Travel 40 kilometres up the Grand River from Port Maitland you will find a tiny community known as York. Around 1790 Captain Hendrix Nelles settled here on a large land grant known as the Nelles Tract. The small community became known as the Nelles Settlement.
By 1830 a post office had been established and the village was named York. St. John's Parish Hall was built in 1845 by George Hacon and was the first Anglican church in Haldimand County. By the 1860's the village of York was a bustling centre along the Grand River with a population of about 500.
A large business developed in gypsum with extensive beds of it being found in the immediate vicinity. Gypsum was used in the manufacturing of plaster, blackboard chalk and wallboard. The Martindale Brothers owned the York Plaster Mills which produced over 6000 tons of plaster a year.
There were several hotels to accommodate passengers travelling along the Grand River or crossing the 680 ft bridge located here. S. Nelles and R. Petch owned the York Hotel and Daniel Barber ran the Barber Hotel. The Barber Hotel, built in 1862 is still standing and can be seen in the photograph above. The hotel, built in the late Georgian style (simple, solid, and symmetrical) also doubled as a Masonic lodge known as Enniskillen Lodge. York was also the head quarters of the 37th Battalion of Haldimand Rifles, which would go on to fight at the Battle of Ridgeway during the Fenian Raids.
A Plaque on the grounds of the church at the corner of Hwy 9 (Nelles St/York Rd.) and Hwy. 54 (Front St. S.) reads:
The Nelles Settlement
After receiving lands on the Grand River in 1784, the Six Nations Indians invited Captain Hendrix Nelles, a Loyalist from the Mohawk Valley, to settle there with five of his sons. He and Robert, the eldest, established farms in what is now Seneca Township and built houses in which they lived until Captain Nelles's death in 1791 and Robert's removal to Grimsby. The grants, confirmed in 1787, were later changed to 999-year leases and John Nelles leased 325 acres across the river. William Warner and Abraham Nelles received Crown patents in 1836 for the original "Nelles Tract" in Seneca granted to their father and brother in 1787. The "Nelles Settlement" contained about thirty families in 1828.
Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Canada
Region 1: Southwest Ontario • Region 2: Niagara Canada • Region 3: Hamilton, Halton and Brant • Region 4: Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington • Region 5: Greater Toronto Area • Region 6: York, Durham and the Hills of Headwaters • Region 7: Bruce Peninsula, Southern Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe • Region 8: Kawarthas and Northumberland • Region 9: South Eastern Ontario • Region 10: Ottawa and Countryside • Region 11: Haliburton Highlands to the Ottawa Valley • Region 12: Muskoka, Parry Sound and Algonquin Park • Region 13a: North Eastern Ontario • Region 13b: Sault Ste. Marie – Algoma • Region 13c: Northwest Ontario