Effingham began as a small Loyalist settlement early in Niagara's history.
Situated in the Short Hills of Pelham, it owed its beginnings to David Secord, brother-in-law to Laura Secord, who had arrived shortly after 1783. As a Butler's Ranger, Secord was entitled to a land grant of 400 acres (162 ha). The patent issued on 8 July 1799. The tract was composed mainly of wooded hills divided by spring-fed streams. Secord harnessed the water power of the fast flowing streams to run a grist mill at what has since become the neighbouring hamlet of St. Johns, only the second mill to be built in Upper Canada.
Secord had cleared 10 acres (4 ha) and had planted apple trees, which were already bearing fruit, when the Loyalist and Quaker Samuel Beckett arrived on the scene. Beckett was to be the forerunner of many Quakers who would settle in Pelham. Secord sold his entire grant to Beckett on 13 October 1809 for GBP£687/10s. Beckett proceeded to build a saw mill. Besides the grist mill, a woollen factory and fulling mill are recorded and eventually the bustling milling centre became known as "Beckett's Mills".
The fast running streams of the Twelve Mile Creek system were a source of power and the soil was excellent for farming and growing wheat. The grist mills of Beckett's Mills and St. Johns served the farmers throughout the region. In 1850, Beckett's Mills was renamed "Effingham" and a post office was established.
Effingham boasted a general store, post office, a Quaker church, a blacksmith shop and a carriage shop. In spite of exterior forces, such as the first Welland Canal and the railways by-passing St. Johns, Effingham was still able to be a busy milling community. By 1854, however, the effects of the second Welland canal, more railways and American imported wheat from Ohio forced the community to change to cash crops of fruit, vegetables and dairy products. Effingham slowly declined as a regional centre.
Today, the mills are gone. Fierce storms in 1935 washed out the mill dams and sent a flood of water through the valley, destroying many bridges. Of the many millponds where ducks and geese once paddled, only broken-down mill races are still to be found.
George Redpath ran a general store. Walter Ward was the village blacksmith.
Effingham is found west of Fonthill. Take highway 20 west from Fonthill and turn north onto Effingham Road (#32)