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Power Glen / Reynoldsville / Crown Mills
The tiny creekside community of Power Glen (a.k.a. Reynoldsville, a.k.a Crown Mills) has a long and fascinating history. Now a pleasant and inconspicuous residential neighbourhood bordering the DeCew Power Generating Station complex, it was originally one of the earliest and most important industrial settlements of Niagara.
Professor Alun Hughes of the Department of Geography at Brock University chronicled its development in the December 2008 Newsletter of the Historical Society of St. Catharines.
According to Professor Hughes, the first settler in the Power Glen area was probably John Turney or his son George, both former Butler’s Rangers. The Turney homestead stood by the old Indian trail that became Pelham Stone Road, and the family burial ground still exists in the woods north of Tailrace Road, the small road which leads south from Power Glen Village to the valley bottom. Though the Turneys did not formally own the land, they were eventually deeded the lots on which they squatted.
The original military land grant for this area was deeded from the British Crown to Lieutenant Duncan Murray of the King's Royal Regiment of New York, also known as the 84th Regiment of Foot. Murray started to build a saw mill and grist mill on the Twelve Mile Creek in 1786, but died before the mills were completed.
The land was next acquired by prominent Queenston merchant Robert Hamilton, who finished building the mills in 1787, and is believed to have engaged Robert Hainer as the first miller. The grist mill supplied the garrison along the Niagara River with flour.
In 1800 Hamilton sold the mills and most of the land to Jesse Thomas, who passed them on to his son Peter. In 1811, Peter built a substantial new grist mill from the pink Grimsby Sandstone later used for many buildings in Niagara. Very little of the grist mill remains in the valley of the Twelve Mile Creek below Power Glen, for it burned in the mid-1890s and stone was taken for use in other buildings. About 300 metres upstream of the grist mill are the remains of a mill dam, which created a pond that extended into Jackson's Flats, west of Power Glen. A raceway conveyed water from the pond and sawmill, which was located near the dam, and then to the grist mill. These features are not visible from the road, but are accessible along informal trails which follow the course of the Twelve Mile Creek.
Unlike the mills above the Escarpment, the water supply along Twelve Mile Creek was not badly diminished by the construction of the Welland canal, and they continued to operate. A succession of owners operated the mills over the next quarter century, including Short Hills millers Samuel Backett and Samuel Street. By mid-century, the little community came to be known as Crown Mills. These mills also seem to have suffered a decline, for they were described by then-owner William King as ‘dilapidated’.
But that was soon to change, thanks to the efforts of an American from New York State called Benjamin Franklin Reynolds, who bought the property in 1854. He built a substantial home for himself, which still stands, as well as 12 workers' homes and a boarding house. The village was named Reynoldsville. By 1871, the community had a population of about 60. Thomas Moffat and William Reynolds manufactured wagons and buggies, and Fossing and Second operated a wood pulp mill. Reynolds supplied timber to the Third Welland Canal and masts to Shickluna Shipyards in St. Catharines, as well as running a general store there. In 1886, at the age of 75, Reynolds was seriously injured in an accident and put his property up for sale. It is not clear if the mills ever sold, but they were shut down in 1893, and a year or two later the grist mill was destroyed by fire. Reynolds himself died in 1896, bringing to an end an important chapter in Power Glen’s history.
As electricity began to be adopted for industrial and municipal use, the watershed of the Twelve Mile Creek became important once again. The newly formed Cataract Power Company of Hamilton constructed a power plant not far downstream from the Reynoldsville mills, with a plan to transmit electricity to Hamilton, more than 50 km away. Workers and managers moved into the community to build and operate the power plant. In 1904, Reynoldsville was officially renamed ‘Power Glen’ when the little town acquired its own post office. The ‘pretty name’ of Power Glen was chosen by Mrs. Sangster, wife of the superintendent at the power station. In 1905 a number of ‘hydro houses’ were built for the workers, some of which still stand today. The power station in Power Glen has operated continuously since its opening, and was expanded significantly in the 1940s with the addition of a second generating plant.
For many years, the hamlet remained quite isolated. In 1970, municipal amalgamation made it part of the City of St. Catharines. Growth of subdivisions in the area started in the late 1990s and has encroached on the former village. This is a mixed blessing – though the little town has lost some of its geographical distinctness and individuality, roads and municipal services have improved. But as you travel along Power Glen Road, you can still see some of the quaint original street lamps still lining the roadside, reminding residents and visitors alike of the distinctive history of this tiny community.
TripClip Audio File
Click to play or download Power Glen / Reynoldsville TripClip (mp3 format)
This destination is also part of the TripClip tour 'Touring the Twelve.'
QEW Niagara to Hwy 406. Exit at Glendale Avenue. Right (west) on Glendale Avenue to Pelham Rd. Left on Pelham Road for 2.2 km. Watch for the diagonal intersection of Power Glen Rd. on the left. Travel down Power Glen Road. Carefully stop by the roadside and survey this once-isolated community high on the edge of the Twelve Mile Creek.
From Buffalo / Fort Erie
QEW Toronto to Thorold Stone Road. West on Hwy 57 (Thorold Stone Road) to Hwy 58 W (tunnel under Welland Canal). Exit on Hwy 406. Continue onto ON-58 N. Merge onto ON-406 N via the ramp to St Catharines. Exit on Glendale Ave (Regional Road 89). Turn left on Glendale Ave / Regional Road 89. Continue along Glendale Ave for 3.0 km across 12 Mile Creek. Left at Pelham Rd/Regional Road 69 for 2.2 km. Watch for the diagonal intersection of Power Glen Rd. on the left. Travel down Power Glen Road. Carefully stop by the roadside and survey this once-isolated community high on the edge of the Twelve Mile Creek.
Hughes, Alun. 2008. Shades of Reynoldsville and DeCew Town: A History of Power Glen and Vicinity. Newsletter of the Historical Society of St. Catharines, December 2008.
Below is the path