Table of Contents
Niagara Falls History and formation
Niagara Falls history is an interesting one. The formation of the Niagara River and The Great Lakes Basin was a consequence of the ice melting after the end of the Ice Age. 18 000 years ago, Southern Ontario was all covered with thick ice that was released and fulfilled the basins with “fossil water” which is almost not renewable to this day. 12 000 years ago, after the ice receded to the north, Lake Erie, the Niagara River, and Lake Ontario began attracting the first inhabitants of these lands – the Clovis people who were mainly hunters living close to Lake Erie. They didn`t leave many traces to reveal more about their habits and living.
About 10 500 years ago after geological changes such as re-freezing, erosion, internal pressure, and melting of the ice, the glacial waters changed their route. This led to a drastic reduction of the abundance of water of Lake Erie, as well as a reduction of the flow of the Niagara River. The change in the high water lasted about 5000 years after which, under the influence of natural forces, the glacial waters changed their route once again passing through Southern Ontario and returned the full capacity of the Lake, the Falls, and the River.
Meanwhile, hunting tribes began to inhabit the forests that appeared in Southern Ontario. This period is known as the Archaic Period. “Onguiaahra” was the name of one of the first tribes that settled in these lands. It is considered that the name of the Niagara River comes from there.
3000 to 300 years ago, Southern Ontario was inhabited by the Iroquois group of Native Americans. In fact, this is the first group to create a simple political system in Ontario, build villages, and leave a cultural legacy, living in a system of clans ruled by a single elected person and united in alliances. The end of this period is marked by the European invasion but also influenced by internal conflicts.
When the French explorers first came to Niagara, they found two warring tribes of Native American nations – the Iroquois and the Hurons. There was a third group which is in harmony with the nature and living in peace –the so-called “the Neutrals” with a population of 20 000 – 40 000 until 1600. The Neutrals brought many new skills to the region such as trading, business, and industry.
The New World Era
In 1626, Niagara was firstly visited by Europeans – the French Etienne Brule. This first meeting with “The New World” led to the development of trade routes and the construction of commercial buildings on the American side of the River.
The thriving commercial life was interrupted by the United States declaration of war on Canada in 1812. The enormous commercial importance of Niagara-on-the-Lake made it an important strategic place, but also a battlefield after the invasions of US, British, and Canadian armies.
The post-war revival happened slowly. Houses were rebuilt, Chippawa became a center of industrial production, commercial buildings bloomed, the land transport route was primarily replaced by the Welland Ship Canal built in 1830. The Niagara Harbour and Dock Company also contributed to the prosperity of the new port. However, in the 1840s the relocation of the city headquarters led to depopulation and drove to collapse in the advanced force of industrial life.
The building of the Canal made it an attractive opportunity for job-seeking Irish immigrants. They settled mainly around Rye Street (or the Irishtown as it is known). During the revival period, the first ferry service was also opened across the River. An alley was created between the port and the top point on the Canadian site. This location turned to be the preferred place for tourism and hotel business development and became known as Clifton Hill.
The interest in the area led to the rapid development of transport. Dozen of bridges were built over the river. The first horse-drawn railway was discovered in 1841 moving between Chippawa and Queenston. In 1854 the horse-drawn carriages were replaced by steam wagons and the line began to serve the Town of Niagara Falls.
The development of transport also gave a boost to tourism. American citizens came for short or long vacations and the established religious camp in the area of Chautauqua gave impetus to the construction of a hotel and an amphitheater.
The first known photo of Niagara Falls was taken in 1840 by the chemist Hugh Lee Pattinson.
On March 29, 1848, the flow of Niagara Falls froze for the first and last time. Ice blocks blocked the mouth of the River and stopped the movement of water to Horseshoe Falls. There were a couple of cases when the river had practically frozen. The freezing of the water when falling from the waterfall created something interesting for tourists – “The Ice Bridge”.
In 1855, John August Roebling built the first railway suspension bridge – The Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge. It had a significant role in the connection between Canada and the United States and trade in the area with its three railway lines.
Niagara waters provided an opportunity for the development of the industry in another direction – hydroelectric power. After 1869, when Nikola Tesla discovered a way to use the generated force in households and industry, power plants gradually appeared at both sides of the River.
Over the time, tourism became a major industry for the region. The widely used transport to visit Niagara Falls was by boat, but with the development of the rail and road network, more and more visitors prefer car, train, or bus.
What is the history of Niagara Falls?
The formation of the Niagara River and The Great Lakes Basin was a consequence of the ice melting after the end of the Ice Age. 18 000 years ago, Southern Ontario was all covered with thick ice that was released and fulfilled the basins with “fossil water” which is almost not renewable to this day. 12 000 years ago, after the ice receded to the north, Lake Erie, the Niagara River and Lake Ontario began attracting the first inhabitants of these lands – the Clovis people who were mainly hunters living close to Lake Erie. They didn`t leave many traces to reveal more about their habits and living.
How did Niagara Falls get its name?
This period is known as Archaic Period. “Onguiaahra” was the name of one of the first tribes that settled in these lands. It is considered that the name of the Niagara River comes from there.
How far away can you hear Niagara Falls?
The Finnish explorer, Peter Kalm, wrote in 1751, "All the gentlemen who were with me agreed that the furthest we can hear is 15 leagues (45 km). Sometimes Tis said, the fall makes more noise, and the Indians look at it as a sure sign that bad weather is approaching.