Excerpt from “Walk A” in “St. Catharines A-Z” by Junius, originally published in the St. Catharines Journal on May 15th, 1856:
“We hope to live to see the day, when every drop of surplus canal water will be used for manufacturing purposes. When 10, 000 spindles and shuttles will be set in motion; when the cotton factories, woolen factories, edge-tool factories, farming implement factories, machine factories, pail and tub factories, and all other useful factories will be profitably employed here and giving work to thousands of hands. We think the time has come for Canadians to manufacture more at home, and buy less abroad. We go for a just Protective Tariff, for home manufactories and for low taxes. Let every Canadian cherish, sustain and maintain home manufactories! Let every good citizen aid, assist and encourage them. May the products of the Field and the Loom, the forge and the workshop, the Mechanic and the Artizan be increased a thousand fold in Canada; then will the sun of our prosperity begin to shine upon This land; wealth begin to flow in upon us; plenty await us; and happiness dwell in all of our borders. May we be producers as well as consumers, and may our home markets be better patronised, and foreign markets less frequented. Canadians will you give heed to these suggestions?”
Did Junius’ dream of seeing a booming town full of people working at businesses that operated along the banks of the canal, using its rushing waters as an energy source, become a reality? It certainly did! St. Catharines was home to various different mills and factories, and it is common knowledge that people settled in this area to not only work on the canal but at the different businesses that developed along its banks. Norris Flour Mill, Riordon Paper Mill, The Independent Rubber Company, Lybster Mill and Canada Haircloth Company were just a few. Companies popped up along the canal all the way to Port Colborne.
With the implementation of electricity, the need to use water as a power source dwindled. It is estimated that the canal was last used to power machinery at factories and mills in the 1920’s when the use of electricity was more widespread. Is there any business or mill that uses the Welland Canal as a form of power for its machinery today? Yes in fact there is….there is one remaining mill. The Morningstar Mill, owned by the City of St. Catharines is still a fully operational grist mill.
Currently, factories use the Welland Canal as a water source. General Motors, Dunn Paper (formerly Interlake Paper) and Jungbunzlauer are just a few companies that use water from the canal in their production process.
Shipping, of course, was and still is the main use of the Welland Canal. In the past, a common sight would have been ships carrying logs for use in the large pulp and paper industry here in St. Catharines. This requirement petered out in the 1970’s when recycling became a more prominent method of paper production.
The St. Lawrence Seaway Authority is, the most predominant user of the Welland Canal. They now dub the Welland Canal: “Hwy H20” a “3, 700 kilometer marine highway”. Commodities such as grain, iron ore, coal, limestone, salt and stone are transported on this marine highway in “lakers” and “salties” (ships). Over 200 million net tons of cargo move through the Great Lakes Seaway System each year.
One of the more recent items you may see being transported along the canal are massive parts for wind turbines. Renewable energy is becoming a much more popular industry, Rankin Renewable Power Inc. being at the forefront of this industry.
Beginning in 2008 Rankin began installing hydroelectric weir generating stations on the
Welland Canal. There are currently three separate stations located at locks one through three. On average, the three generating stations produce approximately 39, 000 megawatt hours. This amount of energy is equal to the amount that 3, 000 average households would consume in a year.
Although the changing times alters the way things are done, one thing is certain; the Welland Ship Canal, since its opening in 1829, has remained an integral part of the Niagara Regions economy.