Thursday

Merritton History - Part 1

During the 1840s, the present area of Merritton was then a portion of Grantham Township. The area consisted of four settlements: Centreville (at Lock 9), Westport (at Lock 15), Protestant Hill, and Slabtown (at Oak and Elm Streets). Since the area was around the Welland Canals that were built locally in 1829, the four settlements took the name Welland City in 1850. In 1858, Welland City decided to switch names with a place called Merrittville (present day location for the City of Welland) and was renamed Merritton. The idea was appealing to local residents in both settlements since the new City of Welland was on the Welland River and the “seat” of Welland County; while on the other hand, Merritton had the Honourable William Hamilton Merritt – a prominent local entrepreneur and the founder of the Welland Canal Company.
Formation of the Welland Canal Loan Company and the purchase by this company of large areas of land “to found an industrial manufacturing area and develop water power” lead to the tremendous growth of Merritton. Sawmills and gristmills were established locally which dotted the banks of the first Welland Canal. These new mills were operated by soon-to-be long-term area families such as the Hendershot, Beatty, Brown, Phelps, and Waite.
In 1852, the Great Western Railroad came to the area and a rail line was laid through to Niagara Falls. Merritton was home to the first electric railway in North America, when in 1887 one was built to connect Merritton with St.Catharines.
The mid 1850’s saw heavy industrial manufacturing begin to appear with construction by the Beaver Cotton Mills Company of the stone building which later became the Independent Rubber Company. The rubber plant closed in the 1920s and the building was acquired by Interlake Tissue Mills for storage until the place was ravaged by fire in 1961. The remains of the building are one of many local heritage sites is currently occupied by the Keg restaurant. Part of the building was painstakingly restored to its original condition by Merritton Development Inc and then sold to the Keg restaurant in the early 2000s.
In 1861, across the road, Gordon McKay built the Canadian Coloured Cotton Mills. The factory was later renamed the Lybster Division of Dominion Tar and Chemical. The site is another example of a local heritage site extensively renovated. Currently the location is occupied by Johnny Rocco’s Bar and Grill restaurant.
In 1862, Canada Carbide built a plant on what is now Oakdale Avenue and also constructed a series of power houses at Locks 8, 9, and 10. This was followed in 1871 by Lincoln Pulp and Paper Mill, built by Sylvester Neilon. This mill was later owned by the Woodruff family but was later acquired by the Dominion Tar and Chemical Company. In 1864, the first sulphite process mill was built by John Riordan. This mill operated until 1923 when it passed into the hands of receivers and lay idle for many years. It was briefly occupied by Kaupp Electric and White Supply but for decades has been used by Sun Collision for storage purposes.

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