Thursday, July 26, 2012

Burlington, Ontario ... Part I

 Seven days I was out of country…visiting American friends.
 When I returned  Wed. evening, crossing the Burlington Bay Skyway Bridge,
I was enamoured with the panoramic view of my city nestled along the shore of
Lake Ontario.  Exiting to Northshore Boulevard, I drove along Lakeshore Road
adjacent to the lake. Its shops, its outdoor cafes with tables and “sunbrellas”,
the locals enjoying the beauty of Spencer Smith Park, its weeping willow trees,
refreshing lake breeze and vast ocean like waters…all captured my attention. 
The traffic people and vehicles  meandered the Lakefront…
reminded me of driving through a resort town many years ago...Lake Placid!

In February, 2012, I posted on my blog…My Homeland…The Golden Triangle.
This is My Canada…My Ontario…My Escarpment Country…My City of
Burlington…which I introduce to you…a place where I have lived since 1968.
Located at the western end of Lake Ontario and adjacent to Burlington Bay,
our current population is approximately 176,000.

Derivation of Its Name

Burlington evolved from a small village
into a bustling city that continues to grow.
Today, it boasts a  population of approximately 175,000.
Aboriginal peoples were the first inhabitants of the area. 
The clear water and sandy shores of the bay 
inspired them to call this shimmering body of water
 Lake Macassa which means “beautiful waters.”

Early Explorers and European Settlers

                               One of the first European explorers travelling through the area
                               was Robert La Salle who camped in the vicinity in 1969...
                               now known as La Salle Park.

                               Years later, the first European settlers began to arrive.
                               They referred to the vast lake as Lake Geneva
                               Many of the settlers were United Empire Loyalists ~
                               North American settlers who remained loyal
                               to the British monarchy who emigrated from US.

                               The Lake Geneva area was once again renamed
                               by the Governor General of Upper Canada ~
                               John Graves Simcoe...who when he first set
                               on the bay, was reminded of his hometown near
                               Bridlington Bay. He altered the name slightly
                               and renamed it...Burlington Bay.

Shapings of Burlington

When Joseph Brant received a land grant in 1784, he chose a prime site
overlooking Lake Geneva, Lake Ontario and the Beach Strip.  As a United Empire
Loyalist and a captain in the British in the British army, Brant received 3,450 acres ~
3,000 for himself, 50 for his wife and 50 for each of his eight children. 
The tract of land on the lakeshore became known as Brant's Block.
On the property's most scenic spot, Brant built a house of cedar logs covered with
white frame siding.  A replica of the house, which is now the Joseph Brant Museum
sits adjacent to the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital.

Since Brant was perpetually in need of money, from time to time he sold lots
within the block. In 1803 he sold 200 acres to Nicholas Kern, and the next year
 he sold 205.5 acres to Thomas Ghent.  In 1806 lots were sold to Michael Grote
and Ebeneezer Guise.

After Brant died in 1807, his friend, James Gage of Stoney Creek purchased
338.5 acres from the estate.  On this land he laid out a town site.  The land
remained undeveloped until 1820 when he began to transfer lots to his sons.

In 1806 part of Nelson Township was purchased from the Mississauga Indians.
This land extended from the lake to two concessions north of Dundas Street
(Hwy. 5).  The land was further surveyed in 1817 extending to Derry Road.

All of this land was eagerly sought after by settlers because it was so
conveniently located near Lake Ontario.  Settlers farming this land needed
access to markets and two main roads...Brant Street and Guelph Line...
to give them easy routes to the lake.  At the bottom of these roads, docks and
warehouses sprung up and these sites became regular stopping places for
lake schooners.

Until the official opening of the Burlington Canal in 1832, the village of
Wellington Square, at the foot of Brant Street, was a more important port
than Hamilton.  At times, there was a congestion on both Brant Street
and Guelph Line with wagons lined up to Middle Road waiting to deliver
their grain and other products to the docks.

In 1844 almost 11,000 barrels of flour were shipped from the Square.
During the Crimean War (1853-56) vast quantities of grain were sent
overseas.  After the war, the demand for grain dropped sharply.  This,
combined with a series of poor harvests, caused a slump in grain business.

Gradually, the lumber industry became more important at Wellington
Square. As the demand for wood increased with the arrival of steamships
and steam-powered locomotives, lumber wagons replaced the grain wagons
in the lineups to the lake.

In the nineteenth century no one thought of conserving natural resources
as they seemed limitless.  When all the best lumber was gone, the lumber
industry ground to a halt. With the forest denuded and the advent of
larger lake ships that were unable to dock in shallow water, the piers
along the waterfront gradually fell into disuse and finally disappeared.

Fortunately the Ice Age had left a legacy of fertile soil on the plains
around Lake Ontario and, as the century drew to a close, the Burlington
area became famous for its market gardens and orchards.

In 1873, the villages of Wellington Square and Port Nelson petitioned
the government  for incorporation as the Village of Burlington.  The
foundation was laid for the development of today's modern city.

(The foregoing gleaned from...The Burlington Historical Society)

Pearl of Wisdom”
New history is formed every day.
Sometimes you have to put the old history behind you.
(Iris Johansen…from her novel, Stalemate)

Merle Baird-Kerr . . .composed April 24, 2012
Comments welcome … scroll down (may sign in as “anonymous”)


  1. Merle,

    I just love this article and historical knowledge on Burlington. I lived a great deal of my life there and worked at Joe Brant Hospital... so aptly named !
    Sometimes in our busy lives we forget important things such as where we came from. Thank you for the reminder. Burlington truly is a Enviromentally sensitive area to live in and we must repect that always !


  2. Sherrie...your comments are always greatly appreciated.
    How quickly we can forget!
    We...have grown tremendously
    as a well-planned city.