Grand River Branch
United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada
Selected Reprints from the
Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches
"Grimsby Early History"
Mrs. Alfreda Jeffries, February 1995, Vol.7 No.1, Pages 9-10
We would like to thank Alfreda Jeffries for her contribution to our meeting. The following report is a summary of Mrs. Jeffries' talk.
The Grand River Branch, U.E.L. met on October 16, 1994 at St. Andrew's Anglican Church. Our guest speaker was Alfreda Jeffries who spoke on the local history of Grimsby. The town of Grimsby, in the Regional Municipality of Niagara, is situated on the south shore of Lake Ontario, eleven miles southeast of Hamilton. Originally, the site of the town was called "The Forty", from its location on Forty Mile Creek. In 1816, it was renamed Grimsby after the city of Grimsby in Lincolnshire, England.
The first settlers in the area were United Empire Loyalists, Colonel Robert Nelles, a Loyalist from the Mohawk Valley, New York, built his home at The Forty in 1788. This fine colonial manor, completed in 1798, is now a historic site. Nelles, his father, Henry and his younger brothers had been among the first to settle at the mouth of The Forty. Robert later served as a Justice of the Peace, a Township Warden and a member of the Legislative Assembly. He was also a commanding officer of the 4th Lincoln Militia.
From 1784 to 1790, Loyalist settlers migrated into the Niagara Peninsula. Many settled around The Forty. Among the early families were the Pettits, the Carpenters, the Muirs, the Nixons and the Smiths. The residents of The Forty held a town meeting on April 5, 1790, the earliest known session of municipal government in Ontario. Two years later the community became part of the District of Nassau. The settlement later became part of Lincoln County. Much crop and property damage was suffered by the settlers during the War of 1812. In Grimsby's Waterworks Park stands a historic sites plaque commemorating the Battle of the Forty, which took place on June 8, 1813. American forces having retreated to The Forty from the Battle of Stoney Creek were bombarded by a British flotilla under Sir James Lucas Yeo. Indians and militiamen joined in the attack and forced the Americans to retreat to Fort George.
Grimsby's first church had been housed in a school erected in 1794 on land given by Robert Nelles. The building was replaced by St. Andrew's in 1804 and a stone church was built in 1825. Methodist services were held as early as 1817, although the congregation had no house of worship until 1864. The Presbyterian Church was built in 1837 under Reverend J. G. Murray. The Roman Catholics built their church in 1880 and the Baptists opened their church doors in 1880.
Grimsby has an active Historical Society which, from 1950 to 1959, released one book a year on the town's history. The Stone Shop Museum opened in 1963 in a shop built by Allan Nixon about 1800 and the Village Depot, a restored 1900 railway station, are reminders of Grimsby's past.