrey is credited with bring the first peach trees and the first commercial vineyard to the district in 1869.

1886. The first canning factory was operated by C. and J. Black. It was called the Silver Lake Canning Company and was located on Creek Road south of Townline Road. The plant canned fruit and vegetables and it closed in 1926.

1887. Cement works started by Isaac Usher burned limestone in the limekilns still visible on the

Escarpment east of the Village. This cement was used to build the Sault St. Marie and the Welland Canals. Two surviving houses in the Village were made with this cement, 167 and 234 Creek Road. These works ceased operation in 1903 because they could not compete with the new

Portland Cement.

1887. The brick Presbyterian Church on York Road was built in this year using in part bricks from the smokestack of James Counter Woodruffs sawmill. George Clement donated the land for the first church and Henry Woodruff the land for the manse at 234 Creek Road.

1897. The second canning factory was in a converted flourmill located near the current Kraft Canning Factory. Frank and Harry Lowrey started this plant which canned fruits and vegetables and made jams and jellies. The plant was sold to Canadian canners in 1903. It burned down in 1923 and was rebuilt and operates today.

1904. The third canning factory was owned by Isaac Usher and canned fruits and vegetables. This plant closed in 1915.

1907. Over the years there were four bank robberies in St. David's.

(1907) Robbers on horse drawn vehicles blocked the roads to Niagara Falls and St. Catharines while others in the gang removed the door of the safe with nitro-glycerine. In the meantime the teller returning to the bank heard the explosion and began hurling stones through the rear

windows. The robbers began to shoot their guns and then panicked and fled when lights came on in near-by homes. They left $5000 still on the safe. The teller was duly rewarded.

(1923) At the time the bank manager, Mr. Rogers, lived above the bank. An armed robber broke into the apartment with the intent of forcing the manager to open the safe. The robber's pistol went off slightly wounding Mr. Rogers on the head. A scuffle ensued on the balcony in the back

of the bank building. A neighbour, Mrs Archie Woodruff, threatened to fire her shotgun from the window of a nearby building. Mr. Rogers told her not to because she could hurt both men.

At that moment a shot rang out and the robber fell wounded. The manager's wife had shot him through the screen door using the manager's revolver.

(1951, August.) Two men successfully robbed the bank of $6000.

(1951, September) Three bandits again tried to rob the bank. The teller sounded the alarm while the manager shot two of the bandits and C. Slingerland fired shots into the tires of the fleeing car. A customer at the bank, using the manager's revolver also fired shots at the car. The three bandits later were captured.

1910. The Doyle Hotel, a large brick building with a livery stable, burned down. The hotel was located where the Petrocan Service Station currently is located. The flames from the fire could be seen for miles.

Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries. St. David's continued to grow during the first half of the 20th century and stabilized at approximately five hundred persons in the 1950's beginning to assume its present character. Major road widening in the 1960's resulted in the loss of many old trees and landmarks as building were demolished or moved. The old tannery ruins, the last of the mills as well as the Woodruff-Lowrey store were torn down to permit the elevation of the road.

The residential area was extended in the 1950-1960's by the Bevan Heights subdivision that overlooks the old village from the escarpment.

Cemeteries of St. David's and Vicinity

St. David's Cemetery (2)

This cemetery has the graves of many early pioneers of St. David's and Queenston and was established by the Secord family of St. David's.

The earliest discernable gravestone is that of Solomon Quick who died in 1823. It is believed that many people were buried here before that date.

Some of the memorable names to be found on graves are Secord, Lowrey, Woodruff, Clement, Hanniwell, and Stewart. Major David Secord after whom the village was named and Richard Woodruff, the founder of the village, are both buried in this cemetery.

The Warner Burying Ground (2)

This cemetery is located on Warner Road about two miles from St. David's and next to the Queen Elizabeth Highway. Some of the earliest pioneers of this area are buried here, their names being Hopkins, Clement, McKinley, Secord, VanEvery, Warner. The oldest grave is that of Stephen Secord who died in 1808.

In one corner of the enclosure are the remains of the stone foundation of a small church which was built in 1801. This was the first Methodist Church was of Kingston and was know as Warner Meeting House.

Clement Burying Ground

This cemetery is located behind the Presbyterian Church and next to the Lion's swimming pool. It is small and contains only four or five graves, all members of the Clement family. The main stone is that of Colonel Joseph Clement who died in 1880.

Crysler Burying Ground

West of Creek Road near Line 8 is the site of a small Crysler Family burial ground with a couple of gravestones still in place. This is one of the earliest non-First Nations gravesites in this area.

Historic Homes & Buildings of St. Davids

This section contains information about 24 historic homes and buildings, there are other homes in the village that were not included because of a lack of available information. If you have information about your home you would like to contribute to future writeups, please contact Ed Wilkinson.

The inclosed map provides a self guided tour of St Davids showing the location of each historic home and building in this section. While touring, unless invited, please respect the home owner's privacy and stay off private property. Thank you.

The Secord Mill ~ Bannister House

137 Four Mile Creek Rd ~ Circa 1789

The Black ~ Telford House

167 Four Mile Creek Rd. ~ Circa 1890

The Johnston ~ Wilkinson House "The Pines"

184 Four Mile Creek Rd. ~ Circa 1902

The Hanniwell ~ Armstrong House

185 Four Mile Creek Rd. ~ Circa 1895

The Sleeman ~ Whitworth House

190 Four Mile Creek Rd. ~ Circa 1872


214 Four Mile Creek Rd. ~ Circa 1839/1883

The Secord ~ Murdock House

215 Four Mile Greek Rd. ~ Circa 1782

Oddfellows Hall Building

231 Four Mile Creek Rd. ~ Circa 1905

Presbyterian Manse ~ Humphries House

234 Four Mile Creek Rd. ~ Circa 1890

The Duggan House

238 Four Mile Creek Rd. ~ Circa 1911

Wiley Hotel Building

239 Four Mile Greek Rd. ~ Circa 1823

The William Woodruff Store

246 Four Mile Creek Rd ~ Circa 1820

Imperial Bank Building

253 Four Mile Creek Rd ~ Circa 1908

Clement ~ Doyle House

290 Four Mile Creek Rd ~ Circa 1786

Locust Hall

1 Paxton Lane ~ Circa 1823

Secord ~ Paxton House

46 Paxton Lane ~ Circa 1785

The Lowrey House

1360 York Rd. ~ Circa 1908

St. Davids Spectator ~ Gill House

1367 York Rd. ~ Circa 1815

Lowrey ~ Birdsey House

1376 York Rd. ~ Circa 1912

Lowrey ~ Rignanesi House

1384 York Rd. ~ Circa 1820

Woodruff ~ Rigby House

1385 York Rd. ~ Circa 1815

Lowrey ~ McQuade House

1388 York Rd. ~ Circa 1913

Pendergast ~ McQuade Blacksmith Shop

The Swallows Nest

1388 York Rd. ~ Circa 1870

St. Davids Presbyterian Church

1436 York Rd. ~ Circa 1887

St. Davids United Church

1453 York Rd. ~ Circa 1949

United Church Cemetery

Burd ~ Morley House

97 Melrose Drive ~ Circa 1965

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St. Davids Heritage Day. 1780 - 2003

The St. Davids Ratepayers Association
St. Davids Heritage Day
1780 ~ 2003
Chronological History of St. Davids & vicinity - compiled by Ed Wilkinson.
Self Guided Tour of St. Davids including information on 26 buildings and the cemeteries.
Booklet: 23 pages; ill.; soft cover with photograph of "St. David's Business District Looking North on Creek Road, circa 1910."