The Twentieth Century - Part 2

One of the more popular but daring forms of entertainment in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was shooting the Long Sault Rapids in a steamboat. This harrowing pastime, which for a time was a major tourist draw, was essentially an early version of white water rafting.

Wales also boasted a fair that was so busy it was referred to locally as 'The World's Fair'. The fairground, which included a large fair house, was located south of the village. Excitement mounted as everyone scrambled to partake in competitions where prizes were awarded for everything from the best cattle to the best embroidery.

Cheese FactoryThe Wales Cheese Factory [ca. 1914]

The backbone of Wales' success were the spin-off agricultural industries that grew as a direct result of the large surrounding farm community. Businesses such as L. G. Wert's grist mill, egg-grading station and hatchery, which opened in the 1920s, were typical of the type of businesses that were highly valued in the community and instantly successful. Wert eventually expanded his business by establishing a large apple orchard. Some years later he sold the entire operation to Dwayne H.C. Smith. During the 1940s, Smith enlarged the orchard and replaced both the grist mill and hatchery with larger, more modern facilities. This was a fairly large operation and Wert and later Smith were considered to be major employers in the area. Following the Seaway, Smith relocated his business to the new town of Ingleside and carried on until his retirement.

Other businesses in the area during the thirties and forties included both Ransom & Trimble's and A. L. Feader's general stores and fuel businesses. The fuel businesses involved unloading an entire railway car full of coal and then delivering the coal to commercial and residential customers. There was a barbershop, butcher shop, a bank and a cheese factory, owned by Gilbert Rancier. For over a hundred years, a steam engine, known as the moccasin, stopped daily, delivering and picking up supplies on its run from Montreal to Brockville. From 1927 to 1952, Wales' children, along with those from the surrounding farms, were taught at the local public school, located a few kilometres north of the village by Mary Snyder. Beryl Morrison also taught at the school.

Many of the younger people were able to earn decent livings by working off the river. Young men would start as deckhands, then advance to watchmen and later wheelmen. When they had finally acquired enough experience they could qualify to apply for their Master's papers and become full-fledged river captains.

Recreation came in the form of horseracing at Jimmy Connor's nearby racetrack, located about halfway between Wales and Dickinson's Landing. There was also harness racing at the Wales Park. In addition to racing, the track was also a place for people to mingle, socialize and play poker on a leisurely Sunday afternoon. During the weekdays, residents could catch the moccasin in the morning, spend the day shopping and visiting in Cornwall or Montreal, and be home in time for dinner.

Located a little over a kilometre inland from the riverbank, it's difficult to understand why Wales was flooded. Wales however had the misfortune to be situated on low land, in a gully, with the creek flowing around its west and south ends. When the floodwaters arrived, the creeks overflowed and inundated the village.

Wales officially shut down in December 1957. The post office closed on December 12th and St David's Church was secularized prior to its subsequent demolition. A few buildings were still standing. These included both of the churches, the D.H.C. Smith operations, the railway station, Trimbles' store, Markell's cold storage plant and the bank. By January 1958, the community was completely abandoned. The majority of Wales' 200 residents, along with a number of businesses, were relocated to the new town of Ingleside.

Since Wales was located so far inland, small portions still remain above the flood line. The St. Lawrence Valley Union Cemetery on old Highway 2 between Ingleside and Long Sault was once the village's north hill. Today the foundations of St. David's Anglican Church can still be seen on Wales Island, which was named to commemorate the vanished community.