Maple Grove

Maple Grove was a tiny hamlet that lay in the most easterly path of the flood line. Like the other two settlements of Woodlands and Santa Cruz, Maple Grove never developed beyond hamlet status but it was able to sustain a continuous population as well as support a few small businesses.

Maple Grove's beginnings were not much different from those of the surrounding communities. It was first settled in the late 1700s by a small group of American born British officers who received land grants following the American Revolution. Early settlers included Abraham Marsh and Jeremiah French.

French residenceFrench Residence [ca. 1910]

Jeremiah French came from Vermont and arrived at Maple Grove in 1784. He started out with nothing more than a tiny settlers' cottage which over time expanded into a huge flour and saw mills operation. His humble cabin, sold to his son-in-law George Robertson in 1812, eventually grew to become the stateliest house in the area - the French-Robertson house. Jeremiah himself was politically active and became Stormont County's representative in the first Legislative Assembly. Jeremiah had two sons, Benjamin and Albert. One of the darker moments in Maple Grove's history occurred in 1836 when Jeremiah's son, Colonel Albert French, was murdered in a drunken ambush and robbery by a couple of canal workers, returning home late from the Mille Roches quarry. One worker, Michael Connell, was later charged and executed for the crime.

In its prime Maple Grove contained the French Mills, a hotel, the Robertson Carriage House and Shop, run by C. A. Robertson, as well as Lock 20. The carriage shop had a large basement for repairing all types of carriages, wagons, sleighs and buggies. The upper floors contained two rental units. The hotel dated back to the 1870s or earlier and became quite famous in its day. During the early years, it was operated by Ernie Runions and known as Ernie's Hotel. It didn't have running water and the bar only catered to men. There were rooms upstairs and a horse and carriage-shed in the rear.

In the 1930s, Farrand Gillie built a gas station and a group of 13 cottages. Known as Farrand Gillie's Hi-Way Camp, it was located along Robertson's Creek and quickly became a popular spot for fishing and swimming. Ev Bush, from Mille Roches, took over the gas station and operated it until 1939. Then it was taken over by Milton Matheson, who relocated the business to Long Sault after the flooding. Maple Grove also included an important Ontario Hydro substation that transferred power across the St. Lawrence to New York State. Robertson Creek formed a natural boundary between Maple Grove and Mille Roches and also served as the dividing line for the schools. The Maple Grove Cemetery was located just east of the creek.

Maple Grove took on its most important and ultimately final function during the construction of the Seaway, as it was here where the main power dam and generating station were built. In order to move workers, equipment and materials to the new dam, it was necessary to build a tunnel beneath the old Cornwall canal. A 25-foot high spectator lookout, added in 1955, attracted so much traffic that a mile-long diversion canal was added to minimize disruption to normal shipping activities.

Prior to inundation the French-Robertson home was relocated to Upper Canada Village. The cemetery containing 317 graves was moved to an Anglican Cemetery, overlooking Highway 2, near Cornwall. Ernie's 14-room hotel remained open until the end.