Ball’s Falls offers visitors a largely undisturbed, historically important site of industry and settlement in early Niagara dating back to the early 19th Century, as well as a rich and diverse set of archaeological resources dating back more than 2,000 years.
The buildings present an impressive assemblage of related structures, both industrial and domestic, spanning the full 19th century and early decades of the 20th century.
Buildings at Ball’s Falls include the Ball Home built in 1846 and presented today as a 1920’s home; Privy/Tool Shed; Smoke House; Ball Family Barn; Display Barn; Bake Oven; Grist Mill built in 1809; St. George Church built in 1864 and moved from Hannon in 1973; Restored Lime Kiln built in 1886; Woolen Mill Ruins built in 1824 and operated until 1886; Fairchild or Troup-Secord Log Cabin moved from Jordan Station in 1963; Furry Cabin moved from Wainfleet Township, and the White House built in 1856 as a tenant building, now used for programming as the Field Centre.
The hamlet, also considered an Ontario ghost town, was known as Ball’s Mills, Louth Mills, Glen Elgin—and finally, as Ball’s Falls because of the two Twenty Mile Creek cataracts on the property. George Ball constructed grist, saw, and woolen mills, which lead to the growth of one of the first communities in this area. In the mid-1800s, however, significant developments such as the railway and the Welland Canal led to the rapid growth of other villages below the escarpment, and by the turn of the century, most of the activity at Balls Falls had ceased.
Restored and maintained by the Niagara Peninsula Conservations Authority, Ball’s Falls occupies over 80 hectares (200 acres) of the original 480 hectares (1,200 acres) purchased by the Ball brothers. In addition to the restored buildings, traces of the original hamlet have been left intact and visitors can enjoy a well-marked walking tour of the original community.
The Ball Family Settlement
Following the American Revolution, Jacob Ball and his family, like other United Empire Loyalists, were forced to flee their home and potash works in the Mohawk Valley, near Albany, New York. In recognition of their loyalty to the British Crown and personal losses suffered during the conflict, the Ball family was issued Crown land grants in Niagara by 1783.
John and George Ball were among the soldiers who received land for their loyalty. A total of 1,200 acres (4.9 km2) of land was sold to the Ball brothers in October 1807, including two waterfalls where the Twenty Mile Creek passes over the Niagara Escarpment, the lower falls 90 feet (27 m) high and the upper falls 35 feet (11 m) high. By 1809, they had already built a grist mill at the lower falls. Eventually there were 2 sawmills in the area, one was on the bluff of the lower falls (1816) and the other, built later, was located on the 20 Mile Creek, south of today’s highway 8.
There were many different skilled trades people working on site by the mid-1800s, including a blacksmith, cooper, tailor, weaver, butcher and spinners. By 1852 the population of Glen Elgin reached 19 residents.
In the 1850s, the Great Western Railway siphoned most commerce away from Glen Elgin, and the settlement was gradually abandoned. In 1962, Manly Ball sold an area of 110 acres (0.45 km2) to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.
Ball’s Falls is now designated as an Historical Park in the Niagara Escarpment Plan. The bedrock gorge is also recognized as a provincially significant area of natural and scientific interest (ANSI).