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There is a blind inlet on the bank of the Twelve Mile Creek, east of the Highway 406 pedestrian overpass to downtown St. Catharines. It is virtually all that remains of one of the Twelve Mile Creek’s most important tributary streams, Dick’s Creek. The creek also formed part of the original Welland Canal system. The valley of Dick’s Creek forms part of the 19 hectare Canal Valley park system between Glendale Avenue, Westchester Crescent, Highway 406, and the Twelve Mile Creek. Here, the creek contains only shallow standing or slow-moving water for most of its length, and dries up almost completely in hot summer weather.
The creek is named after Richard ‘Captain Dick’ Pierpont, a black Loyalist settler and former slave who fought with the British against the American Continental Army in the early 1780s. He was one of the original settlers of the St. Catharines area. Born in 1744 in Bundu, West Africa, now part of Senegal, he was captured during African tribal wars at age 16 and forced into slavery. He served as a manservant for a British officer during the American War of Independence, and was imprisoned in Pennsylvania. He gained his freedom and came to Niagara in 1780 as a soldier with Butler’s Rangers, and after his discharge he received 80 hectares of farmland in the area between Geneva Street and Oakdale Avenue, near the site of the St. Catharines General Hospital. The stream that flowed through his farm and into Twelve Mile Creek became known as ‘Dick’s Creek’. Richard Pierpont sold his farm in 1806. In 1812, he successfully petitioned the government of Upper Canada to create the first all-Black infantry corps in the country, known as the ‘Coloured Corps.’ This unit fought in many major battles of the War of 1812. Pierpont later moved to Garafraxa Township on the Grand River near Fergus, Ontario, where he died at age 93.
The area that we now know as St. Catharines was originally granted to Jacob Dittrick and John Hainer, former Butler’s Rangers. The parcel was located at the intersection of two creeks, Twelve Mile Creek and Dick’s Creek, at a point where the Iroquois Trail (presently St. Paul Street) crossed. Another early settler, Thomas Adams, built a tavern at the junction of the Iroquois Trail and another trail that ran alongside the creek, now known as Ontario Street. Eventually that tavern was sold to Paul Shipman, and the community became known as Shipman’s Corners.
In 1824, William Hamilton Merrit promoted Dick’s Creek as part of a revised route for the proposed Welland canal between the Welland River and Lake Ontario. Originally slated to cross the Niagara Escarpment near DeCew Falls, the revised canal route descended the escarpment near Merritton by a series of locks, and then used the channel of Dick’s Creek to reach the Twelve Mile Creek. The Welland Canal was opened in 1829. Dick’s Creek also received water discharged from the sophisticated system of millraces dug by the St. Catharines Waterpower Company, which supplied water from the upper reaches of the Welland Canal to many mills along the Canal’s length.
The Dick’s Creek section of the canal continued to be used for navigation until 1881, when a new, shorter alignment of the Third Welland Canal was completed between St. Catharines and Port Dalhousie.
With the abandonment of the Second Welland Canal in 1887 and the diversion of canal water into the Third Welland Canal, the Dick’s Creek section gradually fell into disuse. By the turn of the 20th century, water-powered mills were all but gone, and the industrial importance of the creek declined. The lower reaches of the streambed were buried under the Glenridge Fill in 1955 to make way for new road construction, creating a permanently landlocked channel where Dick’s Creek used to flow. Further filling and grading for Highway 406 created the blind inlet now visible adjacent to the Twelve Mile Creek.
Now containing shallow standing or slow-moving water for most of its length, the valley of Dick’s Creek forms part of the 19 hectare Canal Valley park system between Glendale Avenue, Westchester Crescent, Highway 406, and the Twelve Mile Creek.
TripClip Audio File
Click to play or download Dick's Creek TripClip (mp3 format)
This destination is also part of the TripClip tour 'Touring the Twelve.'
Dick's Creek can best be seen on foot or on your bicycle. The best viewpoint is the pedestrian overpass over Highway 406 in downtown St. Catharines. Look to the east and you cannot miss the blind inlet that is all that remains of the creek that once formed part of the original Welland Canal.
From downtown St. Catharines, the trail leading to the Hwy 406 pedestrian overpass can be accessed south of the intersection of McGuire St. and St. Paul Crescent. Parking for trail access is available on nearby side streets in downtown St. Catharines (meter charges may apply).
From the east side of Twelve Mile Creek, the Hwy 406 pedestrian overpass can be accessed via the Merritt Trail.
From the west side of the Twelve Mile Creek, the Hwy 406 pedestrian overpass can be accessed via the Participark Trail. Cross the creek on the St. Paul Crescent Bridge and turn right. Follow the Merritt Trail along Hwy 406 to the overpass. Parking for trail access is available along Hainer Street or St. Paul Crescent, just north of Rodman Hall.
Fraser, Don. 2001. Niagara's little-known trailblazer: A new book sheds light on one of our earliest settlers -- a black man who fought with the United Empire Loyalists. St. Catharines Standard (ON), Final, Spectrum, Saturday, February 17, 2001, p. E3.
Meyler, Peter and David. 1999. A Stolen Life: Searching for Richard Pierpoint. Natural Heritage Books. 141 pp.