Taquanyah Conservation Area sits on 336 acres of former farmland in the tiny hamlet of Decewsville, just west of Cayuga, Ontario. Trails lead through mature Carolinian forests, past wetlands and along Mill Creek, one of only two cold water streams in the lower Grand River area.
The Grand River Conservation Authority purchased the property in 1964 and in 1966 built a dam to alleviate flooding and create a wetland. The dam however caused the water to warm, and the warmer water was no longer able to support native species of coldwater fish such as brook trout. In 2005 the dam was removed allowing Mill Creek to gradually return to it's natural state.
Taquanyah Conservation Area is located on the exact site where John DeCew built a dam and millpond in 1833. John DeCew was the eldest son of Jacob DeCew and Elizabeth Bloome. He immigrated to Upper Canada in 1787 with his family, who were United Empire Loyalists. In 1788 he acquired land on Beaverdams Creek, a tributary of Twelve Mile Creek and built one of the earliest sawmills in the Nassau District of Upper Canada. Within close proximity of his mill along Beaverdam Creek he built a fine stone house, the remains of which are still standing to this day.
During the War of 1812 DeCew became Captain and commanded a company of the 2nd Lincoln Militia. Following the defeat at the Battle of Fort George he was taken prisoner and jailed by the Americans in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. John DeCew managed to escape his captors and in April 1814 he returned to Niagara, eventually taking part in the Battle of Lundy's Lane. During this time his home was occupied by the British and used as a headquarters and store. It was in this house in June of 1813 that Laura Secord made her famous trek from Queenston to warn James FitzGibbon, of the planned American attack at Beaver Dams. This led to the Battle of Beaver Dams near present day Thorold, Ontario, where FitzGibbon's force, together with about 400 Mohawk and Odawa warriors, defeated the Americans and took over 400 prisoners.
After the war John DeCew's milling business along Beaverdam Creek flourished but as his business prospered so did his need for water power to run his mills. The water levels in the creek fluctuated and DeCew, along with a neighbour who also owned a mill devised a plan to build a canal linking the Twelve Mile Creek with the Chippawa River (Welland River). The neighbour was William Hamilton Merritt and together with John DeCew and a few others, they would form the Welland Canal Company. When it became apparent the route for the canal would by-pass his mill and divert even more water from it, he sold his stocks in the company in 1825.
In 1833 a disillusioned John DeCew acquired 600 acres in Haldimand County. By 1835 he had erected a mill and a small community developed a short distance away which became known as Decewsville. John DeCew would continue to operate the mill until his death on March 25, 1855. He is buried at Decewsville, Upper Canada (Ontario).
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