History of our Town

A little history on Dunnville

Historical information and pictures presented below is with gracious permission from the authors of “Grand Heritage” published in 1992 by the Dunnville District Heritage Association; “Bringing Back the Past” published in 2007 by the Dunnville District Heritage Association and from the “Then and Now” 1860-2010 Calendar celebrating Dunnville’s Sesquicentennial.

c. 1821, Anthony Mills, the original settlement for Dunnville, was located downstream from the present town.

In 1825, Salmon Minor – often erroneously called Solomon – builds himself a home in Moulton Township, some 35 years before Dunnville became an incorporated Village. His home, believe it or not, is still standing in almost the same location although it has undergone several renovations over the past 145 years.

In 1827, Dunnville’s growth really began, the year that William Hamilton Merritt decided that the logical place to begin the Welland Feeder Canal was at Dunnville, where the Grand River had just been dammed. The dam was originally scheduled for Port Maitland but this was stopped by Commodore Baron, then in command of the Naval Station there, who forbade the building of a dam any closer than five miles from the river’s mouth.

 In 1829, The feeder was finished on September 28th, when water was released from the upper river. In those days a swing bridge and wooden lock opened the canal traffic to the Upper Grand River and steamers were able to navigate from Buffalo to Dunnville and on up the river to Brantford.

In 1856 Railway service came to Dunnville. The Grand trunk Railway became Dunnville’s principal means of transportation for passengers as well as freight going from Dunnville to Goderich and later the Niagara area. In 1923 the G.T.R became part of the Canadian National Railway. Passenger service ended on October 29, 1960 but mail continued to be handled from the station for several years after that. The second railway service in Dunnville was the T.H. & B. (Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo) connecting Dunnville and Smithville. Regular passenger train service began on December 22, 1914 and came to an end in 1937.

In 1859 a census duly taken showed that the village contained over 450 inhabitants and in the same year 145 resident freeholders petitioned the County of Haldimand to be set apart from the Township of Moulton and elevated to the status of a Village.

The Village of Dunnville came into being on January 1st, 1860 with Mr. John Jarron as the first Reeve.

From 1868 – 1885 Dunnville High School classes were held in various places.

In 1884, The Dunnville Electric Company was formed by local businessmen William Haskins and James Rolston. Dunnville had street lights in 1885 and was one of the first communities in Canada to install them. Dunnville can boast of one of the first electric “arc” street lights installed in 1886.

In 1885 the High School was at the corner of Alder and Chestnut Street.

By 1886 Dunnville was an incorporated village of 1,700 people. Dunnville, which was named for John Henry Dunn a Director and President of the Welland Canal Company, became a prosperous trading and shipping centre with its own Custom House.

In 1900 with over 2,000 inhabitants the Village became a Town with the late F.J. Ramsey, a prominent merchant and businessman, being the last Reeve of the Village and the first Mayor of the newly incorporated Town.

In 1910 the House of Refuge is built to care for the poor and elderly.

In 1910, Sanitary sewers were constructed and a water filtration plant was built in 1921, although there was a water distribution system prior to that.

In 1911 a High School building was built on Lock Street West and Helena Street.

In 1912 Lock Street, Chestnut Street, Canal (Queen) Street and Bridge Street were the first to be permanently paved.

In 1918 Dunnville had a swing bridge and toll house across the Grand River.

In 1921 the Haldimand War Memorial Hospital comes into being.

In 1940 an Air Force Flying Training Station was constructed just south of Dunnville and in 1964 the wartime personnel erected a Mark II Harvard Aircraft adjacent to the Municipal Building as a memorial to the 47 Air Force personnel who lost their lives while serving at Dunnville during World War II.

In 1951 the Haldimand War Memorial Hospital was re-built and enlarged in 2008.

In 1954 the Dunnville Library building is moved to a location on Main Street.

In 1954 after extensive renovations, the House of Refuge is renamed Grandview Lodge.

In 1960 Dunnville celebrated its Centennial with a parade and other festivities.

In 1960 a new intake and pumping station was constructed on the shore of Lake Erie to provide an adequate supply of potable water, and in 1970 a Pollution Control Plant was opened to improve the environment of our vast natural resources.

In 1963 an ice arena was erected on Hydro Street and in 1966 new facilities for the Public Works Department were built.

In 1964 a new Dunnville bridge was built. The dam apron also undergone major repairs in 1995.

In 1967 a modern 4-bay Fire Hall was built replacing the old hall which had served for nearly 100 years.

In 1968 Dunnville High School underwent major renovations resulting in the present building and becoming Dunnville Secondary School.

In 1971 Grandview Lodge was re-built.

In 1973 the first Mudcat Parade was held.

On April 1st 1974, nearly 150 years after the arrival of Salmon Minor and following 114 years of organized government, the status of the municipality was again changed. The Act to establish the Regional Municipality of Haldimand-Norfolk provided for the amalgamation of the Town of Dunnville with the Townships of Dunn, Canborough, Moulton and Sherbrooke to form the new Town of Dunnville. The population more than doubled and the area of the new municipality increased from approximately 1,500 acres to over 71,000. The first Mayor of the restructured municipality was Charles I. Lundy.

In 1984 the Dunnville Library opens its new building on the site of the Dunnville Municipal Building.

In 2001 the Town of Dunnville ceases as a separate entity and becomes part of two single level counties, Haldimand and Norfolk.

In 2004 construction began to upgrade Grandview Lodge. By 2006 the present Grandview Lodge was completed.

In 2009 construction of new sewer and water systems was begun and still continues in 2010.

In the present – 2010- Dunnville is celebrating 150 years of growth and progress!

For the history of Muddy, click here.