The Nineteenth Century

Like the other lost villages, Wales was originally settled by a group of Loyalist British military officers who received land grants for services rendered during the American Revolution. In 1791, Dr. James Stuart, an army surgeon born in Scotland, received a grant of about 900 acres of land. The Stuart family has generally been acknowledged as being the first group of settlers to arrive in Wales. After Dr. Stuart's death, his son Murdock inherited the property and sometime around 1810 erected a new home.

Around 1850, James Stuart, a later descendant of the original Stuarts, became instrumental in expanding the settlement. He started with a house, and built the community's first store on to the front. Later on he added a hotel. He also donated land for St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, (later St. Mark's United Church) which opened in 1893. Eventually James sold his hotel to William Hanes. After the first hotel burnt down, Hanes quickly replaced it with another, that became known as "Hanes House". Hanes operated the hotel until the 1890s when he sold it to James Connelly.

Conley HotelThe popular Connelly Hotel [ca. 1870]

The settlement, located a couple of kilometres north of the much larger Dickinson's Landing, remained sparsely populated and unnamed until the Grand Trunk Railway arrived. True to form, the railway chose cheaper land further north from the original settlement and built a station in 1856. At that point the nameless settlement became known as Dickinson's Landing Station, with William Martin serving as the first station agent. Although Wales was never large, the presence of the railway station was sufficient enough for the station village to eventually eclipse Dickinson's Landing as the local centre for business and commerce. Later on the station was replaced with a larger one and a station agent's home was built on the site of the first station.

One pivotal event in the early history of Wales was the royal visit by Queen Victoria's son, Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) in 1860. The prince's itinerary called for him to travel by train and disembark at Dickinson's Landing Station for a trip down to the river to shoot the Long Sault Rapids in a river steamer. Legend has it the villagers did not have an appropriate red carpet for the prince and substituted by creating a bed of maple leaves instead. The prince was reportedly charmed by the incident but inquired as to why such a tiny village had such a long name. Whether the young prince's remarks were interpreted as a command or Wales was simply named in his honour is unknown, but shortly after his visit, the villagers applied for a post office under the name of Wales.

By the late 1870s Wales had developed into a busy community. There were stores owned by Mrs. Lyle Southworth, Joshua Sullivan, Levi Markell and William Baker. Baker opened the first post office in his store in 1866. David Ransom, who started out as a baker, built a store that traded hands several times; first to Joseph Kerr, then to John Manning, before, ironically, being sold back to Ransom's Limited (later Ransom & Trimble's). Thomas Sampson was the village carpenter. St. Peter's Anglican Church opened its doors in the late 1880s. A rectory, first occupied by Rev. Robert Walter Samwell, was added some years later. The village was situated directly north of the railway station and tracks and bounded on the west by Hoople's Creek.

Jim Connelly, owner of the Connelly Hotel (also known as the Conley Hotel) during the 1890s, became famous for the annual New Year's Balls at his popular hotel. It was estimated that as many as 500 people would show up at this event, which included an orchestra and dancing until dawn. No one ever went hungry. According to one newspaper report "dinner was laid about six times. The party lasted until the early morning hours - or just about; the last train left at 5:12 a.m." One Cornwall newspaper frequently referred to Jim as the 'Mayor of Wales'.