Ian Bowering Cornwall and SD & G can proudly claim to be “Where (Modern) Ontario started.”Founded by refugee United Empire Loyalists with the forbearance of Indigenous peoples 239 years ago, I am going to take this year end opportunity to highlight a few, of the region’s significant local, national and international achievements. Each month throughout 2024 I will expand upon the various topics below.
Agriculture: The McIntosh apple was introduced to the world by John McIntosh of Dundas County circa 1830. Michael Cook near Aultsville, Stormont County imported the first Holstein Frisian cows to Ontario in 1881, laying a solid foundation for the local and provincial dairy industry.
Authors: Roger Caron, winner of the Governor-General’s Award for non-fiction was one of SDG’s most successful authors, having sold more than 600,000 copies of his books “Bingo” and “Go-Boy”. Rev. Charles Gordon(1860 – 1937) from Glengarry, wrote 43 books under the pen name Ralph Connor, making him 20th Century Canada’s most successful author.
Education: The Anglican Reverend John Strahan opened the Cornwall Grammar School in 1806. A year later it became one of the first provincially funded schools as the Eastern District Grammar School. If not Ontario’s first such institutions, it was the most influential, with many of the provinces future leaders receiving their basic education there.
Explorers: Simon Fraser, with the aid of Indigenous guides, was the first European to cross modern day Canada by land in 1808. He moved to St. Andrews after retiring from the fur trade. David Thompson(1770 – 1857) was Canada’s most famous cartographer. A fur trader and explorer his 1814 “Map of the N.W. Territory of the Province of Canada from B.C.’s Fraser River to Lake Superior,” was so accurate that it served as the basis for Canadian Government maps for more than a century. Thompson surveyed and mapped 4.9 million square kms of the future Dominion of Canada. When he retired from the fur trade he moved to Williamstown.
Fair: First held in 1812, the Williamstown Fair is Canada’s oldest annual fair.
Inclusivity: The historic record appears to indicate that Rolland Macdonald of Cornwall was the first Metis elected to the Ontario Legislative Assembly in 1844. Angus Lalonde was elected Cornwall’s first French-Canadian mayor in 1904. General store proprietor George Simon became one of Canada’s first, if not first, Jewish Mayor in Canada when he was elected to that position in 1915, in Alexandria. Jewish-Romanian immigrant Aaron Horovitz was first elected Cornwall’s mayor in 1930. He occupied the position on and off for 17 years until 1956. Defying racial prejudice the City of Cornwall hired Coloured Bob Turner as the City’s first recreation director. In 2018, Senator Bernadette Clement was the first Black Woman in Ontario to be elected mayor of an Ontario municipality. Three years later Clement became the fourth Black Woman to be appointed to the Canadian Senate.
Industry: The Weave Shed at Cornwall’s Canada Mill was the first industrial facility to be electrically lighted in Canada, in April 1883. Inventor Thomas Edison attended the event to “turn on the lights”. The idea of Safety legislation in the workplace was first proposed by Conservative Cornwall M.P. Dr. Darby Bergin in 1879 and then continuously until 1886.
Patriotism: With 4,000 men and women involved in the War effort, out of a population of 16,000, Cornwall made one of Canada’s highest, if not highest per capita contributions to World War II. Of the 4,000 Cornwallites who served, 183 were killed in action.
Politicians: SD & G is home to two Ontario Premiers. Born in St. Raphael’s, John Sandfield Macdonald was joint Premier of the United Canadas from 1862 to 1864, and the first Premier of Ontario from 1867 to 1871.Conservative Sir James Pliny Whitney,from Dundas County, served as Ontario’s sixth Premier from 1905 – 14.
Religion:The United Empire Loyalist, Rev.John Bethune (1751 – 1815), established the Presbyterian Church in Glengarry and Upper Canada.
Sports: In 1888 the Cornwall“Immortals” became World (Canada) Lacrosse champions. The Cornwall Royals won hockey’s Memorial Cup in 1972, 1980 and 1981. Cornwall sportsmen Edouard “Newsy” Lalonde is the only person to be made a member of both the Hockey and Lacrosse Halls of Fame