Empire Loyalists

Major settlement in the area began during and after the American Revolution from 1775-1783. United Empire Loyalists began arriving in the area in the 1780s. They saw Canada as a refuge from the Untied States, who were fighting for independence from the British, and persecuting those individuals who wanted to remain under British rule. The United Empire Loyalists made the difficult journey to Niagara by wagon or on foot. When they arrived in Niagara they where given free land in the region by the British government, who gave them this land in payment for their allegiance to Britain during the American Revolutionary War.

Loyalists immigrated to the region, coming from north-eastern states including New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. They also came from many diverse backgrounds including English, German, Dutch, Scottish, Irish, and Afro-American, however, many of the African Americans were slaves who came with the families they worked under. The Niagara region did, however, attract many African-American immigrants who were seeking freedom from slavery in the United States.

Many of the Empire Loyalists were drawn to Newark, now Niagara-on-the-lake, because of its proximity to the United States. When the first Loyalists came to the region it was made up of dense woods, with only a few Indian trails. These pioneering men and women who settled in the area would largely be responsible for its development into a civilized society. They cleared the land to make way for roads, built log cabins, and began farming the land with seeds given to them by the British government. Fruit trees were introduced to the area, including apple, cherry and peach, and acres of forests were cleared to make way for fields of wheat and other grains. They also raised sheep, hogs and cattle. Soon churches, schools, taverns and mills were erected, and the area grew rapidly. In the late 1700s Newark was named the capital of Upper Canada, and by 1800 it was one of the busiest trading posts in Upper Canada.