The community actually predates the establishment of what is now downtown Welland. In 1799, when present-day Welland was but a couple of farms, the Yokom family came from Pennsylvania and built a grist mill on Lyon's Creek. (Today, one of the roads in Cooks Mills is called Yokom Road after them). Just before the War of 1812, an Englishman called Calvin Cook purchased the mill and added a tannery, a sawmill and a distillery. The place known as Cook's Mills became a prominent community of the Crowland Township; some early maps call the location Crowland Village.
Towards the end of the War of 1812, a fire fight occurred at Cooks Mills, involving an American contingent sent to destroy flour and grain that might benefit the British. Early on the morning of October 19, 1814, the American picket at Misener's Hollow, just east of the mills, was attacked by soldiers of the Glengarry Light Infantry. The British force was supported by a 12-pound field cannon and Congreve rockets. The Americans succeeded in driving off the British, and then proceeded to throw the grain and flour into the mill pond.
Originally, Lyon's Creek headwaters were in the Wainfleet Marsh. However, they were cut off by the construction of the Feeder Canal for the Welland Canal. The creek was carried under the canal through a stone culvert. Due to the construction, the water level in the marsh slowly receded. All the while, the culvert was being clogged up by debris. Eventually, the flow in Lyons Creek decreased to the extent when it was no longer able to turn the water wheels at Cook's Mills. The industries were closed and abandoned. Thus, the Canal, which contributed greatly to development of Welland, became an indirect cause of an economic recession for Cook's Mills. Later on, Welland beat out neighbouring communities in the running for the county seat. Cook's Mills found itself becoming a farming area as opposed to Welland's developing industry.
On January 1, 1961, the Crowland Township, including Cooks Mills, was incorporated into the City of Welland.
By the time of construction of the Welland By-Pass in 1967-1973, the original headwaters in the Wainfleet Marsh have all but disappeared, and most of what flow there was in the creek was coming from an earlier tributary called Indian Creek by some maps. This made Lyons Creek somewhat U-shaped, as Indian Creek flowed west before joining the original Lyons Creek. During the By-Pass construction, the creek was cut into three parts, and now what was once Indian Creek flows into the canal (photo). A couple kilometres north, Lyons Creek is fed directly from the canal (photo). The middle part of the creek dried up and much of its bed was torn up during the construction of approaches to the Townline Tunnel.
In a recent development, a study on the pollutants in the Niagara River done in 2000 found the organic pollutants polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to be present in the Lyons Creek. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment is presently investigating the source of PCBs and possible remedial actions to deal with contaminated sediment.
The primary source for basic documents (vital statistics, land records, wills) for people who lived in the Province of Ontario is the Archives of Ontario, 134 Ian Macdonald Blvd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M7A 2C5.
Civil registration did not begin in the province until 1869. Before then there may be church records of baptisms and burials. For the most part these are still held by the denomination who recorded them. Copies of marriage records made pre-1869 had to be sent by individual clergymen to the registrar of the county in which the marriage took place. These marriage records are available through Ontario Archives, on micorfilm through LDS libraries, and on paid and unpaid websites, but because they were copied at the registrars' offices, they cannot be considered a primary source.
Vital Records after 1869
Birth, marriage and death registrations are not open to the public until a specific number of years after the event occurred. Births to 1914 are now available [October 2012]; dates for marriages and deaths are later. Birth and death registration was not universally carried out in the early years after its adoption. Deaths were more apt to be reported than births for several years. The more rural the area, the less likely it would be that these happenings were reported to the authorities.
Land Records and Wills
Information on how to access land records and wills is best sought on the Archives of Ontario website. An ancestor's land holding might be found on Canadian County Atlas Digital Project if he was in occupancy circa 1878.
Association for the Preservation of Ontario Land Registry Office Documents (APOLROD). A list of Land Registry Offices for all Counties of Ontario.
The original censuses are in the hands of Library and Archives Canada. All of the original census (1851-1911) images are online with the exception of that for 1861. Not all of them are indexed. Later censuses are not yet available. Census divisions were redrawn as the population increased and more land was inhabited.
E-books and Books
Some websites with more local information on Welland County