The St. Lawrence Project

Section 3

Nestled along the shore of the St. Lawrence lay a group of small riverside villages, first settled in the 1600s and 1700s. Many of the residents were direct descendants of loyalist settlers who had come to Canada during the American Revolution in support of the British cause. Upon their arrival, the British provided them with land, food and provisions to carry them through for three years while they established themselves. In 1954, residents of these small, tightly knit communities were given the long-awaited news that their villages would be flooded and submerged under the St. Lawrence Lake.

House movingHouse moving in Iroquois [ca. mid 50s]

The affected villages were Aultsville, Dickinson's Landing, Farran's Point, Iroquois, Mille Roches, Moulinette and Wales. Also included were the three tiny settlements of Maple Grove, Santa Cruz and Woodlands as well as three islands, Sheek Island on the Canadian side and Barnhart and Croil's on the American side. About a third of the village of Morrisburg also lay in the flood line along with over two hundred farms.

The early British system of land distribution or land grants was, for the most part, determined by military standing. Those who held high military ranks or had distinguished themselves in battle received the largest packages and most choice lands. Following the War of 1812, with the threat of military invasion diminishing, many of the large landowners and their subsequent descendants focused their attention on the needs of the surrounding residents. Slowly they began to harness the waterpower, build dams and mills, and develop services for the burgeoning farm communities and other industries in the vicinity.

A number of these small riverside villages had started out as steamer stops and lock stations offering respite and services to mariners making the harrowing journey up the St. Lawrence to the Great Lakes. Later on the residents began to harness the water power of the mighty Long Sault, which led to the construction of dams and mills. The villages in turn grew into small service centres, offering the usual stores, hotels, trades and an assortment of small agricultural industries. Over time some of the larger villages were able to attract additional industries on their own.

ModelModel of Long Sault (still unnamed)

The villages had been in decline for years - ever since discussion of the Seaway project first began, more than forty years earlier. Most people in the area considered the project inevitable and with the weight of the 'Seaway' looming over their heads like a death sentence, the villages had been unable to attract new industries, investment or income. Over the years their growth stagnated and their status deteriorated to little more than small rural backwaters. By the mid twentieth century a couple of mills were still operating but most of the trade came from a few small farm-based industries and summer tourism.

Responses to the news were mixed. When the pact finally was signed and construction began in 1954, many breathed a sigh of relief and began to celebrate. It was finally over. Quite a few residents looked forward to the thought of living in a new town site and enjoying the conveniences of running water, paved roads, street lighting, mall shopping and all the other amenities that people in larger towns took for granted. Others were heartbroken at the thought of losing riverside homes that had been in their families for generations.

Initially many of the residents were not impressed with the relocation plan. It called for the formation of two new towns called Long Sault and Ingleside. Residents from the villages of Mille Roches and Moulinette would be offered comparable new homes in Long Sault and those from the communities of Wales, Dickinson's Landing, Farran's Point and Aultsville were offered homes in Ingleside. Farmers and business owners could obtain farms or businesses of similar size and quality. The alternative was cash at market value plus 10 per cent. However, since the Seaway plans had been in the works for many years, property values were depressed and a number of people, particularly those living alongside the river, believed they were not receiving fair replacement value for their property.