DeCew Young House c.1830
Cultural Heritage Value
The fact that the building was built by John DeCew gives it significance. It is located near two local heritage sites that were once part of the small community of DeCew Town. About a quarter mile to the east are the remains of the DeCew House (formerly John DeCew’s imposing stone house), and a half mile to the west is the restored Morningstar Mill at the picturesque DeCew Falls.
The DeCew House was the destination made famous by Laura Secord during the War of 1812 when she trekked from Queenston to warn Ltnt. James FitzGibbon, the officer-in-charge of the military outpost there, of an impending attack by Americans.
The house is a one and one-half storey, three-bay Ontario Cottage of timber construction with a rubble stone basement. DeCew Road follows the line of the former Mohawk Trail, an important east-west route used by native peoples above the Niagara Escarpment. Within the east wing of the three-bay cottage there is evidence of a smaller building, circa 1815. Built by John DeCew, who purchased the land in 1812, this small timber-framed house may have been used to accommodate workers or a general store or blacksmith shop for the community of DeCew Town.
Philip Young and his wife Mary owned the property for more than 20 years and it was probably they who enlarged the house to its present three-bay, one and one-half storey configuration with a one storey kitchen wing to the rear. The exterior is clad in the original mid-nineteenth century clapboard (also known as weatherboarding) with decorative beaded corners and deep fascia boards below the eaves. The rubble stone basement contains evidence of an earlier c.1815 structure, with full and hand-hewn half timbers. On the second floor there are a number of early nineteenth century details present, such as an opening for a ladder for access from the first floor, an interior wooden door with a Georgian Cross and Bible panel, folk faux oak graining on doors and mouldings and a very early c.1800 Suffolk latch.
John DeCew was born in 1766 and arrived in the Niagara Peninsula about 1787. His ancestors were displaced Huguenots who had been forced to flee their homeland to escape persecution. The DeCews went to England and eventually emigrated to America. DeCew’s father fought for the crown in the American Revolutionary War and the family later removed to Upper Canada.
John did some surveying work and explored the area for a milling site. He acquired land on the Beaverdams branch of Twelve Mile Creek on the brow of the Escarpment in Thorold Township and in 1792 built one of the first sawmills in the Nassau District of Upper Canada. He also built a log cabin and shortly after he added a linseed oil mill.
In 1798 John married Catherine Docksteder in Niagara and they had 11 children. John served as assessor, collector and warden for Thorold Township. He was also a founding member in 1800 of the Niagara Library, the province’s first circulating library, and a director of the Niagara Agricultural Society in 1804. DeCew’s successful milling business enabled him to begin construction of a new stone house just north of his mills on the other side of the Mohawk Trail.
War was declared and DeCew assumed command of a company of the 2nd Lincoln Militia. During the conflict his stone house was occupied by James FitzGibbon and men of the 49th Regiment. It was to be this house that Laura Secord made her famous walk.
With the return of peace DeCew set about expanding his milling operations. His other enterprises included a school, church, blacksmith shop, workers’ houses, etc. and the settlement became a recognized hamlet called DeCew Town. It was during this time that the original smaller, wood-framed cottage with the rubble stone basement found in the east wing of the three-bay house at 2440 DeCew Road was constructed.