Port Maitland "On the Grand" Historical Association

Port Maitland, Ontario, Canada


Port Maitland Lock Gets a Chance at a New Life

william_warnick
By William A. Warnick

Published Nov 11, 2004
in The Dunnville Chronicle


Those who live along the Welland Canal, be it in St. Catharines, Welland, Port Colborne or the many communities that dot its banks, likely feel they have a good knowledge of its history. Most know the current canal is the fourth to be built. Many likely know it has had two terminuses on Lake Ontario. One being at Port Dalhousie, while the other is still in use at Port Weller. Some may know where it once climbed the escarpment near Glendale Ave in St. Catharines. How many know the Welland Canal once used Chippawa as its Lake Erie terminus? I suspect fewer still know that for some years Port Maitland was used as its Lake Erie port! Little remains visible today of the first three canals. Oh there is a bit of a lock here and maybe some piece of an old spillway there, but mostly the old canals are buried or removed.

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Advertisment announceing opening of first Welland Canal

During the building of the 1st Canal, a ditch known as the Feeder Canal was dug from Welland to Dunnville where a new dam was built on the Grand River. The dam lifted the water on the Grand River, enough to allow water to flow into this ditch where it was used to provide sufficient volume to the many locks required as the canal climbed the escarpment. The Feeder was soon deepened to handle ships equal to those using the main canal. Ships could now travel to and fro from Dunnville even Paris, as in the main canal. In 1842 an extension was added to the Feeder at Stromness, and the Port Maitland lock was built at Port Maitland, allowing ships to enter Lake Erie.

map
Map showing how 1842 lock changed traffic

By the late 1920's ships had outgrown the old Feeder and Lock 27 abandoned. Fortunately it escaped a close call with progress when there was talk of filling it in. Today it remains the only visible lock from the Feeder system and is in remarkable condition.

Since 2003, groups of the Port Maitland lock volunteers, have removed considerable debris and have brought life back to the old lock. An information table and sign were added this spring and even more work was done during the summer to beautify the area. Recently, thanks to cooperation between Peter's Engines & Rental Centre in Dunnville and Stihl Ltd., Canada, a brushcutter was donated to the cause which will allow volunteers to cut the brush on the steep banks at either end of the lock.

I asked Ed Zynomirski the Director of Marketing for Stihl to express some thoughts regarding Stihl's involvement in the lock project. "As a corporate mandate, not only do we invest a lot of money into the research and development of new products that are designed to work in nature, but we are also committed to protecting the environment. The work that has been done to clean-up the Port Maitland lock in Port Maitland is an excellent example of preserving the environment and is something that we are proud to be associated with. This restoration project is not only a tribute to the environment, but also to that of our ancestors. After all, taking care of nature is the basis for lip. "

George Barnes and Sons We could not have done it without them. Wm. A. Warnick collection
George Barnes and Sons We could not have done it without them.
Wm. A. Warnick collection

Mayor Marie Trainer
Mayor Marie Trainer May 1, 2004
Bill Haartman, A constant volunteer at the lock Wm, A. Warnick collection
Bill Haartman, a constant volunteer at the lock
Wm, A. Warnick collection

Mayor Marie Trainer never missed a date at the lock. Wm. A. Warnick collection
Mayor Marie Trainer never missed a date at the lock.
Wm. A. Warnick collection

Councilor Buck Sloat often volunteered at lock. Wm. A. Warnick collection
Councilor Buck Sloat often volunteered at lock.
Wm. A. Warnick collection

Rob Chambers Dug right in there
Rob Chambers, Dug right in there

Russ Snively
Russ Snively

If you have items you wish written about or pictures you would be willing to loan, please drop me a note. Let me know how you feel about these articles.

William (Bill) Arthur Warnick - email

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