DeCew House

The foundation of DeCew House is all that remains after the catastrophic 1950 fire

DeCew House in 1913, painted by John Wesley Cotton.

DeCew House, renovated in the early 20th century.


DeCew House - audio podcast

Secord Significance

One of the most important sites of Laura Secord's famous trek, DeCew House was her destination when she left Queenston on June 22nd, 1813 to warn the British military of an impending American attack. When Laura Secord arrived at DeCew House, she was able to warn FitzGibbon of the force being sent against him.The British win at Beaverdams was instrumental in demoralizing the Americans in the recently occupied Niagara Township, leading to their eventual retreat to the other side of the Niagara River.

General Information

DeCew House was the destination for Laura Secord when she set out on her celebrated trek from Queenston over the rough terrain of the Niagara Escarpment in June of 1813 to warn the British military of an impending American attack. The foundation of DeCew House has been preserved as a memorial and a park site.

Historical Background


John first built a sawmill and log cabin on the creek in 1792, and shortly after he established an oil mill. Business was good, and John DeCew prospered. In 1808, he erected an imposing Georgian-style stone edifice that was one of the finest and most substantial homes in the entire Niagara peninsula.

DeCew's home had strategic military importance when war broke out in 1812 as it was near the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. John DeCew himself joined the Second Lincoln Militia as a Captain in 1812, and saw active service. He was captured by rebel forces in May of 1813 after the fall of Fort George and was taken as a prisoner to Philadelphia. Meanwhile, after DeCew's capture, DeCew House was occupied by British Lieutenant James FitzGibbon as military headquarters for his Bloody Boys, a small contingent of 50 volunteers drawn from the British Army's 49th Regiment of Foot. Stores were collected here, DeCew's mills ground grain for the army, and the house was constantly a centre of military activity.

DeCew House was Laura Secord's destination when she set out from Queenston over the rough terrain of the Niagara Escarpment in June of 1813 to warn the British military of an impending American attack. It was sheer determination that enabled her to complete this difficult trek. When she arrived at DeCew House, she was able to warn FitzGibbon of the force being sent against him under the command of Col. Boerstler of the American Army. Two contingents of FitzGibbon's Iroquois allies ambushed the advancing Americans, who sustained serious casualties in the attack but who still had more men and firepower than could be mustered by the British and natives. However, FitzGibbon rode out under a white flag and convinced Boerstler that the massed British and Iroquois forces were much more substantial than the American troops, leading to an American surrender. FitzGibbons audacious bluff resulted in victory at the Battle of Beaver Dams, and enshrined him, his Iroquois allies, Laura Secord, and DeCew House in the annals of Canadian history.

DeCew sold his property and left for Haldimand Township in 1833. DeCew House went through a succession of owners and tenants. In 1833, the home, which was still referred to as 'The Barracks', was sold to David Griffiths, whose descendants lived there for over 100 years. The building was seriously damaged by fire in 1938. When the property was purchased from David Griffiths by Ontario Hydro for expansion of the DeCew Falls Generating Plant in 1943, The Government of Ontario announced plans to restore the house to its original condition and make it into a museum. Nothing, however, was done, and it was boarded up and neglected.

On June 12, 1950, dilapidated and uncared for, it was virtually destroyed by fire. Ontario Hydro acted quickly to make the ruins into a historic site. The remaining walls were taken down to the level of the lower window sills, the basement was filled with the demolition rubble, and a flagstone floor was laid down. On the rear wall, opposite the main entrance, a plaque was mounted which outlines the history of the building. The unveiling of this plaque took place on October 13, 1953.

To commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812, the City of Thorold officially took over the DeCew House property from Ontario Power Generation to create DeCew House Heritage Park. The foundation and grounds of DeCew House underwent an extensive renovation in 2012 - 2013.


Ecological context

DeCew House is located across the road from the reservoir which supplies the DeCew Water Treatment Plant, and adjacent to a wide spillway which channels water to the DeCew Power Generating Plant hydro reservoir on the edge of the escarpment. Both of these artificial water bodies contain water that has been diverted from Lake Erie via the Welland Canal, representing a very significant modification to the natural hydrology of the area.

Recreational Uses

Picnicking, hiking.

Note that access to the adjacent waterways for boating, wading or swimming is prohibited due to sudden dangerous changes in water levels and flow rates.

Further Information

Byrne, Cameron and Theresa Keenan. 1994. Decew House. Niagara Greenways Network Significant Local Landscapes page, available online at URL

Hartshorn, Heather and Roy. 2009. Herontrips ( Specific pages on:

Captain John DeCew:

Lieutenant James FitzGibbon:

Heritage Thorold. Thorold: A Selection of HeritageBuildings and Sites. Booklet produced by the Thorold Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC), available for sale at the City of Thorold office, Lock 7 Tourism Centre and Thorold Library. Call ahead for availability and pricing.

Heritage Thorold (LACAC) website

Hughes, Alun. 2008. Shades of Reynoldsville and DeCewTown: A History of Power Glen and Vicinity. Newsletter of the Historical Society of St. Catharines, December 2008.

Killens, Jeffrey and Paul van Ravenstein. 1994. Twelve Mile Creek Watershed. Niagara Greenways Network Significant Local Landscapes page. , available online at URL

Provincial Secretariat for Resources Development. 1984. The Niagara Escarpment Plan. Planning and Implementing Process. Ontario: The Queens Printer for Ontario, Canada, 1984.

Beaverdams Historical Society website:

Robinson, Lorna. 1966. History of DeCew Falls, or Whatever Happened to Beaverdam Creek? Fonthill, Ontario: s.n. 1966.

Hours of Operation

Year-round, dawn to dusk.


Walking paths
Grassy picnicking on grounds and along man-made waterway.


0.5 km west of the intersection of Merrittville Hwy and Decew Road
Thorold, Ontario

Ownership & Management

City of Thorold


Dave Akrigg
Operations Manager (Parks and Trails)
City of Thorold
Thorold Arena
70 Front Street North
Thorold, Ontario
Tel 905-227-1911


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