Provincial plaque memorializes Robert Nichol

PORT DOVER, ON, Sept. 24 /CNW/ - Today, the Ontario Heritage Trust and the Port Dover Harbour Museum unveiled a provincial plaque commemorating businessman and political figure Robert Nichol (c.1774-1824).

Nichol was born near the town of Dumfries in Scotland around 1774. After labouring as a sailor, he arrived in the British colony of Upper Canada (now Ontario) in 1792, finding employment on a lake vessel for a prominent merchant. He settled at Fort Erie in the late 1790s as a successful forwarder, moving manufactured goods in and out of the province. By 1808, he relocated to Woodhouse Township in Norfolk County (in today's Port Dover), where he opened a gristmill in 1809. His business later expanded to include a sawmill, a brewery, three stills and a cooperage.

"Robert Nichol figured prominently in the development of Norfolk County, in the War of 1812 and in Upper Canada's political growth," said The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander, Chairman of the Ontario Heritage Trust. "This provincial plaque will ensure that his many contributions to the establishment of our province are remembered."

He held several public offices prior to the War of 1812, serving as a tax collector, justice of the peace and road commissioner. Major-General Isaac Brock, who would later become a hero in defending Canada during the War of 1812, asked Nichol to prepare a study of the colony's resources to aid in military planning. In 1812, Nichol was promoted to lieutenant-colonel in the Upper Canadian militia. When the United States declared war, he turned the management of his businesses over to an employee and devoted himself entirely to the defence of the province as quartermaster-general of the militia. In this role, he fed, supplied and transported troops in difficult frontier conditions. He also participated in strategic planning and decision making throughout the war. Nichol was frequently engaged in action against American forces, including the capture of Detroit under the leadership of Brock and Chief Tecumseh.

"Robert Nichol is an important historical figure who was committed to the defence of Ontario and to its economic and civic development," said Culture Minister Aileen Carroll. "This provincial plaque commemorates his role in Ontario's early history."

Nichol remained active in Upper Canada politics and was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Norfolk County three times, from 1812 to 1820. He suffered an enormous personal and financial loss when American forces raided and burned his property in May 1814, for which he was not compensated until a month after his death. When peace returned to the colony, Nichol's pro-government views changed. He called for a general inquiry into the state of the province and denounced the existence of Crown and clergy reserves. As leader of the Opposition, he pushed for a reduction in public spending and for reforms to strengthen the economy, including a union with Lower Canada.

"The Port Dover Harbour Museum is pleased to be a part of this commemoration of the contributions of Robert Nichol, both to this community and to the province of Ontario," said museum curator Ian Bell. "The importance of Col. Nichol to the development of early Port Dover and to the safeguarding of Upper Canada during the War of 1812 is one of the great untold stories of Norfolk County history."

In 1821, Nichol moved to Stamford (Niagara Falls) and in 1824, obtained a post as surrogate judge for the Niagara District. He died in an accident that same year while driving his horse and wagon in the village of Queenston. Today, he is remembered for his contributions to the economic development of the province in the prewar years, for his skilful defence of the colony during desperate times and for his commitment to Upper Canada's political maturation in the postwar period.

The Ontario Heritage Trust is an agency of the Government of Ontario, dedicated to identifying, preserving, protecting and promoting Ontario's heritage.

    Quick Facts:

    -  The Ontario Heritage Trust's Provincial Plaque Program commemorates
       significant people, places and events in Ontario's history.
    -  Since 1953, over 1,200 provincial plaques have been unveiled.
    -  14 provincial plaques are located in Norfolk County.

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SOURCE Ontario Heritage Trust

For further information: For further information: Catrina Colme, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Ontario Heritage Trust, Telephone: (416) 325-5074, E-mail:

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