Cornwall Ontario – 58 years ago on July 1st, Cornwall and area residents watched with great expectancy for a deluge that many later described as more of a trickle. Inundation Day was the culmination of a four year effort known as the St. Lawrence Seaway & Power Project. The 30 mile-long man-made Lake St. Lawrence submerged the treacherous Long Sault rapids under 90 feet of water as the water level was intentionally elevated.
Canada took the lead in this Canada-U.S. initiative to open up the mighty St. Lawrence River to international shipping and to harness some of its power for the creation of much-needed hydro-electric power.
August 10, 1954 marked the official sod turning ceremonies in Cornwall and Massena. And on September 19, 1955, the first of 531 houses was lifted from its foundation and moved to higher ground. More than 6,500 people, 225 farms, 17 churches and 18 cemeteries were affected, mostly on the Canadian side of the border.
The six submerged villages and three hamlets are today known as the Lost Villages. Like Cornwall, they were originally settled by United Empire Loyalists fleeing hostility south of the border in 1784. Many of the original settlers were disbanded soldiers from the King’s Royal Regiment of New York.
The hamlet of Maple Grove was located in the area of the hydro dam at Cornwall. Moulinette and Mille Roches were just west of Cornwall, south of our northern boundary. Old newspaper articles make it clear that these three communities were being considered to be annexed to the present City of Cornwall when the town officially grew from just over a square mile to 30 square miles on January 1, 1957, but it was a moot point with the imminent planned flooding of those communities.
The project cost more than a billion dollars and employed more than 25,000 people in the process which included the creation of three dams (and four temporary cofferdams), two powerhouses and 32 turbine power generators.
Don is a hometown photojournalist and videographer who creates content pertaining to a number of topics, notably good news, local history and social justice. Professionally he is the Manager & Associate Curator of the Cornwall Community Museum in Cornwall's waterfront park.
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