Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, located just east of Woodlands, shared much in common with its next-door neighbour. Both were tiny hamlets that never grew to achieve village status; both served the early farming community and later on thrived as popular tourist destinations. Santa Cruz was so tiny that it rarely even made it on to the road maps.

View of the rapidsA view of the rapids [ca. 1955]

The origin of Santa Cruz' name, which is Portuguese for "Holy Cross", remains puzzling. According to legend, the village was inhabited by Portuguese labourers, who were working on the Williamsburg Canal during the mid-1800s. The workers supposedly stayed just long enough to establish a settlement and give the village a name. Another source refers to a Spanish or Portuguese ship, whose sailors disembarked, settled and built a small community. Whichever is true, there were no Portuguese or Spaniards settled anywhere in the area by the 1840s. In 1846, Smith's Canadian Gazetteer described Santa Cruz as 'a small settlement containing two churches, Episcopal and Presbyterian and a tavern'.

The Santa Cruz Public School, (School Section #2) formed an imaginary line dividing the settlements of Santa Cruz and Woodlands. The one-room schoolhouse served both of the tiny communities and continued to operate until 1957.

Santa Cruz is best remembered from the 1930s and 40s as a well-known tourist hangout. Motorists travelling along Highway 2 could pick up a snack at either the confectionary or food stand. One of the residents sold chicken dinners at their farm house. There was also a gas station and a number of rental cottages for tourists. The view of the Long Sault Rapids was particularly haunting and tourists were attracted to the peaceful atmosphere alongside the river.

At the time of inundation, Santa Cruz, like most of the villages, lined both sides of old Highway 2. Unfortunately, other than pictures of the school, no photos, buildings or other remnants of tiny settlement remain.