The town of Dundas is located along the western edge of Lake Ontario and along the Niagara Escarpment. In the early years of settlement Dundas was a significant town in Upper Canada. Dundas Street or Highway 5 followed a section of the Governor's Road, one of two routes constructed under the orders of John Graves Simcoe during his tenure as Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, the other being Yonge Street.
Originally, the area had been called Coote's Paradise. When Simcoe arrived in Upper Canada he set out to build a military road from Coote's Paradise to the Thames River. He divided the province into nineteen counties and used this route as the dividing line between Lincoln and York Counties. This dividing line would also be the foundation for the Governor's Road. Simcoe had the foresight to understand that if the Americans should ever gain a foothold on the Great Lakes he could still transport goods and troops to Lake Erie via the Grand River and to Lake St. Clair via the Thames River.
In 1793 the Queens Rangers Regiment cleared the forest and laid out the road which would become known as Dundas Street. At each end he laid out a garrison village, and although barely inhabited by settlers, one was known as Coote's Paradise (now Dundas) and the other as Oxford (now Woodstock). Today this street is still called Governor's Road in Dundas but in Woodstock it is referred to as Dundas Street.
The very first settlers to Dundas were a widow by the name of Anne Morden and her nine children, John, Ralph Jr., James, Moses, Elizabeth, Anne, Eleanor, Catharine and Jane. Previously the family had resided in Easton Pennsylvania where Ralph Sr. owned a small farm. In 1780 he helped a friend named Robert Land. Sympathetic to the British, Robert Land would eventually leave the U.S. and become Hamilton's first settler.
These were dangerous times in America and British loyalty could cost you your life, and such was the case for Ralph Morden Sr. The American forces were suspicious of Robert Land's dealings with the Indians. When they attempted to arrest him, although wounded, he managed to escape. Ralph Morden was captured and accused of being an accomplice, and although pleading his innocence to the end Ralph was hanged in Easton PA on November 25th, 1780. Anne continued to live on the farm in Easton but three sons, John, James and Moses joined British forces in Niagara. In 1786 John returned to Pennsylvania and convinced his mother and sisters to make the journey to Fort Niagara where they spent the winter of 1786-1787.
Around this time John Morden made the trip from Niagara to visit Robert Land who had built a log cabin on the shore of Burlington Bay. John ventured further on, into Coote's Paradise, discovering the Dundas Valley. It was here that he would settle the remainder of his family.
In the spring of 1787 the Morden brothers set to work clearing the forest and planting a modest garden. They would also construct a mill. Three years later John would sell the mill to Richard and Samuel Hatt and Manuel Overfield and they would continue to build the mill even larger, renaming it Dundas Mills. In 1804 Richard Hatt built a stone store a short distance from his mill. This stone building is still standing at 2 Hatt Street. By the year 1809 Richard Hatt had purchased all shares in the mill and continued to buy land in the Dundas Valley. For the next decade, until his death in 1819 he worked tirelessly to promote the town of Dundas.
Five early roads all terminated at or near the Dundas Mills; the Governor's Road (1793), the old Ancaster Road (1799), the Waterloo Road (1801-1803), an Indian trail to Barton Township and the York Road (1808). By 1816 a regular stage coach ran from York (Toronto) to Niagara, making an overnight stop in Dundas.
In 1816 the District of Gore was formed and the location of the County Town was chosen to be the farm of George Hamilton and the new town was named Hamilton. By the twentieth century the City of Hamilton had surpassed Dundas in significance and size. Today Dundas is part of the City of Hamilton.
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