Let’s Talk About….. Thousand Islands & Lost Villages

In April 2023, I was blessed to take a deep dive into the history, geography, geology and culture of the far northeast corner of America,  the Canadian Maritimes and the St. Lawrence River and Seaway. Con su permisio, as they say in Spanish, I would like to share with you some of what I learned in these blog posts over the next couple of months. Hope you benefit and enjoy!

By definition, an island in the St. Lawrence River & 1000 Islands area must meet these criteria: have at least one tree and at least one square foot above water year round. And actually, there are 1864 islands comprising the 1000 Islands area. These islands are mostly granite and the trees mostly deciduous ones. I spotted houses built on some TEENY rocky spots in the water….. accessible only by boat, obviously. No tides affect this area but due to the outflow from Lake Erie, the water can rise 3-4 feet from year to year. Called “Millionaires Row,” this area in the 1870s was the mecca for wealthy folks to build build their summer “cottages”……. mansions of 100+ rooms! President U.S. Grant visited a friend there one summer and the media blasted it well, bringing in new millionaires. In the day, these residents had 100+ foot long yachts with gleaming teak decks and built enormous boat houses for these boats.This area is more than a summering spot for the wealthy. The broad expanse of water in this area (and the many islands) resulted from the creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway. After years of yammering and problem solving between Canada and New York, construction of the seaway began in 1954 and was completed in 1959. Why was this important? The St. Lawrence River was THE artery into the heart of the North America continent and if it could be made navigable to the Great Lakes, the possibilities were endless.  

The saddest story from human history standpoint was the submerging of nine villages, some Canadian and some American.  Two towns/villages were relocated: Iroquois and Morrisburg.  Nine were completely submerged: Aultsville, Farran’s Point, Dickenson’s Landing, Wales, Moulinette, Mille Roche, Woodlands, Santa Cruz and Maple Grove. Of course people shed tears, grumbled and filed lawsuits but in the end their towns and homes were relocated “for the greater benefit of the nations.” There is a Lost Villages Historical Society, founded in 1977, headquartered in Ault Park, near Long Sault, Ontario. Ten restored historic structures from Moulinette have been relocated there.  If your ancestors lived in one of these Lost Villages, do contact this society:  16361 Fran LaFlamme Drive, Long Sault, Ontario, K0C 1P0.  And perhaps watch the YouTube video, “No Road Home.”   

This website has links to more history of each village. 

Inundation Day, June 26, 1959, a ceremony was held in Montreal. Queen Elizabeth, President Eisenhauer and Prime Minister Diefenbaker were the speakers “affirming the grandeur of the project and all the good it meant to both Canada and the United States.”