Sheek Island

Sheek Island (also known as Sheik's) was native land, that was given to the Mohawk Nation by the French following the French Revolution. The island was located across the channel from the small settlement that later became known as Moulinette and named after David Sheek, who leased the land from the Mohawks in 1806. The island was approximately two and three quarter kilometres long by about one and a half kilometres wide. The raging Long Sault Rapids lay directly west of the island.

Sheek IslandSheek Island [ca. 1920s]

One of the Sheek Island's many benefits was an ample and forceful source of water power. The first settler to tap into this was Adam Dixson of Moulinette. Dixson built a dam that ran from Sheek Island to the mainland and then established the area's first grist mill. Shortly after that, the Woods brothers added a woollen mill. Dixson's dam left a channel fifty feet wide that included some pretty nasty whirlpools of water. To alleviate this, a narrow nine-foot channel was dug in 1809. This channel eventually became part of the Cornwall Canal project in 1842.

Before the Cornwall Canal was enlarged, villagers from Moulinette used to cross over to the island using a combination of roadways and bridges. A road ran from Moulinette through a culvert under the canal. From there they would cross over to the main shore by using a roadway that consisted of two bridges that were connected to a regular road. Underneath the bridges lay a flume that carried water to the water wheels that in turn supplied power to Moulinette's mills.

Early mills also appeared on the island side. Among those were the Moulinette Woolen Mills, a mill and carding operation, owned by the Woods Brothers, who also lived adjacent to the mills. The deepening of the Cornwall Canal in 1900 resulted in the creation of a new headpond which in turn flooded out many of the early mills, including that of the Woods Brothers. The headpond, in effect a man-made lake, became known as Bergin Lake, named after Dr. Darcy Bergin, the local M.P. After the flooding, the government built a roadway from the island leading to a swing bridge that crossed over the Cornwall Canal to Mille Roches. Other woollen and carding mills continued to operate on the south side of the island until sheep farming came to an end.

The twentieth century brought with it the inevitable changes that affected all rural areas. Levi Addison Ault, the son of Simon Ault, a successful Mille Roches fabric manufacturer, left home at a young age to seek his fame and fortune in the United States. After working as a bookkeeper and later a lamp-black salesman, he ended up in Cincinnati where he, along with his partner Frank Wiborg, built one of the most successful ink manufacturing companies in the world. Ault was a nature lover and in the early part of the twentieth century, he purchased 205 acres of land that he eventually donated to his adopted city for the singular purpose of being used as public parkland. His gift, along with his later work as a park commissioner, earned him the title of "Father of Cincinnati's parks", a title still associated with his name to this very day. In 1914 he made a similar gift to the Township of Cornwall, donating a large piece of family owned property on Sheek Island in his parents' memory. It became known as Ault Park.

A small group of about a dozen families farmed on Sheek Island and lived there year round. The climate allowed for a long growing season and many of the farms were almost completely self-sufficient. A powerhouse, jointly owned by the St. Lawrence Power Company and the Edison Mohawk Company, was constructed at the foot of the island, near the dam. There was also a small public school for the permanent residents. The remainder of Sheek Island became something of a summer playground with parks, cottages, a baseball diamond and a large dance hall located in Ault Park. During the 1930s, the United Church operated a children's summer camp called Camp Kagama. The native community also remained active on Sheek's Island, camping and fishing during the summer.

When the end came near, more than fifty cottages located along the shore in Ault Park were moved to higher ground. Most were slid across the ice during the winter of 1957 to two new sites that became known as Ault Island and Moulinette Island. Unfortunately the farmhouses were located too far inland and could not be moved over the bridge. They, along with the powerhouse, were demolished. Camp Kagama survived as a non-denominational camp and was moved to a new location near the Upper Canada Bird Sanctuary.

The original Ault Park became the object of serious archaeological studies during the mid 1950s. Research and salvage, carried on from 1956 to 1958, led a number of scientists to believe they found the remains of an ancient native village dating back roughly thirty-five centuries. The University of Toronto even petitioned unsuccessfully for a 'stay of execution' on the Seaway project so the excavations could continue. Research on the artifacts is still ongoing.

Following inundation a new Ault Park was re-established along the shores of the St. Lawrence in 1959. A portion of the park is now home to the Lost Villages Historical Society. A tiny piece of the island can still be seen from across the river at Barnhart Beach in the state of New York.