The village was founded in 1850, and became part of the City of Niagara Falls, Ontario by amalgamation in 1968. It is located on the Canadian shore of the Niagara River about 2 km upstream from Niagara Falls. It is bisected by the Welland River (also known locally as Chippawa Creek). In historic documents, the name of the village and the river is sometimes spelled as Chippewa or Chippeway.
Following the extermination of the Neutrals, the area was abandoned by the Iroquois and settled by a branch of the Chippawa nation, originating the former name of the river and subsequently the name of the village. The word Chippawa is actually derived from the Ojibwa Nation, misheard and recorded by the first Euopeans to arrive here and it stuck! There is no truth whatever to the tale that Chippawa means "people without moccossins', again this was misinterpeted from the fact their word for moccossins was similar to their word for themselves. The Mississauga, a branch of the Ojibwa, were actually the tribe present when the British first colonized the area and were the very first to sign a treaty in what is now Canada with the British government, giving the British access to a one mile strip of land on the north shore of the Niagara to replace the potage they had lost on the south shore after the New England clonies separated from British rule. Once Niagara-On-The-Lake filled up with United Empire Loyalists the British began giving land grants to U.E.L and British veterans to settle in the late 1700's.
The name of the principal village of the Neutrals - Onghiara (located on the present-day site of Niagara on the Lake, Ontario was mispronounced by the Chippewa as Nyahgeah, and again by Europeans as Niagara, making this word one of the few remnants of Neutral culture.
After the War of 1812, Chippawa also became the home of Laura Secord, remembered for carrying information to the British regarding American advances before the Battle of Beaverdams. She lived in the village until her death at the age of 93.
Chippawa is the limit of navigation on the Upper Niagara River. Before the construction of the Welland Canal, all cargo and passengers had to be unloaded and carried overland to navigable waters below the falls in order to reach Lake Ontario. Before the War of American Independence, all cargo was carried on the American side of the river. Following this, British interests required a route within their territory. A survey conducted in 1790 reserved a strip one chain wide between Chippawa and Queenston, Ontario as a public road, which would become the Portage Road. Most of this road remains today, following its original winding route in contrast to the rectangular grid of other Niagara Falls streets.
King's Bridge, constructed about 1790, was the very first bridge over the Welland River. It was located at the mouth of the river, closer to the Niagara than today's bridge. Sketches by Lady Simcoe (wife of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe) and deputy postmaster George Heriot each show a bridge consisting of pilings driven into the river with a wooden deck. The bridge was of great military importance as the only one crossing of the river. A survey available in the Brock University Special Collections indicates that this was a drawbridge . This survey also shows a new bridge constructed at the location of the current one.
During the first several years that the Welland Canal operated, it did not reach Lake Erie directly. All canal traffic was lowered in a lock at Port Robinson, Ontario to the Welland River, and subsequently sailed to Chippawa, reaching Lake Erie via the Niagara River. Ships entering and leaving the Niagara faced a difficult and dangerous turn into a swift current. The Welland River curved downstream into the Niagara and ships rounding this point were in danger of being swept over the falls.
The problem was resolved by construction of the Chippawa Cut in 1829 . This short canal allowed ships to turn upstream into the Niagara River directly and avoid the most severe currents. This cut is depicted in the survey mentioned above .
By the mid 1830s, the Welland Canal had been extended to enter Lake Erie at Port Colborne, Ontario, but commercial navigation on the river continued for roughly another century. In 1843, over 100 steamers carried passengers and some freight on a route that followed the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York, then into the Welland River at Chippawa, joining the Welland Canal at Port Robinson, and subsequently via the Feeder Canal to Dunnville, Ontario and up the Grand River to Brantford, Ontario.
While commercial shipping no longer exists in Chippawa, pleasure boating continues and marina facilities can be found at Lyon's Creek just west of the village. Somewhat farther to the west is a relic of the days of commercial shipping - the Montrose Swing Bridge still carries a railway track over the river even though it has not opened for a ship in about 75 years.
The Erie and Ontario railroad opened for traffic in 1839. It had wooden rails with iron straps laid on them and was pulled by horses. This was the first railway in the Niagara Peninsula. By 1854, steam power took over for the horses. A year later, the railway was extended to Niagara (the present day Niagara on the Lake), and in the 1860s, was extended to Fort Erie, Ontario at the source of the Niagara River. The line was now known as the Erie and Niagara. . This route became the Canada Southern Railway's Niagara Division and operated into the 20th century. A short section remains in service today as an industrial spur, ending at north side of the Welland River. This is the only active railway in Chippawa today, and there is no passenger service.
The stone piers which once carried this railway over the Welland River on a swing bridge are still present. Images of the bridge are available from the Niagara Falls Public Library at Historic and current images of Chippawa
Most of this line was combined with a parallel route on the American side and lasted until 1932 as the Niagara Gorge Railroad (also known as the Great Gorge Route, or the Niagara Belt Line).. Although pamphlets and advertisements for the Great Gorge Route show service only as far as Niagara Falls, historic maps of the area show tracks leading to the north side of the Welland River until at least 1934.
The Niagara Parkway provides access to the village from both the North and South. Main Street, which changes into Lyons Creek Road outside of the village, makes the most direct connection with a major highway - the Queen Elizabeth Way 6 km away. The last main route is the original Portage Road, linking to the business area of Niagara Falls.
A short distance north of the village along the Niagara Parkway can be seen two monolithic structures - gates to underground tunnels which also carry water to the generating stations.
In spite of being literally within sight of one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Chippawa is a relatively quiet place. Only a small percentage of the tourists to the falls travel the short distance to the village. Nevertheless, even this small percentage is sufficient to make tourism critical to the community.
The Chippawa area is home to golf courses, parks, the historic field of the Battle of Chippawa, as well as attractive architecture, and a quiet atmosphere located a very short distance from the extremely busy Niagara Falls. Marineland is also located just outside of the village. While not home to the major hotels, Chippawa does have several smaller establishments.