The Short Hills area has been inhabited by human beings for at least 12,000 years. Early cultures that lived in the area are referred to as Paleo-Indians, and they dominated the Short Hills landscape during the Archaic Period (8,000 to 2,500 years ago), as evidenced by artifacts found in the region. It is also known, through the discovery of artifacts, that the area was occupied during the following era, known as the Woodland Period. Approximately 400 years ago, the Neutral Indians (Iroquois) established large villages to the east and west of the Short Hills. For more information on Iroquois history visit http://www.tolatsga.org/iro.html.
European Settlers followed, attracted to the area for its extensive forests, productive soil, and network of streams, which became the foundation of the milling industry. United Empire Loyalists were the first permanent settlers of the area, establishing two communities on the perimeter of what is now Short Hills Provincial Park; St. John’s West and Decew Town. These settlers cleared much of the land for orchards in 1787, and constructed many of the historic buildings that can still be seen in the area.
Across from the Pelham Road entrance to the park sits the Brown Homestead. John Brown was a former private from Butler’s Rangers and his land holdings comprise much of the north section of the park. Remnants of his apple orchards can still be found across the road from the house. To learn more about the Homestead visit: https://jbhf.ca/the-brown-homestead