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The vanished hamlet of DeCew Town was located along the edge of the Niagara Escarpment between DeCew House and DeCew Falls.
Settler John DeCew built several mills on 200 acres of land he purchased in 1792 on the escarpment above 12 Mile Creek. DeCew was captured by American Patriot forces and imprisoned in Philadephia. DeCew escaped in 1814 and returned home to active service with his regiment, the 2nd Lincoln Militia.
After the war, he rebuilt his sawmill and constructed a stone grist mill at DeCew Falls. Other pioneer services followed, and a small settlement called DeCew Town developed in the kilometre of road west of DeCew House towards DeCew Falls. These buildings formed the nucleus of a village called DeCew Town.
The settlement owed its existence to the waterpower generated by the creeks and streams in the region. Despite occasional problems with a diminishing water supply which caused idle spells during dry weather, DeCew Town became a significant centre of economic activity.
John DeCew was an early supporter of the Welland Canal. He anticipated that the newly proposed Welland Canal would pass through DeCew Town, and that the future of the little hamlet - and of his businesses - would be assured. However, the actual route of the canal was relocated further east, bypassing his land entirely. Water was diverted from local streams to supply the newly constructed Welland Canal, and the DeCew Town water supply was soon reduced to a trickle.
In 1833, angered by his rivalry with Welland Canal proponents William Hamilton Merrit and George Keefer, and frustrated by his inability to get compensation from the government for the water diversions that ruined his business, John DeCew left the area and moved to Haldimand County near Hamilton. There, aided by a substantial compensation he eventually received from the Welland Canal Company itself, he founded another settlement known as DeCewsville, west of Cayuga. He died there in 1855 at the age of 89.
In 1837, DeCew’s grist mill was put up for sale. It probably never sold, because it was in ruins by the mid 1860s. The other enterprises in DeCew Town likely met the same fate, and the town began a slow decline. Apart from the DeCew House ruins, the only thing left today is an 1820s house on DeCew Road that may have been a blacksmith’s shop and is now a private residence.
TripClip Audio File
Click to play or download DeCew Town TripClip (mp3 format)
This destination is also part of the TripClip tour 'Touring the Twelve.'
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.
Walker, Harriet Headley. 2013. A True Canadian Hero. http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/06/21/harriet-hedley-walker-a-true-canadian-hero/